By Stan Lee, Gene Colan & various (Marvel)
Marvel Comics built its fan base through strong and contemporarily relevant stories and art, but most importantly, by creating a shared continuity that closely followed the characters through not just their own titles but also through the many guest appearances in other comics. Such an interweaving meant that even today completists and fans seek out extraneous stories to get a fuller picture of their favourite’s adventures. In such an environment, series such as ‘Essential’ and DC’s ‘Showcase’ are an economical and valuable product that approaches the status of a public service for collectors.
This particular edition, reprinting the exploits of a very different Daredevil to the one popularised by Frank Miller and his successors from the 1980’s onwards, covers the period of March 1967 (#26) to January 1969 (#48), and includes the first Annual and Fantastic Four #73 where a long running storyline concluded (see what I mean about cross-collecting?).
The adventures are fairly typical 1960’s action-fodder. Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer whose other senses over-compensate, making him a formidable acrobat and fighter, and a human lie-detector. Very much a second-string hero, he was nonetheless a popular one, due in large part to the wonderfully humanistic art of Gene Colan. He fought gangsters and a variety of super-villains, and even the occasional alien invasion. He also joked and wise-cracked his way through life, unlike the grim and moody quasi-religious metaphor he’s been seen as in latter years.
In short order then, you will find here such foes as the Stilt-Man, Masked Marauder, sight-stealing Aliens, cheap hoods, The Cobra and Mr Hyde, The Beetle, and from the Annual, the Emissaries of Evil – that’s Electro, Leapfrog, Stilt-Man, Gladiator and the Matador. After some “Secrets of DD” information pages and lots of pin-ups the crime-fighting continues with the Trapster and Doctor Doom, which all concludes in the aforementioned Fantastic Four #73, drawn by Jack Kirby and inked by Joe Sinnott.
The Unholy Three and the Exterminator are next, followed by a prolonged battle with the Jester only interrupted by a brief tiff with Captain America. A well-written change of pace featuring a blinded Viet Nam soldier shows a more human side to the adventurer and the book ends with the return of Stilt-Man for one last hurrah. Other guest stars include Thor and Spider-Man.
This is a good place to end as Stan Lee would hand over the scripting to Roy Thomas soon after this and the social turbulence that marked the end of the decade would begin to alter DD into something closer to his current archetype. But that’s another volume…
© 1967, 1968, 1969, 2004 Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved