Thursday, 6 November 2008

The Origin Of Daredevil!

Daredevil #1, April 1964.
(By Stan Lee and Bill Everett)

Just look at that cover. What's it trying to say, exactly? "If you like our other books, you'll love this one!" Don't bother trying to sell the book on its own merits, Stan. We haven't even turned the page yet, and already, I'm tired of "fun-loving" Foggy Nelson.

And good lord, that costume. They can't all be classics, but suffering god, that outfit looks like it was designed by a blind man.

I don't usually like to play art critic here, but I gotta say, the art here is very different to the usual Marvel style, much more gritty than we've gotten used to. Just look at these first few panels:

I don't know if the concept of retro-art was around in 1960s comics, but if not, this would be a decent example of it. To be fair, this is not so much retro, as Bill Everett drawing in the style of Bill Everett, much more realistic than Kirby's style, and less "pretty" than Ditko's.

Anyway, this first issue introduces Daredevil, as he takes on the thugs pictured above, then flashes back to his origin.

Young Matt Murdock lives with his dad, "Battling" Murdock, a washed-up boxer, determined to see his son do better for himself. Young Matt, in a sterling example to the youth of today, meekly abides by his old man's directive, regardless of the scorn and disdain his peers have for him as a consequence. But at least it makes his dad happy...

Selfish pig. Anyway, while Murdock Junior is slaving away at his stufies, Murdock Senior has signed up for a new promoter, dubbed "The Fixer". This is going to go well, don't you think?

Whilst Papa Murdock is making his deal with the devil, Matt is heading for the most dramatic four panels of his young life:

Yes, folks, it's the 60s, where the good folks at Ajax Atomic Labs are still allowed to drive trucks of nuclear waste through the streets of New York City.

Poor old Matt ends up in the hospital, his eyesight gone, but with an unexpected consequence:

Stranger things, like turning eminent scientists into giant green monsters, perhaps. Anyway, Matt goes to college, where he quickly becomes BFF with Franklin "Foggy" Nelson. His senses, meanwhile, continue to astonish:

Pretty neat, daddio! Meantime, Matt's dad's career appears to be on the rise, but the Fixer has other plans. It's time for Battling Murdock to take a dive. But wait, what's this?

Crime may not pay, but standing up to criminals isn't always a beneficial situation either. Our Matt swears to avenge his dad's death, but remember, he promised not to fight. Thankfully, Matt's now a qualified lawyer, and thus is able to resolve this dilemma: he cheats.

By "recognised", he presumably means "pointed at", "laughed at", and "harrassed into adopting a less asthetically unpleasant uniform within, say, seven issues"...

In his new costumed identity, Matt, as Daredevil, has tracked down the Fixer to his seedy gambling joint, which is where we started.

While Daredevil is taking on New York's underworld, his partner at the law firm, our pal, Foggy, is working on the romantic sub-plot which is becoming a staple of Marvel Comics. Meet legal secretary, Karen Page.

Seriously, is this how children are introduced to the idea of relationships? It's healthier than Eastenders, I suppose.

Meantime, back across town, Daredevil, having made short work of the Fixer's goons, goes after the big man himself.

How much fun does DD look like he's having here? Being a superhero, even one avenging his dad's murder, is obviously a dream come true for young Matthew. When you consider the repeated kicks in the crotch which fate, and Frank Miller, will deal him over the years, one almost wants to dive into the comic and warn the poor sap.

Anyhoo, the poor old Fixer's heart can't cope with the excitement of Daredevil's colour-scheme, and he drops dead. Still, better than being thrown in front of a moving train, eh?

So there you have it, Daredevil makes a bold entrance, the bad guys pay for their sins, and Foggy and Karen fawn around the office. Any last words, Matt?

And off he goes, to the Superhero Costume Discount Store.

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