Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Classics: Daredevil #4

When I first started getting hooked on comic books, I was mostly reading DC Comics - but it wasn't long before i discovered Marvel Comics, and I fell for them in a major way.

Although I was reading by the time the first "Marvel Age" comics appeared in 1961, I didn't pick up on them right away. This, for example, is the first issue of Daredevil I read (it was printed in 1964) - but I immediately loved the character and the concept.

(I'm not sure if I actually spent 12 cents on it - my friends and I often traded comics, so I might have swapped another issue for it.)

What set the early Marvel stories apart from their DC counterparts was a combination of a soap opera storytelling format that focused on characters and love interests, great action sequences, dynamic art and - perhaps most importantly - the flawed hero.

Where DC's heroes were giants of science or superpowers, Marvel's heroes were more down-to-Earth. Iron Man had a bad heart, Thor was crippled as Don Blake, the Hulk and the Thing were monsters, and Daredevil was (and is) blind.

And if DD struggled under an odd concept (and a strange yellow, black and red costume), he also had to overcome another problem - the lack of a consistent artist.

The first issue was drawn by Bill Everett, the next several (including this issue) by the great Joe Orlando, to be followed by Wally Wood and John Romita before enjoying a long run under Gene Colan.

Orlando provides great art in a surprisingly static story here, as DD faces the Purple Man, who has the power to control the minds of anyone he meets. So it's not exactly a slug-fest, but Orlando creates great characters and brings the city to life.

He's inked by Vince Colletta, who has both fans and detractors, but I have to say, his style is very effective here and complements Orlando's detailed art.

The secret of Daredevil's success lies in his catchphrase - the Man Without Fear. In this issue, he stands alone against a mob of people and an opponent who seems to be unstoppable (at least by a single, unarmed man). More than once he'd take on overwhelming odds and succeed thanks to his wits and courage.

It was actually an inspiring comic - a rare breed then and now.

Daredevil didn't immediately become my favorite comic - he had some tough competition on the Marvel side of the fence - but for me, he immediately jumped over a huge stack of DC heroes and became a comic to watch for.

Grade: B+



Anonymous said...

Daredevil was the first Marvel Age hero from Stan Lee that had no input from either Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko. I believe that Stan was trying to replicate the magic he had with Jack and Steve and duplicate that winning formula with Golden Age stalwart Bill Everett...but results were mixed. Stan would try again with Joe Orlando (also mixed) and Wally Wood (great but short lived) with a good effort by John Romita Sr. (who did better with Spider-Man) until Gene Colan took Daredevil and gave the blind hero a most distinct style.
Once Stan became too busy to write the book, DD gained second and even third tier status...until Frank Miller showed up made a huge impact.

Sam Kujava

Chuck said...

My pal James rightly points out that I left out Bob Powell, who penciled a couple of issues inked by Wally Wood - that's what I get for relying on my faulty memory! Mea culpa!

Sam, I do think Roy Thomas wrote some good DD stories, but the character definitely got kicked around a lot until Miller made the character his own.