Thursday, November 09, 2017

A Solidly Serious Hero

Daredevil #28 (Marvel, May 1967, 12 cents)
"Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Planet!" Writer: Stan Lee, Artist: Gene Colan, Inker: Dick Ayers, Letterer: Sam Rosen.

When Matt Murdock's identity as Daredevil is compromised in the previous issue, the best he could come up with at the time was that he's not really Matt, but Matt's brother Mike, a bit of a goofball who is, in fact and all actuality, Daredevil. But not Matt. Um... OK.

Murdock maintains the ruse to throw off Karen Page and Foggy Nelson, who is strongly crushing on Karen. Then he continues to Carter College, where the attorney is scheduled to lecture on the possible legal rights of aliens, should there turn out to be UFOs. Professor Tom Brewster, who contends he's previously encountered aliens, does so again—attracting the attention of Daredevil.

As goofy as the Matt/Mike aspect is, the alien threat is very real, and they plan to steal the sight of everyone on the planet. Luckily, Daredevil's already blind. Kind of a strange, "monster of the week" issue, but enjoyable all the same.

Read Also: Daredevil #27

Daredevil #29 (Marvel, June 1967, 12 cents)
"Unmasked!" Writer: Stan Lee, Artist: Gene Colan, Inker: J. Tartaglione, Letterer: Sam Rosen.

Murdock intends to propose to Karen—but can't decide whether to do so as Matt or the erstwhile Mike. (Just how long does this dual identity play out?) The Boss assumes leadership of the mob formerly led by the Marauder—which then kidnaps Karen.

I am confused why Daredevil arrives pretending to be Murdock pretending to be Daredevil, before escaping only to return and fight both gangs as Daredevil proper. The whole forced dual identity thing is just too goofy. There's a sketchbook-like page that comments on consciously deciding not to include sound effects and thought balloons, a Stan Lee cameo, and a crazy Not Brand Ecch-like panel: "Snap! Snap! Va-Voom! I feel as giddy as a guppy in a goblet!"

Daredevil as comedian? Hmm...

Daredevil #54 (Marvel, July 1969, 15 cents)
"Call Him... Fear!" Editor: Stan Lee, Writer: Roy Thomas, Artist: Gene Colan, Inker: George Klein, Letterer: Artie Simek.

Matt Murdock is now thought dead, killed in a plane crash. The false Murdock, Mike, was apparently killed months ago—good riddance! But somehow, Karen has Murdock's cane, so Daredevil is nearly hobbled and needs to retrieve it—easier said than done.

Daredevil searches for Starr Saxon, the evil genius who knows his identity, bumping into Spider-Man and receiving a challenge from Mr. Fear. They fight at the Central Park Zoo, and Mr. Fear has developed a new power. The Man Without Fear becomes a coward.

This time period of Daredevil is a little confusing. Like Gene Colan's art, which is a little loose and fluid, the storyline seems a little directionless. What's the point of Daredevil? Who were the creators trying to appeal to? How did Daredevil fit into the rest of the Marvel Universe? Everything feels a little random, and that seems strange for such a solidly serious hero.

Read Also: Daredevil #6.

Daredevil #64 (Marvel, May 1970, 15 cents)
"Suddenly... The Stunt-Master!" Editor: Stan Lee, Writer: Roy Thomas, Artist: Gene Colan, Embellisher: Syd Shores, Letterer: Art Simek.

Daredevil is unable to locate the love of his life Karen, in Los Angeles of all places, so he goes on patrol on the Sunset Strip. While in LA he takes in the sights—amusement parks and Hollywood and Vine, as well as the Hollywood Bowl—before an old enemy, The Stunt-Master, gets roped into the theft of an old movie print. Daredevil intervenes.

This issue was a little less goofy than some of the others in this batch, but the book still doesn't feel like it had a lot of direction outside of the secret identity and love interest.

Read Also: Daredevil #63

Daredevil #68 (Marvel, September 1970, 15 cents)
"Phoenix and the Fighter!" Editor: Stan Lee, Writer: Roy Thomas, Artist: Gene Colan, Inker: Syd Shores, Letterer: Artie Simek.

Having returned to New York City ("Hollywood's a nice place to visit—but I wouldn't wanna live there!"), Daredevil's back in the thick of it. Karen told him to "take a long slow trip," and newly elected DA Foggy is being harassed by Kragg and his muscle boys, ramrods of an extremist group called Phoenix. The group bought a middleweight contender named Kid Gawaine, a boxer trained by Pop Fenton, who trained Murdock's father. (Now we're getting back to brass tacks; maybe this issue will be less goofy!)

Murdock goes to visit Fenton, meeting Gawaine and learning that his new management wants him to throw fights in the ring. The story takes some turns getting us into the ring—and out—and the issue resolves well. This feels more like the Daredevil I'm familiar with: street level, protector of the working man, stalwart against organized crime. Colan's art is growing on me. It's still loose, but this issue seems heavier and darker, lending a sturdy brutality to the proceedings. Perhaps this book is hitting a stride!

Availability: Daredevil #28-29 were collected in Essential Daredevil, Vol. 2, as well as Daredevil Epic Collection: Mike Murdock Must Die! Daredevil #54, 64, and 68 were collected in Essential Daredevil, Vol. 3. #54 was also collected in Daredevil Epic Collection: Brother, Take My Hand.

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