DAREDEVIL, THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR!
By Ed Sanchez
April of 1964 saw the introduction of another Stan Lee gem...Daredevil! This time around, Lee combined something new with the tried and true story points that had made many of his other creations instant successes. This time, the man in the costume was physically handicapped. Daredevil is blind. In essence, Daredevil is a combination of Spider-Man (he can swing above Manhattan's skyline with the use of his "special" senses and his trusty bolo club) and DC's detective, Batman (a darker hero who had a sense of duty about upholding the law). A lawyer by day, Matt Murdock wore his Daredevil costume beneath his clothes, ready to spring into action at a moment's notice.
Like most of Lee's best creations, Daredevil lived in the real world, and it doesn't get any more real than New York City's infamous Hell's Kitchen. In 1964, this neighborhood had a reputation for being especially tough, and it made a perfect place for Daredevil to make his home. Like Peter Parker, Reed Richards and Bruce Banner, Matt Murdock was a character with whom readers could identify. Murdock, being far from perfect, was the son of a penniless prize fighter. With his girlfriend, Karen Page, and law-partner, Foggy Nelson, Daredevil would dispense justice to all who dared break the law.
With Murdock's late father, Battling Murdock, Lee made excellent use of the old Hollywood stock character of a tough guy prize fighter who won't throw the big fight. This gave Matt a reason to fight for the little guy, both literally and in the courtroom, as his own father was a man caught up in a world bigger than his means. This responsibility also gave Matt the drive to transcend the physical challenges of his life and, in fact, become more than he would have been without those initial limitations. Of course, it helps that the same chemical accident causing Murdock's blindness also endowed him with enhanced sensitivity in all of his other five senses.
Although Stan Lee and Bill Everett turned out the first issue, and both Wally Wood and John Romita, Sr. worked on the series, Marvel great, Gene Colan, is the artist most closely associated with Daredevil. Colan's fluid lines added motion and grace to Daredevil's moves as he swung through the air or pummeled his latest adversary. Colan is still highly adept at creating mood with his command of anatomy and his use of shadows and dark spaces.
The 1980s saw a renewed interest in the Daredevil character, due to legendary comics writer, Frank Miller. His stories and stark images squarley put the character in a world darker and more menacing than any other Marvel title at the time. During this run, Miller created Elektra as a love/hate romantic interest for Murdock, and scripted Daredevil's most memorable meetings with Bullseye and the Kingpin. Miller's run on Daredevil set the standard by which many comics of the time were produced, and its influence can still be felt in many titles including the current Daredevil title, which included a popular run by screenwriter and director, Kevin Smith.
Although the character has been something of second-stringer in the Marvel Universe, Daredevil has been in publication non-stop since his first issue, and deserves his place alongside the best of Stan Lee's creations.
It is interesting to note that Daredevil, like many other early Marvel heroes, did not wear a cape. Whereas the cape was a staple part of a DC costume, they were specifically excluded by Stan Lee at Marvel as impractical for his vision of costumed heroes in a real world.
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