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Here Came Daredevil! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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December 30th, 2009


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10:24 am - Here Came Daredevil!
It's only fitting that the year I become re-obsessed with Daredevil, I close it out by reading the legendary run by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson from the early eighties. Frank Miller is credited with redefining the character, so I wanted to see how it compared to the Bendis/Maleev run, which I consider definitive for me since I imprinted on it.

Miller began solely on pencils, first drawing Daredevil in a couple issues of The Spectacular Spider-Man (in which Spidey is blinded! and only Daredevil can understand what he's going through!) before drawing on the regular title. I really don't have a lot to say about his art since I'm not really a fan of the old comic book art but for its nostalgic value. It is supposedly good, however. I was more interested in his writing, and it's kind of funny how the writing immediately becomes pulpier once he takes over the title ("Feel the cold, driving rain as it batters your face and soaks your clothes. Hear the moan of a freight barge on the nearby East River: the haunting chimes of a solitary church bell as it tolls the midnight hour..."). There is a bit of that in the Roger McKenzie run, but Miller is...Miller. And, although I may have been biased since I was waiting for Miller to take over, I found that I immediately became far more invested and interested in reading once Miller's run began.

The first thing Miller does is introduce Elektra, the Greek ninja assassin and Matt Murdock's first love. It was such a cool and bizarre experience to read the very first issue in which she appears. Before that, no Elektra. After that, Elektra. It made me wonder what comic readers thought about her at the time. Although a citation is needed, Wikipedia claims she's killed more men than almost any other Marvel character, and I believe it, given that she's a total badass and kills a shitload of men in these issues alone. It was great to be able to read the Elektra story for real rather than simply relying on the Wikipedia summary of what happened, which doesn't give you the full context.

I also loved seeing some other key moments and additions to Daredevil's history. Although he only drew it, Frank Miller was there when Ben Urich figured out Matt was DD, which was a given in the stories I had read. (On the other hand, it was weird reading stories in which Foggy didn't know Matt was Daredevil!) With the creation of Elektra, of course, Miller also introduced the Hand and thus ninjas into the Marvel universe (which I hear led to an overabundance of ninjas in other titles). Miller pulled Kingpin into the title and defined two important relationships: his love for his wife, Vanessa, and the special give-and-take he has with Daredevil (and eventually Matt, come Born Again, which I am itching to re-read). Kingpin is one of my favorite characters, and it's awesome that the dynamic between him and ol' Hornhead was set up from his very introduction into the series. I was also amused to be there for Daredevil's introduction to Power Man and Iron Fist, who would eventually become his good friends, and the Punisher, who would eventually become his...er, acquaintance. And reading about Stick made it clear just how much Master Izo is basically a rip-off of Stick. It was just plain neat to see all the influence Frank Miller had on the series. Everyone else really was just following in his footsteps.

I also marveled at the old-school storytelling style. Back before writers began writing for trades, comic book issues were meant to be issues, not just parts of a story. I was impressed with how much plot could be fit into 22 pages. The latest issue of Spider-Woman covered about fifteen minutes of action. Issues of Daredevil could cover days. At the end of each issue, I felt that I had read a complete story, but, like in many television shows I admire, there was still progression of an ongoing story as well. It seemed like your money went a lot farther back in the day when each individual issue was crafted to be appreciated on its own. (Of course, this meant that almost every single goddamn issue includes an awkward reference to the accident that blinded Daredevil but gave him heightened senses. That business, I am not nostalgic for.)

Oh, I just keep flipping through the books and finding things I like. Like Turk and all his antics. I don't know whether Miller was responsible for his portrayal as a bumbling lackey, but Turk's schtick never gets old, especially when he steals powerful armor and no one takes him seriously because he's Turk. And then someone gets tossed through Josie's window. Miller does have a sense of humor, nowhere more evident than in one of my favorite issues, "Guts," which is basically a parody of his pulpy ways: Foggy Nelson goes undercover and gives hard-boiled narration like "Then I'm everywhere at once, cutting through them like they're a Blimpie's lunch line." I should also mention Bullseye, of course, and the Gladiator/Melvin Potter, who figures prominently in both Bendis's and Brubaker's runs. Again, very cool to see what came before. I should not mention Heather Glenn, one of Matt's girlfriends I had never really heard of, and that's because she's boring. More Black Widow instead, please.

This would be a paragraph about how much Klaus Janson's inking work adds to the title if I had any concept of what an inker really does. He is supposedly good, however. And he agrees with me that Daredevil is like Batman.

Daredevil! Matt Murdock! Beating up dudes, speaking in court, scoring hot chicks. Thank you, Frank Miller, for writing good comics before going crazy.
Current Mood: anxiousanxious
Current Music: Sparta - Cut Your Ribbon [in my head]
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(15 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:lodessa
Date:December 30th, 2009 06:46 pm (UTC)
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I also marveled at the old-school storytelling style. Back before writers began writing for trades, comic book issues were meant to be issues, not just parts of a story. I was impressed with how much plot could be fit into 22 pages.

This is why I cannot read singles. They are just like the teaser before the credits a TV show episode and I end up feeling like it is pointless and frustrating as a format. It is interesting to consider that they weren't always like that.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 31st, 2009 06:49 am (UTC)
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Yeah, I do appreciate well-crafted single issues. Which, I think, is another reason I'm loving Chew, since each issue is sort of a mini-story with a prologue and a punch of an ending. And yet I do love serialized storytelling, so using issues as pieces of a tale can also be very fruitful.
[User Picture]
From:lodessa
Date:December 31st, 2009 11:42 pm (UTC)
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They definitely should be part of a greater whole, but at the same time they should be a good thing on their own. Like episodes of TV in a really well crafted season.
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From:equustel
Date:December 30th, 2009 07:00 pm (UTC)
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Beating up dudes, speaking in court, scoring hot chicks. Thank you, Frank Miller, for writing good comics before going crazy.

I KNOW RIGHT? There's a bit of a Frank Miller backlash going on these days, but dude, back in his Daredevil era he deserved every bit of hype directed his way. He totally made that character.

I should not mention Heather Glenn, one of Matt's girlfriends I had never really heard of, and that's because she's boring. More Black Widow instead, please.

LOL. Yes, wasn't she the one on Matt's voicemail in the movie, saying she's gonna break up with him? I found that amusing.

Oh gosh, DD's world is just so badass. I have always wanted to write fic for it. It may not be as huge as Batman's universe but the relative intimacy of it makes for such great stories. It needs more love.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 31st, 2009 06:53 am (UTC)
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back in his Daredevil era he deserved every bit of hype directed his way. He totally made that character.
He definitely made the 'verse, but I'm not sure I particularly liked what he did with the character, exactly. To me, he seemed more focused on Daredevil ("Aaugh, my powers are going haywire...again!") than Matt. But I guess he did start the cycle of Matt angsting over his girlfriends?

Oh gosh, DD's world is just so badass.
It is!

It may not be as huge as Batman's universe but the relative intimacy of it makes for such great stories.
But he really does have a shitty rogues' gallery.

It needs more love.
This is true! My friends are all, "Bleh, you and your Daredevil, whatever."
[User Picture]
From:equustel
Date:December 31st, 2009 05:29 pm (UTC)
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I agree that Matt has perhaps been written better since, but Miller is still responsible for making him the psychologically complex, hot-blooded character he defaults to today. Daredevil became a lot more specific once Miller wrote him - sharply intelligent, a bit unhinged, more violent than most superheroes (which he ties back into Jack Murdock), with a strained definition of justice, and even some religious angst thrown in. And yeah, I he definitely cemented the idea of him as a ladies' man. ;)
[User Picture]
From:hecubot
Date:December 31st, 2009 02:23 am (UTC)
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Elektra was hugely popular from the get-go. Same with Bullseye and the way Miller wrote Kingpin. That's why people were so blown away by the conclusion of that storyline.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 31st, 2009 06:55 am (UTC)
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Cool! What was interesting to me was that Elektra wasn't as fridged as I thought. Bullseye kills her because she's a rival assassin, not because she's Matt's love. He doesn't even know about their connection. (Karen Page, on the other hand...)
[User Picture]
From:hecubot
Date:December 31st, 2009 03:25 am (UTC)
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Btw, have you read Douglas Wolk's review of the Bendis run?
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 31st, 2009 06:59 am (UTC)
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I have not! That was a great review, thanks. Man, I do love that run. Have you read it?
[User Picture]
From:hecubot
Date:December 31st, 2009 03:28 pm (UTC)
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I have not, but now I'm intrigued.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 31st, 2009 03:59 pm (UTC)
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I have it all if you want to borrow it sometime.
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From:chrryblssmninja
Date:December 31st, 2009 08:09 am (UTC)
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Klaus Janson is legendary. I think he did work on Batman: Gothic, and that's where I first noticed his style.

Thank you, Frank Miller, for writing good comics before going crazy.
hee so true
I think Frank Miller's work on Daredevil is the best stuff he's done. I need to get through some of his other work from that time, but I think that's when he had greatest control and balance between story + character and the Frank Miller style.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 31st, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC)
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Klaus Janson is legendary. I think he did work on Batman: Gothic, and that's where I first noticed his style.
And what is his style, exactly?

I think Frank Miller's work on Daredevil is the best stuff he's done. I need to get through some of his other work from that time, but I think that's when he had greatest control and balance between story + character and the Frank Miller style.
And what is his style, exactly?
[User Picture]
From:chrryblssmninja
Date:January 2nd, 2010 10:31 pm (UTC)
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What I know of Klaus Janson's style is that it's heavy inks; moody, gothic (as used in Batman: Gothic) to noirish; anything involving lots of dark. But it's still visually comprehensible, well-lined and clear. There's also a good guide to inking that he wrote.


What I know of Frank Miller's style is that he puts characters into the darkest situations Miller can imagine at the moment. In his best works, Miller's prose narration can reach pulp poetry; at other times his prose, story and characters wallow in the muck for effect's sake. I liked his setup for Wolverine too, and the Japanese element he added to Logan's backstory was melodramatic but well-suited to the character.

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