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December 30th, 2009 - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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December 30th, 2009


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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