Original Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1964
Creators: Stan Lee (writer) and Bill Everett (artist)
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In the early 1960s, Marvel Comics had an outburst of creativity that transformed the publisher from an also-ran into America's largest producer of …

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… comic books. Fantastic Four, Thor and Doctor Strange are only a few of the characters that started in that period, every one of which Stan Lee had a hand in the creation of. Daredevil was one of them too, but definitely among the lesser of that stellar company.

The reason for his second-rate status may the fact that he came along late in that period (with a first-issue cover date of April, 1964), so the creative juices were on the ebb. It may be because his name was not only rather generic, but also a retread, having belonged to a prominent costumed crime fighter of the 1940s. Or it may be because unlike the rest, Lee's artistic collaborator on Daredevil was neither Jack Kirby nor Steve Ditko.

What is certain is that even though he never achieved the stardom of Spider-Man or The Hulk, Daredevil has managed to remain in print continuously, for more than a third of a century. Second-tier or not, he was still part of that explosion of creativity.

The first Daredevil story (which was drawn by Bill Everett, creator of The Sub-Mariner) concerned young Matt Murdock's need to avenge the murder of his father, and the two major obstacles he had to overcome to reach that goal. One was a promise he'd given his father earlier, that he'd never resort to force to solve his problems. The other was the fact that he was blind.

The first was easy — he simply followed the lead of DC Comics' Johnny Thunder and created a costumed persona to handle the necessary violence for him, rationalizing that it wasn't really "Matt Murdock" doing it. The second was mitigated by the circumstance that had caused his handicap — a bizarre accident that left his other senses superhumanly acute. With his super-senses, Daredevil had no trouble setting himself up as the first blind superhero since DC's Dr. Mid-Nite.

Everett left the character almost immediately, and was followed by other star-status artists. Wallace Wood (T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, M.A.R.S. Patrol), Gene Colan (Tomb of Dracula, Howard the Duck), Jim Starlin (Captain Marvel, Dreadstar) and many other top talents worked on him at one time or another. Nonetheless, the series never was one of Marvel's top sellers, even when, in the early 1970s, Daredevil had The Black Widow for his partner. The title dropped to bimonthly status a couple of times, and skirted the edge of cancellation once or twice.

In 1979, a hot young writer/artist named Frank Miller (no relation to the cartoonist who created the King Features comic Barney Baxter) came along, and changed the entire tone and direction of the series. Among the least of his innovations was a past girlfriend, Elektra, who had become a world-class hired assassin! Miller's noir-style crime stories, an amalgam of superheroes and hard-boiled detectives, made a hit with readers, and Daredevil finally started to crawl out of the cellar. Later creators followed Miller's lead, and the series has settled into a comfortable niche as one of Marvel's steady-selling monthly titles. In fact, it's climbed so far out of the cellar, it was made into a major motion picture, released Feb. 14, 2003, with Ben Afleck in the title role.

Miller went on to bigger and better things — his Sin City, published by Dark Horse Comics (Flaming Carrot), is one of the most successful hard-boiled crime series in comic book history. The darker, moodier style he pioneered in Daredevil caught on, and ten years later, had pretty much taken over superherodom. A lot has been written about the "grim'n'gritty" superheroes of the 1980s and '90s, and Daredevil is where it all started.


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Text ©2000-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.