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Essential Daredevil Volume One
posted January 4, 2009

imageCreators: Wally Wood, Bill Everett, Art Simek, Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, Bob Powell, Jack Kirby, Sam Rosen, Joe Orlando, Vince Colletta, Frank Giacoia, Gene Colan, Dennis O'Neil
Publishing Information: Marvel Comics, softcover, 544 pages, 2005.
Ordering Numbers: 0785118616 (ISBN10), 9780785118619 (ISBN13)

This book from Marvel's Essential series of bulky, cheap black and white reprints wavers between a six and a seven when it comes to the content. A run of art from Wally Wood is probably the star attraction on those terms. This includes a semi-famous issue (#7) where Daredevil fights the Sub-Mariner. That comic is as crisply presented as any early Age of Marvel Comics adventure, with several stop and whistle panels. Its "noble underdog" plot quickly became one of Marvel's half-dozen or so re-usable, pleasurable, go-to stories. What was essentially John Romita's dry run for his Amazing Spider-Man tenure is another artistic highlight, and reads much more assured than it has any right to be. Where the book really shines, however, is as a ragged pile of Marvel stop-and-start strategies before those things became more calcified. An origin story from Bill Everett and Steve Ditko gives you an idea what the line might have been like if those two had enjoyed greater overall input into creative matters (more like Charlie Biro; less like Joe Simon). The fact that subsequent creators never quite settle on what kind of story Daredevil is suited to tell yields a bunch of fascinating, abortive attempts to achieve formula: straight-up superhero tales, Spider-Man Lite, superhero commentary, Spirit-like stories with Daredevil remaining largely in the background, flat-out soap opera, TV-ready crime… if the comic were to come out today, it would have been canceled in 36 issues and may have been regarded as a mess. Instead we have this wonderful document of how wide-open that period really was: the blind superhero caught in the undertow of a powerful, pop-culture wave.