Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

June 14, 2012

Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Daredevil


I don't really know why I started reading Daredevil. He wasn't a popular character at our house and in 1980 I had yet to develop any kind of relationship with the comics press that might alert me to the buzzworthy goings-on of the young Frank Miller. In fact, I'm not even sure when that buzz developed -- it could be that I was in on the title from about the point everyone else was. My rough recollection is that Miller was well into his star-making run on Daredevil at a time early enough in my return to funnybook reading that I might not have been buying comics at the comics shop yet. With that in mind, my guess would be that I went to the grocery store one day, failed to find one of my usual stand-bys, was intrigued as smart 11-year-olds are intrigued by the issue where the character faces off against the Incredible Hulk, and ended up liking what I read. I would consume the remainder of the initial Frank Miller run in both directions, drop the series when he left, and then pop back on again for his collaboration with David Mazzucchelli. If John Byrne and Chris Claremont were transitional favorites from a childhood of reading comics into my teens, Miller was the first mainstream comic book giant of my years with a 1 in front of another number. I had a great appreciation for what he was doing; I was a fan. The realization these were good mainstream comics, while eventually confirmed by the comics press and the general buzz about the book, came to me the old-fashioned way: I reacted to what I was seeing on the page.

Frank Miller was basically a zygote he was so young when those issues were coming out. Having arrived in comics at the end of the realism and relevance period, Miller could pick and choose which elements best suited his general approach to the character. Like a lot of writers, he ratcheted up the specter of violence by moving characters away from settling matters with their fists and into an era where everyone you ran into had a bladed weapon of some sort and wasn't afraid to use it. There were a few guns, and a lot of guts. Wading into a bunch of guys with swords and knives felt different than seeing a hero plough into a wave of Moloids or a bunch of random dudes from the Serpent Society, slugging away all the while. It seemed an appropriate response to what we expected from entertainment in a post-Dirty Harry world. Miller was also smart enough to realize -- or maybe he felt it himself -- that fans of the Daredevil/Matt Murdock character didn't want to see their favorite react to all these pointy objects by getting hurt or running away. Daredevil still might get his ass handed to him by the Hulk, but he tended to overwhelm the ninjas that were the clearest representation of the increased dangers he was now facing. Daredevil was transitioning from the Blind Man Superhero into the Hard Man Superhero. It was right choice after right choice for Miller back in those days.
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