Saturday, August 18, 2012

Doug's Favorites: Daredevil Annual 1

Daredevil Annual #1 (September 1967) -- Giant-Size Daredevil #1 (1975)
"Electro and His Emissaries of Evil!"
Stan Lee-"Adam Austin" (Gene Colan)/John Tartaglione

Doug:  So I'll start this one off by saying I'm mad.  For the life of me, I cannot find my beat-to-Hades copy of DD Annual #1!  I'm sure I never sold it, as there isn't a soul out there who'd have paid me money for it - it was in that bad of condition!  But, as a save for the day, I do have a copy of Giant-Size Daredevil #1 which reprints in full the aforementioned missing tome.  So, the covers above are just references -- no sense in scanning the G-S, which is in decent shape after all.  And a programming note -- since I've not read the G-S issue until right now, I will put this on the sidebar under DD Annual #1.  With all of that out of the way, shall we...?

Doug: This story is the epitome of "jumping on point".  Despite the fact that Daredevil had been appearing for four years when the Annual hit the shelves (and 12 years ahead of the Giant-Size reprint), Stan Lee and Gene Colan provided a story that could instantly immerse a reader of any experience deeply into the DD mythos.  And even though I'd dabbled in a few DDs by the time I obtained the Annual (I cannot recall how I got it, either -- it may have been at the same yard sale I acquired the Thors we looked at a couple of weeks ago, as well as a coverless X-Men #58 and half of Silver Surfer #4 -- yes, half...), I always found this story to be a treasure.  Part of it is due to Stan's very light-hearted script -- the wise-cracking Marvel heroes were always my favorites -- and of course the remainder is due to Colan's energetic/frenetic art treatment.  Plus I just always like super-teams, even if they are comprised of bad guys.  Although one could argue that this wasn't the greatest collection of DD foes, they are colorful characters.  Below, as they show up I've given the reference to their first appearance in a DD mag.

Doug:  We open in Matt Murdock's in-home gymnasium, as an unmasked Daredevil puts himself through his paces.  Stan used the first five pages of the story to describe Daredevil's personality, powers, marital status, employment status, living status, billy club properties...  you get the picture.  And as I said above, I felt this was an invaluable resource.    So Daredevil takes to the skies, looking for a little trouble.  Well he finds it plenty soon enough!  Overhearing heartbeats, then voices, he recognizes, his attention is drawn below to an alley.  And who should be plotting and scheming but the Matador (see DD #2) and Electro (see DD #5)!  Colan's art is sure-fire throughout most of this book, but there are some misses along the way.  I'll add that Stan often puts way too much dialogue into a page where the action would literally take a split second.  I offer you the splash of Daredevil making his attack to illustrate my point.  Great page at first glance, but there are nine word balloons on a page that in real time would have lasted less than 2-2 1/2 seconds.  Additionally, and we don't see it, but wasn't DD going to land hard on his butt?  Ouch!!  Our combatants brawl for a bit, with Daredevil getting the better of it -- until Electro manages a clean shot that wings DD in his right shoulder, knocking him out.  Rather than finish it -- because no super-villain in his right mind would ever a) unmask or b) kill a fallen foe -- our do-badders flee so that they can organize the rest of their partners in crime.

Doug:  After coming to his senses, Daredevil tries to get home to sleep off his wounds.  Trouble is, the shock has made his right arm virtually useless as well as made him dizzy.  He begins to lose it mid-swing and tumbles to a rooftop.  In another scene that I'd question, DD uses his left hand to cushion the blow as his face was about to drive into the roofing material.  Hey, wouldn't that shatter all the little bones in his hand and wrist, in addition to breaking his neck?  But who am I?  It's a cool visual...  DD ends up walking back to his brownstone and enters right through the front door -- and you thought New York was the "city that never sleeps".  Apparently not in Matt Murdock's neighborhood!

Doug:  We cut to an airplane carrying the Gladiator (see DD #18) across the Atlantic, back to the States.  He muses to himself how DD's about to get it from a new-and-improved Gladiator, and then we cut to Electro dragging the Stilt-Man (see DD #8) from a river.  In his best Dr. Frankenstein (that's Fronk-un-steen...) impression he uses his electrical powers to bring Stilt-Man back among the dastardly.  Cut again to the law offices of Nelson & Murdock, where we see the ever-lovely Karen Page lamenting the no-show of Mr. Murdock -- and without a call.  Foggy tries to tell her that Matt can look after himself, but you know how Stan writes angst.

Doug:  After a night's rest, DD's awakened by the phone, as Foggy placated Karen with a call.  Matt says he's dealing with a "personal issue" and excuses himself from the day.  Taking again to the skies, he comes across the Matador out causing trouble, doing so in an effort to lure our red-clad hero into the open.  Well, three pages of butt-kicking later, the Matador is tossed in the drink and disappears under the water.  DD exits the scene and hits it high again with his billy club.  And speaking of that wonderful weapon, we're shown an interesting side of superhero life -- part of the club is hollow and contains some nutritional pills DD pops to avoid having to eat while super-heroing.  While this is news-you-can-use, I'm not sure in 1967 I'd have glorified any sort of pill-popping.  Oh, well -- Stan must have been oblivious to the implications.

Doug:  DD's continued searching for Electro pays off (in a way), as rounding a corner he comes face-to-face with the Stilt-Man!  And, four pages of butt-kicking later, DD's off for home, one tuckered-out swashbuckler.  Here's a funny bit of out-of-time for you:  on Matt's doorstep is a cassette tape.  In the days before answering machines, voicemail, etc. Foggy dropped by a recorded message to let Matt know of his concern for his well-being -- after all, there's been a Stilt-Man sighting.  Don't we know it!  After patching up some wounds and bruises, Matt sets out as himself and walks to Central Park.  But what lurks in parks, especially those with lagoons?  Frogs!  Big ol' Leap-Frogs (see DD #25)!  As you may have already guessed, two and a half pages of butt-kicking have the Leap-Frog on the jump, and right into the hands of the Gladiator!  DD takes a hard chop, then a kick to the chops, and is now in the presence of the full roster of the Emissaries of Evil!

Doug:  Not to sound like a broken record, but seven pages of butt-kicking later and the E of E are all tied up!  As Karen and I have often discussed, team books avoid that sense of omnipotence due mainly because the team members never fight together, pooling their powers and resources.  Here it's a combination of that, and the fact that these villains are just plain dumb.  And who ever thought Electro showed any leadership potential at all (other than Bendis)?  DD has a nifty trick at the end to keep the baddies at bay -- he loops them together and then uses Electro's powers to keep the other four knocked out!  Back at the law offices the next day, Matt by necessity acts bruskly toward Karen -- because that's what comic book lovers do to protect that secret identity!

Doug:  Loved this issue then, and in spite of its obvious flaws (only revealed to me as an adult -- when I was 10 this was highbrow fare!) I still like it a lot now.  As I remarked, the entry level writing is well done, and comics in general would do themselves a favor if they were more accessible these days (and dropped the price, what, a couple of bucks?).  The villains, while never too threatening, are colorful and comical in their push to defeat our hero.  And said hero -- what a guy -- all of those handicaps yet he barely breaks a sweat against what should definitely be stacked odds!  This book is just a nice 30-minute diversion that delivers a smile.  What more could we want?



Rip Jagger said...

This Annual attempt to give DD a battle akin to what Spidey faced in the epic debut of the Sinister Six in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 shows sadly how DD was perceived by Stan Lee as a second-string Spidey.

The Emissaries of Evil even share Electro with the Sinister Six, but still you have to admit that Leap Frog and Matador don't equal any of the Sinister Six. Stilt-Man I give a pass since I love his wackiness so much, but he's a small-timer too. Now Gladiator is a different story, a villain at least on par with Kraven the Hunter.

The big draw in this one is the outstandingly energetic artwork by Colan and John Tartaglione. No one did pure motion as smoothly as Colan did in his DD run. Outstanding!

Rip Off

david_b said...

Doug, thanks for reviewing yet another classic DD story.

(Actually not sure which cover I like more..)

Gene drawing DD was always a classic display of movement excellent. As vividly displayed in the Schumer's Silver Age of Comics, the fluidity that Colan created as portraying DD's movement style was wonderfully inventive and distinctive. It made you want to find panels depicting this, for the sheer joy of viewing.

The DD fight scene's were always well laid out perspective-wise. Sometime you couldn't care less who he was fighting, it all looked so good.

Comicsfan said...

This annual was such a nice display of Colan's artwork, and an excellent example of how well his style meshed with Daredevil. The story really was, as you note, a nice, harmless diversion. I doubt the "Emissaries of Evil" made a huge impact in comics history anywhere, but as a device for DD's first annual I thought they were used well. Maybe it was DD's nutritional pills that gave him the edge against these bruisers. :)

humanbelly said...

On a quick lunch break, here. What a delightful gem of a book! An artistic feast coupled with jam-packed, breezy (and admittedly goofy) story that is rife w/ enjoyable nit-picking potential. (Owen Erasmus would love this in his Marvel Universe retrospectives. . . ).

I have to say that this hodge-podge of a partial rogues gallery for DD does indeed leave much to be desired. They're not even well-suited to each other's power levels-- and boy you're right, not a functioning potential leader in the bunch.

Electro, to my mind, is a vastly over-powered foe for DD-- and doesn't belong in this group at all. Historically, in fact, Electro might win the award for Villain Who Has Least Lived Up to His Potential. Mostly 'cause he's just a small-minded criminal numbskull, I suppose. . .

The Matador? Are you kidding me? He's for real? Sheesh, he's like something out of the Torch's run in Strange Tales. Does he even have a superpower? Seems like he'd just be perpetually getting beat up every time he walked into any low-life thug bar. . .

Gladiator's legitimately tough, yep-- although I don't know anything much about him. Also an Iron Man foe, am I remembering?

Stilt-Man- is he anything beyond being a guy on long legs?? I have to admit, though, that he makes for a good cover (DD #'s 8, 26, and 48). I assume to beat him, one simply has to either anchor one of legs in place, or tangle them together.

And LeapFrog! OMG! I just came across him in the latter era of the original MTU! A completely silly, superfluous villain-- who did his time, and ultimately built a life for himself and his son (who, of course, swiped the suit to become, I believe, the Fabulous Frog-Man).

Ah, small-time supervillains. God love 'em. A never-ending lesson that a punk with powers is still a punk. Honestly, I LOVED the long-term arc for the Sandman, when he reformed and made something of himself. That was good, thoughtful writing that has, of course, been reversed and thrown away long since. It does seem like a much higher percentage of those guys would come around to the side of the angels, more or less, when given such an opportunity.


Graham said...

Thanks for the fun memories. I read this first in Giant Size DD in the mid 70's. I missed out on the first run of DD and a lot of the other Marvel heroes, so those Giant Size issue reprints that Marvel did one summer (along with DC's 100 Page Super Spectaculars) were a wonderful way to see what I had missed and help me catch up.

Fred W. Hill said...

A superfluously lighthearted read, Electro attempts to climb up to top tier villainy, taking charge of his own gang of costumed misfits, and he flubs it! Ah, well, not that Doc Ock did much better leading the original Sinister Six.
Funny how DD was created on orders from Martin Goodman as a variation of Spider-Man but while Spidey was initially written as a teen and often dealt with serious themes regarding personal responsibility, DD took up his costume as an adult, after having graduated college and started a law practice, but often the stories and tone seem more gearted towards a younger audience than even Spider-Man. Of course, all that changed in about 10 years, even before Frank Miller took over and made DD very serious and adult-themed.

Anonymous said...

I was more of a DC (and Gold Key) fan in the Silver Age, but I did like Daredevil, and this annual was a personal favorite. The premise was basically a remake of Spider Man vs. the Sinister Six, but I didn't know that when I was eight. Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 was a little before my time, since I started reading super hero comics in 1966. I didn't read the Sinister Six story until it was reprinted in Marvel Tales #150, so the DD story is the one that appeals to my nostalgia.

Edo Bosnar said...

Upon more closely inspecting that verbose panel in which DD takes out Matador and Electro , I have to say, it doesn't look like DD is going to land on his butt - it looks more like he used his butt to knock down Matador, or broke his fall by using Matador as a seat cushion.
Regardless, I have to agree with the consensus here about Colan's art. These panels you posted are a joy to look at.

david_b said...

Yessir, as mentioned several times, this site is keeping my Silver and Bronze comic intake EVER so healthy.

Just picked up VF copies of this, DD ish 26 (Stiltman) and 53 (origin retold..).

Gorgeous Colan DD art, one and all.

Debra DD said...

I would totally agree. I have always enjoyed Marvel Heros. suffering from PTSD the movie Sucker Punch really taught me how to disassociate in a positive way. Thank You

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