"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!