Thursday, January 31, 2013

Daredevil, Pt. 2

(Continued from Part 1)

For the 2nd time in only 4 issues, editor Stan Lee had LOST the writer & artist of his new feature, DAREDEVIL.  First, series creator Bill Everett had been unable to continue due to his more-than-full-time advertising job.  Then, Joe Orlando had left in anger over Lee's "editorial style" --insisting his "artists" write their own stories with no input from Lee, then insisting on changes because Lee didn't like the direction the resulting stories were taking.  According to Lee, the changes were intended to "bring the story back in line with what he originally wanted".  But this was nonsense!  If it were true, it would mean that all this "top talent" that Stan had working for him were incompetent bunglers incapable of following simple instructions.  It's amazing how some bosses take a sick pleasure in knocking the best efforts of those who work for them.

Stepping up to the plate next was EC Comics legend Wally Wood.  Wood had done it all.  Early in his career he assisted Will Eisner on the final installments of THE SPIRIT, then worked for a wide variety of publishers before cutting a wide swath at EC doing science-fiction stories, every page a dazzling array of visual detail unlike anything ever seen in comics before.  Wood then worked on every single issue of MAD, from the time it was a color comic to when it evolved into a B&W magazine, and continued to do so, until, abruptly, he quit over a dispute with his editor.  A shame, as this was, apparently, just before the page rates SHOT UP.

Wood took over DAREDEVIL, and turned what for 3 issues has been an almost unreadable mess into one of the crown jewels of the line.  Stan Lee was obviously proud of having Wood on his team.  NO other creator had been credited by name on the covers before!  But under the surface, Wood was boiling mad with resentment.  Stan was proclaiming him to be an artist, an "illustrator", when in fact, Wood, like Kirby, Ditko, Ayers, Everett & Orlando before him, was writing the books as well as doing the art.  Wood deeply resented doing work and NOT getting paid (or credited) for it!

Still, this resentment clearly did not get in the way of his doing his usual dazzling work, albeit streamlined and simplified more than it had ever been in the old days.

One thing I noticed reading these stories was, Bill Everett had created very specific looks to his supporting cast.  Joe Orlando drew both Foggy Nelson and Karen Page as if they were completely different people! When Wood took over, he followed Orlando's model rather than Everett's-- except, Wood made them look GOOD.  (See the 2 figures on the far left of the cover below.)

For Wood's 1st effort, he was apparently inspired by the fact that this "Dare Devil" had horns-- like a bull-- and so, created his natural opponent... The Matador!

DAREDEVIL 5  /  art by WALLY WOOD   (December 1964)
Another "natural" for "The Man Without Fear", was a baddie named Mr. Fear!
Perhaps following his editor's example by skimping, the story reused minor
Jack Kirby villain The Eel (used by Dick Ayers in the Johnny Storm 
Human Torch series in STRANGE TALES) and Steve Ditko villain The Ox

DAREDEVIL 6  /  art by WALLY WOOD   (February 1965)
Perhaps the most "obvious" story was to pit Bill Everett's 2 creations against each other.  While he was at it, Wally Wood redesigned DD's costume, giving him the "classic" version that would remain virtually unchanged for the rest of his career!  Below is surely one of Wood's MASTERPIECES.

DAREDEVIL 7  /  art by WALLY WOOD   (April 1965)
One of the most outrageous of DD's early and recurring foes was The Stilt-Man, who was apparently conceived by Jack Kirby almost as an afterthought. However, the final design of the armor was almost completely "Wally Wood".  I've often thought the live-action DAREDEVIL movie might have been a lot more fun (and more of a success) if they'd based it less on Frank Miller's much-later run of the book, and more on Wally Wood's.

DAREDEVIL 8  /  art by WALLY WOOD  (June 1965)
A strange thing was going on at Marvel around this time.  Beginning with the Jul'65 issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, #26, Steve Ditko began receiving credit for "plot".  What happened was, Ditko had been writing the stories entirely on his own for well over a year by then (since it became obvious he didn't need Jack Kirby's help coming up with villains or story ideas).  But starting with issue #26, he got tired of not being credited-- OR PAID-- for work he was actually doing.  So he demanded both-- and got them!  This, however, really pissed off his editor, since the money to pay Ditko for writing had been going to him all this time.  From that day on, Ditko's editor STOPPED talking to him, and Ditko had to deal with production manager Sol Brodsky instead.

What's this got to do with DAREDEVIL?  Simple.  A month later, Wally Wood demanded the SAME THING. And why not?  Apart from using some villains Jack Kirby came up with, Wood had been writing the book entirely on his own since he took it over with issue #5.  But this time, the editor (Stan Lee, of course) refused to simply give in.  Instead, he offered Wood more inking jobs.  This is how Wood wound up inking 3 issues of THE AVENGERS, an episode of Iron Man in TALES OF SUSPENSE, and an episode of The Human Torch And The Ever-Lovin' Thing in STRANGE TALES.  Meanwhile, Lee had been trying to help out veteran artist Bob Powell by finding him as many assignments as he could, but as was all too obvious from his work on Giant-Man and The Human Torch, writing was not one of Powell's strengths.  And so, next thing you know, Powell was teamed with Wood on 3 issues of DAREDEVIL, doing pencils in between Wood's layouts and inking.

The really strange thing about this is, the credits were written 3 very different ways over the course of those 3 issues.  On the first, it suggested Wood was doing layouts and inks, with Powell doing pencils.  On the 2nd, it listed Powell doing layouts, with Wood doing pencils & inks.  On the 3rd, Powell was listed as doing pencils (presumably including the layouts) and Wood, only the inks.  Had they been working in the same studio, this could have been a very real possibility.  But since they didn't, the credits (written by Lee, of course) just don't make any sense!  Presumably, Wood did story, layouts & inks on all 3-- and Powell did the pencils.  This would have given Wood more complete control of the finished product, in the SAME way John Romita would often do stories, layouts AND finishes on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, with some other penciller squeezed in the middle.  The sad thing about these issues is, while Wood's inks tend to drag just about anyone's pencils UP, in this case, Powell's pencils were tending to drag Wood's art DOWN at the same time.

It really would have been so much better if BOTH Wood AND Powell had been able to do FULL ART, each on separate books.  But of course, for that to happen, Powell would have needed a "real" writer to work with.

I've noticed over the years that Wally Wood had a thing for stories about castles.  That's why I think this one was even more all his own idea than usual.  Of course, the villain wasn't particularly memorable, but you can't have everything!  The design on this cover is something else-- NOBODY else at Marvel was doing stuff like this back then!

DAREDEVIL 9  /  art by WALLY WOOD   (August 1965)

DD #10 contained the following intro:  "Wally Wood has always wanted to try his hand at WRITING a story as well as drawing it, and big-hearted Stan (who wanted a rest anyway) said okay!  So, what follows next is anybody's guess!  You may like it or not, but, you can be sure of this... it's gonna be DIFFERENT!"  Lee still manages to have himself listed FIRST, as he did on every single comic he edited. How very "Hollywood".  At the end, he cuts in again:  "Now that Wally got the writing out of his system, he left it for poor Stan to finish next issue!  Can our leader do it?"

The following issue opened with the following:  "Wally Wood wrote PART ONE of this two-parter, just for a lark!  But, now it's up to sly ol' STAN to put all the pieces together and make it come out okay in the end.  Can he DO it?  See for yourself!"

When one realizes that Wally Wood wrote all 7 of his issues of DAREDEVIL without any input whatsoever from Lee, it's easy to understand how infuriating all this was.  Not only was his editor STEALING credit AND PAY from him for the writing he was doing, he was being condescending and insulting about it, in print, at the same time.

This two-parter features Wood's own villains, Ape-Man, Bird-Man, Cat-Man, Frog-Man (The Ani-Men), and their mysterious boss, The Organizer.

DAREDEVIL 10  /  art by WALLY WOOD (minor assist by Larry Ivie)
     (October 1965)
DAREDEVIL 11  /  art by Bob Powell & Wally Wood   (December 1965)

The last page of DD #11 has Matt Murdock severing his relationship with Foggy Nelson, and walking out of his life, seemingly forever.  I can't help but see this as a reflection of how Wood felt when he accepted an offer from Samm Schwartz to spearhead Tower's new line of comics, including THUNDER AGENTS and DYNAMO.

I really see DAREDEVIL as being a "litmus test" to answer the question, "WHO WRITES THAT STUFF???"  In the 1970's, when what came to be known as "The Marvel Method" (plot, then pencils, then dialogue) was in full swing, EVERY writer working for Marvel had a unique, distinguishable, recognizable style.  This went not just for their dialogue, but for their STORIES as well.  After all, stories-- "plots", as they tend to be called (often in a rather dismissive, derogatory way) are in fact the MOST important part of writing.  Each writer, whether it was Roy Thomas, Steve Englehart, Steve Gerber, Len Wein, Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman, Chris Claremont, Tony Isabella, Don McGregor, every one of them, their stories remain consistent, no matter WHO the artists were illustrating them.  It didn't matter how good-- or how BAD-- the art was-- you could still always tell who wrote the stories.

But when one looks at DAREDEVIL (or just about any other Marvel from the 60's), this is absolutely NOT the case.  If the person credited on the first 50 consecutive issues of DAREDEVIL were really the one who wrote the stories, the style, the structure, everything would be CONSISTENT.  And-- IT AIN'T!  Yet even some fans who I've seen writing extremely-detailed reviews online of some of these issues, who note the differences, seem completely unaware, totally oblivious to the OBVIOUS truth staring them right in the face.  Bill Everett, Joe Orlando, Wally Wood, John Romita, and Gene Colan-- THESE were the guys writing these stories.  Their editor, HE just wrote the dialogue.  AND took credit for everything else.

It's no wonder Wally Wood wound up with a burning hatred for Lee that remained with him to the end of his days.  (And he didn't even work for him for that long!)

Marvel Masterworks Vol.17 (the 1st DD collection) remains one of my favorites, due to the wonderful work of Bill Everett & Wally Wood.  I wish it could have lasted a lot longer.

As a bonus, here's an alternate version of DD #10.  It seems the Comics Code objected to Debbie Harris' kidnapping. I can't see why.  You can see the remains of rubber cement around Cat-Man & Debbie Harris where the altered art was before being removed.
One more bonus, here's the cover of  
Fellow Wood fan Steven Thompson said this at his blog...

"There's no "DD" on his chest but there's still no question who this is supposed to be. Was Wood making a statement on this Rocket's Blast ComiCollector cover about how the big guys (Marvel) were overthrowing the little guys (Tower)? Or was he just having fun with a couple of super heroes he was known for drawing?"

art by WALLY WOOD   (August 1968)

“An editor is someone dedicated to destroying the work of a creator.”
--Wally Wood  (spoken to Bhob Stewart  /  courtesy of his Portzebie blog)

(Continued in Part 3)

Read about the Golden Age Daredevil at Wikipedia
Read the Wally Wood page at Wikipedia
Visit Booksteve's Horray For Wally Wood blog!
  (But beware-- it goes on forever! You may never wanna leave.)
Read the Bob Powell page at Wikipedia
See Bob Powell's Jet covers!
See more Larry Ivie art at the ERBzine site

Artwork Copyright (C) Marvel Comics

Raw scans of DAREDEVIL #6-10 from Heritage Auction
Raw scan of DAREDEVIL #10 Inks from Sean Howe's website
     from Steven Thompson's Horray For Wally Wood blog
Raw scan of DAREDEVIL #7 from Boards Collectors Society website

Restorations by Henry Kujawa

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


DAREDEVIL, "The Man Without Fear", was apparently the first of 4 instances during the 1960's when Marvel publisher Martin Goodman decided to make use of the names of old characters from defunct publishers.  "Daredevil" was originally a character created by Jack Binder, then modified by Jack Cole & Charles Biro, and published by Lev Gleason Publications.  Binder's Daredevil was tremendously successful for several years, but like many costumed super-heroes of the 1940's, lost popularity by the end of the decade.

Pete Morisi, creator of "Johnny Dynamite", was a big fan of LGP's "Daredevil", made inquiries and was actually given the go-ahead to revive the character.  However, artist Charles Biro insisted on ongoing royalties for the use, so Morisi balked, and instead created a new character with a very similar costume, "Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt", which was published by Charlton Comics, though Morisi retained ownership!

Apparently, Martin Goodman, seeing the new Marvel Comics super-heroes were a success, wanted more, and told editor Stan Lee to come up with a new character named "Daredevil", having discovered the Trademark had lapsed, and no doubt hearing of the planned revival by Morisi. The order, coming from Goodman, no doubt explains the chaos and confusion that loomed over the early run of the book, as, clearly, Stan Lee had even less interest in the character than usual (despite his longtime claims that Daredevil was a "personal favorite" of his).

According to Steve Ditko, he was offered the chance to do the new "Daredevil", using the original costume, and he turned it down.  Perhaps his heavy schedule (at Marvel and at Charlton) got in the way. Perhaps he realized there might be legal problems reusing both the name AND costume (something that proved correct when Marvel later revived the western hero "Ghost Rider" in 1967).

What seems very clear is that Lee then had Jack Kirby design a costume, despite Kirby being far too over-extended at that point on other features to do the usual job of creating the character on his own and writing the initial series of episodes.  The costume for the new "Daredevil" is clearly inspired by that of a circus acrobat.  Kirby had created one of those before, in STUNTMAN (published by Harvey in 1946.)

In what must have seen as coming completely out of left field, Golden Age creator, writer & artist (and longtime Marvel alumni) Bill Everett got the assignment. Everett, best known as the creator of Prince Namor, The SUB-MARINER, had been with Marvel from its earliest days as a comics publisher.  Following a stint in the Army in WW2, he returned to Subby, and also worked on countless horror stories in the 1950's, until Goodman's company abruptly almost went out of business, a result of Goodman's taking bad advice from his accountant, shutting down his own distribution company, then watching the distributor he signed with instead get shut down as a result of a Federal racketeering investigation.  Everett spent the next several years working in advertising.

DAREDEVIL was to be his return to comics.  With the help and inspiration of his daughter Wendy, who was "legally blind", Everett made Daredevil a BLIND super-hero, something not seen since Dr. Mid-Nite at DC (or The Eclipse from the fanzines).  Everett may also have been inspired by the 1939 pulp magazine character The Black Bat, who was a District Attourney before being blinded by acid!  I recently re-read the 1st issue, and, like THE INCREDIBLE HULK #1 by Jack Kirby, it remains a fabulous, fun story.

Unfortunately, Everett's advertising work had him on more than a full-time schedule, which didn't leave much room for moonlighting on the side.  The 1st DAREDEVIL story, which someone had already foolishly put on the production schedule (!!!!!) was running terribly late, and the inks and backgrounds wound up being finished mostly by Steve Ditko and Sol Brodsky.  (A careful study of the comic reveals several action panels which were obvious drawn or redrawn by Ditko, the style is unmistakable.)  And so, Marvel had another terrific new character to add to its stable-- the book was already on the schedule-- but NOBODY was there to do it!  MADNESS!!

DAREDEVIL 1  /  art by Jack Kirby & Bill Everett   (April 1964)
That 1st cover so was crowded!  It comes across more like an advertisement for a new product than an actual magazine cover.  Inspired in part by several foreign reprint editions, I came up with the following "fantasy" version of what the cover maybe SHOULD have looked like...

Fantasy version  /  design by Henry Kujawa
No other 60's Marvel super-hero had such bad luck with creators as DAREDEVIL. Following the abrupt departure of series creator Bill Everett, editor Stan Lee must have gone into a panic.  Perhaps he felt luck was with him when EC Comics alumni Joe Orlando got in touch.  Orlando had started in the biz as Wally Wood's assistant, then contributed to many issues of MAD, before moving on to Warren and a long career at DC Comics.  But in early 1964, he had a brief detour to Marvel Comics.  It didn't last long.  Editor Stan Lee was still working on the Marvel "formula", and he had very strong, very specific ideas of how he wanted his new line of Marvel Comics to be.  What he didn't have was any story ideas-- that is, until he saw what his "artists" were doing, and then decided they "needed" changes.  (How very "Hollywood"!)

Apparently there were far more changes made on Joe Orlando's stories for Lee than any other "artist" (talk about a misleading word!) who worked for Lee in the 60's.  Over the course of a mere 3 issues of DAREDEVIL, Lee, apparently not happy with the directions Orlando's stories were going in, had Orlando redraw from scratch as much as 50% of the pages he was turning in.  When Orlando "filled in" on an episode of Giant-Man and the Wasp in TALES TO ASTONISH #61 (Nov'64), the amount of changes were just too much for him to tolerate.  He walked, and never returned to Marvel.  (Steve Ditko wound up finishing the Giant-Man story, probably at very short notice.)

When I first read MARVEL MASTERWORK S Vol.17, which reprinted DAREDEVIL #1-11, I was unaware of any of this.  All I knew was, I loved the Bill Everett issue... and HATED the Joe Orlando issues.  All 3 of them. They're TERRIBLE.  I rank them as possibly 3 of the WORST Marvel Comics of the entire 1960's.  The plots are a shambling, chaotic mess.  While the actual drawing is nice, the page layouts and visual storytelling are terribly sub-par.  The inks by Vince Colletta-- I believe DD #2 may be the former romance artist's very first foray into the world of super-heroes-- are ABOMINABLY bad.  (He even managed to MURDER Jack Kirby's art on the cover of DD #2-- see below.)

Actually, I just got my first look at some of the original art for these issues, and I see clear evidence of at least 2 totally different inkers.  One of them appears to know what he's doing; the other is Vince Colletta. Leave it to Vinnie to hire assistants vastly better than he was himself!

Actually, the more I look at the page by the other inker, the more I suspect it was Joe Orlando. Which makes me think Colletta only got involved AFTER all the art for the entire book was already finished and turned in-- when Lee decided he "didn't like where the story was going". If THAT's the case, then it would suggest Orlando started out doing full art, but then decided it wasn't worth the hassle, if he was going to have to RE-DO so many pages from scratch.

I just don't understand how anyone but the most self-blinded die-hard fanatical "fan" can claim they "really like" these books.  Fortunately, this didn't last long.

DAREDEVIL 2  /  art by Jack Kirby & Vince Colletta   (June 1964)
DAREDEVIL 3  /  art by Jack Kirby & Vince Colletta   (August 1964)
DAREDEVIL 3,  page 3
Inks by Joe Orlando?  There seems to be some real chaos going on here, note how the panels on the 2nd tier appear to have been cut-and-pasted down.  Changes made after-the-fact by the editor?

DAREDEVIL 4  /  art by Jack Kirby & Vince Colletta   (October 1964)
Boy!  On top of being one of the best creators, writers and visual storytellers in the biz, Jack Kirby sure could draw city buildings! This cover looks SO much better, now that I can actually see what I'm looking at.

(Continued in Part 2)

Read about the Golden Age Daredevil at Wikipedia.
Read Gary Groth's interview with Jack Kirby at The Comics Journal site.
   (And don't miss the "Comments" section when you do!)
Read the Interview with Wendy Everett at
Read the Interview with Blake Bell about his Bill Everett biography
   at Comic Book Resources.
Read about The Black Bat at Wikipedia.
Read about Dr. Mid-Nite at Wikipedia.
Read Joe Orlando's Wikipedia page!

Artwork Copyright (C) Marvel Comics

Raw scans of DAREDEVIL #1-4 from Heritage Auctions
Raw scan of DAREDEVIL #3, page 3 inks by Ceri Levy at Comic Art Fans

Restorations by Henry Kujawa

Special thanks to:
Steve Thompson (whose blog inspired me to write this);
Patrick Ford (whose sense of history & logic added greatly);
Will Murray (whose article in ALTER EGO #118 filled in an important piece of the puzzle that had been missing);
Roy Thomas (who sent me a copy of the issue);
Dave Rawlins (who clued me in about Steve Ditko's almost-involvement before Kirby);
and Kevin Hawkins (who told me about The Black Bat!).