Monday, August 27, 2007

The History of Daredevil Comic Books

Comic books, and especially superhero comic books, have been hugely popular ever since their inception in the 1930s (although comic strips had been around longer, it wasn’t really until the 30s that comics featuring Superman and Batman made the genre as popular as it is today). Of all the superhero comics, perhaps Daredevil is one of the most underrated.

One of the reasons for this could be the fact that Daredevil never appeared when comic books were at their zenith. With the Second World War still fresh in the memory, the public needed to find a way to escape from the drudgery and unhappiness of everyday life, and comic books offered that. Since Daredevil didn’t appear on newsstands until 1964, this can maybe explain why the series never really gained mass appeal (although that would change later on).

The Evolution of Daredevil

Coming from the mind of Marvel legend Stan Lee and artist Bill Everett, Daredevil is a superhero with a difference. Named Matt Murdock and blinded as a child by radioactive waste, caused when he saves a blind man from a runaway truck, Matt realizes that his other remaining four senses are heightened. Mentored by another mysterious blind man named Stick, Matt trains in martial arts and how to use his increased senses to maximum effect.

Matt’s father is a washed-up boxer who works for the local mobster. When Matt’s father gets an unlikely title shot, he refuses to take a fall as instructed by the mobster, who has fixed the fight, and knocks the champ out instead. Due to this refusal to follow orders, the mobster murders Matt’s father. Matt goes to college, where he will meet Elektra Natchios, a beautiful student who Matt falls for.

When Elektra and her father are kidnapped, Daredevil is born as Matt dons his disguise to rescue them. However, Elektra’s father dies, and she leaves Matt and returns home to train (to avenge her father’s death, which is where the comic book Elektra is born). Matt sets up a law firm, yet by night he is Daredevil, serving justice on those who escape the law.

A Tale Of Two Comics

There are two distinct timelines that are important in the evolution of Daredevil, and the eventual increase in the series’ popularity. Between 1964 and 1998, Daredevil was just another comic book hero in garish spandex.

Although his tales had more angst and emotional drama than most other superheroes, fans never really took to him that much. Perhaps it was the awful yellow and red outfit, or weak storytelling, but it never had the huge sales that other comic books were enjoying.

This changed in 1979/1980, when the legendary comic book writer/artist Frank Miller became involved. Grounding the tale in more realistic organized crime fighting, he also redesigned Daredevil’s outfit to a darker, single color. Bringing in one of Spiderman’s enemies, the larger-than-life Kingpin, was a masterstroke, and saw the comics approach a far darker tone.

This new tone was enhanced even further in 1998, when indie filmmaker Kevin Smith wrote the script for the relaunched Daredevil. It told a bold story of Murdock having to protect a child who could save or destroy the Earth, and was a glorious return to form for the series.

This continues today, and although not a huge success, the Daredevil movie of a couple of years back kept reasonably faithful to the origins of this most unusual of superheroes, and expanded the audience in the process.

Gavin Roberts has grown up with comic books and has compiled a massive comic book collection. He has also created an Online Comic Book Store that showcases thousands of constantly updated comic books. Check out some Daredevil Comics or any other of your favorite comics at

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