”Daredevil” (actually, the full title, redolent of typical Marvel Comics hyperbole, was ”Here Comes…Daredevil, The Man Without Fear!”) made its first appearance in April 1964. Matt Murdock was blinded as a boy when he was struck by a ”radioactive cylinder.” The gunk made the rest of his senses hyperacute, and even gave him a seeing-eye radar sense — except in the color department, apparently, for this crime-fighting devil’s earliest costume was…yellow. By No. 7, there was a panel saying that he wanted to make his costume ”more comfortable…more distinctive!” Duh — red!
Murdock grew up to be a successful Manhattan lawyer, partnered with his tubby college buddy, Foggy Nelson. Early issues featured much Stan Lee-penned dialogue about Matt’s ”handicap” and Foggy disclaimers such as ”Don’t let his blindness fool you, Karen! He’s still the smartest, most courageous fella I know! He doesn’t even seem to mind not seeing!”
There’s an ”Official Comic Adaptation” of the movie — ignore it (a) if you don’t want to know the plot and (b) if you like visually exciting comics: It’s a hemmed-in promotional item. Now then: ”Essential Daredevil Vol. 1” collects his first 25 issues in cheap black and white, all of them snappily written by Lee but with distinctive art only thrice — No. 1, featuring Bill Everett’s hard-boiled figurations, and Nos. 12 and 13, sinewy collaborations between Jack Kirby and John Romita. ”Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller Vol. 2” contains, in blazing color, the essence of the ”Daredevil” movie. Writer-artist Miller boosted the comic’s sagging sales in the early ’80s, set up the epochal love/hate relationship between the redhead and Elektra, a ninja assassin, and generally bestowed upon the book a grandly tragic air. Film director Kevin Smith contributed to ”’devil” lore, writing eight issues in the late ’90s (collected as ”Daredevil Visionaries: Kevin Smith”) that turned the hero’s long-lost gal pal Karen into a victim of AIDS, while Brian Michael Bendis currently does a smashing job on the monthly ”Daredevil” comic, retelling the origin of the character via naturalistic dialogue and knotty twists such as having Big D’s identity revealed in the tabloids. And Ben Affleck thinks he gets too much attention from the rags…