Friday, July 22, 2011


For some reason I've had a fit landing a copy of DAREDEVIL #16 for my collection. It's not particularly rare, but because it guest-starred Spider-Man, it's in higher demand than other issues of that title. Daredevil was never one of Marvel's best selling books in the early days of their transition to superhero comics. It's one of the few characters that wasn't obviously created by either Steve Ditko or Jack Kirby. Bill Everette did the artwork. Everette, best known for creating Namor, the Sub-Mariner was not one of the core creators of Marvel's superhero renaissance.

I suppose that, arguably, Daredevil might actually be a superhero that Stan Lee did create, although in this one Jack Kirby did the initial character designs (including Daredevil's unique "billy club" device) so even here Lee's creator credits are highly suspect. At least in very basic concept, it's barely possible Lee did some work. The character name was not new, however. In the Golden Age of comics there had been a relatively popular superhero named Daredevil. This book had been published by an outfit called Lev Gleason that went out of business in the mid-50s. The original character had been published by a man (Leverette Gleason) who had been accused of being a communist sympathizer in the 1950s. I don't know the hows and whys of Marvel having ownership of the trademark for "Daredevil", but apparently Martin Goodman figured they could use it and the story goes that he instructed Lee to create a new character around it.

DAREDEVIL #16, in excellent condition. I have to say, a pretty nifty and typically dynamic cover from Marvel. Lee excelled in getting these kinds of efforts from his stable of artists.

To get back to adding this book to my collection, I had a hard time landing a copy, but finally managed to get one in much higher grade than I was willing to settle. This one is in the very fine range and presents well. Initially, when it came to Spider-Man books, I only wanted the issues written and illustrated by the character's creator, Steve Ditko. However, I eventually settled on some conditions--one of them being to get all of the books in which the character appeared while Ditko was working on the main book. This included some peripheral appearances that Marvel would publish from time to time to pump up the sales of other titles. In the case of DAREDEVIL #16 and #17, the use of Spider-Man was apparently to give the Daredevil artist, John Romita a chance to try his hand with the character. Because by this time Stan Lee either suspected that Ditko would soon leave Marvel (he did) or that Lee and Goodman would just take the character way from Ditko (they did).

Romita handled Spider-Man well in the two-issue storyline, which is understandable because both Daredevil and Spider-Man were very similar characters, physically speaking. They both used similar methods for moving about the cityscape, and both were hand-to-hand combatants. The action in both books was similar, as were the villains that each faced.

I liked this issue when it first appeared when I was a little kid, and the story isn't too bad when I revisit it as an adult. However, knowing the history behind it--the fact that it was part of the writing-on-the-wall for Ditko's exit from Marvel, makes it all rather sad.

My copy of DAREDEVIL #17. I didn't have any trouble at all getting a copy of this book, although I settled for one in lesser condition. I do, after all, like to actually ready my old comics. It was this two-issue story arc that settled Lee and Goodman's concerns over who was going to follow Steve Ditko on THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. One way or the other, Ditko was going. And this tryout settled it for the publisher and his nephew.

Some people figured that Daredevil #16 merely featured Spider-Man as a guest because The Amazing Spider-Man #16 featured Daredevil as a guest. But there were more nefarious reasons afoot. I always laugh when I see Ditko doing covers like this one. Apparently one of Stan Lee's bugaboos was butt-shots. He hated having his artists show the heroes in ass shots. So of course Ditko did them anyway. I've always assumed he would get away with some of them by turning in the art too close to deadlines to allow Lee to have the art redrawn.

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