So, I was posting last night about Daredevil #57, in which Hornhead reveals his secret identity as Matt Murdock to Karen Page, and I noticed somethin' interestin'. As you'll remember, I've read the story in Essential Daredevil Vol. 3, the black-and-white phone book-style omnibus of the late sixties run of Daredevil. When it came time to post the cover of DD #57, however, I grabbed it from the ever-amazing Grand Comic Book Database (don't blog without it!) so that I could post a color cover. Whoda thunk, true believer, that the b/w cover pictured in Essential Daredevil was different than the one in living color on the GCD. Can you spot the difference? And no, smart aleck, it's not that one's in black and white and the other's in color:
Daredevil is wearing sunglasses in the black-and-white version.
I noticed this originally after staring at the b/w version in Essential for a while and then starting to post "Who wears sunglasses under a mask" before realizing that in the color version I'd posted, DD wasn't wearing his trademark Matt Murdock Foster Grants! So where'd they come from in the b/w version? A puzzlement, a puzzlement indeed!
Here's my guess, and it is exactly that, a guess: I don't know how the Marvel Essentials volumes are produced, but most (not all) of the stories seems to be shot from pure black-and-white masters, with no coloring shading turned to grey. (A few stories in some of the volumes do indeed look like they're shot from the actual color comic books.) That produces the stark, detailed black-and-white artwork you can admire, and if you're so inclined, color, in the Essentials. If indeed the Essentials are shot from some sort of b/w production stats (probably not the original art, likely long sold or destroyed), then it's entirely possible we're looking at some editorial workover of Genial Gene Colan's original artwork. It's all an "I guess," of course, but looks like maybe Colan pencilled and Syd Shores inked DD with the usual Murdock specs onafter all, Matt doesn't look like Matt without 'em, does he? Then maybe Stan or someone at the editorial level pointed out DD wouldn't, couldn't wear those shades under his crimson cowl, and the artwork was redrawn before printing to produce what became the final covered version: a barefaced Matt Murdock who is very definitely not making a spectacle of himself.
It's all just supposition on this little stuffed bull's part. I doubt Gene would remember and we can almost bet Stan wouldn't even if he had a hand in it. Maybe it's time to set the bloodhound at "Comic Book Urban Legends on the trail of the altered art. Or maybe it's just one of those cool little mysteries neither man nor bull was meant to know...an enigma of the last days of the Silver Age, a tale more amazing in its obscurity than in its truth...a misty, hidden secret lost to the passing of time. The world may never know.
This is Bully Nimoy, and this has been...In Search of...Daredevil's Sunglasses.
I got so caught up in gigglin' at pokin' gentle but fond fun at various panels in Daredevil #56 that I plum fergot to actually say anything about the story itself. So, in words of one silly-bull, this book is fun. It's a fairly standard story for the time: DD is as usual dealing with his complicated series of secret identities: he's just coming off the long-running "my non-existent twin brother Mike Murdock is actually Daredevil, whoops Mike is dead" storyline and it's in the middle of the the whole "Matt Murdock is believed dead to trap the villainous Starr Saxon but maybe it's better that way if Karen Page believes Matt to truly be an ex-Matt" plot, but really, how can you go wrong with a story whose splash page features Daredevil singing a Lennon/McCartney song aloud as he swings through the streets of Manhattan? The late sixties was probably the heights of the soap opera aspect of Daredevil; the "wahhhh, Karen doesn't love me" bit went on a bit long. But the writing's done with such a light touch and the action barrels ahead full-speed. It's a standard but well-constructed DD story, and heck, it sure provides its fifteen cents of entertainment.
I read this story in (the highly recommended) Essential Daredevil Volume 3; to these little button eyes, Gene Colan's moody, shadowy, angled artwork might even look better in black-and-white than in color. I'm a big fan of Colan during this period (even though he did have a tendency to draw fight scenes so you couldn't see the characters' heads...what's that about?). Although Colan's sometimes an unusual art choice for the ordinary Daredevil billy-club in New York adventure, then boy howdy, did Rascally Roy cook up an appropriate tale for him with #56: Karen Page, the love of Hornhead's life, returns home to Stately Page Manor to find the place under the thrall of a sinister new butler and haunted by Death's-Head, a glowing spectre riding a skeleton horse straight of of Karen's childhood dreams. And where's Papa Page during all this? The clues are no harder to put together than an episode of Scooby-Doo, but there's some solid action and tension when DD faces off against the ghostly rider. Sure enough, there's the dangling promise of a dandy Stan Lee-style cliffhanger at the end: Death's-Head knocks out DD, dresses DD in the Death's-Head costume, and sends him off against a pair of trigger-happy cops! Will Daredevil escape? Will Daredevil escape?!? (turning the page to issue #57...) Oh, guess he did.
Most of the fun for this little stuffed Daredevil fan, however, is in the weird and wacky machination behind the Matt/Karen relationship, which has been up and down more often than Stilt-Man. Matt loves Karen but must never reveal his secret identity? That's standard Marvel superhero fare, but what this story was building up to and paid off in issue #57 was fairly groundbreaking for the time:
Anyway, that cover? Not a hoax, not a dream, not a what if, not an imaginary story! In #57, Karen did actually find out the secret of Hornhead's true identity, and that revelation remained canon and unretconned. You kids today with your Civil Wars and your Houses of Ms and your Volkswagen Golf leases may not think that's anything special, what with everybody and his butler now knowing the true identity of Spider-Man and Iron Man and Captain America Man and Professor X-Man, but the Marvel of the sixties and seventies was the tightest lock-down imaginable for secret identities: with the possible exception of the Hulk/Bruce Banner in Tales to Astonish #77, each of the Silver Age heroes protected his secret identity if he had one. Sure, Spider-Man might be flown through the streets sans mask, Captain America's relation to Steve Rogers might be uncovered by HYDRA, Willie Lumpkin might peek under Forbush-Man's pot helmet, but by the end of the storyline if not that same issue the revelation would be undone, retconned, explained away, amnesiaed out, or misled with clones, doubles, LMDs or the occasional jus' plain dumb luck. That the late-sixties Daredevil's identity was made known to one of his closest supporting cast members is one of the most dramatic steps forward towards turning the book from just another Spider-Man clone (and I think we all know how painful that can be) towards its own distinct urban noir that, a handful of silly villains aside, really saw its roots in this era. It's part of the reason I love Silver Age and seventies Marvels: every once in a while one of Stan's successors would throw us a curveball, and whether that twist worked or failed, there were some periods when you never really knew what was coming up in a Marvel comic book from month to month. And you just had to read the next issue to find out...canny, canny Marvel Bullpen! You've got me and my dimes exactly where you want us!
Before I sign off to dream about billy clubs and stilt-men, in the spirit of the Mighty Marvel bonus features, here's the flame-broiled cover of DaredevilVolume 2 #56 (March 2004):
Wow, that glowing red cover with its skeletal hands could almost be a modern version to fit the story in Volume 1, #56. Did Death's-Head come back in this issue in an all-new Bendis version? If so, I'd imagine it would take him three pages just to get out his wicked cackling rant.
Heck, while we're at it, why not savour the Golden Agey goodness of the original Lev Gleason Daredevil #56 (September 1949):
Golly, why doesn't anyone use the word "Illustories" any more?
"Attention passengers. This is a Brooklyn-bound F train making all local stops to Euclid Avenue, not Coney Island. Due to weekend construction, there is no C train service in Brooklyn. All stations on the C line will be serviced by this Brooklyn-bound F train making all local stops to Euclid Avenue. For all local stops on the F line to Stillwell Ave., disembark at Hoyt-Schemerhorn, cross the platform and board a Brookyn-bound G train, now making all local stops on the F line to Stillwell Ave. No, we don't understand it either."
(Actual announcement on the Brooklyn-bound F train this evening)
Where's "Ten of a Kind", you ask? It'll be posted Monday evening, Bully-backers.