Essential Daredevil Volume 6 by Marv Wolfman and Bill Mantlo (graphic novel review).

March 19, 2015 | By | Reply More

As Daredevil is soon to make an appearance on those new fangled television things, this might be a good time to read the ancient texts. ‘Essential Daredevil Vol. 6’ includes Daredevil # 126-146 and Daredevil Annual # 4 along with Iron Man # 88-89 and Ghost Rider # 20. With nearly 500 pages, it’s a bargain even at the recommended retail price of £14.99 in the UK. Far be it from me to teach your media savvy grandchildren to suck eggs by pointing out that you can probably get it cheaper than that.


These stories were originally published in 1975-1977. That was a long time ago and things were different. The Watergate scandal had shaken the belief of United Statesmen in their politicians and corruption seemed rife. Films like ‘Serpico’ showed that even the cops were bent. New York was bankrupt. The young were getting into drugs and the old values were being questioned and undermined. The comics were being scripted by a new generation of writers, college graduates who believed that Uri Geller really did have magic powers and had super-heroes shouting at themselves: ‘Face it, Matthew!’ Strange. I have never shouted at myself in the third person but then, I am far from super.

Matt Murdock is back in New York after his sojourn in L.A. with Natasha Romanov and has a new woman in his life. Heather Glenn walked into his apartment because it used to belong to her old boyfriend and she had a key. She’s young and a bit of a kook but Matt likes her. She is also rich and her father pays for a new charity venture, The Storefront, where Murdock and ex-District Attorney Franklin Nelson can do law for poor folks. The new District Attorney is Blake Tower, who seems like a good guy. There’s also a cop called Lieutenant Rose who doesn’t like costumed vigilantes, especially Daredevil.

The art is all okay and sometimes very good. The Ford system of comic production in America blurs the lines between creators so it’s hard to know how much of a contribution each made, especially with artists. Issues # 126-132 are credited Bob Brown (penciler) and Klaus Janson (inker) on the inside covers but as Bob Brown and Klaus Janson (artists) on the actual comics. John Buscema gets called a guest artist on # 136-137 with Jim Mooney as embellisher. His brother Sal gets the same credit on # 139 but only does layouts on # 140 with ‘finishes’ by Klaus Janson. Issue # 141 has two pencillers, Gil Kane and Bob Brown, and is inked by Jim Mooney. The art looks very like Gil Kane, so he must have done the initial layouts. You get complete Kane pencils a few issues later. There’s a couple of samples of early John Byrne, too, in a Ghost Rider crossover story and first class work by George Tuska in an Iron Man crossover. As I said, it’s all easy on the eye and certainly much better than some of what passes for art nowadays in comics. Klaus Janson’s inking style is particularly well suited to black and white reprints.

The writing was mostly Marv Wolfman and the stories are pretty good. Not awesome, not even amazing, but well plotted and reasonably entertaining. Bullseye, who was to become a big time villain, is introduced in Daredevil # 131-132. The Jester lurks as a sub-plot for the first few issues before bursting out to take over three issues and other old nemeses like Death Stalker, Man-Bull, the Beetle, the Gladiator and the Owl appear. Blasts from the more distant Daredevil past are Cobra and Mr. Hyde and the Sub-Mariner. The best story in issue # 139 has no super-villain at all but a lost child with haemophilia and a drug addict lady in trouble. Sal Buscema’s old fashioned 6-9 panel page layouts and usual neat art job contribute significantly to this excellent tale. Rationalists may get annoyed by the inclusion of Uri Geller with his super-powers in issue # 133 (I did) but all in all this is an enjoyable lump of seventies comics. ‘Daredevil’ was not one of Marvel’s top sellers at the time yet it was always a solid feature in the serried ranks of minor titles. Furthermore, every issue was approved by the Comics Code Authority, so Mom and Pop can buy it for Junior with a clear conscience. That said, they were getting less strict by this time so Daredevil bleeds on one cover and drug use is a key part of another story. Maybe it’s PG rather than U.

The next ‘Essential Daredevil’ should be issues # 147-167, more or less, which would include the beginning of Frank Miller’s epic run on the title, the basis for the new television series judging by the trailer. I look forward to that but the creative teams featured here did a nice job, too.

Eamonn Murphy

March 2015

(pub: Marvel – 2013. 480 page black and white graphic novel softcover. Price: about £14.99 (UK) if you know where to look (UK). ISBN: 978-0-78518-508-6)

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