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Daredevil 53
"As It Was In The Beginning..."


A Rhapsodic Re-Telling By STAN GENE LEE and COLAN, Writer Artist

New Dialogue By: ROY THOMAS


New Review By: STEVE CHUNG

The evening finds the last snowfall of an ending winter setting on moon-lit rooftops... and deep in thought sits The Man Without Fear...! With the coming dawn, Daredevil must solve his dilemma... how to retain his identity as Matt Murdock... when it's no longer a secret to the villain he let free... the killer, Starr Saxon! D.D. can't help sensing that the solution is to be found in the past... and is stored with the origin of Daredevil! (Holy I Got A Secret, Batman!)

The story began on The Lower West Side of New York... on a windy morning... five years ago... at Fogwell's Gym... In a room located above the gym, three men were playing cards... little realizing that a shock was in store for them... (Holy Fizzbin, Batman!) All are awating the arrival of The Fixer, and the two cardplayers also wait for the third to make his move. One of the players suggests that they take a break... when they hear a noise...! All turn to the sound of the creaking door, and to the man in the yellow and red costume. One cardplayer takes the visitor to be a costumed wrestler, while the other wonders how he could have come up with such a nutty getup, but the third sees the muscular build, and tells the newcomer to hang around... in case The Fixer has a use for him. The visitor intends to do just that, and when he's through, The Fixer will never be able to use anyone -- ever again!

Seeing that the visitor is asking for trouble, one cardplayer tells his boxer crony to throw the clown out, and the boxer is eager for some exercise! The boxer is in for a surprise when the "costumed clown" easily avoids his clumsy charge, then grabs hold of his legs, and sends him spinning through the air...

The hapless boxer lands face-first on the poker table, as one of the cardplayers reaches for a gun... but the visitor uses his billy club, which knocks the gun from the cardplayer's hands. The costumed visitor ducks swiftly, as the boxer uses a chair, but strikes his fellow cardplayer, instead!

A red-gloved punch sends the boxer reeling, and as the three cardplayers languish on the floor, one asks who the costumed man is, and what does he want. Cradling his own chin, the boxer can't believe the fighting ability of this newcomer, who takes a seat, and waits for The Fixer... Who is he? You can just call him... Daredevil! The name was new in the dawn of The Silver Age of Superheroes... one which was meant to reach glorious heights, and despairing depths... It was a name much older than the new costume... and harkened back to another place... another time... In 1950, Jack Murdock was a prizefighter, and was speaking to his young son Matthew... The boy wonders why he must study now and not be playing ball with the kids. Matt's father tells him that he must study every chance he gets...

Jack had promised his late wife that he wouldn't let Matt become an uneducated fighter like him. He wants his son to amount to something. The boy wishes to be like his father, for he is proud of him, and regards him as the greatest...Jack knows that he is past his prime... that he has no future... but he won't let that happen to his son. Matt will study... become a doctor... or a lawyer... he'll be somebody! Matt heeds his father and goes back to the books. As time passed, Matt did his best to live up to his father's wishes... becoming the top student in his class... even though he longed to play sports...! He is determined to be the son his father wants him to be. As he went his own way, Matt knew the cruelty of the neighborhood kids, who made up a nickname for him... one which he would long remember... "Daredevil!" At home, his anger reached the boiling point... and he lashed out at his father's punching bag... Matt knew that the day would come when no one would be laughing at him... and he then noticed how the bag was knocked clean off!

Realizing that he's been a fool, he decides to do this every day -- just to stay in shape. The son of Battling Jack Murdock takes to vigorous training, and in the coming months, while his father is on the road for the boxing circuit... No matter how hard he trained, Matt never forgot the personal goal he made for himself... Jack knows how tough it's been for his son while the other kids were playing, but the time will come when Matt will thank him for it, and he will amount to something... just like his mother wanted him to! Matt would later learn about a problem his father kept from him, as Jack Murdock was getting too old... unable to land a fight in weeks! He must keep fighting until his son finishes college. A desperate Battling Jack makes a desperate decision... he had sworn to stay clear of The Fixer, but he has no choice if he wants to get a fight!

The Fixer recalls how ten years earlier he was thrown out of Murdock's dressing room when he offered a deal... but he knew that the boxer would come around sooner or later! He gives Jack Murdock some fights... and he won't have to take a dive at all... because The Fixer is such a soft-hearted fool! The contract is signed iwth trembling fingers... and at that moment, Matt was returning from the library... and was about to make the most important move of his life...! An elderly blind man begins to cross a busy street, oblivious to the truck heading towards him...! Dropping his library books, Matt leaps into action...!

He manages to hurl the blind man out of the path of the oncoming truck... but is not as fortunate... SCRREEECH! The onlookers see the young boy save the man's life, regarding it as the most heroic act they've ever seen, but a radioactive materials cylinder fell from The Atomic Labs truck... striking his face! In the municipal hospital, the nurse tells Jack Murdock how his son was very brave, and even if he's lost his sight... at least he hasn't lost his life! Murdock fights with the tears in his eyes, wishing it had happened to him... When Matt returned home, his father tells him that the doctors believe that an operation to restore his sight may be possible in a few years -- after the tissues have healed! Matt smiles and tells his father that he'll keep up with his studies, using books written in Braille! In the following days, Matt studies more than ever, beginning a more intensive physical exercise program... Ever since the accident, he has been able to things better than when he had his sight!

In compensation for his lost sight, his remaining senses have become more powerful. Matt wonders if the radioactive elements which struck his eyes could have had anything to do with it? In college, he manages to keep his abilities a secret from his roommate, Foggy Nelson... Even though Foggy studies like a demon, Matt manages to breeze through the courses with all the top grades! Matt credits his father for making learning come easy. He is aware that his senses have become razor sharp! Matt's hearing is so acute that he could tell if someone else was in the room by the sound of their heartbeat! Once he has caught a scent, he never forgets it! Matt can recognize any girl by her perfume... or any man by their hair tonic!

His sense of touch has become incredible, as Matt can tell how many bullets are in a gun, by the weight of the barrel... and his sense of taste tells him how many grains of salt are on a pretzel! Matt's radar-sense begins to tingle whenever he approached a solid obstacle. The elder Murdock seems to have overcome an solid obstacle, as he takes the money from winning fights, and The Fixer tells him that he may be a champ someday. Battling Jack Murdock has no idea that The Fixer has paid his opponents to take a dive in order to build him up, but the next fight will have him down for the count! (Holy Namor, Batman!)

In the days before Battling Jack's fight, Matt hears the footsteps of Foggy Nelson, who wants to read him the sports headline about his father! Foggy is unaware that Matt "read" the headline by running his finger over the page and feeling the ink impressions! (Holy Rozakis, Batman!) Battling Jack is to fight Dynamite Davis tomorrow night, and Matt has already bought tickets for both of them! The following night finds middle-aged sensation Battling Murdock seated in his corner, knowing that he must take a dive in the first round of the fight! But... his son is in the crowd tonight...! As Matt's senses followed the fight, he hears the sound of each punch, each step... Battling Jack has his one chance to make his son proud of him... and he's not going to fail! He's going to win... HE'S GOING TO WIN! The winnah... Battling Murdock!

But, when Jack Murdock left the gym... he doesn't care what The Fixer does, his son is proud of him, and nothing will ever change that now! The sudden sharp explosion from a gun shot tears through the silent night... and ends one man's thoughts... forever! Foggy tries to get Matt to snap out of it... like his father would want him to! They will be graduating soon... and he wants Matt to join him, as his partner! The day comes... the day which his father had fought for... and had died for... Matthew Murdock is congratulated, for he has proven that a strong will and an alert mind can overcome any obstacles! In New York, the law firm of Nelson and Murdock opens its doors. Matt is introduced to the secretary Foggy hired for them, and upon hearing Karen Page's voice, the lawyer is sure that he's! (Holy Music Man, Batman!)

In his apartment, Matt knows that he'll never be able to concentrate on his law work... until his father's murderer is brought to justice! But, he had promised his father he'd use his head... not his fists! Suddenly, he has the answer! It will not be Matt Murdock who'll resort to force... but someone else! Someone completely different from Matt Murdock! All he needs are some old shirts which he can stitch together...! All through the night, he labors... his delicate fingers serving him well... until, with the coming dawn... Daredevil was born! He is inspired to mold his blind man's cane-- into the perfect all-purpose tool against crime!

The kids from the old neighborhood had called him Daredevil... as an insult! He'll make the nickname more true than even they could have suspected... and he'll start in the morning! This is how The Man Without Fear has found himself at Fogwell's Gym! The Fixer has arrived, and wants to know what the masked man wants... or else his boys will lean on him! The hoods are unimipressed with the costume, while The Fixer advises the visitor to talk fast, but Daredevil tells him that he'll be the one who will talk! He senses two other hoods in the room, as he demands to know The Fixer's arrangement with Battling Murdock! It is a name which The Fixer tells him isn't healthy to mention!

Daredevil hears the hood behind him reaching for his gun... The billy gun strikes the hood in the head, then bounces back to Daredevil's hand! He wants The Fixer to confess his involvement in Jack Murdock's murder...!

The man called Slade is the murderer, and he is the one who shoves Daredevil out the window. D.D. was preoccupied with listening to The Fixer's pulse rate... and learn if he was the murderer! The flagpole beneath him is his only chance...! Grabbing onto it, The Man Without Fear uses his cane to send himself back through the window!

Elsewhere, Karen Page is beginning her first day at work, and asks Foggy if Matt is with him. Foggy has a feeling that his partner doesn't mind not being able to see, while Karen thinks he's a wonderful man, who'll need someone to look after him! The Fixer and Slade are the only ones left, and both wonder how the knowledge will be of use to the costumed clown in front of them. The "costumed clown" tells them that he has a mini-tape recorder in his billy club, and that it will tell the police what they need to know! The Fixer pulls the rug from under Daredevil, and tells Slade to run before the clown can recover! D.D. has wrenched his arm in the fall, and he should have known that the two would try to make a final escape! But he'll get them yet! Changing to Matt Murdock, he can still sense The Fixer's cigar smoke! It'll be easier for him to get through the crowd if he's not in costume!

Slade and The Fixer make their way into the subway, seeing no sign of their pursuer, but a blind man. Confident that they've lost him, they plan to take a train to Penn Station... and get out of town in the hour! As they wait for the next train, Slade and The Fixer are once again greeted by Daredevil! The two men decide to separate, and The Man Without Fear had hoped that they wouldn't try that. Sensing that there's no one between him and Slade, Daredevil hurls his cane...WHACK! Slade trips, slowing him down... while D.D. goes after The Fixer! With him too far ahead, Daredevil needs something to help him catch up... and the wastepaper basket he's touching... is perfect!

Within seconds, the sounds of rolling steel can be heard in the subway, and even though he can't hear The Fixer's running steps, Daredevil can still sense his cigar! The chase comes to a sudden end when The Fixer clutches at his chest, and falls! There is no pulse... no heartbeat...! Transit police arrive, as does the incoming train! The Man Without Fear leads them to Slade, and pulls his last bluff... which would rival the tall-tale about having a tape recorder in his billy club! Believing that The Fixer sold him out, Slade confesses that although he was the murderer, it was The Fixer who gave the orders! The transit police have heard enough, and they wonder who it was who caught the two crooks! Leaping over the turnstile, the colorfully costumed hero gives his name as... Daredevil! He tells them to remember it... because they'll be hearing it again... and that's a promise!

The name of Daredevil was heard from again... and again -- until The Man Without Fear wondered if Matt Murdock was real -- or just a product of his own imagination! This hardly helps him now -- with Starr Saxon free, and a menace to his double-identity! Or... is he? Daredevil has found his answer, and it had been staring him in the face all along! His problem isn't Daredevil -- and never was! It was Matt -- the blind lawyer --who has been a plague ever since Daredevil had donned the costume! Then, let Matt Murdock NO LONGER EXIST!!

The cover by Gene Colan shows Daredevil weighing his options with the scales of Justice. His younger costumed self is on one side, and the dual threat of Slade and The Fixer on the other.

One of my favorite Silver Age Daredevil stories, and I hope to provide some more D.D. reviews this week in honor of The Man Without Fear's motion picture debut.

In re-reading this classic story about Daredevil's origin, Foggy Nelson comes off as Matt's best friend, as well as law partner, and Karen Page is the woman who makes Matt's super-senses tingle.

I particularly enjoy Gene Colan's ability to render characters and presenting their personalities by the way they stand and interact with each other. For those who have the issue, the panel where a grinning Foggy introduces a stolid Matt to the beautiful Karen Page is a keeper!

At my second San Diego Comic-Con, it was a thrill to have Gene "The Dean" Colan autograph this issue for me.

Having first seen Daredevil's yellow and red costume in Daredevil #156, where Matt is delirious and believes himself to be fighting his younger self, I must say that the yellow and red costume is very snazzy, as well as emphasizing the amazing acrobatics of The Man Without Fear.

If there had been a Silver Age Daredevil movie, I would have loved to have seen Ed Asner as the cigar-chomping Fixer, James Arness as Slade, and I'm still trying to figure out who would have played Matt, Foggy, Jack, and Karen.

Daredevil's origin was retold by Roger McKenzie and Frank Miller in Daredevil #164.

In the McKenzie/Miller version: The Fixer drops the contract on the floor, and Slade steps on it, forcing Jack Murdock to sign, and humiliating him in the process.

The cylinder breaks on the ground and its glowing contents blinds Matt, instead of striking him on the face.

Daredevil confronts Slade and The Fixer at Fogwell's Gym, with Slade knocked out in the ring, and The Fixer meeting his end in the subway. Ol' Horn-Head isn't rolling on a wastebasket though, but we do get to see The Fixer's rapid heart-rate, as he has his attack, and Daredevil has avenged his father's murder.

The Pulse had an interesting article on Daredevil, which focused mostly on the Miller Period, and gave the impression that many readers may have regarded the character as second-rate when compared to the other characters in the Marvel Universe.

I was delighted to reply on The Pulse Message Board that as a reader, this could not be so. A character who had stories written by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas... stories drawn by Bill Everett, Steve Ditko, Joe Orlando, Wally Wood, John Romita Sr. and Gene Colan is certainly not second-rate in my book.

True, like X-Men, Daredevil had gone bi-monthly for a time, but by the time McKenzie and Miller were on the book, it was monthly once more.

I was and am still enamored by the many foes Daredevil fought in The Silver Age: Electro, The Stilt-Man, The Purple Man, The Matador, The Eel, The Ox, Mr. Fear, The Gladiator, The Jester, The Unholy Three, and The Exterminator being among my favorites.

On the walls of the various Bay Area Rapid Transist (BART) stations, there are Daredevil movie posters. I think that D.D. would be proud that the name of Daredevil is being remembered, and is certainly being heard from again!

In my eyes, Daredevil is no second-rater... He Is The Man Without Peer!

Steve Chung
"As It Was In The Review..."