2011
09.12

I recently did this drawing for my favorite comic shop around: my very own Daredevil cover on one of the blank “sketch” covers. I noticed that the back portion was available, so I designed it vertically, knowing that what I wanted to draw wouldn’t necessarily work if the comic was one/half displayed.

You may ask, “Well, how come you didn’t have him striking a pose mid-jump through a couple of water towers or fighting a cluster of ninjas?”, and you may very well have a point. Although I’ve seen those classic scenarios done to death, I still like them just as much as you do. However, no version of Daredevil is as close to my heart as Ann Nocenti’s version.

It’s those John Romita Jr./Al Williamson drawn issues that rise above. DD was one of the handful of titles I got regularly, and it was the only one I obsessed over every time a new issue came out. I bought into Romita Jr.’s cityscapes and the pedestrians that populated them. Nocenti’s stories took place in alleyways and tiny apartments and rooftops and basketball courts. All this seemed real to me and I wouldn’t be surprised if their work on DD helped shape my lifelong fascination with New York City.

See that cover up there? Yeah, the one with ol’ hornhead taking a nap in the grass? There’s no delicate way to put this, but DD #260 fucked me up. Picture this: the summer was winding down by the time this issue came out. It was August 1988, nine years of age, road trip, Florida highway, back seat, and Brenda K. Starr’s I Still Believe was on the radio, perhaps the perfect soundtrack to the experience. This double sized comic started off innocently enough…

…but then things happened.

The skinny is that all of Daredevil’s villains from the previous ten issues or so took turns in beating the crap out of him. They were all created by Nocenti (as far as I know) and mostly designed by Romita Jr. The beat down began on page three, and our protagonist is in shambles before the halfway mark.

In the spirit of Spider-Man’s first Annual, where splash pages were dedicated to each villain from the Sinister Six as they were defeated by Spidey, Romita Jr. employed the same approach to show us a different kind of outcome, sometimes using a double page spread.

By the end of the issue, the illicit love interest/mastermind behind the assault, Typhoid Mary, delivered the killing stroke. The little kid in me wants to type out “spoiler alert”, but you get the idea; Mary drops DD (played out extra dramatically as the narrative is slowed down) from an overpass and into a barren garden.

I was crushed. There was no “to be continued” caption, not aven a “the end”. I believed that Daredevil had been killed and that Marvel was going to stop printing his comic. There’s something weird about how I just accepted this character’s demise, and how I believed that Marvel thought it was an adequate ending to a story. I read and re-read that issue many times during that road trip, trying to find clues that would let me know if this was The End or not. The word “final” on the cover gave me all the proof I needed. Daredevil was gone.

Months went by until I saw that Daredevil had actually not died. He was up and running, fighting a demon dentist in the middle of a crossover story. I felt relieved yet sorta cheated. I got played, but it was my fault for being such a sucker. I still bought every Nocenti issue from there on out, all the way to the last. I never forgot that one issue, though.

So that’s what I decided to call upon when figuring out what to draw on that empty canvas of a cover. I wanted to draw a battered DD, struggling to walk while trying to maintain some sort of composure. He kinda looks like the Thin White Duke sashaying down the runway instead, but whatever.

It gets complex with me and this issue.

–Fiffe

7 comments so far

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  1. wow wow Michel what a lovely tribute.

  2. Those comics had a similar effect on me, though I think I came in on the Inferno dentist issue. Nocenti/Romita remains my favorite era of DD, and this is great, great stuff you’ve written here. These comics carved themselves out a place in my skull and never really left.

  3. Ann, this is a humble droplet of my obsession with that era of the title. I can go on forever regarding your DD run, but it’s better to read the stories themselves! It’s a body of work that SHOULD be studied, though. Getting to draw those characters, even briefly, is more than a treat.

    David, the thing impressed me the most about the Inferno x-over was how well the DD story was interwoven with this huge X-men saga, almost as if it was an integral part of the plan (as you know, not all crossovers work that way). On top of that, Ann managed to give depth and heart to a seemingly over-the-top epic.

    How can you not love a bandaged DD riding a demon subway train into hell?

    And can I stop freaking out about Ann Nocenti writing in now?

  4. Word! I love these comics and remember them coming out monthly. Great art by J.R.J.R. and insane stories. I especially loved the Inhumans appearances. Great love letter Michel!

  5. This really was what I thought of New York as a 12 year old: water towers and guys like Ammo who stepped right out of The Warriors.

    out of that entire run, the one where DD is in a bar before skiping town has always been the one to stick out.

  6. I love the whole Nocenti/JRJR run! I will have to restrain myself from waxing mad poetic as you already summed up my feelings exactly. Well said, Michel!

    @Seth — ‘Beer With The Devil’?

  7. Hi, Michel

    Gorgeous sketch – great use of your blank variant cover! Here I was thinking I was onto something with the ‘Sinister Six’ allusion… but you had it six weeks before I wrote about it!

    Robert