Frank Miller is a legend in the comics industry, and it was his definitive run on Daredevil that to this day still hasn’t been surpassed.
When Miller was given the opportunity to work on Daredevil, the story goes that he didn’t want to write a superhero comic, so he wrote a detective noir series that happened to have a blind protagonist wearing red spandex. That is what made the run so great – it wasn’t your standard superhero comic of that time.
Before Miller was handed the reins, he was brought in to handle the artwork, starting with DD #158. At that point, DD sales were down so much that it was only being published every other month, and Marvel’s editorial staff had discussed cancelling the title altogether. Supposedly Miller hated Roger McKenzie’s scripts so much that he debated quitting. That’s when Miller was given the chance to both write and draw the Man Without Fear, and he introduced us to Elektra in Daredevil #168.
Once Miller took over the pencils and the scripts for Daredevil, the title went from being on the verge of death to full resurrection. After being published bi-monthly due to poor sales, the series was returned to monthly status just three issues into Miller’s epic run. In these pages, he wrestled Kingpin away from the pages of Amazing Spider-Man and established Wilson Fisk as the unprecedented rival for Daredevil.
What was it about the original Miller Daredevil run that was so great? The late 1970s and the early 1980s were a transitional period for comics. The industry was still in the bronze age, and the tropes of 1950s and 1960s comics were very much evident. Of course, many of these issues were still being penned by the silver age writers, so it makes sense that there was still the ’60s campy flare that was a hallmark of the period. While writers like Gerry Conway and Chris Claremont were helping to usher in a more serious tone, it wasn’t until Miller’s Daredevil run rose to stardom that the trend became more prominent.
The bigger implication of Miller’s work on the industry is that his time on Daredevil gave him the recognition he needed to basically recreate Batman. Gone were the days of Batman’s silly, lighthearted adventures, replaced with the brutal and brooding Dark Knight that we know today, beginning with the masterpiece The Dark Knight Returns. DKR, along with Alan Moore’s Watchmen, helped reinvent comics as a medium the likes of which will never be surpassed.
Miller’s work on both Daredevil and DKR were both so well conceived and executed that to this day all other versions of those characters follow what he established in the 1980s. Speaking of influence, he may not have written the issues, but his artwork on the 1982 Wolverine limited series is still among the most iconic imagery for one of Marvel’s most popular characters.
Miller most definitely gets his due credit for changing the industry and the way mainstream audiences view comics, and it all started with Daredevil.