If you know me at all, you understand that Daredevil and I are lifelong friends. I have been a fan of the character for as long as I can remember, as I have always known there was something unique to the Man Without Fear that drew me in.
What makes Daredevil approachable is that his powers and abilities are the result of him having to overcome a personal tragedy – blindness – in order to obtain them. Plenty of guys and gals in the hero-verse have powers as a result of a mutation, a scientific experiment, or just plain old wealth and resources. Far fewer are given abilities in exchange for a significant sacrifice.
Daredevil has had some incredible stories over the last 55 years, and many of those have been accompanied by exceptional artists. Five, in particular, stand out to me: Frank Miller, John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson, Gene Colan, and David Mazzucchelli.
With Daredevil’s tide rising again with recent rumors, there is no better time to revisit some of the classic art (not necessarily speculative books) in the original volume. What follows is one man’s opinion of these artists’ seminal work.
For me, it’s Daredevil #185. There are just so, so many choices, but among the iconic covers, #185 stands out for a simple reason. Miller’s action art is legendary but this cover manages to weave in a plot point of this issue (Daredevil is caught in an explosion), while also showcasing the agility and strength of the character. Two underrated aspects of this cover also stand out. First, the fact that Miller’s Daredevil is a gritty, battle-tested superhero who lives in the shadows is neatly displayed by the shadows on his face and body. Second, the subtle exploding Daredevil title, also a part of the bomb in the story.
John Romita, Jr.
You just aren’t allowed to have any kind of Daredevil list without mention of a Daredevil and Punisher battle. Daredevil #257 captures the ongoing struggle between these two troubled heroes while earning a bonus for the backdrop of New York City and the Twin Towers.
Look at that cover. I’m not sure you can better reflect a static image of a battle better than Janson created in Daredevil #194. Miller and Janson worked together on a number of iconic covers towards the end of Miller’s run, with the story being that Miller would hand Janson loose sketches and Janson would flesh them out. But in terms of a solo cover, not much can match Daredevil surrounded by flames engaged with the enemy. The story within is largely forgettable, but the cover certainly is worth remembering.
Colan is responsible for one of the more interesting and controversial covers in Marvel history. In what is clearly an homage to Daredevil #8 and the first appearance of Stilt Man, Daredevil #48 shows Murdock falling helplessly from the sky after presumably being dropped by the giant Stilt Man. No one knows for sure if Colan meant to depict Daredevil being, ummmm, deposited out of Stilt Man’s body, but the marquee behind them both clearly says “ASSPAIN.”
Beyond the hidden meanings in this issue, Colan had a strong, extended Silver Age run with Daredevil and clearly set the stage for Daredevil covers to portray the abilities and dexterity of the character.
Written by Miller, but drawn by Mazzucchelli, the Born Again story from the mid-1980s is essential Daredevil reading. Chronicling Matt Murdock and his spiral deep into despair thanks to Kingpin, we see him build his life back up and take the mantle of Daredevil to new heights. Nothing captures the story better than Daredevil #227 as we see Daredevil caught in cross-hairs with Kingpin seemingly overseeing all.
I’m not one to throw people under the bus, so I won’t name artist names, but this short-lived Daredevil cover design from 1994 should never have seen the light of day. Mercifully, Marvel only allowed this “Tree of Knowledge” story-line to last for seven issues before reverting back to the classic Daredevil cover.
I understand it was 1994 and we all made questionable choices then, but these need to stay buried whenever possible.
So what am I missing? Are there other covers you prefer? Let me know your favorites in the comments.
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