Continued from here and here; "The superhero comic is an impossibly tough sell, so how to convert the blissfully unconcerned heathen who isn't already predisposed towards the adventures of the cape'n'chest-insignia brigade? ... Which books might just convince a broad audience of folks who aren't adolescently-minded shlock-shock addicts to buy into the super-hero habit"
7. Daredevil by Mark Waid, Paolo Rivera, Marcos Martin, Kano et al
Give the public what the public thinks it wants, and then give it far, far more than it ever asked for. The fans who first found themselves beguiled by the sparsely populated Silver Age superhero universes soon found the comics which they followed inundated by hundreds and then thousands of outlandish inhabitants. The same process saw readers who were at first thrilled by threats to neighbourhood banks and city museums quickly faced by the prospect of the end of the world, and then the end of the universe, and then the end of a whole mutiverse of universes. In creating these armies of costumed characters faced perpetually by the most hysterical of dooms, the comics industry has managed to make its product almost entirely impenetrable while also diluting the appeal of the individual superhero facing anything less than cosmos-threatening levels of danger. When everybody's super-powered, super-powers count for little at all except to fascinate the costume-spotting reader at the cost of the alienation of everyone else. When reality is always at risk of being destroyed, the threat of the same is no more tremblesome than the forecast of a little rain, while the risk of a touch of disorder in a local neighbourhood becomes an uninteresting, uninspiring business. It's a quandary which seems to have left an entire generation of Big Two creators reduced to presenting scenes of indiscriminate body horror in order to attract their reader's jaded attention. Swords through the stomach, rats gnawing through the chest, war gods torn apart, daughters eaten by wolves; when the mass of super-heroes bear little sign of the noteworthy and distinct, then all that's left is to shock through the breaking of taboos, until, in the end, even the taboos themselves are worn away through the banality of unimaginative repetition.
We're surely not supposed to take the sight of a man leaping from the top of
one skyscraper to another for granted, but where the super-book's concerned, we mostly do. What's so special about that when only the least powerful superheroes are reduced to such proletarian methods of transport? By contrast, Mark Waid's work on Daredevil has been characterised by a deliberate and entirely successful attempt to reclaim the sense of wonder from the hyperbole of the fan-pandering superhero tale. Instead of pumping up Daredevil's abilities and/or creating overwhelmingly fearsome menaces which only he can heroically and desperately defeat, Waid has focused on representing how reality is understood through the intriguingly-enhanced senses of the blind Man Without Fear. By switching our attention away from the superhero's punch-ups towards the superhero's experience of their own impossible abilities, Waid has turned his readers from voyeurs of genre excess to empathetic companions of a remarkable, and all-too-fallible, point-of-view character. Waid's stories are marked by smartly thought-through sequences in which, for example, we're shown how Matt Murdock's radar sense guides him across a crowded Manhattan street while emphasising the practical limitations of the same miraculous process. Combined with the imaginative work of the cadre of skilled artists he's been paired with on the book, Waid's scripts describe Daredevil's world to us through his senses rather than expecting the reader to struggle to come to terms with the predominantly obtuse, excluding charms of the Marvel Universe as it's usually presented.
Perhaps the most technically impressive aspect of Waid's Daredevil
is the way in which he fully embraces Marvel's long fictional history
without ever descending into cliche, repetition or fanboy obscurity. In
that, Daredevil's not a comic which excludes the hardcore fan or the newcomer so much as
one which incorporates them both into a wider community of consumers. For example, Waid
grounds Daredevil's conflict with a subterranean race in the context of
a quest for the lost body of Murdock's dead father, charging what might
otherwise be nothing more than yet another fantastical confrontation
with a genuinely moving degree of emotion. Similarly, where a master of comics continuity might be absolutely fascinated by the alliance of five secret criminal organisations which emerges as the main antagonist of Waid's stories, the less superhero-centric of readers is far more likely to become snared by the plight of the young blind Austin Chao who inadvertently falls foul of their hooded selves.
Waid doesn't just work to make the figure of Daredevil a more compelling and distinct superhero. He also anchors the character's alter ego in a recognisably real-world routine. Matt Murdock is constantly shown attending, after his own wilful fashion, to his professional responsibilities as a lawyer. From training fearful citizens in how to represent themselves before a judge and
jury, to investigating whether super-villains are being held in cruel
and unusual circumstances, Murdock's enmeshed in recognisably conventional if high-powered affairs. In that, Waid presents us with the sight of an admittedly flawed but recognisably adult character interacting with clients, colleagues and friends, creating the impression that Murdock is a far more substantial character
than just another trademarked costumed product filling up shelf-space in the hope of inspiring another movie. Waid's Daredevil describes a corner of a world in which, for all it's obvious and fantastical differences, a great many of our own experiences and concerns are reflected and discussed, albeit in a way that's consistently entertaining and never worthy or pretentious. In that, it very much isn't a comic designed solely for the costumed-crimefighter zealot
who wants nothing to do with anything of real life and its pains and pleasures, unless it's the
sight of it being left far behind by a phalanx of flying Over-people disappearing off into the heavens.
To be concluded;