There. That's the image that let me know I'd be in fantastic shape art-wise for my run on Daredevil - the long-running series from Marvel Comics that commences its next chapter with a new #1 issue today. I wrote it, Ron Garney did unbelievable work penciling and inking it and Matt Milla colored it. The image above is one of the very first things Ron drew as we were talking about the series. I knew that a lot of the action (at least early on) would be set in Chinatown, due to the fact that Daredevil's new apprentice - a fellow named Sam Chung who goes by the hero name Blindspot - was based down there. In addition, Matt's new job, as an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan, is based downtown as well. So, Ron was able to put together this little mockup of what that might look like... and wow, right?
We'll get more Chinatown-set action as the series continues, but this is where it began. So... I knew I'd be more than good on the art, all I had to do was write the damn thing.
Daredevil is a challenging gig. It's known for really sophisticated, thoughtful takes on superhero-ing, the psychological impacts of vigilantism, the cost of the costumed life, and so on. It's boasted some of the best writers and artists in comics history, from Stan Lee to Alex Maleev Frank Miller to Chris Samnee to Brian Michael Bendis to Paolo Rivera to Ed Brubaker to David Mazzucchelli to Ann Nocenti to Kevin Smith to Michael Lark to Joe Quesada to Klaus Janson and many others to... the guy I get to follow on the title, the amazing Mark Waid. Many of these folks are heroes of mine - the Bendis DD in particular was a seminal run for me in my "modern phase" of comics reading. Following all of that up - not easy.
There's also the fact that I'm an attorney myself, which hypothetically *should* translate into me being able to write a great book about a superhero who is also a lawyer. I dunno about that bit. I know a lot of lawyers, and very few of them are running around on rooftops after hours smacking criminals around. They're generally too beat from 60- 80- 100-hour weeks. But I don't want to be disingenuous - my experience in the law *should* allow me to explore some new angles in the many trials of Matt Murdock. (HA! Get it? You won't get THAT kind of business from a non-lawyer DD writer!)
Anyway, lots of pressure - Daredevil is a signature gig, and with the TV show airing on Netflix right now, the character's exposure is possibly at its highest peak. If I get it right... all good. If I screw it up... not so good. So... how did I approach it?
First thing, I had to put aside pretty much everything you've read so far in this post, except knowing that I had the art in my back pocket. I had to step aside from everyone else's take and find my own. I didn't (and never) want to just ape someone else's approach. What's the point of that? I'd rather go down in flames for doing something I believed in, that was mine, than coast along by relying on the goodwill generated by another writer's take. I LOVE Waid's Daredevil. I've read that first issue over and over again - it's perfect. But there's more than one kind of DD - that's part of the beauty of the character. So, I knew almost from the start that I would go a bit darker, a bit weirder. You'll see as the story continues that the villains are odd. It's not a supernatural book by any means, but it is a creepy book, from time to time. I don't want it to feel safe.
That said, with a new #1 I think it's smart to give readers a taste of what they might be expecting before going too far off the deep end - so Matt is back in New York City. He's lawyering again - although now a prosecutor instead of a defense attorney. He has his secret identity back. He has this new apprentice kid, Blindspot.
(By the way, one of the early previews of the cover for Issue 1 had some people thinking that Blindspot was actually Gambit, a heavily Cajun-accented X-Man known for macking on any lady within arm's reach. I was amazed that people would think that - what the hell kind of book would a Daredevil-Gambit story even be? Why would Gambit become DD's apprentice? Just made me laugh - but then I thought about it, and if there's ever a chance to get Gambit into a story during my run, maybe I'll do it. I doubt Gambit fans would be too thrilled with the idea I'm currently playing with, though...)
Anyway, Daredevil #1 is designed to be a mix of what you know and what you don't know. I've changed a lot about his setup - but yet it still should sort of feel like the Daredevil you know, the one you've been watching on Netflix. That will evolve over time as we move deeper into DD's new world.
I see the run as a huge novel - I've currently plotted out through around Issue 24, the first two years on the title. So, things that happen in these early issues (and before this, in the eight month gap that's taken place between the end of Mark and Chris' run and this new #1) will have ramifications and resonance as we move forward. (How did Matt get his secret identity back?) We'll interact with heroes and villains new and old, and we'll see members of Matt Murdock's supporting cast from prior runs (people like Foggy Nelson, Kirsten McDuffie and more.) I'm working on a big Elektra story right now. The way Matt is with them won't necessarily be the way you're used to - but I don't believe my job on Daredevil, or any book, is to give you what you're used to.
It's to do my job.
"I'm glad you're back. This city needs you. And I think you need this city, too." - Steve Rogers, Daredevil #4