Comics : Pocket Book: Daredevil

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: From The Beginning

This review was first published on: 2007.

Background...

I have to admit that I don't really know exactly when in 1967 this paperback appeared on the racks. As far as I can tell, Stan doesn't mention it in any Bullpen Bulletin, after he touted the first Lancer books starring Spidey and the Fantastic Four back in Amazing Spider-Man #38, July 1966, which allowed me to pinpoint their place in our From the Beginning continuity. This book is the fifth in the series (even though it has a "0" on the spine where the "5" should be) following Spidey, FF, Hulk, and then Thor. (There were six in all, with the last being a second Fantastic Four book. Check "Dial B for Blog" for all of the cover images.) The book's copyright is 1967 with no month mentioned and since I can't pin it down any farther than that, I thought I'd drop it in here after the March comics since they were most likely the first issues released in 1967. (Also, since the lead story reprints the first Masked Marauder story, it's possible that this book was published to coincide with the "end" of MM in Daredevil #27, April 1967 on sale around this time but that's probably giving Lancer Books too much credit.) In any event, it's not like we really have to worry about being precise here. After all, it's a reprint book. (And it just now occurred to me that that second FF book has the tiniest of Peter Parker cameos making it eligible for a FTB review. I'm going to wait until later in 1967 to do that one even though it likely came out at the same time as this DD collection. Since, you know, I'm not sure when this book came out anyway.)

In Detail...

Pocket Book: Daredevil
Year 1967 : SM Reprint
Reprints: Daredevil (Vol.1) #16
Reprints: Daredevil (Vol.1) #17
Reprints: Daredevil (Vol.1) #1
Reprints: Daredevil (Vol.1) #20
Reprints: Daredevil (Vol.1) #21
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Review

The spine calls this book "Here Comes ... Daredevil-Mighty Marvel Collector's Album." These blurbs also appear on the cover along with a shot of DD swinging on his billyclub (only his billyclub and line have been airbrushed out) from the splash page of Daredevil #15, April 1966. Below him and the "Collector's Album" blurb in the lower lefthand corner, it reads, "See; the Origin of Daredevil, and other great adventures" while in the upper righthand corner is an odd drawing of Spider-Man with "Guest star-Spider-Man" written below it. It is really one of the busiest, badly designed covers you could ever hope to see. Spidey upstages DD just by being higher on the page (although maybe that was the whole point) and his presence shoves DD's logo over to the left. Daredevil just looks plain goofy floating in space in the middle of the cover and there's far too much text. It's hard to believe this cover sold the book, except for maybe that "Guest star – Spider-Man" part.

By the way, I went on a mission to track down the odd little cover drawing of Spidey. There isn't a single illustration in this book that has not appeared before so I was certain that the Spidey shot came from elsewhere. But where? He's standing there with legs apart and arms at his side. Not an action shot at all but fairly crude-looking so probably from an early appearance. I prepared myself to comb through dozens of old issues to find it but I didn't have to look very long at all. It comes from the last panel of the last page of the Terrible Tinkerer story in Amazing Spider-Man #2, May 1963.

The DD cover image comes from DD #15 and Lancer returns to that issue for the first page inside using a drawing from page 12 panel 5 that shows DD colliding with the Ox; a character that doesn't appear again in the book in a scene which has nothing to do with the rest of the volume. Below the illustration is the assertion that Daredevil was "Acclaimed as the greatest new adventure hero of the year!", although it doesn't say who acclaimed him such. The illustration on the title page comes from page 20 panel 4 of Daredevil #18, July 1966 except that the fog behind DD in the original has been replaced by a huge full moon and a city skyline. The credits appear on the opposite page: "Sensational Script by Stan Lee; Art by Bill Everett, Johnny Romita, and Gene Colan." (Maybe Ditko should get a credit as well for that Spidey cover image.)

Those of you who read my Lookback of Pocket Book: The Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) (there must be one or two of you) will recall that the problem with these books is that they cut out chunks of the original story, that they're in black and white, and that you have to turn the book FREAKING SIDEWAYS in order to read the thing. You may also recall that the Spidey book began with a truncated reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #16, September 1964 featuring "Duel With Daredevil" when there were so many better Spidey stories to choose from. This book returns the favor presenting a much-mutilated reprint of Daredevil #16, May 1966 and Daredevil #17, June 1966, guest-starring Spider-Man. The two issues are so carved up and pressed together that the story uses the title of DD #17 ("None Are So Blind...!") in conjunction with part of a blurb from the splash page of DD #16 ("The Mystery of the Masked Marauder!") positioning them over a shot of the Marauder from page 3 panel 4 of DD #16. (Yeah! Who needs the first two and a half pages, anyway?) At least the book is still upright. When we turn the page, we have to go sideways.

Okay, you all remember the story, I assume. The Masked Marauder has his men impersonate Daredevil to draw Spidey into a fight with the real DD so that the gang can steal the plans for the XB-390 ("the greatest new engine discovery of the decade") from the World Motors Building. The plan works but DD and Spidey eventually team up to thwart the Marauder's men and send the Marauder himself scrambling. That is essentially it although there's a lot of extra stuff involving Karen Page, Foggy Nelson, J. Jonah Jameson and Aunt May that is just begging to be cut out. Let's see how much of it Lancer "lanced", so to speak. Well, there's plenty of it gone but, really, if you didn't know the difference then you wouldn't know the difference... except for three little inconsistencies that may tip you off.

First, DD goes directly from fighting Spidey on page 31 of the book to knowing that the Marauder and his gang robbed the World Motors Building on page 34. This is because DD's departure is from page 16 of DD #16 and his World Motors mention is from page 5 of DD #17.

Second, Stan's footnote on page 44 of the book, "Now pay attention, because this is the last time we'll tell you that DD and Spidey met once before in Spider-Man #16!", seems a bit odd because he hasn't told us before in this version. That's because this footnote is from DD #17 page 10 panel 4 while the previous footnote from DD #16 page 2 panel 3 is not here. (Since, you may recall, the story doesn't start until page 3 panel 4.)

Third, the caption on page 70 of the book that says, "Meanwhile, what of the real Daredevil?" seems a bit odd because the phony Daredevils disappeared from the story back on page 7. It would make a bit more sense if the panels from page 20 of DD #17 in which Foggy Nelson implies to Karen Page that he is Daredevil hadn't been cut out.

So, let's run through the book side by side with the comics and see which panels are gone. As mentioned, the first two and a half pages in which Matt Murdock, Karen Page, and Foggy Nelson watch Spider-Man battle the Marauder's men on TV have been deleted. We start with page 3 panel 4 of DD #16 (minus the caption) and move to page 4 panel 4 before losing panel 5 and continuing on with page 5 panel 1. It all runs smoothly through to page 13 panel 2 before omitting a bit of the Spidey-DD battle in panels 3-5 before continuing with page 14 panel 1. The fight continues to page 15 panel 2 but the large third panel where DD continues to tie Spidey to the pole has been removed. It picks up again with page 16 panel 1, giving us that whole page. But this version of the story is not at all interested in any subplots so we skip all of page 17 in which Peter Parker chats with Aunt May, then goes to the Daily Bugle and starts to suspect that Daredevil is in league with the Marauder. Also missing is Matt Murdock's conversation with Karen and Foggy as to whether Spider-Man is working with the Marauder. Page 18 panel 5 in which the Marauder discusses his master plan with his men is included but the two pages of Spidey crashing into the Nelson and Murdock Law offices and accusing Foggy of being DD have been excised. So much for issue #16.

Since #17 begins with Spidey attacking Foggy, all of that has to go as well. The first four pages are wiped away and we continue with page 5 panel 1: the panel where DD mentions that MM's "most recent robbery was at the World Motors building". We continue to page 6 panel 6, drop page 7 panel 1 in which Peter Parker reacts to JJJ being on TV, pick up with panel 2 and finish the page. Two panels of the Marauder (page 8 panels 1 and 2) are cut out, then back with panel 3 showing the World Motors guys freaking out over JJJ's telecast. Panels 4 and 5 of page 8 are gone as is all of page 9 except that the caption from panel 6 of page 9 is moved over to the top of panel 1 from page 10. This brings us to more of Spidey battling DD, which seems to be what this version of the story is all about. It moves on to Spidey and DD battling the Marauder's men as they deplane from their blimp. ("Deblimp" from their blimp?) We get every panel up to page 15 panel 2, then skip panel 3 with Spidey cracking heads, come back with panel 4 and keep going through to the end of page 19 by which time, the Marauder has been defeated but then manages to escape. As mentioned, the first four panels of page 20, in which the Marauder overhears Foggy acting like he's Daredevil are gone and we finish up with the last two panels of the story, minus the next issue blurb, of course. And there you have it. The Reader's Digest version of DD #16-17 and like the real Reader's Digest condensed books, it makes you feel like you're getting the bulk of the story but you're really missing a lot.

Spidey doesn't appear in the rest of the book but let's run through it all anyway.

The second story is The Origin of Daredevil. It begins with the title lettering from the story in Daredevil #1, April 1964 but it only uses page 5 panels 3-6, page 6 panels 3-6, page 7 panels 1-2 and 5-6, page 8 panels 1-2 and 6-7, pages 9 and 10 complete, page 11 panels 1-2 and 6-7, page 12 panels 1-2 and 5-7, page 13 complete and page 14 panels 1-5 to tell the story. In this way, it does a pretty good job of telling how Matt Murdock saved a blind man, ending up blind himself but with radioactive powers, how his father, boxer Battling Murdock, was killed by the Fixer's men for not throwing a fight, how Matt and Foggy start a law office together and hire Karen Page, and how Matt donned his Daredevil outfit for the first time. But it doesn't even bother to show Matt avenging his dad by taking on the Fixer, which is kind of a shame.

The final story in the book is again two stories as The Verdict is Death! (the title used here) and The Trap is Sprung! from Daredevil #20, September 1966 and Daredevil #21, October 1966 are mashed together. First, we have to turn the book rightside-up again because the splash page showing DD swinging into the window of the Nelson and Murdock offices as thugs wait inside won't fit sideways. The credits box has been obliterated and replaced by black space. They didn't even bother to draw the rest of DD's foot that was concealed by the box. He just looks like he is heelless on the right foot.

I hope everyone enjoyed holding the book in a normal position because it's back to sideways again as DD fights the concealed thugs. We get every panel up to the end of page 4 as DD sends the crooks fleeing. However, he has learned that they sought to kidnap Matt Murdock so he assumes they will try Matt's apartment next. He races over and perches on the window ledge but the bad guys have gotten there first.

All of page 5, with the crooks using a pass key to get in, is cut and we're back with page 6 panel 1 through to page 7 panel 5 during which DD grabs one of Matt's suits from the bedroom, dresses on the ledge and sneaks in so the crooks can nap him. He's curious about the mysterious boss the crooks keep mentioning and decides to play along. It turns out they want to take him to a secret hideout to act as a defense attorney in a kangaroo court trial that he has no chance of winning. Off they go on a plane on page 8 panel 1 but we don't see that part. (We also lose the rest of the page in which Karen and Foggy show up at Matt's place and wonder where he is.)

We return with page 9 panel 1 as the plane lands on a "strange volcanic isle hundreds of miles from nowhere" that still ends up being right off the coast of Manhattan (or so it seems in Daredevil #22, November 1966 which is not included here). Panel 2 of page 9 (there are only two panels on page 9) is omitted but we're right back with page 10 panel 1 as the crooks and Matt deplane. Interestingly, there is a mystery in the Lancer book as to the identity of the boss that is not there in the regular comic because the Owl is shown on the comic's cover but the cover is not included here. Now, however, we finally see the Owl and learn that he has kidnapped Judge Lewis for putting him in jail and is putting him on trial for his life. We continue to the end of page 11, as Matt is led to the castle (built right next to the volcano on that island that is right next to Manhattan) that serves as the Owl's hideout. The full-page drawing on page 12 showing Matt's entrance is not here. Instead we jump to page 13 but skip the first two panels of page 14 in which the Owl gets physical with his "jury" of goons who want to polish off the Judge without a trial.

The trial begins on page 14 panel 4 and continues through page 17. We get all of that with Matt realizing that he and the Judge are doomed, then inventing a rather clever reason to leave the courtroom (looking for a defense witness) so he can change to Daredevil. DD's full page entrance on page 17 requires us to turn the book upright again. We stay that way for the next page, which is actually only the second panel of three on page 18, but large enough to appear to be another full-page splash. The rest of the issue from page 19 panel 1 to the end is here as the Owl drops a cage over Daredevil, trapping him. Lancer may have bothered to blot out the credits at the start of the story but they didn't bother to wipe out the next issue box ("Next Ish: The Trap is Sprung!") in the final panel here. It's the only way to know that you've reached the end of the first issue because the story continues smoothly on the next page with page 2 panel 2 of Daredevil #21 through to the end of page 4 as the Owl sends the cage over "virtually a bottomless pit" and drops the bottom out of it. DD, using his billyclub, manages to escape. All of page 5 is cut, page 6 is included, page 7 panel 3 is here but panels 1 and 2 are not. By this time, DD has gotten the Owl on the run. He races down a subterranean corridor toward his "Forbidden Chamber" with Daredevil close on his heels on all of page 8. Again the Lancer guys can't be bothered to remove a caption box, this one saying "Continued after next page" from page 8 panel 4 of the original (presumably in the story panel itself rather than below because there's a "Watch Marvel Super-Heroes on TV" blurb down there). This makes no sense at all to the Lancer reader since the story continues right along on the facing page. In that same panel, Daredevil suspects that the volcano is going to blow. (There wouldn't be a need to have it on the island if it wasn't.) There's no need to show the actual explosion so page 9 panel 1 is skipped. Panel 2 shows DD coping with falling rock and that is included as is everything else through the bottom of page 11, during which time the Owl arrives at his chamber and gazes upon his "supreme creation," his "greatest weapon." And it is... a big, clunky, riveted together metal owl. "Nothing that lives can defeat it," says the Owl but, you know, I kinda doubt it.

There's a full page illustration on page 12 that is also skipped, then page 13 all the way to the end is included. The big metal owl attacks DD but, during the fight, the volcano wipes out the castle. The Owl escapes on the back of the owl, which flies, and DD manages to join him. They brawl and DD knocks the Owl off the owl. But since the Owl also flies, he can "soar until I reach the mainland" (even though the island was "hundreds of miles from nowhere"). Daredevil figures out how to "make [the owl] swoop and bank by merely shifting [his] weight." He finds Judge Lewis fleeing the castle and scoops him up. Together they ride on the back of the giant owl, which is where the Lancer book leaves them. This time, they do cut the "Next Issue" box so the whole thing seems sort of abrupt but I suppose you can assume they make it back safely. (And in DD #22, they quickly end up over Long Island where Daredevil lands the owl and saves them.)

The following page reprints the "Don't Live in a Cultured Wasteland!" page from the Spidey Lancer book (as mentioned in that review) but somebody at Lancer realized he was dealing with people and not pearls so he changed it to "Don't Live in a Cultural Wasteland!" And whereas the last page in the Spidey book advertised the only other Lancer-Marvel book out at the time (the FF), this page plugs the previous four (FF, Spidey, Hulk, and Thor). It gives the same "Cool heroes..." quote but leaves off the part about the "never revealed secrets" because someone seems to have figured out that the books are reprint from cover to cover.

The back cover of this one has five quotes that all seem to come from letters to the editor. I'm not going to track them down or quote them but it seems nicely appropriate that even the back cover blurbs are reprints, doesn't it?

In General...

I've always enjoyed Daredevil but a peek at this book will tell you that his early stories are nowhere near as interesting as Spidey's. Part of that is the lack of Ditko, part of that is that Spidey is a better, more exciting character, part of that is Stan seemed to think that the adventures of an essentially non-super-powered hero were a repository for any silly villain that he could conjure up. So, the Spider-Man team-up suffers because the bad guy is the Masked Marauder who doesn't have much going for him besides his blinding opti-blasts, which of course don't affect Daredevil at all, hence the reason, no doubt, that Stan made him a Daredevil villain. Likewise, the Owl is a pretty lame foe: a criminal mastermind with a bad haircut and the ability to glide on the air. Hum. And let's not forget that volcanic island off the coast of Manhattan and the Owl's greatest weapon, the ridiculous hunk-of-junk metal owl. As for Daredevil's origin, it has its share of drama but the accident involving a radioactive canister that gives him his hyper-senses has never worked for me. I don't know why it is. Radioactive spiders I can believe but radioactive canisters falling out of trucks and causing blindness with hyper-senses, no. All that being said, I still love these old stories but, compared to our usual Spidey fare, they don't quite measure up.

Overall Rating...

Let me tell you, the novelty quickly wears off on these black and white, abridged, turned sideways, only a couple of panels to a page paperbacks. The chopped down DD origin loses an awful lot of its punch. On the other hand, the condensed Owl story probably reads better than the original two issues, even injecting a mystery as to the boss' identity, absent from the original comic. The Spidey-DD story, which is after all the reason for this review, feels much the same as the original except for a few subtle hints that the whole story isn't here. Still and all, this is a pretty cool 60s collectible but I really can't do any better on it than 2 webs.

Footnote...

Next: Finally back to Amazing Spider-Man and Kraven the Hunter!