First Published: October 2002
Contents: Daredevil #1 (April 1964) to #25 (February 1967)
Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Bill Everett, Steve Ditko, Joe Orlando, Wally Wood, Jack Kirby, John Romita, and Gene Colan
Key First Appearances: Matt Murdock/Daredevil, Franklin ‘Foggy’ Nelson, Karen Page, Battlin’ Jack Murdock, Leland Owlsley/the Owl, Purple Man, Stilt-Man, Ani-Men, Plunderer, Marauder, Gladiator, Leap-Frog
Story Continues In: Essential Daredevil Vol. 2
Overview: Following a freak accident that doused him in radioactive waste, young Matt Murdock finds himself blind but with enhanced senses of hearing, smell, touch, and taste (not often showcased). Matt’s father, the boxer Jack Murdock, pushes his son to study hard so he doesn’t have to follow in his footsteps. When Jack refuses to take a dive in a fight, he is killed by the mob boss that had bet heavily against him. Matt vows to avenge his father, and trains his body to reach it’s peak perfection. Despite his blindness, Murdock dons a costume and takes to the rooftops of New York City as Daredevil, the man without fear!
We see that Murdock has become a successful lawyer, sharing a firm with his best friend from college, Foggy Nelson. Add in the adorable secretary Karen Page, who has a crush on Murdock, and our cast is set.
Daredevil battles a mix of villains from issue to issue. Some are one-and-done hooded thugs, and some are costumed criminals. We see Daredevil go up against some of Spider-Man’s foes in Electro and the Ox. He even gets his own set of rogues, with introductions of the Owl, Stilt-Man, and the Gladiator.
What makes this Essential?: Daredevil is a very unique comic character created by Stan Lee and friends. A blind super-hero goes against everything we imagine a hero should be. Sure, having the enhanced senses helps make it easier for Daredevil to do what he does, but he still remains a blind man swinging between buildings in New York City.
The problem I have with endorsing this as an Essential edition is that there are a dozen different story arcs and runs of Daredevil that are much, much better than the stories in this volume. This is a case where the Silver Age stories do not hold up against the Bronze Age and modern stories. Read this only if you are a Daredevil fan.
Footnotes: Daredevil’s original costume was a red-and-yellow garish combination that could only have been designed by a blind man (pun intended!). Beginning in issue #7, Daredevil converted over to his traditional all-red costume. In the issue, Daredevil’s thoughts on the new costume read, “I’ve secretly worked for months to redesign my fighting costume – – to make it more comfortable – – more distinctive!” Yes, very distinctive, and we’ll take Matt’s word on the costume’s comfort.
Daredevil #7 is also reprinted in Essential Sub-Mariner Vol. 1.
If you like this volume, try: Mark Waid’s ongoing run on Daredevil. Marvel rebooted the series in 2011, bringing in veteran scribe Waid to re-invigorate the character. Waid brought in a fresh take on the characters that harkens back to the early issues of Daredevil from the 1960s. The art team (Paolo Rivera, Marcos Martin, Chris Samnee, and others) have been nailing the art each time out. In this current run, Murdock finds himself barred from serving as a trial lawyer, so he sets up shop as a consulting counselor, advising clients who need to represent themselves in court. This title has won multiple Eisner awards over the three-year run of the book. The entire series is collected in multiple formats (trade paperbacks, hardcovers) so it should not be hard to find. This current run will becoming to an end with issue #36, but will start over again the next month with a new #1, still led by Mark Waid.