Monday, May 16, 2005

DAREDEVIL #115 Marvel Comics, 1974

Check out that cover.

They don't make covers like that anymore. Not to get all old-timer on you, but it seems like these days mainstream superhero comics are interested only in generic, iconic covers that don't really indicate what the interior contents of the comic are. The days of word balloons on the cover are long gone, my friend, and that's a damn shame.

Daredevil #115 is one of those comics that I clearly remember reading when I was a little kid. My family used to make the long road trip from Glendale, California all the way up to Yorkton, Saskatchewan, for a few weeks of summer vacation. I'm really quite fond of Saskatchewan and would recommend it as a vacation destination to anyone interested in grain elevators and mosquitoes.

One of the highlights of the summer trips to Yorkton was a visit to the cabin on Crystal Lake of our family friends, who had three daughters. My sister and our friends and I would go swimming and waterskiing and eat and play cards and pick leeches off our feet and it was great. There was this great old drive-in theater up the hill from the cabin where we'd watch bad 70's movies under a big northern sky full of stars. The whole thing was like a Norman Rockwell painting, only different -- Canadian. It was here, at the lake, that I found Daredevil #115 in a box full of toys outside the cabin.

I had never heard of Daredevil before. I knew who Spider-Man and The Hulk were, but who was this guy? When I was a kid I remember being a little scared by Marvel comic covers, and this was no exception. I mean, Daredevil is clearly in trouble on the cover above -- "Looks like this is the death-trap I don't escape!" All the Marvel covers of the 70's were like that; they all showed the hero about to get killed or otherwise being handled roughly. It kind of freaked me out. I think I wanted to see more upbeat covers, wanted to see the hero kicking some ass.

Having said that, I was hooked by the scary cover. So I sat down on the deck and I read it. I had to know if this Daredevil guy made it, who this Death Stalker guy was, and why that bald guy was shooting at him.

The Death-Stalker is one of the coolest villains ever. Let's just get that out of the way. My judgment is clearly swayed by the heady fumes of nostalgia, but I'm amazed that nobody has brought him back. Have they, and I missed it? Death-Stalker was this sinister guy in a hat who... you know what, this splash page says it all. (Click to enlarge for better reading.)

"He is the demonic Death-Stalker -- and his mission is murder!"

Man, Death-Stalker freaked my shit out! As a kid obsessed by Dracula and The Nazgul, I thought he was brilliant. Death-Stalker could become intangible at will, his touch was death, and he had a really evil laugh. Plus: cool hat. What more do you need?

This issue was written by Steve Gerber, with solid 70's art by Bob Brown and inks by the iron hand of Vince Colletta. Steve Gerber is best known for creating Howard the Duck (and Doctor Bong), but he's written tons of stuff. I'm not sure if he created Death-Stalker; I'm too lazy to look it up. Gerber's Daredevil is consistent with the pre-Frank Miller take on the character as a wise-cracking acrobatic swashbuckler. It's actually kind of funny; Daredevil doesn't seem to be remotely afraid of the sinister Death-Stalker in this issue and remains pretty upbeat despite his enemy's apparent invulnerability.

I read this comic dozens of times that summer. I poured over the letters page, the in-house ads, every panel of art - it was a fascinating glimpse into a vast fictional world that was apparently much more complex than just Hulk and Spider-Man. It kindled my interest in comics. Regrettably, that particular comic and I had to part ways, but as you can see, I tracked it down.

I did that with all the old comics I remember reading as a kid. I've pored through back issue bins over the years until I've collected them all. It's like capturing a certain smell or a sound in a bottle. Wouldn't you do that, if you could? Go back to that winter when it really dumped snow on your neighborhood and capture the smell in the air? Or go back to summer camp and capture perfectly the sound of the frogs at night and the snoring of the kid in the bunk next to you? Or capture the sound of traffic and the city drifting in through an open window as you try to sleep on a hot night in July? Well, I did it. I went back and captured all those memories, those feelings and now I have them in acid-free polybags.

There are only about six of them, comics that I have that connection with. The rest are just comics. But when I open Daredevil #115, I can smell the sunscreen and Deep Woods Off, I can feel the warm prairie breeze, and I'm back at Crystal Lake, Saskatchewan.

Oh! Added bonus! Check out this in-house ad for their wild new character - Wolverine! But is he hero -- or the most dangerous new super-villain ever? That makes me feel very old.


David Campbell said...

You are a sap.

Ken Lowery said...



Is that for-serious, or a reference to Friday the 13th?

layne said...

You went to YORKTON?

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the touch of death, how 'bout that Vince Colletta?

Ian said...

You're from Glendale? That's why I like your blog, we both come from the suburbs of Southern California...where geniuses are born!

David Campbell said...

Oui, originally I am from Glendale, it was really called Crystal Lake, and yes, I went to Yorkton for vacation. To liven things up we visited Regina.

Anonymous said...

I have met artists who liked working with Vince Coletta.

Yeah, I'm having a hard time working out that one too.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post :)

Kevin Church said...

Kirby apparently liked Vince quite a lot because he turned the stuff over to Stan immediately and kept his deadlines. He never looked at the actual comics to find out about things like, you know, crowds disappearing and backgrounds going the way of the dodo.

gorjus said...

Great post, Dave.

Vince-Defense, to the . . . uh, Defense! Yeah, he trashed the art. But he actually made Kirby girls look like GIRLS, which the King could NOT do. And, he gave them eye-lashes! Rad!

David Campbell said...

Colletta War!

Anonymous said...

Another great post...keep 'em coming! I found it interesting that you and I have opposite responses to the nostalgic urge: I prefer to keep memories as MEMORIES, as the reality is always disappointing to me. About ten years ago my parents sold their house, so I had to go through all the crap I had accumulated up to that point (comics, magazines, toys, models, books, ad nauseum). I wound up sending 90% of it to the dump, and it was one of the most cleansing and cathartic experiences of my life.

(As an aside, and with my apologies, the spelling and grammar nazi in me insists on pointing out that it's supposed to be "PORED" over etc. etc., not "poured". (For future reference: one is FAZED or UNFAZED by some sort of adversity, not "phased"...MY GOD I hate that one.))

David Campbell said...

Thank you, O Grammar Guru, I changed "poured" to "pored," as all freedom-loving people should spell it. I understand where you're coming from re: memories/catharsis/accumulating crap. Comics are pretty much one of the only things I actually keep; I'm not one of those guys that collects lunch boxes and relics from the halcyon days of youth. Did I spell that right? ;)

MarkAndrew said...

Yeah. Man. Death Stalker was freakin' scary! (Actually, there were a couple Daredevil issues from about the same time that STILL give me the heebie-jeebies. This one included, of course.)

This was pro'lly the peak of Steve (My favorite writer, like, ever)'s DD run.

thekelvingreen said...

Know exactly what you mean. I've been picking up the original printings of many of the back-up strips from the UK Transformers comics, and Rocket raccoon and machine Man are just as good as I remember. Not sure I'll go as far as Inhumanoids though...

Anonymous said...

I know EXACTLY what you mean. I was there at Crystal Lake, Saskatchewan on the July/August Long Weekend in 1974. My Parents took me there on a family vacation when I was six. We stayed at Williams Beach, while my older brother was across the lake at Blacks' Beach attending the annual Saskatchewan Young New Democrats Annual Summer Camp. "The Night Chicago Died" by Paperlace played ad infintum on the jukebox over a tinny mono loudspeaker. The lake was clean and clear. The sky was full of stars and northern lights. I didn't go to the drive-in that year. Not old enough I guess. But as I grew up, I attended the SYND camp every summer from 1984-1988. Besides the obvious attraction of the lake, there was lots of booze and pussy - leftwing intellectual style. Very tasty. But times change. They tore down the old drive-in a couple of years ago. Williams' Beach is now called Johnny's Beach. And Nicholson Hall, where the SYND Camp took place, was moved and the camp done away with. Tis a pity. If you want to see some pics, goto


Ram Crammer said...

You have beautifully described the redolence of childhood comics. I am
nearly 60 and can still clearly and fondly recall some of the comics
I read as a child. I find that nothing else can take me back to my
youth the way comics can. Back in those days I lived from week to week in anticipation of the next comic shipment to our local mom-&-pop store (Wow! those shops are another nostalgia trip). In those days, I too, would pore over my books, reading and re-reading,
and without a thought about preserving them. Nobody had yet conceived
of the poly comic bag, and we could fold back the covers and clip
coupons to our hearts' content. Such blissful innocence (sigh).

This is my first post to your blog. For some time, I've been thoroughly entertained
by your many insightful and hilarious postings, especially your reviews of pre-90's mainstream comics. Today's decompressed slick
modern productions just don't work very well for me. But Steve Gerber
and Vince Colletta? Oh yeah! I also grooved on Frank Miller's Captain America (Marvel Fanfare 18. I had to run out to my local comic shop for that one, but wow, it's worth it. Thanks for
bringing these sleepers to our attention, and keep up the great work on Dave's Long Box.

Anonymous said...

There are a few Vince Colletta critics who keep churning anti-Vinnie stuff out over and over. None of these are professionals, none have ever done anything that I know of (who is Mark Evanier?). Did Vinnie refuse to sign an autograph for you at a comic book convention or something? I doubt it, Vince was the definition of class. BTW, anyone have any photos of him?

Anonymous said...

My collection started with the early Daredevils and Thors that had Colletta inking them. They remain the nicest looking books I own.

Unknown said...

Vince Colletta inked a number of Daredevils and all of them were beautifully done.

Anonymous said...

Nice Vince Colletta artwork. Nice blog.

Silas said...

Very worthwhile data, lots of thanks for this post.
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