Stan Lee is without a doubt one of the most important voices in comic books ever. He wrote so much and created so many characters, but he also influenced future generations. This book collects the Daredevil comics from 1966 to 1967 in a time where Daredevil was falling in love with his secretary, lying to his partner about who Daredevil was, and pretending to be an eccentric hipster mostly because he liked not being himself. This collection marks Lee as a genius, but also a man of crazy ideas.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Stan Lee and Gene Colan unleash an identity crisis as Matt Murdock juggles his triple identity as Daredevil and his own “twin brother” Mike Murdock. You might need your slide rule to track the trigonometry of Marvel’s Man Without Fear’s mixed-up life. And as if that weren’t complex enough, Daredevil experiences a body swap with Doctor Doom in one of comics’ first crossovers! Other highlights include guest appearances by Spider-Man, Thor and Ka-Zar; the introduction of fan-favorite villain Leap-Frog; and the debut of the Emissaries of Evil. It’s a series of action-packed extravaganzas so hazardous that all our cast won’t all make it out alive!
Can I jump in easily?
It’s quite easy to jump into this story originally written in 1966. Stan Lee and Artist Gene Colan open this collection with an average adventure for Daredevil. It’s not until a few issues in that we’re introduced to Mike Murdock, one of the silliest character decisions I’ve ever read. There is a good ending too as it puts to bed this Mike Murdock character.
Reason 1: Mike Murdock is an insane construct that Stan Lee probably tried himself in real life.
The title of this Epic Collection is due to Stan Lee’s introduction of a “twin brother” named Mike Murdock. Matt created this persona so that if he ever were caught changing into his costume he could say it’s his brother. A suspect reason for such a charade, but we’ll let him have it. This brother is an eccentric hipster that allows Matt to let down his hair (or in this case fuss it up) and be a jokester. This involves him putting Foggy down for his weight (in rather cruel ways, the jerk) and juggling to impress the office secretary. He also sings, acts like a fool and loves every minute of it.
In a hilarious scene, Lee has him talking to himself about who might play Daredevil in a movie because of how zany Mike is when around Foggy and Karen. The fact that Karen and Foggy fall for this is ridiculous. It’s also hilarious to see Matt talk to himself about how much fun he’s having, and I’m not sure that was the intention. It honestly makes you wonder if Stan Lee dressed differently and went out on the town as a wacky kook. Whether Lee created Mike so as to explore a superhero who had a real-life persona that was silly and out there, or whether he honestly thought this was a clever idea is beyond me, but it is strange. There was an opportunity to explore the idea that Matt didn’t like being himself, but that’s never toyed with here. Instead, he’s well aware being Mike is fun, but it doesn’t go beyond that.
Reason 2: Aliens come to invade Earth and Doctor Doom has the craziest plan thwarted in the craziest way.
In a single issue story, Daredevil heads to an upper state college to give a speech. He, of course, runs into green-skinned aliens who want to freeze Daredevil to get him out of their way. Why are they even on Earth? To steal our minerals of course! Somehow Daredevil knows this will kill half the population (how does he know this?!) and he must stop them. The fact that he thwarts their plan by using one of their weapons against them and they seem to just grow tired of the battle and shove off is proof enough Stan Lee did not give two hoots about well-earned endings.
Later, near the end of this collection, Dr. Doom has the best plan ever (sarcasm): change bodies with Daredevil so as to infiltrate the Fantastic Four and destroy them. Seriously, switching bodies with Daredevil is the best way to use this invention? After some “clever” moves by Daredevil, Dr. Doom eventually gets tricked into switching bodies back due to Daredevil (now in Dr. Doom’s body), starting a war with Latveria’s neighbors. Not only is this a brash decision–many people could die–but how did Dr. Doom not see this coming? Maybe he should have told all his minions he switched bodies that way Daredevil couldn’t trick them? What a silly caper. That said, it did serve as one of the biggest Marvel crossover events at that point with Spider-Man and Thor popping up.
Reason 3: The dialogue is crazy, genius and bonkers.
I never knew Daredevil was so punchy. The character is seriously out of his mind at times in this collection and I’m not even talking about how he more than once laments there aren’t any gangsters or criminals to punch. Lines like, “Sorry, playmate! Looks like I’m an ol’ butterfingers” or “Sorry, wobble-wings, you can’t hold him to it, he had his fingers crossed” are so silly and out there you can’t help but laugh. When pretending to be Mike his almost cruel insults are laughably mean (“chubbins” has to be brought back!). He also seems to be laser focused on either getting a good workout in or wishing for a good workout in the future. The dude is seriously swole.
Mike Murdock is one of the weirdest things you’ll ever read in comics.
Reasons to be wary?
The hokey nature of these stories is partly why they’re so entertaining. It was a simpler time for comics and Lee always had something for his characters to say. Sure it wasn’t realistic half the time–and a lot of the plots were silly–but you can’t deny you either were laughing or getting surprised. There was always something to enjoy. Heck, even Mike Murdock has his moments, although it does grow tiring and his retirement comes out of nowhere.
The biggest takeaway in the negatives is how Lee doesn’t seem to have a handle on who this character is and he’s actually kind of a jerk. He thinks himself a ladies man and a guy who deserves things without question. He’s not very nice and when he’s a hero he’s actually looking for a fight. It’s a weird thing to see since Daredevil today is defined in a much different light. One gets the impression Lee was trying out new things with a costumed hero and, through the test of time, it’s quite obvious most of those elements didn’t stick.
Is there a rationale to the reasons?
It’s easy to enjoy a comic like this because it takes you back to an earlier time when comic books were silly and strange. Daredevil goes on wacky adventures and insane things transpire that require a certain sense of crazy. Seeing as he’s a street-level crimefighter these days it’s particularly weird when Daredevil is fighting aliens. This era of “Mike” Murdock marks a time when Stan Lee was clearly trying new things out and didn’t care if fans were confused, bewildered, or even angry. That makes every chapter an exploration and a discovery that’s highly entertaining.