Monday, June 26, 2017

DAREDEVIL #183

"CHILD’S PLAY”
Writers: Roger McKenzie & Frank Miller | Artists: Frank Miller & Klaus Janson
Colors: Klaus Janson | Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: As Matt Murdock gives a talk at a local high school, a girl named Mary O’Koran goes into a drug-induced panic and leaps out the classroom’s second story window. Matt changes to Daredevil and rushes the girl to the hospital, but she dies. Her brother, Billy, swears vengeance on the drug pushers, “Hogman” and “Flapper”.

That night, Daredevil locates Flapper but during a skirmish with the Punisher, is unable to save him from being gunned down by someone on a nearby rooftop. DD ascends and finds Billy holding a gun, but the boy swears he shot high and missed. The next day, Matt volunteers to handle Billy’s defense.

While searching for evidence of Billy’s innocence, Daredevil runs afoul of the Punisher again. He then confronts Hogman, who he believes killed Flapper for skimming profits. Two weeks later, Matt gets Billy exonerated, but when Hogman protests that he didn't fire the gun either, his heartbeat remains even. Matt next declares he will defend Hogman.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: A doctor at the hospital fills Daredevil in on angel dust, the drug found in Mary’s system.


This issue marks the first meeting between Daredevil and the Punisher, and establishes an ideological feud between the two which will inform pretty much all of their subsequent encounters.


Daredevil visits Ben Urich for information on the Punisher.


Matt and Heather meet in the park, where Heather reveals she is aware that Glenn Industries’ board of directors is plotting to steal the company from her. Matt suggests she let them have it and proposes to her.

My Thoughts: Well this is an odd one. We know by now that this story was originally slated to appear in issue 167, but was skipped, I believe due to a clash with the Comics Code Authority over the subject matter. The events of the story (“the angel dust murders”) were clearly mentioned back in issue 169, making it seem like this would remain an untold tale from that era — but now here it is, sixteen issues after it was originally supposed to run, and it's clearly been rejiggered to fit into current continuity. Which apparently means Daredevil has dealt with two separate sets of angel dust murders in this brief span of his career.

Interestingly, it appears the full issue was created in 1980 before being canned and replaced with the Mauler story that actually saw print in issue 167. Stories were only seventeen pages long back then, and this issue runs about eighteen pages before a disconcerting change in style occurs. It’s quite plain that pages 4 through 18 were not scripted by Frank Miller; they have a dense, verbose narration style which Miller abandoned some time back, and the artwork features pages filled with smaller panels, as opposed to the big, “widescreen” style Miller has employed for several months now.

My guess is that there was a seventeen-page story to begin with. Miller and Klaus Janson altered the first two pages into three, then ran the original pages 3 through 17 as pages 4 through 18 of the new issue, finally adding a four-page conclusion to round things out to the correct number of story pages for 1982. The artwork seems to support this certainly; the opening pages and the concluding pages are much more “cinematic” than the ones in between.


As far as the story itself, I can see why it ran into some issues with the Comics Code. There’s definitely some subject matter here which would be questionable by the standards of the time: a twelve year-old killing herself, for example, was hardly something someone might’ve expected in a mainstream comic. But I guess Marvel managed to convince the Code that, since this was a “very special issue”, they’d be okay showing it.

(I think I noted a while back, by the way, that while I generally don’t think “grown-up” social issues need to be front and center in kids’ comics, I’m totally okay with anti-drug stuff since that’s a very real concern for children.)

And then there’s Matt’s proposal to Heather, which can be read, as the kids say these days, as “problematic.” She declares that she needs purpose for her life and she’s trying to find it by running her late father’s company. Matt counters by telling her to quit; that he will give her life purpose. His method of doing so? A proposal.


Now personally I don’t think this is Frank Miller endorsing “the Patriarchy”. He’s shown before that Heather is a liberated woman, and he gave us Elektra, one of the strongest female characters seen in comics by this point. Rather, I believe Miller is showing us that Matt Murdock is an old-fashioned guy. It makes sense; he grew up in a strict Catholic home where his father was the family breadwinner. This is how Matt believes things are “supposed” to be. And if that’s the case, I’m fine with it. Heroes need foibles, and if Matt Murdock’s happens to be that he’s stuck in a 1950s mindset, I think that’s okay. As long as Miller presents this idea as absurd within the context of his story — which he’ll do next issue — then all is well.

5 comments:

  1. Good job, comics: I first learned of angel dust in SPECTACULAR #110, the last issue of the "Death of Jean DeWolff" story (where DD also has a role).

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  2. Since I didn't know the backstory for this issue, I was puzzled at the time by how it backslid into the wordy old days. It made sense-McKenzie had a tendency to be verbose, and some of that rubbed off on Miller in his early days as writer-but until I learned the origins of this issue, I was puzzled as to why McKenzie suddenly turned back up. Hindsight, it was obvious that this dated back to then, but, hey, I was a kid back then. Hindsight didn't work as well.

    And yeah, Matt's being old fashioned even by the standards of the early 1980s there. I always thought part of it was because he'd lost Elektra and he was rebounding, very badly, at Heather. Which accounted for some of how 1950s he was being, but, man, leading into a proposal by telling a woman she has no head for business and should just resign and become his wife...way to go Matt.

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  3. Indeed, it's both old-fashioned alpha maleism and grief. A fatal problem in Matt's relationship with Natasha was his treating her as a sidekick rather than an independent equal. But as this story progresses, it's clear Matt's loss of Elektra is affecting his mind and emotions, causing him to be possessive of Heather to the point of obsession.

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  4. Yes, Matt's treatment of Heather in the upcoming issues is horrific, and I'll have something to say about it as we move along!

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  5. I’m thrown by the uncharacteristic chauvinism of “You haven’t the head for this sort of thing,” for sure — just the “darling” makes him sound brainwashed or something — but mostly it reads to me less as old-fashioned than as a baldly misguided fix to Matt’s grief. He comes out and says as much: “There’s a hole in me. A great, black hole that you could fill.”

    I haven't read these issues in long enough to remember how or when he comes to self-realization on this.

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