I’ve often said that I miss the comics covers of old. Those covers were designed, unlike many of the ones being produced today which are merely mini-posters spotlighting the titular character without giving any indication of the story contained inside, to draw readers in and make them anxious about actually reading the stories contained therein. Of course, this was also a time when comic books could be found all over the place, from newsstands to the local drug store, as opposed to only in specialty comic-book shops, and they were largely focused on catching the eye of someone just passing by the comics rack instead of depending pretty solely on regular readers who are willing to go every Wednesday to get their weekly fix, but that’s a discussion for another time, I suppose. Anyway, “Covering Comics” is going to be a probably irregular series of posts where I take a look at various covers from the past, highlighting some of my personal favorites, or other covers of note for one reason or another.
With Jessica Jones coming up from Netflix and Marvel soon – a show I’m personally really looking forward to, btw, especially considering how well they did with Daredevil – I thought it might be a good time to take a look back at some of the covers from that predecessor show. Why not do Jessica Jones covers? Well, because to be honest I just don’t find those covers compelling, and considering that the character is actually a recent retrocon (okay, I’m not sure if that’s a real word or not, but what I mean by it is that she was conceived fairly recently then given a backstory that fit her into the larger Marvel universe proper even though she had never been seen in a comic before), she doesn’t really fit into what I consider to be the purview of this column. Plus, Daredevil has always been a favorite character of mine, so any excuse to go back and revisit some of his earliest stories and the covers that drew me and so many others into his books is welcome.
The cover to issue #1 is interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, the drawing of the title character himself is simply a re-purposed image from the interior splash page canted at a slightly different angle. Second, it highlights a comparison of the new character with Marvel’s already established Spider-Man, which is something that a lot of creators today seem too have forgotten. Rather than being the grim and gritty character that infuses so many of the modern interpretations of Daredevil (including the Netflix version), he was originally conceived as a much more light-hearted character.
Issue #2 further integrates Daredevil into the Marvel universe not only by pitting him against Electro, who had been previously introduced as a Spider-Man villain, but by featuring a cameo appearance by the Fantastic Four, who had also been featured on the cover of #1.
Issue #4 is notable because it was the one that introduced Kilgrave The Purple Man who will be the main villain of Netflix’s Jessica Jones series.
The cover of #7 is notable because it features the first appearance of DD’s new red costume.
What happens when a character whose entire gimmick, along with his power set is based on him being blind is given a chance to regain his sight? How might that affect his heightened other senses? That is the question that Matt Murdock faces in issue #9.
I noted earlier that from the very start Daredevil was being compared to Spider-Man, so of course it wouldn’t be long before the two characters met. The first of those encounters took place in issue #16 which, in typical Marvel style begins with the two heroes fighting each other then teaming up against a mutual foe.
Though he’s not featured (other than in a small blurb) on the cover of issue #19, it does introduce The Gladiator, who some have speculated will be one of the villains in the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil, especially since we were introduced to his alter-ego during the first season.
Issue #23 not only gives us a better look at The Gladiator, it features some extremely dynamic artwork from the legendary Gene Colan, who you may remember me praising for his interior work on Tomb of Dracula a couple of columns back. Colan had a similarly terrific run on DD establishing the look of the character and his supporting cast for years to come.
Issue #25 brought a surprise for the readers as it introduced Matt Murdock’s previously unknown twin brother Mike. Actually, there was a reason no one knew Matt had a twin. That’s because *Spoiler* he didn’t. Mike was actually am invention of Matt’s when he was caught without his mask on. *End Spoiler*
What’s that? Aliens seem a bit out of DD’s usual purview? Well, yeah. that’s kind of the point of issue #28’s cover. To get you wondering what’s going on so you’ll buy the issue to find out.
You may think the cover of #29 is designed to get you wondering what DD’s going to do next, but the real question that it brings up is why DD’s wearing his dark glasses under his cowl and why they don’t seem to give it a very odd shape.
Issue #37 highlights an interesting trend that has been something of a staple of Marvel comics over the years, one which actually began in issue #5 of Amazing Spider-Man. Since it usually took the entire Fantastic Four to defeat Doctor Doom how could a solo hero possibly hope to stand against him? And at the same time, how could it be pulled off without devaluing Doom as a viable opponent the next time he was pitted against the FF? (We also saw this trend continued when Luke Cage, the headliner of another upcoming Marvel/Netflix series, took on Doom by himself.)
Issue #38 continued the DD vs DD storyline under another great Gene Colan cover.
So what happens when carrying on two secret identities becomes more trouble than it’s wort? Simple, you just kill one of them. Of course, that does leave the supporting cast wondering who the “new” Daredevil is…
Another “why are these two heroes fighting?” cover, I’ve loved this one for issue #43 ever since I first saw it, mostly because of the unmistakable Jack Kirby take on Captain America.
The cover for issue #45 is remarkable for us use of an actual photo of the Statue of Liberty and the Bew York skyline incorporated into the background. And of course, this was done long before Photoshop was a thing.
Issue #56 features another incredibly dynamic Gene Colan cover. I don’t remember what ever became of Death’s-Head, but just look at him and his skeletal horse on that cover.
Issue #57 raises the question where’s Mike when you need him? And yeah, this does happen in the issue, and it does have consequences. As a matter of fact it will have consequences for years to come.
Unfortunately, not long after that issue, the cover chores were taken over bu a series of not terrible but unremarkable artists, until finally they were handed to another artist with an unmistakable style – the unfortunately late, great Gil Kane.
Issue #81 introduced into the book a character who would come to have a great impact for the next few years – the Black Widow.
Hey, look who’s back from issue #2! Talk about holding a grudge! But that’s not the only reason #87 is notable – it also marks a locale change as Daredevil (along with the Black Widow) becomes one of the first of Marvel’s heroes to move away from New York for the west coast – specifically San Francisco.
Remember me mentioning that the introduction of the Black Widow into the series would wind up having consequences? Well, here you go. Not only did she wind up becoming Matt’s lover and moving with him to San Francisco, she also wound up sharing the cover billing with him which would last until issue #107.
The cover for issue #98 was illustrated by George Tuska who I have long contended drew one of the sexiest versions of Natasha (the Black Widow) ever.
Ive noted in other columns that anniversary issues such as #100 tended to be considered special celebration issues, and of course that was the case with Daredevil who in this issue found himself confronting practically every villain he had up until that point.
Y’know, I’m finding as I do these columns, one of the side effects is that it makes me want to go back and re-read a lot of these comics. many of which I haven’t read for years. And I hope that maybe you’re finding yourselves enticed by them as well. Because that, of course, means they’re still doing their job.