Daredevil (Vol.1) #16

 Lookback: From The Beginning
 Posted: 2005
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)


After reading "Spider-Man/Kingpin: To the Death", I couldn't help thinking about the other big Spider-Man/Daredevil team-up by Stan Lee and John Romita. And once I thought about it... then I couldn't resist doing a "Lookback" of it. From 1966: "Enter Spider-Man" and "None are so Blind". Daredevil #16 and 17.

In Tom DeFalco's essential Comics Creators on Spider-Man, John Romita explains how Spider-Man ended up guest-starring in Daredevil. "Stan contrived that because he and Steve Ditko were not getting along. Stan and I were plotting Daredevil verbally, and we would often get into conversations about the other people he was working with. Stan told me that he was having disagreements with Steve Ditko over almost every Spider-Man plot...Since Stan knew that Ditko was about to take off, he decided to see if I could draw Spider- Man." JR had only been back with Marvel for five months and had only taken over the Man Without Fear's book from Wally Wood and Bob Powell with Daredevil #12, January 1966. His first two issues had layouts by Jack Kirby allowing JR to learn the "Marvel Style" so he only really got to make the book his own starting with Daredevil #14, March 1966. He was interested in staying on Daredevil and making it a big seller. Aware that Stan was auditioning him for Spider-Man, JR nevertheless was sure "it was just going to be a temporary assignment. I believed Ditko would eventually come back... I was very disappointed when I found out that Steve wasn't going to return."

So here is John Romita's first take on Spider-Man which leads to his taking over as artist with Amazing Spider-Man #39, August 1966. His last DD issue appeared at the same time (Daredevil #19, August 1966) so JR never had a chance to prove his worth on that title. But I think he ended up doing just fine.

Story 'Enter... Spider-Man'

The cover is about as stark as they come. Sure, there's a graywash of dozens of Manhattan skyscrapers in the background but even as they blend into a gray sky they also blend into a barely-noticed blur. The cover might as well be nothing but the two figures in the foreground. Spidey is on the left with Daredevil on the right and a little above, leaping down at the web-slinger. If the "the less cover text, the better the story" rule is in place, then this one will be a doozy. All it says, in a banner along the bottom, is "Enter... Spider-Man!"

The splash page features Daredevil standing on the sidewalk and flinging his billy club at a wall-clinging Spider-Man. (And missing, by the way. The club hits above Spidey and bounces away.) A nearby panel blurb informs us that this is the introduction of the "Mystery of the Masked Marauder!" The mystery of the Marauder is his identity which isn't revealed until Daredevil #26, March 1967.

Our tale begins in the law offices of Nelson and Murdock. It is a slow afternoon and Foggy Nelson and secretary Karen Page are watching "color TV". (Yes, this issue is from the days when people were just as likely to have black and white sets than color, making it necessary for Stan to specify.) The television is showing news stills of Spider-Man battling the Masked Marauder's gang and Foggy wonders "How come there's always a photographer nearby?" Beside him, Matt Murdock, the blind attorney who is secretly Daredevil, thinks, "Foggy's right! So many of that web-slinger's exploits have been photographed you'd almost think he sets up an automatic camera and takes the pix himself! Aw, come on, Matt! You've been reading too many fantasy stories lately!" (That sly Stan!)

The sequence of photos shows Spidey breaking up the Masked Marauder's plan to "invade the World Motors Building" and, in one shot, you can see the Marauder himself, standing in the background with his hands in the air. (The Marauder is apparently a fan of the color purple, and I don't mean Alice Walker or Stephen Spielberg. His costume and the costumes of his henchmen are done completely in purple, with the exception of the Marauder's green cape. He wears a mask that looks like a purple crash helmet attached to goggles like those worn by the X-Man Cyclops attached to a purple veil. Not a very pretty sight.) Foggy and Karen gush about Spidey as they watch the scenes of him duking it out with the Marauder's gang. ("Oh Matt, if only you could see this! That Spider- Man is simple the greatest!") Matt remembers Spidey well from the time he teamed with him as Daredevil against the Ringmaster (in ASM #16, September 1964). He asks about what happens next. "Did Spider-Man catch the Marauder?" Unfortunately, no. But he does manage to capture and tie up four members of the gang. And it looks like he's a big hero for it too, with a cop waving at him with his right hand as he trains his gun on the captured crooks with his left hand. There is also a very vaguely drawn crowd near the building up which Spidey is crawling. One of them seems to be giving him the big wave as well. The generous TV coverage switches to a close-up photo of Spider-Man, which looks like his resume headshot as Foggy praises the web-slinger, managing to criticize Daredevil at the same time. "If you ask me", he says, "the Masked Marauder and his men are too much for Daredevil to tackle! He's probably more than happy to let Spider-Man take all the risks! D.D. was always too much of a glamour boy to suit me!" Karen jumps on Foggy's case for this criticism, reminding him that she owes her life to the Man Without Fear, whereupon Foggy fesses up that he just gets jealous when he thinks about Karen being impressed by any other man. "If ever I doubted how Foggy feels about her", thinks Matt, "it was just spelled out for me now!" (You see, Matt was in love with Karen, as was Foggy, but Matt kept quiet about it and... aw, who cares? This was all forty years ago and it isn't even Spidey's own mag! Let's just move on, shall we?)

Meanwhile in his hideout, the mysterious Masked Marauder rails against Spider- Man who has apparently interfered with his plans more than once. To counter the web-slinger, he has come up with a master plan. "Only a genius like myself could have devised so foolproof, so imaginative a scheme!" he crows. And what is this brilliant plan? To garb nine of his henchmen in duplicate costumes of... Daredevil. And why Daredevil? To keep Spidey occupied fighting DD thereby allowing the gang to pillage to their hearts' content. Now I realize that the plan is to trick Spider-Man into fighting the real DD but wouldn't it make more sense to dress up the henchmen in the costume of someone who is actually a villain? Of course then you wouldn't have any reason for this story to take place in Daredevil.

The ersatz Daredevils get their instructions to "keep the vigil until one of you locates Spider-Man" and then to attack him but one of them balks at the scheme. He is not anxious to pit himself against the web-slinger. ("These other creeps may be dumb enough to tackle Spider-Man single-handed but not me!" he says elegantly.) "I believe all my men have the right to voice an opinion!", the Marauder replies, "But, unfortunately for you, I do not share your opinion! Nor do I appreciate your disrespectful tone of voice!" And, having said that, the masked villain blasts his goon with "a mild dose of my blinding opti- blast", which is a dual laser beam that he fires from his goggles that paralyzes the optic nerve of the victim. The temporarily blinded henchman is taken away to learn his lesson while the others are sent out into the city to look for Spider-Man. "What a perfect plan!" thinks the Marauder, "By tricking Spider-Man into thinking that Daredevil is his enemy, I'll set them both against each other!" And you know what? It's just stupid enough to work!

The "More Marvel Masterpieces" page promotes Fantastic Four #51, June 1966 with the classic, "This Man, This Monster!", ASM #37, June 1966 with Professor Stromm's first appearance, and Marvel Collectors' Item Classics #3, June 1966 now minus Spidey and Ant-Man but gaining Iron Man, Dr. Strange, the Incredible Hulk, and Tales of the Watcher. The same ad page in ASM #37, by the way, promotes this issue.

Out in the city, the Amazing Spider-Man patrols via his webs. He is just musing that "Things are so quiet, even Aunt May wouldn't worry about me on a night like this", when his spider-sense warns him of a fast approaching object. "I've had bullets, gas pellets, and ray guns fired at me", Spidey thinks, "but I never expected anyone to toss a billy club my way!" He looks around the corner and, sure enough, there's Daredevil leaping away from the scene. (The only problem with this is that the billy club came from above, ricocheted off the building near Spidey and angled downward while "DD" is down below and around the corner, meaning the imposter must be quite an acrobat.) Spidey looks down at the street and pronounces it "deserted", which it is, except for a rather obvious trailer truck parked at the curb. The web- slinger decides not to look for Daredevil (even though his spider-sense could probably pinpoint that truck) and leaves the scene instead, telling himself, "If he's really out to get me, he'll be showing himself again soon enough!". Meanwhile, though, inside the truck, the phony DD watches through a periscope. (Surely, Spidey should be able to see that periscope!) The imposter just barely escaped Spidey's sight. One of the purple-clad gang members radios Spidey's position to the Masked Marauder. Now it is time for the other Daredevils to take over.

As the Marauder, safe in his headquarters, is notified that Spider-Man has been found, the web-slinger encounters Daredevil again on a rooftop. This time, with no explanation, the red-garbed figure shoots a nylon line out that snags Spidey on his left ankle. "I always thought Daredevil and I were two of the good guys! But if he wants to act like a corny costumed pain-in-the-neck, I'll show him that two can play that little game!" Spidey says. Then he reaches down to the nylon line and is surprised to discover that he can snap it easily. He had always heard that hornhead's line was a lot stronger than that. But Spidey's not really interested in that detail. He's ready to fight... except that Daredevil has disappeared again. "Well, wherever you are, Masked Man" says Spidey as he shakes his fist, "I'm hanging around here till I find you! And, when I do...", adding to himself, "Rats! I'm beginning to sound like a typical frustrated bad guy!"

At the law offices, Karen Page, leaving for the day, lays down a big hint that "I've no date tonight so I guess I'll go home and curl up with a good book." Matt doesn't take the bait and Karen is left to wonder if Matt, "you big goof", will ever ask her out. Matt, however, is not dense, just dedicated. He would love to take Karen out but has heard radio reports of Daredevil in the city. He needs to go check those out. ("If there's another Daredevil in the area, I'd better know about it!") He gets into his DD get-up and swings out into the city. It is not long before he is bathed in the light of the spider-signal. It's Spider-Man... "and he sounds mad".

Daredevil, standing on a rooftop edge, is willing to stop and talk to the web- slinger but Spidey's in no mood for discussion. He tells Daredevil that he liked the old yellow costume much better because it "matched your new yellow streak", then he swings over and kicks DD right in the chops. Matt uses the momentum to bound away and tells Pete they have no reason to fight. "You should have thought of that before you attacked me without warning", says the wall- crawler and he refuses to listen to Daredevil's claims of innocence. Spidey launches a reckless left hand punch that Daredevil evades easily and DD takes advantage of the opening by tagging Spidey with a clout delivered with his two hands clasped together. Spider-Man goes over the side of the building but uses his wall-crawling powers to cling to the wall. Again, DD tries to get Spidey to talk about it and again Spidey won't listen. Instead, still clinging to the wall with his hands, he leaps up and kicks Daredevil in the face, declaring "That innocent little act of yours doesn't fool me one bit!".

Well, that does it. The battle is on and even though it takes place on a rooftop, it causes enough commotion to attract gawkers on the street. A cop on his beat calls it in to the precinct, requesting "the riot squad and fast!". Soon, the news is on the radio where the Masked Marauder picks it up. It is what he has been waiting for. Time to implement "Plan W", which, apparently, is a heist of the World Motors Center while the police are busy with Spidey and DD on the other side of town. (Plan "W" for "World Motors", I suppose. Ah, the genius of the Masked Marauder!) The Marauder and his flunkies climb into their semi-truck trailer and head out. "Within minutes", says the Marauder, "I'll possess the plans for the newest, most powerful auto engine ever devised!" (Yes, that's right, all this work to steal an auto engine.) "Plans which I'll then alter for my own purposes." (Like... build a car to compete in the Indy 500?)

The truck pulls into an alley. ("Luckily the street is deserted at this hour", says MM... but just what hour is it, anyway? Didn't Karen Page just get off work? Shouldn't it be about.... 6 PM?) The henchmen climb into the "hydraulic hoist", a cylindrical device that rises up from the top of the truck trailer and elongates like an opening telescope. The Marauder himself is at the controls and he lifts his men to the appropriate floor. (Stan may not care what time the street should be deserted but he seems determined to give us the details on the hoist. The Marauder asks for air pressure readings every five seconds. We hear about how the goons "signal the Boss to stop the air pressure" when they get to the right floor by flashing a light. Then we hear about the "all clear signal" once the pressure has been stopped.) Once they enter the apparently open sixth floor window ("Wow! Wotta ride!" says one gang member as he zips up the tube) they soon find themselves at the "advanced plans vault" of the WMC. (It looks like there are four crooks in all.) They have thirty seconds to get the job done. The vault is opened in three seconds... courtesy of a "shock-shatter ray" provided by the Masked Marauder which blows the vault open with a "Brrakk". Inside, they find "just what we wanted... the detailed plans for the XB-390 engine". One of the gang remarks that it "looks like gibberish to me" but he's not supposed to understand it. "That's the Marauder's job" because, you know, he's a genius.

Back at the truck, the Marauder is spotted by two security guards who have altered their schedule so that they are "two minutes early" on their rounds. They walk up to the back of the truck where, apparently, someone left the door open and start to tell the Marauder that he's parked in a restricted area when they recognize him. (The Marauder calls these guys "two blundering clods" in the next panel and I think he sort of may be right. After all, it not only takes them a moment to realize that the guy in the truck dressed in the purple costume is the Masked Marauder but they never seem to notice the hydraulic hoist sticking up six stories from the truck. Maybe that should have tipped them off that they were dealing with more than a badly-parked truck.) In any event, they think they have captured the Masked Marauder (since, you know, one of them has a gun trained on him) but the villain unleashes his opti-blast on them (which the Marauder now refers to as his "visi-blast" but since he invented it, I guess he's entitled) and the guards are blinded. Just then, the henchmen return to the truck via the tube. As the lift is retracted, the men "follow maneuver E" (standing for, no doubt, "Elude the police") and separate, setting a rendezvous at the base one hour hence. The back of the truck opens up and a white sports car emerges, carrying the triumphant Marauder. (But if the car was in the back of the truck, then just where were the blundering guards exactly when they peeked in?) MM is so high on himself and his plan that he gloats to himself, "Perhaps I should drop a thank-you note to Daredevil and Spider-Man for luring the police away from this area for me! Those fools! I've outsmarted them completely!"

Elsewhere, Spidey and Daredevil are still fighting. Hornhead is on his back on a rooftop and Spidey leaps at him to finish the job, but DD kicks out and knocks the wall-crawler into a chimney. (DD has this tendency to think about his blindness as he fights. Here, even as he somersaults Spidey into the chimney, he thinks, "I wonder what his reaction would be if he knew he was mixing it up with a sightless man? If not for my built-in radar sense, I'd have as much chance as a snowflake in a furnace!") Using his hyper-senses, Daredevil has learned that "judging by the sound of his pulse rate... and his voice...[Spidey] can't be older than twenty!" He tries to end the battle by calling out, "Listen, Kid...did it ever occur to you that you're fighting the wrong man?" but that definitely turns out to be the wrong thing to say. "Kid?!!" says Spidey, "I'll show you who's a kid!!" He gets to his feet, announces, "Just stay where you are, you crimson creep! It'll be over in a minute!" But it isn't. In fact, it goes on for three more pages.

Daredevil decides that the best way to fight Spider-Man is to taunt him, hoping to make him careless. He begins by saying, "How come you're tackling me? Was the Masked Marauder too much for you?" This leads Spider-Man to the theory that Daredevil and the Marauder are in league to keep Spidey occupied while a job is pulled elsewhere. Daredevil admits that he was starting to suspect the same thing about the web-head. Spidey takes the offensive, aiming blows at the dodging Daredevil, knocking chunks out of a chimney with his punches as he misses DD. As Spidey ponders that, "His style is almost the same as mine and yet... there's something different about him! It's as though he has an extra sense of some sort", Daredevil sees his chance. He launches his billy club cable which attaches to a pole right behind Spider-Man. The web-slinger has started to wonder if he really should be fighting Daredevil since "He sure doesn't act like someone who's trying to harm me" but this aggressive act convinces him to continue . He gloats that DD's billy club shot missed but it is not the web-slinger at which Daredevil is aiming. Leaping off the building, Daredevil swings around the pole, as his line wraps around the pole and Spider-Man. (During this time, Spidey shoots some webbing at DD but misses. "Is he out-classing me?" he wonders, "Or am I subconsiouly trying not to seriously hurt him?")By the time he runs out of line, the wall-crawler is securely tied to the pole. (And Spidey notices that the line is now as strong as he expected it to be when he was first attacked by the imposter.) Daredevil is tiring and his "arm feels like it's being wrenched clean off" by all this swinging but he hopes for a "brief breathing spell". Spidey doesn't think the line can hold him for long but Daredevil's not interested in longevity. Announcing that "next time you'll know better than to attack someone like a hot-headed juvenile troublemaker", Daredevil leaps away, before Spidey can break free. (The "hot-headed juvenile troublemaker" in that line, by the way, is Spidey even though it sounds like DD is referring to himself.) "If you've anything else to say, write me a letter!" says the witty Man Without Fear (long before his grim and gritty days) as he departs. While diving off the building and swinging on a telephone line, Daredevil decides that, "someone had to be impersonating me... but I can't prove that until I catch the imposter!"

Soon after, Spider-Man breaks through the billy club cable, freeing himself. He tries to pursue "that red-garbed goon", but Daredevil has gotten too far away for even his spider sense to detect. Telling himself, "Well, I've had plenty of triumphant days in my web-sprinkled career but this sure wasn't one of them" the web-slinger heads home to Forest Hills. (Or, as he puts it, "I guess it's back to the ranch for a while.")

The next morning, Peter Parker has a "piping-hot plate of oatmeal", courtesy of Aunt May and endures the usual nagging about being frail and needing to wear a sweater since it's "a bit nippy out". He then makes his way to the Daily Bugle where J. Jonah Jameson is not in a good mood. It seems that the Masked Marauder successfully pulled his XB-390 engine heist the night before and Jonah has no pictures to go with his front page story. (All he has is a headline reading, "Masked Marauder Gang Strikes Again! Vital XB-390 Engine Stolen As Daredevil And Spider-Man Battle On City Rooftops!" With the exclamation points!) JJJ is convinced that Spider-Man is in cahoots with the Marauder, intentionally luring Daredevil away. Peter knows that isn't true. But he wonders if it is true of Daredevil. As Jameson sputters, "Get out! Out! I hate everybody today! Especially photographers who don't bring me any pictures!", Peter determines to track down DD and see what the score is.

(This page showing Peter Parker, Aunt May and J. Jonah Jameson was probably more of JR's unofficial audition to take over Spider-Man. He passes with flying colors. JJJ, in particular looks great with his grimaces and his cigar clamped between clenched teeth.)

Out on the street, Matthew Murdock passes by a newsie hawking the latest extra on the Marauder's heist and he starts to wonder if Daredevil was suckered by Spider-Man. He returns to his law offices, where Karen and Foggy are debating who may have been in cahoots with the Marauder. Foggy doesn't trust either one. "As far as I'm concerned" he says, "I wouldn't be surprised if Daredevil and Spider-Man were in cahoots together!" Karen, crushed by the thought, looks down at the ground. She can't believe Daredevil would do such a thing. An edgy Matt blurts out, "I don't know about Spider-Man, perhaps Jameson is right about him, but Daredevil is on the up and up! I know that Daredevil has no connection with the Masked Marauder. He can't have!" When Foggy asks him how he can be so sure, a calmer Matt, aware that he is jeopardizing his secret, lamely replies, "I don't know, Foggy, just a hunch, that's all."

Back in his hideout, the Masked Marauder and five of his men examine the XB-390 blueprints that they have spread out on a table top. "There are underworld organizations, syndicates, even nations who would pay any amount for the secret of the XB-390!" he gloats, "But, I'm not ready to sell, yet!" Then he proceeds to let his gang in on the next phase of the plan. (Something we never do learn.)

At the same time, Spider-Man prowls the city, hoping to find the Masked Marauder. He has covered half the city, when his spider sense starts "tingling to beat the band". But it's not the tingling he gets in the presence of the Marauder. "It's the same tingling I felt when I was battling ol' hornhead yesterday", he says. (Although I'm not sure there should be a specific kind of tingle that identifies Daredevil. In fact, I'm not sure Spidey's senses should react to a good guy like Daredevil at all... unless he's being attacked by him.) Spidey realizes that he has picked up on Daredevil's presence and he cases the building until he has narrowed the tingling down to one window in particular. Inside are three people. One is a woman and one is blind. So, the third one, "no matter how flabby he looks" must be Daredevil.

Matt's radar sense registers Spidey's presence outside the window but he has no time to change into his costume because seconds later the web-slinger crashes through the window, shattering the glass into shards with a "Thooom!" and a "Crash!" He grabs Foggy Nelson by the jacket, lifts a menacing fist, and says, "Alright Horn-head! The masquerade's over! Now this is where I learn the truth about you!" Karen Page is stunned at the revelation that Foggy is Daredevil. A frightened Foggy denies it in vain. And Matt realizes, "I can't stand idly by while Foggy is in danger! But I can't help him without giving away my secret... forever!"

There are 26 listed members of the M.M.M.S. in this comic but since this is not an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, I have no qualms about ignoring them altogether. The merchandise page is the same as the one in ASM #37, June 1966 except that Daredevil's head replaces Spidey's in the blurb at the top and DD's t-shirt is featured instead of Spidey's. And we're skipping the letters page too (called "Let's Level with Daredevil") since it all refers to issues we're not covering and... oh, well, I may as well admit it. My copy of this comic is missing the last page with the second page of letters and whatever ad was on the other side. But since I only paid two dollars for it back in the 80s, I can't complain. (And, actually, I do have page one of the letters which features this one from John F. Lebar of Allentown, Pennsylvania: "Tell me, where did you dig up John Romita? My eyes almost popped out of my head when I saw his artwork. His anatomy was fabulous! He makes Jack, Steve and the rest look like pikers when it comes to giving out biceps. Daredevil's muscles look like they have muscles. Every panel looks like an ad for Mr. America magazine. You can actually see the separation between biceps and triceps. This is the first time I've seen such delineation in a comic book. If you don't employ Mr. Romita as Daredevil's steady artist, I'll go over to Doc Doom's side. 'Nuff said?")

We'll get to the second part of this story right away but first...

Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)

  1. First time John Romita draws Spider-Man.
  2. Second meeting between Spider-Man and Daredevil (after ASM #16, September 1964)
  3. First appearance of the Masked Marauder.
  4. First John Romita drawings of Peter Parker, Aunt May and J. Jonah Jameson.

General Comments

Yes, John Romita's artwork is great, though it's impossible to look back on it now and imagine what it must have been like to see his drawings of Spidey, Peter Parker, Aunt May, and Jonah for the first time after nothing but Steve Ditko for the last three plus years. Did it just look strange to the regular Spidey reader? Or was it a revelation? "Yes, this is the way these characters should look!" Looking back on it after more years of JR than of Ditko, they just look as they should look. John seems to have hit the mark with them right from the start. So, yes, the artwork is great, the fight scenes are dynamic, the Masked Marauder's opti-blast is explosive and Karen Page is beautiful. But the story... well the story is fairly routine and the Masked Marauder is no great shakes.

Overall Rating

That translates into a standard three webs for part one.


Next: Let's continue with Daredevil (Vol.1) #17.

 Lookback: From The Beginning
 Posted: 2005
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)