By Andy Mansell | Contributor Published: 06/28/2013 10:00 am EST
Publish date: June 26, 2013 Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
This volume collects issues #1-#4 of the Golden Age Daredevil comic with a lively introduction by Michael T. Gilbert!
This book is an interesting piece of comic history. Daredevil was an above-average Golden Age superhero comic. Solid, dependable…but the issue is whether it is indispensable or not. Regardless of how much disposable income one has to spend on comics, fifty bucks is a hefty chunk of change. For the same amount, you can pick up at least 15 floppies or a massive IDW Comic Strip reprint.
The selling point of these reprints is Jack Cole and Charles Biro. Biro, the writer/artist/co-editor who put the issues together and handled the creative chores on the Daredevil entries, is a decent artist, a good storyteller, and he is a lot of fun to read; his hyperbole is intoxicating and you get the feeling that a young Stan Lee had to be a big fan.
For me Jack Cole is one of the greatest of the great. He belongs in the same breath as Kirby, Barks, Tezuka, and Eisner. Every panel of his comics deserves a second and third look. The material found in this Archive is very early Cole and it is exciting to watch a genius like his begin to move toward maturity. However, there are only 20 pages of Cole’s art, and these pages are quite far away from his artistic breakthrough on Midnight.
Add that to the 20 pages by a pre-Frankenstein Dick Briefer and another 15 early pages from Jerry Robinson and you still aren’t getting a lot for the money. A number of harder-core historians/Golden Age fans can argue that these early Cole, Briefer, and Robinson pages are vital and important, but what I see is work from artists who were still figuring it out on the job.
There are a few delights within these pricey covers. Reed Crandall draws a lovely heroine named Pat Patriot. She is the embodiment of 1941 America—an updated Uncle Sam or Spirit of ’76. With all the men heading overseas, it makes sense that this new American icon created to defend the home front was a female. The stories are formulaic, but the idea and Crandall’s rendering kept me hoping and turning the pages. The monthly adventures of the villainous Claw from co-editor Bob Wood are a lot of fun and some of Wood’s page layouts are quite innovative. And with the Robinson-drawn splash pages for his London character, some of his mature talent shines through.
God bless Dark Horse—part of me feels the need to support all of their archiving projects so they will continue to expand, but do I really need/want Thunda Archives or the Complete Space Family Robinson? No—but the three volume Herbie Archives by Whitney Ogden? Hand ‘em over!
My epiphany with the Dark Horse Archival Series occurred with the publication of the two volume Green Lama series. Yes, I wanted all eight of those Mac Raboy 10-page stories, but being forced to pay $100 for those 80 pages was where I drew the line. And that line continues on to this very day (I felt the same way about the DC archive JSA All-Stars—I would gladly pay up for Bailey’s Hour-Man, Hasen’s Wildcat, and (especially) Mayer’s Scribbly—but I begrudgingly dished out my 60 bones and got a lot of sub-par Stan Asher pages of Dr. Midnite, Atom, and Johnny Thunder as well.
So the bottom line is the bottom line, one must choose their hardcover classic reprint purchases carefully. And I do not choose the Daredevil Archives. But I need to point out that I really enjoyed some of the comics—especially the justifiably famous issue #1 subtitled “Daredevil Battles Hitler”! It is rightfully considered a classic of sorts. Each “chapter” is a team-up of characters from Silver Streak Comics. At the time, these team-ups were still quite the novelty. The story moves at such a break-neck speed and is so over-the-top silly, you get swept along. Still…Daredevil Archives is not something that requires or demands repeat readings. It’s that first issue though… I had no idea Hitler was such a jerk!
Andy Mansell lived in Chicago for over 40 years until his doctors advised him that he would die soon unless he got as far away from the land of Italian combo sandwiches and soft serve frozen custard. He is currently growing rather old rather quickly in Charlotte, NC as a member of the Waistline Protection Program. He lives for four things: his family, baseball, opera, and of course great comics. He is also looking for a ride back to Chi-town for just one more breaded steak sammich. He will provide gas, guaranteed. Contact him at this address.