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Daredevil in the 1970s: The Precursors to the Legendary Frank Miller Run

Tony is a superhero and comic book enthusiast who enjoys sharing his musings with others through writing.

The cover of Marvel's Daredevil #160.

The cover of Marvel's Daredevil #160.

A Classic Character Almost Fell Into the Cancellation Dustbin

Frank Miller's run on Daredevil during the late 1970s and early 1980s still garners reverence to this very day since Miller's creativity served as a turning point in comics' history. It would not be accurate to say that comics matured solely thanks to Miller's work, however. Chris Claremont's run on X-Men, Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams' run on Green Lantern/Green Arrow and, to a lesser extent, Steve Englehart's brief run on Batman contributed greatly to the maturation process the medium would undergo. But for many, Miller probably had the most impact, and this impact is still felt and respected today. The Netflix Daredevil series is heavily influenced by Miller's work — so is the DCEU's Batman vs. Superman. Miller's work seminal work continues to influence the entertainment world.

The writer/artist pushed the series into new territory that drove the flagging book to the top seller charts. Other books by Marvel and its competitors also delivered excellent cutting-edge writing, but they lacked the timeless quality and the ability to transcend mediums. This was the case with Green Lantern/Green Arrow.

Daredevil: The Early Development of the Hero and the Comic Book

Daredevil was not exactly a healthy book at the time Frank Miller became involved. The title was only being published six times a year because poor sales forced its drop from a monthly release. True, the series hit a creative rut, but that rut followed a nice run produced by other creators.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Roy Thomas/Gene Colon Daredevil stories brought a uniqueness to the character that generated success. While not perfect stories, the creative duo was able to help Daredevil gain his own identity. The early Stan Lee/Steve Ditko/John Romita Daredevil stories were, honestly, Spider-Man stories under a different character's guise. The original wise-cracking Man Without Fear seemed a little older and more refined but still seemed derivative of the web-slinger.

Denny O' Neil dispensed with the wise-cracking when he wrote issue #18, and Thomas took the book in a serious and somber direction in subsequent issues. It could be argued that it was under Thomas that Daredevil (and Matt Murdock) truly developed a real identity.

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The Me Decade and the Decline of Marvel Comics

Unfortunately, Daredevil suffered from the same ills as many other Marvel Comics titles during the middle-to-late 1970s. While Marvel did have its loyal readers, this era saw some very, very boring material published. Marvel had changed ownership, the readership had declined from its earlier peaks, and many titles followed a flat formula.

It truly is painful to read some late 1970s stories from Marvel when many top books become little more than villain-of-the-month tales. A-level heroes such as Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk continued to sell and benefited from occasionally inspiring stories now and then.

With Daredevil, the late 1970s turned flat. The book became dull, and sales suffered, leading to bi-monthly publishing status. The reduced publishing schedule sought to prevent imminent cancellation.

Miller and the Path to Rebirth

Rumors have it that Miller was given the book simply because no one at Marvel cared about it. He could have helmed Moon Knight instead, and Daredevil would have been gone. Miller took over the art duties (He was not the writer, but he did have a significant influence on the plotting and storylines), and Daredevil's character set out on the path to an amazing rebirth.

The new Daredevil streaming series intends to embrace the Frank Miller run in the comics. Hopefully, the Netflix series will be true to the character and breathe the inspired grittiness of Miller's antihero.

As for the comic, after three decades of grim seriousness, the book returned to its 1960's fun charm. Will it maintain such a tone? Doubtful.


Geekdom on January 23, 2013:

Great article. I am not a big fan a Daredevil but I do love the frank miller run.

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