Everyone who reads superhero books will tell you that they’re ripe for analysis and any one of those folks will tell you that Marvel Comics Daredevil has, for decades, been one of the richest titles and characters to breakdown – even though he isn’t always on our radar [sorry].
In the newest Sequart collection of essays, The Devil is in the Details: Examining Matt Murdock and Daredevil dives into The Man Without Fears’ love life, family, and relationship with fellow Marvel heroes. Along with pieces on many of the title’s seminal runs and the love-it-or-hate-it Ben Affleck film, it’s a book any fan of the series or character or comic will want to read.
Ryan K. Lindsayis the man responsible for this book you never knew you needed. Lindsay chatted with us about editing the book, the joys of scrutinizing his favorite titles, and his love for the character himself.
Geeks Of Doom: What’s intriguing to me about doing a book like The Devil is in the Details right now is that there are no Daredevil movies in production currently, no hit cartoon series, etc. He doesn’t even play central roles in most big Marvel crossovers. Besides the particularly wonderful current run, the best thing Daredevil has going for him currently is a passionate fanbase. What do you think accounts for the dedicated following the character’s enjoyed over the years? Why does he click with us so deeply?
Ryan K. Lindsay: This is a really good point. He’s a character who just about shouldn’t work – and, well, he nearly didn’t. Daredevil was this awkward faux-Spider-Man with the hand-me-down quips and the terrible rogues gallery. He plodded along toward slow cancellation and yet managed to not only stay alive but also become one of Marvel’s enduring, if iconically hidden, characters with some of the best runs and stories in comics.
Why does he click with us? Perhaps it’s his indomitable spirit. As Frank Miller said, he’s got the origin of a villain and yet he gets up every day to fight the good fight. There’s something inspiring about Matt Murdock. I think this determination of character is what has eventually grabbed a solid audience and held onto them for decades. I also think it helps that Murdock obviously resonates with creators and as such we get some of the most personal and beautiful stories told in comics.
I also think it’s the fact Matt Murdock is just as interesting as Daredevil. For me, probably more so.
Geeks Of Doom: Very true; Murdock, maybe more then any other Marvel character, has been allowed to be a fully fleshed out, 3-dimensional human being, full of deep convictions and contradictions over numerous runs by many different creative teams. It’s almost a through-line (through the better runs, at least) that Daredevil is a character-driven title. Does all of that spring from Frank Millers’ iconic take in your opinion?
Ryan K. Lindsay: I think Matt Murdock was always sort of center stage. The growth has come from most creators continuing to use the man and then tweaking/updating him. Some creators just have a Spidey story in them and Peter Parker is inconsequential, but when you write Daredevil it nearly always revolves equally, or more, around Matt Murdock.
Lee kept Murdock up front, though his tale was very much about melodrama. I loved the period of Murdock moving to San Francisco with the Black Widow because it’s here we see a different Murdock as a man, as a lover, and as a hero. He starts to reflect the times, or the creators’ understanding of them.
Miller certainly expanded the man, but he wasn’t the first. Maybe just one of the best.
Geeks Of Doom: You say Matt Murdock/Daredevil has gone through many different updates that reflect the various periods (and fads) he’s been around for, he’s also plunged into just about every sub-genre of storytelling one could expect a Marvel superhero to go through – From Social Message Stories to Supernatural Thrillers to Split Personalities to Court-Room Dramas to, maybe most often, Noir. It’s been said of Batman that one of the qualities that makes his popularity so long lasting is his dexterity with genres – he can fit into almost just about any sort of tale. Is the same true of Daredevil?
Ryan K. Lindsay:I think this comes back to Matt Murdock. The concept of Daredevil is actually kind of silly in some of these genres (he’s a guy dressed up in red who goes to another State to help solve a crime – it’s kind of silly, but it’s okay because cape comics are allowed their own logic), but Matt Murdock is a guy who can be written pretty much any way and he’s malleable to the story. I love that through Daredevil’s history he’s been in just about every kind of story. It shows there are always new things to try with him and that is a skill that’s going to serve him well for another handful of decades at least.
Geeks Of Doom: So, switching tracks a bit, some might question the value of writing analytical essays about superhero comics. How would you respond to that? How has dissecting these books enhanced your appreciation for them both as someone who’s written and read them?
Ryan K. Lindsay: Even Fredric Wertham, the historical ogre to the four color goats crossing the bridge, couldn’t help himself about analyzing comics at length, could he? But that’s a cheeky response and in all honesty I know exactly what you mean. Muscles in spandex, what depth could there be, right? I know many people believe this, and many of them comic fans, too, but I have to strongly argue against them. Comics have long been an expression of the times, a cross sectional slice whereupon we can learn about the culture surrounding the creation of the book and the personal thoughts of the creators. The problem is this isn’t all cape books (though it’s not exactly all indie navel gazers either, try as they might). Some cape books are so paper thin they’re transparent. But some are not. Some are about heady issues of sexuality or personality or even deeper abysses to be found in the human psyche.
If I look at cape comics today I can point to something like Scott Snyder’s current Batman run which doesn’t feel like it has got the deepest themes running through it – though there are themes at play – whereas his Detective Comics run was a little more steeped in analysis of a character, in that case Commissioner Jim Gordon. If I were to analyze Snyder’s Bat output I would be selective about what I chose to write about to find the richest veins of narrative to mine – or I would pick unique angles to tackle the material. The same over at Marvel, most X-books are crossover feeding chum whereas Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force was an analytical tome of toxic relationships and addiction and fatherhood. I could write for days about that run, and hope one day to get that chance.
With Daredevil, it is about picking the right stuff. There are some Daredevil stories that don’t need analysis – whereas I would have said that about Dan Chichester’s run and yet Julian Darius proved me very wrong with his essay on that run in the book. He’s lifted my appreciation of those issues. I, personally, found writing about Daredevil both a delight and an enlightening experience. I looked deeper into things than I ever normally would have. Take for instance among Karen Page’s very first words in the book, directed to Matt Murdock, “I hope you’ll be pleased with me!” Wow, if that isn’t ripe for analysis then I don’t know what is – and it is because I write at length about Murdock’s love life in the book.
I have noticed comics are not necessarily thought of to be rich for deconstruction, but there are plenty of good books and websites out there doing it and I think the more the better. I really want this book to be something people can use later, and will want to use later, and will find more use for later.
As I began reading Jon Corimers’ excellent essay When Things Fall Apart in Hell’s Kitchen: Postcolonialism in Bendis’s Daredevil, I found myself shaking my head at first because I wasn’t 100% on board with some of his basic premises about that run and by the end I found myself nodding in glee that, if I give Corimer the benefit of the doubt, he’s uncovered a new way to approach one of my favorite comic book runs of all time. I’m going back to that run now to see how it stands up to both his analysis, and in the context of some of the essays broader in scope, M. S. Wilson’s Daredevil: Not Ready For Primetime? for instance.
Geeks Of Doom: How much input did you give your writers going into the project? As the pieces came in what was your role then as the editor – to assist the writers in arriving at their own thesis, to guide an essay to a vision you shared? How did you select the writers for this piece in the first place?
Ryan K. Lindsay: Being the editor on this book was indeed an interesting experience. Firstly, finding and drawing the talent. Most of these writers are new to Sequart, the publisher, so the call was put out to see if people were interested in pitching for the book. The call came preloaded with essay high concepts I used to land the gig. These were just a guideline as to the content/topics I wanted to see covered in the book. The writers were told to also pitch their own topics or tweak mine. Mostly, I needed people writing what they were passionate about.
Once writing, I tried to edit as a sounding board and a guide. I’d suggest good issues to find content in, or I’d streamline ideas. I didn’t tell anyone to change their stance – even if I did disagree with them, which happened and was fine. Because I don’t subscribe to their theory doesn’t make it invalid. So long as the writing was gripping and coherent, anything could play.
I would get the first draft, make my notes on grammar, clarity, precision, reference, and then get them to finish it all off. In the end, I want essays each author is incredibly proud of so whatever I could do to facilitate this was the order of the day.
Geeks Of Doom: You’re a man who’s spent a fair amount of time talking and thinking about Daredevil. What was eye opening about the character for you when the essays finally came in?
Ryan K. Lindsay: Daredevil is a character I thought I knew and loved as much as I ever could, but working on this book truly blew the doors off the barn. Nearly every essay offered up something which I had not considered in that light previously. I know writing about Matt Murdock’s entire love life made me analyze these ladies in a more direct light than I had ever considered before. Reading about Hell’s Kitchen made me ponder the placement and background of these stories. Julian Darius made me appreciate Chichester’s run a lot more than I previously had. I’m really fond of Matt Duarte’s look at the early rogues of Daredevil’s world.
Probably the most enlightening thing to come out of the book was the realization of just how wide a net Daredevil stories have cast over the decades. The fact my team could write about so many disparate topics showed me how crazy the connected narrative of Matt Murdock really is.
Geeks Of Doom: Ryan, thanks for your time!
Ryan K. Lindsay: My pleasure, man, any time.
You can follow Ryan K. Lindsay via his website and on Twitter . His own comic, Fatherhood, a one shot from Challenger Comics, is available here.