Thursday, March 1, 2012

166: Daredevil #3

Daredevil #3
June 2, 1964

  • In this issue, we see Daredevil menaced by the villainy of ... The Owl! The funny thing is that although the character seems somewhat ridiculous in design (and, in concept, certainly hasn't aged well over the years), he is here played up as a real and believable threat, thanks to the efforts of Stan Lee and Joe Orlando. And while he may not ever become an archfoe - both Bullseye and the Kingpin wouldn't be created until years later - he is still the first classic Daredevil villain to grace these pages. Interestingly, the surprising influence of Batman continues: After all, is the Owl here so very different from that other avian-themed crime lord, the Penguin?

    Yet another reason to enjoy artist Joe Orlando's stint on the title.
    The Owl's entrance is filled with a sense of mystery and menace!

  • However, unlike the Kingpin (of whom, it must be said, this Owl seems protypical: a possible ur-Kingpin), our villain is not just a crime lord. Indeed, he can also fly! So he's quite like a white-collar version of the Vulture then, yes? Oddly, no explanation is given for his unusual talent beyond the rather vague ability to "glide with the air currents", which at a stretch is only slightly implausible on a cliff by the sea - and far more so in the city proper. Tellingly, it doesn't matter; perhaps Stan has realized that nuclear origins and technobabble are much less compelling, and much less interesting, than the colorful characters themselves. Either that, or he simply forgot!

    Hey, look - it's the start of Marvel merchandising!
    Needless to say, this cute little backpack doesn't last long.

  • The Owl is introduced to us with an air of real menace, and Matt Murdock can even sense the criminal's evil intent upon their first meeting. So it's something of a surprise to see Matt and his law firm take the Owl's case! Although we're used to seeing the good guy as Defender of the Helpless, our hero waxes eloquent on the rights of every person to have a proper defense, no matter how obviously guilty they might seem. "If we attorneys refuse to help accused people because we think they're guilty," he muses, "then we're judging them without trial!" These are pretty heady themes for what's ostensibly a kid's comic; as ever, Stan avoids talking down to his readers.


  • Despite the surprisingly effective villainy on display, this isn't the most complex or groundbreaking story. Once the plot kicks in, it's really just: Villain captures hero, hero escapes, they fight and the villain gets away. So it's perhaps a testament to the pairing of Lee and Orlando that the issue is a highly enjoyable one regardless! We get just enough personal moments with Daredevil to be really rewarding, and little details like the Owl's insane lair or Daredevil's new backpack give us just enough additional elements to spice things up. And Stan is mindful enough to have the Owl escape at the end; he will certainly be back...!

    They've got a real Don Blake / Jane Foster thing going here, don't they?
    (Which, yes, is just the Marvel version of the Clark / Lois / Superman triangle...)