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Daredevil: Fall From Grace -- A Retrospective
(April 2009)

Mithra: Instead of me asking all the questions, do any of you have questions for me about Fall From Grace?

Chichester: Were you a fan of Daredevil before FFG?

Mithra: Fall From Grace started with issue 319, and coincidentally, 100 issues before this, I had started collecting Daredevil monthly with issue 219. Haven't missed an issue since and I've worked my way backwards to get all the issues. I still remember the house ads promoting the "major changes" coming up in Daredevil. I even wanted to get my hands on a MAC so I could watch that promo you guys made. I don't think anyone had really done anything like that before.

Chichester: Those was enormously fun to produce. And in some ways probably set me on the course to where I am now. Realizing *I* could do it. Putting that piece together well pre-dated any "digital" section in the local Barnes and Noble, or easy Google search, and was a lot of searching obscure message boards and bootstrapping to get answers on how things should work.

I remember showing Greg Wright the prototype at the San Diego comic con -- that impossibly crude animation of that lil' DD figure breaking out of the building, with chunks of pixelated glass and a smashing window sound effect -- and his jaw just dropped. I thought it was crap -- I had been staring at the thing so long, all I saw were the flaws. But his first time reaction made me realize what a fresh set of eyes could see, and I think recommitted me to finishing it and releasing it. And doing a few more.

(None of which I have any longer, having been lost in the hellacious HD crash of 2001. A note to you, gentle readers -- back up early and often. And if anyone has any of them, I'd love a copy or screen capture vid!)

And you may be right about no one having done anything like it before. Marvel certainly wasn't very interested. I'd gone to Steve Saffel, the PR guy, more than a few times, talking up GEnie message boards and the like for online promotion. And he was all, "What are you talking about? Leave the PR to the professionals!"

LINK: Daredevil: Fall From Grace editorial by Dan Chichester in Comics Buyer's Guide

Chichester: Were you still a fan of DD *after* FFG?

Mithra: Yes, of course. But I have to admit, the stories that followed weren't the greatest things I've ever read.

Chichester: Were there stories that followed? I do think Root of Evil still kicks some tail in a few good places. Although that's not strictly linear DD. I know Scott wasn't a big fan of Tree of Knowledge, but in a lot of ways I've always thought that to be the all together better *story.* (Although it suffers from some of the bad devices introduced in FFG -- guest stars, shifting POVs, too busy for it's own good.)

I think there are a lot of interesting concepts there, although maybe DD wasn't the right place to explore them. But I think the whole city going to hell after a terrorist attack was surprisingly prescient, in a macabre sort of way.

Mithra: The Kruel storyline in particular, written by your "friend" Alan Smithee... I marvel at the coincidences in that story.

Chichester: Don't tell Alan, but I've actually never read it. So I'll take your word on its inherent awfulness.

There may have been hope for it when it was still called "Mark of Cain." You know, I was scheduled to write that, but then the Spidey office played politics and nixed the name because they *had* to have a bad guy named "Cain." (And I'm sure he's stood the mark of time. ) Then, of course, Alan got his big break and well...

Mithra: I've always felt that no one could really draw DD in his new costume better than Scott... it just looked wrong when others drew it.

Chichester: That was the tragic flaw of the damn thing! Whether it was a nod to the silly biomimetic conceit, or just 'cause he designed it, Scott had the toughness of the thing *flow out* of the character. It always looked and felt very fluid and organic. Everyone else seemed to interpret it as "armor," and never bothered to think it through one pencil line further. Then it was stiff and limiting, as if it was affixed outside the man. I wouldn't be surprised if someone had actually gone and drawn rivets on the thing. (I had a wee bit of fun with this in the last DD story I did with Lee Weeks, where we stuck an "armor version" into one "urban legend" kind of scene.)

McDaniel: Like Dan, all I see now are the flaws in my work, so I think it's overly generous to say I drew the suit better than anyone! But Dan articulated the idea well - the suit was to be a flexible part of the man, not a crusty add-on. As long as DD's body line was made graceful, the suit worked. Supple, but tough as nails.

Mithra:It's too bad you guys couldn't continue once Root of Evil ended, at least to issue 350 to get DD back in his red costume (I seem to remember that's what you had planned to do).

Chichester: I blame Scott, and his mad plan to take advantage of new career opportunities! What were you thinking?!? ;-)

That *was* the plan for 350, indeed.

McDaniel: Wow, you make me sound like an overly ambitious Senator with the goal of achieving the Presidency!

Chichester: In truth, I did write in "Scott McDaniel." I believe the slogan was, "Art we can believe in!" ;-)

McDaniel: I think the new career oportunity that Dan is referring to was for me to pencil the Elektra: Root of Evil mini-series, written by... Dan Chichester! I think Dan forgets that while writers can complete 2, 3 or 4 books per month, most pencilers are doing well to achieve 1 book per month! It seemed a really exciting project, and I had to give up the DD monthly for the duration of the Elektra mini for sheduling reasons alone. I think the winds on DD were beginning to change while I was working on the Elektra mini, because my next project was the new (and very short-lived) Green Goblin monthly.

Chichester: Actually, Dan Chichester never wrote nothin'. It was all that pretentious sounding "D.G." chap, with his pipe and tweed jacket. ;-)

I believe we had both bailed on the monthly to devote time to that one. I was referring more to your ultimate decision to not come back to the monthly DD title, which I thought was due to your DC offers. But maybe it was the Goblin? Either way, I thought your choice came through while we were mid-Elektra. Brain cells dying... past is so fuzzy... what are we talking about again?

McDaniel: Like you, my memory of this transition is nearly lost to time. I do recall the offer to do Goblin arising while working on the Elektra mini. This offer came from the Spider-man office. My inexperience led me to conclude that the various editorial offices and editorial overseers met and planned the placement of creators to best meet their publishing needs. The plan WAS to go back to DD, but when this offer came up, I assumed that corporate Marvel had a different idea for where I would be better used. I really didn't understand that the different offices WITHIN Marvel often competed for creators, and that corporate Marvel (those people that determined the "publishing plan") really didn't have a care in those decisions - unless megatalent was concerned. I also vaguely recall that something seemed to be changing regarding our "return to DD" plan. I can't precisely recall that change, but it seemed to me that our (or my) return to DD wasn't as eagerly anticipated by all of Marvel editorial as I imagined it would be. Putting these two ideas (or are they misunderstandings!?) together, I transitioned over to Goblin.

I use "publishing plan" in quotes above to inject some humorous sarcasm. The new Green Goblin series, written by the talented Tom DeFalco, featured a young man trying to use abandoned Goblin gear as a hero, very much like the young Spider-Man. This new Goblin monthly was great fun, and I seem to recall it was well received. It barely lasted a year before the "publishing plan" was radically changed. The powers-that-be decided to make the Goblin a villain again, so this new character was completely in the way. Again, this is work-for-hire so they can do whatever they please, but I wondered if there was a "plan" at all!

When the Spidey office finally confirmed to me the rumors I had been hearing about this were true (that the book was being cancelled), there was no immediate offer of new work, only the promise of "something." By this time, Pat had moved over to DC and I was doing some Deathstroke: the Terminator covers for him. When he learned that the Goblin monthly was cancelled, he immediately offered me the penciling job on a new monthly DC was planning, titled Nightwing. I had no idea who Nightwing was, and I asked for a little bit of time to figure things out! Thankfully, he and editor Scott Peterson really gave it a hard sell, and I accepted. I felt an odd mix of guilt and rejection when leaving Marvel, but things turned out pretty well!

Chichester: Kuljit, what did you like best about the story? Then and now and why.

Mithra: I've always been a big fan of stories like Miller's original run, especially all the Elektra and Hand stories. I've never really had a problem with the costume, because I knew it wasn't a permanent thing. I guess I got a sense that you were all trying to push Daredevil higher, to get noticed. I bought a copy of the trade a few years back and I re-read the story from time to time. There's a lot of story there that people might not get the first time around, because this arc seems to just be known for "the armour costume" or where "they brought back Elektra". All that background with Kenkoy and the About Face virus is pretty interesting.

Chichester: The trade is probably the best way for anyone to enjoy the story, both 'cause it's all in one place -- in all its convuluted glory, but also because of the "new pages" that clean up the act somewhat.

The conceit of the About Face could probably have supported a story on its own, without the guest stars, especially the ones who ultimately don't add a lot. Which most of them don't. Oddly enough, it would be Hellspawn, who was probably the biggest throw away of the bunch to begin with, who became so solidly tied in. And if I'd focused more on that, it might have been a tighter tale.

But without the guests and such, it wouldn't have had the perceived energy that the title needed at that point. The ultimate "can't-must" struggle.

McDaniel: The "new pages" were great fun and a terrific idea to make the trade even better.

Chichester: What did you like least, Kuljit? Again, then and now and why.

Mithra: In the single issues, I feel the story jumps around too quickly. The added pages in the trade help this out a lot.

Chichester: Agreed. I would put this on my shoulders, and probably a fool's attempt to play in the overwrought sandbox that was sometimes the narrative du jour at the time.

I loved the extras for the TPB. Not only did they fill in gaps in the story, but they were fun bits to work on in their own right. A shame they were never promoted or acknowledged.

McDaniel: The thing that bothered me the most about the trade was the "colorizing" of the very graphic Elektra image on the inside covers. It was meant to be a minimalist graphic, one that relied on the viewer's eyes to supply the missing contours of Elektra's body. Somewhere down the line, someone added the grey tone to the neg space, completely outlining her and ruining the effect!

Mithra: There are many panels that are inked way too much and the layout mixed in with all the dialogue and narration causes confusion.

Chichester: I go back to an earlier point/admission, of sometimes writing against the page. Thinking I was adding an extra layer to the story didn't necessarily make it so!

McDaniel: Dan, let's be fair. It's Hector's fault! Kidding aside, if the art isn't clear or it doesn't tell the story clearly, that's my fault. If it's buried in rambling text, it's all Dan!

Chichester: Yeah! Let's blame Hector! ;-)

Rambling text -- rambling text?!? Where would you...I mean how could you...who'd have -- introduced a phrase like that into -- oh, wait -- never mind.

Mithra: Were there too many guest-stars? Yeah, but you've admitted in the past you did this on purpose to get more readers interested.

Chichester: I did admit that, didn't I? :-) True dat, as they say. Some of them were too throw away, though, and we might have been better served by going for longer term "A" list players than the wide shotgun range we ended up with. Ah, the clear vision of 15 years hindsight.

Mithra: When I first read the ending, I didn't like that Matt would fake his death and assume the Jack Batlin identity. I had no problem with the costume, nor Elektra's return. This just seemed to bother me. From interviewing all of you before, I understand where you were trying to go with this... but at the time, I didn't like it, only because it seemed it was the wrong thing to do to Karen and Foggy.

Chichester: That's really interesting, Kuljit. I hadn't heard that before from you, or anyone else. I guess I was thinking ahead to Foggy and Karen's reaction AFTER Matt "returned" -- and seeing that as good story fodder in its own right. Forget about the fact that it was probably too long a stretch to get there. But in seeing the potential, I guess I wasn't considering the inherent "unfairness" to the characters in the moment.

Thanks for that observation. Assuming I ever write anything again (aside from these answers), it's something I'd hope to keep in mind.

Mithra:I also didn't like what Marvel did with Elektra afterwards (the Dancer Elektra).

Chichester: Hmm. I guess I missed THAT one. LOL! I'll HAVE to check the back issue bins to catch up. I can't say Frank Miller's ire over her return ever bothered me too much. But this news... sorry to have brought you back from the dead, ninja-gal!

McDaniel: This was work-for-hire with Marvel-owned characters. Marvel had every right to do whatever they wanted with them.

Chichester: A surprisingly mature and professional POV. And absolutely agreed. But that doesn't stop some editorial choices from being far more laughable than others!

Chichester: Do you think FFG had any lasting impact on the character or the course of the title?

Mithra: This is a tough question to answer. I certainly think so, but that's because I am a DD fan. I think any true DD fan respects what you were trying to do in this arc, even if they didn't like any certain element of it. But to people unfamiliar with the character, it seems to have this reputation as the story where DD wears a "razor" costume and Elektra comes back and this is where Frank Miller got really, really angry. I feel if people read the story (which Marvel has not helped in any way by not reprinting it), they'd see more than the "hype" associated with it.

Chichester: You noticed that too, huh? I ocassionally check out the TPB section in the bookstores, thinking I might see a copy. But NEVER. What's up with that? Are you telling me that every DD story between then and now that is on the shelves is inherently better? (Not to diss any, that's not the point.) At this point, the folks who make such decisions may simply have forgotten a FFG TPB exists!

LINK: Interview with Dan Chichester in Comic Shop News

McDaniel: I've honestly never thought about the lack of availability of the trade! It would be nice to have the work speak for itself by being available, but it may not be relevant to the character's current continuity any longer.

Mithra: And I feel that Marvel really robbed you guys a chance at creating a more lasting legacy, if you will, by sabotaging everything behind the scenes after.

Chichester: "Sabotaging" suggests too much cunning and understanding. I think it was just willfull ignoring. "Let's pretend that never happened, shall we?" Marc DeMatteis was a pro, and as such probably thought he had to get himself "out" of the Batlin story. In a fashion I don't think showed insight into what had come before, but engaging in due narrative process. I'd put money down that Bobbie Chase would have been just as happy if he'd had Murdock starting out on a water tower with no acknowledgement whatsoever of what he'd gone through. Or maybe, "What a horrible dream!"

What I think we accomplished -- and this is what I was alluding to in my "baseball" analogy, Scott -- was upping the internal attention on DD. We got some sizzle going. We got PR to talk about a silo of DD attention. (Which they never followed up on, but still, even just to TALK.) We had multiple DD projects in the queue for the first time in however long. There was even talk of a "DD" imprint on a subset of books, to kind of tie them together.

In short, I think FFG was an important first break in the "It's Miller, or it's Nothing!" editorial/promotions mantra that had, I think, kept the character and title back. My impression was always that some of those waves of new attention were partly what interested Bobbie Chase in absorbing DD into her new "urban" group. (How'd that work out, as Dr. Phil might say?)

Now, while much or all of this has been forgotten since then, it doesn't change the shift in dynamic at the time.

McDaniel: Dan, you make very good points, and I think you are too gracious to include me in the "we" that accomplished the buzz and sizzle and upping the internal attention on DD. I was doing all I could just to provide the art for what you had created.

Ultimately, though, I rest on accepting the work as work-for-hire, with Marvel having every right to continue or undo whatever they wish with the characters they own. I don't take it personally - it is merely business.

Chichester: Again, I'm in agreement with Scott on this point. My natural genetic inclination to snark may seem like sour grapes in the cold text on screen. But I'm just talking my view on the process.

Chichester: What's the one thing you would say that stands out about FFG for you?

Mithra: Honestly, not the story itself. Ha! It's more to do with you three, and Pat Garrahy, Harry Candelario and Mike Oeming... everyone who worked on the title at the time had a respect for this character, something I notice right away when I do interviews for my site. You can tell which creators actually enjoyed working on the book and wanted to create something that fans would appreciate. You guys GET it. It wasn't just some random job you had to do.

Chichester: Of everything I could take away from FFG and Daredevil, that's about the best I could have or can hope for. Thank you.

McDaniel: Ditto. Editor Ralph Macchio was gracious enough to write a little something about me on one of the very last pages in the trade that was along these lines (the context was how I pleaded for him to let me redraw the final splash of DD swinging over the city - which he allowed me to do). I didn't know he wrote it until I held the trade in my hands. I admit it brought a lump to my throat, knowing that he respected the effort that was poured into this story.

Chichester: Kuljit, What would you have done differently to improve or affect the story?

Mithra: Maybe it was a case of having too many things happen? The costume, the identity and Elektra returning... I don't know how that could have been spread out, but there was a lot going on in the arc.

Chichester: Again, a spot on observation, and one I wish I'd been savvy enough to self-grok at the time. More planning and discipline would probably have allowed for those key elements to be played out in a better way. As mentioned earlier, fewer guest stars -- used to more effect -- would have been one way to constrain and focus the spread of story elements. Keeping a tighter rein on narrative voices -- even within the same page -- would have helped a lot, too.

Hopefully, once this runs we'll get a call to check back in and do the 2009 edit! ;-)

McDaniel: From my perspective now - I'd say redraw the entire thing! It was a remarkable story, and I wish I was more masterful when the opportunity was before me!

Kidding aside, I wouldn't change a thing. I thought the story was truly remarkable, and everyone involved did their level best to execute it. This story also reveals a window into my life and artistic development, successes and failures alike. My struggle is intertwined with the story, and I wouldn't want to separate them.

Chichester: I'll second that. On my infrequent visits to my stuff, there are some stories I just look at and feel nothing. I can barely remember writing them, or feel no association. These particular back-to-the-future moments, though, bring back some very singular associations, some bad, some good, mostly fun.


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