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

Mithra: What do you think about some of these images from issue 320?

DAREDEVIL 320 cover

McDaniel: My best recollection is that the concept was from Pat or Dan, but the execution / composition was mine. The series' cover idea is dramatic simplicity using a minimal number of elements. DD's empty, shredded costume evoking the fate awaiting the hero himself. It's starkness is visually arresting. And it's always fun to draw girls, guns and shreds!

Chichester: It's a great, fun, over the top image. And nicely telegraphs what's gonna happen to poor Matt's duds. Even if Silver Sable suffers a bit from the, "My breasteses are made from perfect cantaloupe halves!" that was all the rage of the day. (Sorry, Scott!)

It does get to the off-kilter choices of some of the guest spots, though. It took me a moment to even remember who she was! Even at the time, was Sable really that popular or necessary a choice for the role she played? More than some choices were probably influenced by my long friendship with Greg Wright, and leveraging his stable of characters, one of which was Sable. (Another of which was Crippler, who we'll get to in a sec.) When you have constant conversations with other creators about what they're up to, it *seems* like a lot is going on with particular characters. Was that an instance here? Because Greg was jazzed about Sable, did that make it seem like she was the perfect vessel for this part of the story? Could be.

Whatever. Big guns. Big...cantaloupes. Still works.

DAREDEVIL 320 pg. 7

McDaniel: This page reminds me of two things. One - the hours I spent studying the movie Backdraft to figure out a cool, innovative way to render fire (for a previous DD story where a fire played a more dominant role). It didn't achieve the effect I was going for, but it was a valiant try. Two - professionals always say DO NOT stack panels on the LEFT. Our Western culture reads left to right, top to bottom, so this panel arrangement confuses the reader. I tried to minimize the confusion by setting the 3 smaller panels closer together, and moving the last image more to the right and down a bit. That way, I could utilize the entire page height for the big dramatic conclusion to the scene. Now, with all my years of experience, I can confidently say: DO NOT stack panels on the LEFT!

Chichester: I'm certainly not about to become my biggest fan. But after the last walk down memory lane where I felt the need to rewrite every syllable, I'm a lot more comfortable with this batch. I'm not sure how they combine in service to the "whole" of the issue story (or the larger FFG free for all) but there's a pleasant, refreshing economy of language here. It ends on a cool note. I especially like how Scott has him casually dropping Crippler's stick.

Is DD too cruel in the moment? Maybe. But look what he's gone through. I'll give a guy with Hell's Kitchen in his soul license to show who's boss now and again.

Aside from the fact that it involves time wasted with "The Crippler!" Did the story require that distraction? He was much beloved by Greg Wright, his creator, and certainly I picked up on that vibe in putting his twisted persona into play. (Crippler's twists, that is. Not Greg's. Although he has a few of his own.) Maybe the character's had a whole slew of popular mini-series over the years? If not, though...he's kind of throwaway that probably contributed to some of the story's larger bloat.

Still, in the moment, I can read that exchange and payoff and tell myself I didn't *always* suck.

DAREDEVIL 320 pg. 13

McDaniel: The idea was to minimize the line art on the page, maximizing the white, negative space to evoke the snowy vastness and isolation of the scene. This idea should be used judiciously, for a specific storytelling purpose, else the artist will look lazy!

Chichester: There's a lot to like in the moments with the Chaste. (One of the things we don't get credit for is in naming this bunch -- I don't know if it's stuck, officially, but I have seen it used now and again. Up until FFG the white ninjas didn't have a name -- except maybe Stick's Snow Boys.)

I like the build and atmosphere of the moment. And it delivers at the end with a good mix of foretelling and just neat menace. It's a little wordy at the beginning, but not hellaciously so. I should have been more in line with the page layout that Scott delivered.

Having the Chaste all "talk in their heads" -- which I kinda remember was the idea here -- is probably the page's great failing. Since all the balloons are colored the same, they kind of run together. And the float doesn't help establish who's doing the talking. If we weren't super clear establishing their whole set up earlier (which I'm guessing we weren't) -- it would have been somewhat confusing for readers.

The leopard skin on Elektra's snowsuit was possibly a bit much of a telegraph. But then, the way they were sitting, stripper stilettos might not have shown up right. ;-)

DAREDEVIL 320 pg. 18

McDaniel: The idea was to achieve an interesting composition with these eight focused images. This page could have been very visually cluttered or self-competing if the entire page was used to carry line art. Eliminating the distracting or composed background whose only purpose is to carry the dialog text, it feels like Matt and Karen are the only two people in the world, which is a perfect effect for this intimate scene.

On another level, you can see my personal artistic war playing out on the pages of this single issue. While page 18 shows an excessive influence of Frank Miller's stylized art, page 7 reveals more of my own personal interpretations. Page 18 is not an "ape" - I never copied his drawings for my own. I was attempting to apply chiaroscuro to my art, but my error was thinking that Mr. Miller's way was the ONLY way to apply it. Rookie mistake. Years later I apologized to Mr. Miller in person, and he graciously accepted it. Page 7 shows my more natural application of light and shade, visually distinct from other artistic influences. This natural interpretation eventually won out as I worked out the major weaknesses in my art (and I'm still trying to overcome a few more!). These pages really remind me of my burning desire to be the best artist while simultaneously being maddeningly frustrated at not developing fast enough.

Chichester: Did they really kill Karen? And in an Elektra mirror, with Bullseye playing assassin again? What a shame. What a waste of a character. I say that not having read the story, which for all I know could be the greatest thing ever created in comics. But I read this and I just loved the hell out of the potential between these two. And I'm gobsmacked that creators wouldn't have kept her around to realize that.

In my weaker moments, when I used to Google myself and see what the hell my legacy was, I'd sometimes come across swipes on the order of, "Chichester can't write character!"

Fuck that and the keyboard it rode in on. :-) When I was on, which admittedly was less than more as time went on, I could feel these guys. Reading this again, it was like being back in the moment, conjuring up those lines for the first time. Which, when they came as I sense they did here, just wrote themselves, the characters doing the talking for me.

I can't find a lot to complain about here. That "It's just iodine!" "Try it with hypersenses!" exchange is pretty funny. Yes, Matt's slightly long speech and Karen's finish could do without the ellipsis ("..."). But all told, I'll stand by this one pretty solid. It still reads honest, almost painfully so. A wounded relationship looking for the places it can still work.

And "Follow my hands." That's a gem I'd forgotten. If I was a stronger, smarter writer I'd never have caved to the words "I love you" between those two. For a blind guy hooked-cursed-blessed on super-sensation that said it all.

Mithra: In terms of feedback and criticisms from fans, what was it like back then as the first few issues had come out? Internally at Marvel, what was the reaction like? Had it convinced some of the naysayers from your earlier meetings?

Chichester: Of all things, this is probably where I'm foggiest. (And it's not like I'm crystal clear on the rest! )

My tendency was to keep my head down, and not really pick up on vibes so much. A big problem that kept me out of the know and the cool-kids clubs, but I was very much into "My work will speak for me." (And what it ultimately had to say was, "Here's your hat, what's your hurry?")

There WAS a lot of buzz, though. Once Wizard jumped on covering the "high demand" for the first printing of #319 -- and were increasingly shrilly incredulous as the issue stayed at or near the top of the charts for month after month -- that perpetrated a lot of attention. But nothing that comes to mind specifically. Just a good energy. I remember that kind of powering a feeling of validation. And wanting to make the story really pay off, and re-investing more of my own self into it. I said earlier that I think a lot of FFG came from an angry place. But it's ultimate resolution -- it's final line, especially -- is pretty positive, and I would say an important degree of that came from the good feelings that were going around.

Internally at Marvel, the folks who were with us from the start -- Pat, Ralph -- were obviously pleased. And the condescenders -- who never had a good word for anything they themselves hadn't put together -- were suddenly attentive. As if, "Oh, now you're playing with the big boys." I even received an invite to an exclusive party held by a certain mutant writer, because I was now getting some spotlight. (That invite would never be repeated, after I'd also fallen from grace. )

The "naysayers" -- which, from our earlier exchange, would have been Tom -- didn't mea culpa or anything. And had no reason to. If it had been an utter disaster, I'm sure we would have caught hell. But as it was working out as a showcase for Marvel and sales-wise, all was right with the good ship Murdock.

From an inside-politics perspective, the noise level on DD did make the promotions guys more receptive to our interest in pushing the character and our team. They "took a meeting" with me and Scott to talk about our future plans for the character, the book, what they would/could do for us. Nothing ever came of it! But it was a nice moment. And was a direct consequence of the positive vibe rippling out from the story.

McDaniel: Like Dan, I have very little memory of that particular time. Also, like Dan, I was very much interested in keeping my head down, staying focused on the task at hand. I was very new and very unpolished, and I wasn't even aware that "cool-kids clubs" existed! Unlike Dan, I was a long way from "arriving" artistically (and there certainly were no invitations to "mutant parties!" in my mailbox), so working my craft was my first priority.

My best memory of this time was the day DD 321 went on sale. The cover featured DD unknowingly perched atop his evil Doppleganger. And it glowed in the dark. After dinner I ran to my LCBS, bought twenty copies of book, raced home, spread them out all over my bed, turned off the lights, and watched the glow-in-the-dark covers light up my now darkened bedroom. It was geek-heaven! I just stood there, like a dork, watching all those covers glow back at me. When they faded, I would click on the light to recharge the photochemicals then go back to staring at their glowing glory in the dark. My beautiful and cool wife, Amy, quickly bored of this routine, but I was pretty geeked-out!

And I also remember some of the buzz the book was getting in Wizard magazine. It was really exciting to be involved with a book getting so much positive coverage, and it was a new experience watching the considered value of the first issue climb and climb. Like most (or all) speculative bubbles, this one burst too, but it was fun watching it while it was happening.

Mostly, though, I just kept my head down and plowed ahead! I decided to let my work speak for itself, and let the chips fall where they may.

LINK: Daredevil: Fall From Grace - Marvel Fan Summit MP3 (courtesy of Dan Chichester)


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