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DD Book Club - Nobody Laughs at the Jester
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Mike Murdock
Parts of a Hole


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1149

PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2018 9:33 am    Post subject: DD Book Club - Nobody Laughs at the Jester Reply with quote

I mentioned awhile back that this was my plan that sadly got delayed by the Dreaded Deadline Doom - I mean shifting movie schedules. I've really wanted to do a Jester story and it's the 50th Anniversary of the story (I believe, given that the issues are released a few months prior to the posted publication date, it might be 50 years this month).

Daredevil Vol. 1 #42 - Nobody Laughs at the Jester!



Quote:
A new villain comes out to play, and this one considers himself quite the jokester! Meet Jester, a maniacal thief filled to the brim with gimmicks and gadgets. Matt uses his ‘twin brother alter ego’ Mike Murdock to take down his most twisted foe yet!


Due 5/26
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Dimetre
Child's Play


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2018 12:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This comic, from July 1968, was a lot better than I remember it being.

When I first heard about the existence of the Jester, I quite reasonable assumed he was a half-baked Marvel knock-off of the Joker. It's possible that's exactly how he was conceived. However, with this being his very first appearance, in execution he's his very own character. Well, mostly. You can draw a lot of comparisons between the Jester and the Superman villain the Toyman. But what I think makes the Jester unique is his backstory.

Jonathan Powers is someone who always craved applause, but felt entitled to that applause right from the beginning. He pursued acting, and even landed the starring role in a stage production of Cyrano de Bergerac. I don't know how he got that part, because, apparently he was awful, and ended up getting fired. Instead of being humbled, taking assessment and seeing how he could improve his craft, he proclaimed everyone else in the world must be wrong for not recognizing his greatness, and worked on every one of his skills but acting. For his efforts, he landed a part as the target of a smug comedian's abuse, and as the run of the show went on and on, his ego couldn't take it anymore. He attacks the comedian, quits the show and says the following words.

Quote:
If laughter is what the public wants... laughter at the expense of someone else... then I'm going to provide it for them! ...In a manner that will make me the greatest star of all!

I found Jonathan Powers' backstory very interesting. I don't know from where Stan Lee and Gene Colan drew their inspiration for the character. It's well known that Lee had aspirations to be a great novelist. Maybe he was submitting manuscripts to publishing houses and getting rejected over and over again. Perhaps Colan had similar aspirations within the fine arts, with similar results. I may be off base. But I like the premise of a character who believes in their talent, but is likely wrong in doing so, and suffers failure over and over again as a result. The oncoming snap is almost inevitable.

I also liked that the Jester is surprisingly almost more than a physical match to Daredevil. Powers has obsessively trained his body for many years, but it's still a surprise to see him get the drop on Daredevil a few times in this issue. It just makes him a better threat to our hero. Obviously Stan and Gene enjoyed their new villain, because he returned exactly two issues later.

I'm going to have to refresh myself with these old Jester appearances, because I honestly don't remember him being as compelling as he was here. The most memorable Jester appearance I can recall following this one was #218, written by Denny O'Neil, when Daredevil is astounded by Jesty's acting talent and allows him to finish his performance before making him face the authorities for his crimes. That story doesn't mesh all that well with this first appearance, but it I like what it shows in Matt's character. Outside of that issue, I don't remember the Jester being anything but generic.

There were some strong moments scattered throughout the issue outside what I already mentioned. I love Colan's close-up panel on Richard Raleigh pointing a gun at the Jester. His expression is pricelessly evil. I liked how Foggy fought back against the Jester. It made me reflect on how Stan Lee would at times use Foggy as comic relief, but not always.

I didn't mind that this issue was obviously a companion to Spectacular Spider-Man #1, so we don't get to see how Raleigh dies. Back in the day if you wanted to find out, you could break open your piggy bank and find out. The cohesive nature of the Marvel Universe is something that always made it cooler than its competition.

What I didn't like was that Daredevil was stopped by marbles. He clearly had gotten the upper hand on the Jester and was in such a position that he could have pounded him into oblivion. I think Daredevil is such a skilled fighter that, combined with his super-senses, he should not be tripped up by marbles on the floor. So I didn't like that the Jester got away, let alone did so with such pathetic means.

Still, this is surprisingly good. I give it a four out of five.
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Mike Murdock
Parts of a Hole


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PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2018 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been meaning to do this story for awhile because, I don't care what people think, I actually like the Jester as a villain. Sure, Jonathan Powers can be a little derivative in appearance from, let's say, a similarly dressed villain, but he is, at his heart, a very different character. To me, the big difference is what he craves is fame far more than anything else, even if he can be quite a bit absurd.

I think the difference is apparent from the beginning in the way he talks. There's a fun, theatrical tone to his dialogue. The idea that he's a stage actor so convinced of his genius that everyone fails to see that he snaps is a fun, dumb concept. I like that they can use it to justify his skills in fighting DD - he did everything but study acting.

Honestly, I'll defend the Jester, but Matt Murdock is full on absurdity at this point. The Mike Murdock house of cards came crashing down and he killed him off. Then everyone else is crying over his dead twin brother while he is heartless. More importantly was bringing back Daredevil. It's all very ham-handed. On the plus side, it's good to know that Matt carried a vial of acid to melt his clothes so he could change into the Daredevil costume he kept around. Still, the whole point was basically to bring back Daredevil, so it served a necessary, if clunky, purpose.

I liked Gene Colan's art here. I noticed something he's infamous for, which is to start off with very large panels with sometimes as few as three per page. Unfortunately, by the end, he's run out of room and has to cram a bunch in. You can definitely see the panel count go up as the issue neared its conclusion, which made things a bit rushed.

I'll go Four Stars.

Dimetre wrote:

I'm going to have to refresh myself with these old Jester appearances, because I honestly don't remember him being as compelling as he was here. The most memorable Jester appearance I can recall following this one was #218, written by Denny O'Neil, when Daredevil is astounded by Jesty's acting talent and allows him to finish his performance before making him face the authorities for his crimes. That story doesn't mesh all that well with this first appearance, but it I like what it shows in Matt's character. Outside of that issue, I don't remember the Jester being anything but generic.


#218 is one of my favorite issues of all time and it's definitely one I point to when I want to defend the Jester. The other big Jester story was one we've touched on occasionally (I think during the Copperhead story, but I could be wrong) where he was creating fake news to undermine Foggy's reelection. Aside from that, Playing to the Camera in DD Vol. 2 was a solid take. There, he was hired to pretend to commit crimes rather than actually commit them. But he's often used as a throwaway villain, particularly by Brian Michael Bendis. That being said, it's entirely possible this story goes downhill after this issue. The only things I remember after this are the interesting, experimental cover art that we'll see soon.
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Mike Murdock
Parts of a Hole


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 1149

PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2018 9:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, by happy coincidence, I at least get a Captain America story in time for Memorial Day

Daredevil Vol. 1 #43 - In Combat With Captain America!



Quote:
Karen Page reaches a critical point in her career, and must decide whether her feelings for Murdock are enough to keep her at the law office. Daredevil continues his hunt for the vigilante, Jester. Guest-starring Captain America!


Due 6/2
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Matt Murdock's cooler twin brother

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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Dimetre
Child's Play


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
Posts: 990
Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2018 1:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think this issue and the previous are an excellent example of what a difference inkers make. Issue #42 was "embellished" by Dan Adkins. His lines are very thin, as if he was doing the least he could to cover up Gene Colan's pencils. Check out Vince Colletta's inking in this issue. Daredevil is almost completely swathed in shadow. In many panels the red is just an outline. The lines are heavier, and, I would add, steadier, giving the figures more solidity.

Another thing: This cover looks like it was done by Jack Kirby. Am I right?

So, this issue came out in August 1968. I'm sure that by this time, Stan Lee had long since figured out that Marvel fans loved nothing more than the age-old question, "Who'd beat who in a fight?" Perhaps by this point in the series sales were languishing badly, so Stan cooked up this idea to draw some attention to Daredevil. Matt's origin is even briefly retold, making this feel like Stan thought this one would be many fans' first Daredevil issue.

Our tale opens with Matt working out, and thinking back to Karen walking out of his life for good. As I've typed many times before, I don't put the Matt/Karen relationship on a pedestal like many other readers do, so this melodrama ran thin for me pretty quickly. However, in 1968, Daredevil readers would never have seen Matt with anyone other than Karen, so they had no idea how much more interesting things were going to get. I can concede that the melodrama would ring more true back then.

I don't know why Lee and Colan brought up the Jester at all in this issue. They spend three panels on the character, and Daredevil does absolutely nothing to track him down. The Jester is in the next issue. Why not save any Jester talk until then?

But the most notable thing about this issue is the revelation that radiation makes Daredevil go berserk. And by "go berserk," I mean "transform into a violent jerk." Daredevil tracks down a thief carrying radioactive vials and savagely knocks him unconscious. (What follows is the flashback of Daredevil's origin.) Clearly affected by the radiation, Daredevil swings around relishing a fight. Captain America happens to be taking part in a charity event where he'll battle any volunteer. The rest of the issue is a rock 'em sock 'em punch and kick fest between Cap and Hornhead.

That fight is great stuff. Colan and Colletta couldn't have done a better job. I would say that this is some of Colan's most definitive Daredevil art. It's just masterful.

In the forward for Marvel Masterworks Volume 5, Colan wrote a bit about this issue.
Quote:
In issue #43 I had the opportunity to draw Captain America for the first time in many years. I'd loved the ideals that were part of Cap going back to his earliest stories in World War II, and I had a firm grasp on his character. I knew he was muscular, honest, and straightforward, had good habits and was always ready to help an old lady across the street.

The ending is anti-climactic. It's exactly what you'd expect -- the radiation wears off and Daredevil comes to his senses and swings away.

I suppose it would be compelling to some readers that Daredevil is depressed over his failed romance with Karen Page this entire issue. As someone who always found Matt's romantic tension with Karen more annoying than anything, I failed to empathize that much with Matt's depression this issue. Heartbreak is something every adult goes through, and Matt will get through this. But, if Matt's woes are compelling to you, who am I to judge?

What's weirder is Daredevil turning into a violent creep because of radiation. As far as I know, that has never come back, and thank God. Can you imagine if, fifty years later, the character of Daredevil would get around a tiny bit of plutonium and fly into a Wolverine-style berserker rage? It was a very strange idea that I'm sure Stan cooked up simply to justify the fight between Daredevil and Captain America. That doesn't make it a good idea. I'm glad we haven't seen radiation affect Daredevil in this way in the half-century since this issue.

Gene Colan and Vince Colletta are the stars this issue, and the promise laid out on the cover is fully-realized inside. But I'm docking a point for the half-baked radiation idea. I give this a four out of five.
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Mike Murdock
Parts of a Hole


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PostPosted: Mon May 28, 2018 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hate the early melodrama between Matt and Karen. Karen would later become a strong character, but I would argue it wasn't until Ann Nocenti wrote her. This time was a never-ending source of frustration. On the other hand, I do like the idea of Matt thinking that Daredevil might be the real version of himself. The one redeeming quality of the Mike Murdock nonsense was the idea of Matt Murdock possibly being a restriction on himself. In some ways, I think it's easier for him to not have to pretend he can see. On the other hand, he is hiding quite a bit of who he is by not being in the open about his abilities. Additionally, he always has the burden of his promise to his dad. Daredevil is also a way for him to escape his promise not to fight and we see, when he gets frustrated, he goes into his costume and moves around town just to vent.

Anyway, through a series of unlikely events, Daredevil loses his mind to radiation and fights Captain America. The only interesting choice is the hero of the book is the one who becomes the bad guy, as opposed to Cap going mad. The fight is OK, however, I'd argue the dialogue buries it too much. Overall, though, the story just feels like fluff. I didn't want to skip it in the middle of the Jester story that surrounds it, but it's hard to really understand why it's here beyond the fact that Jack Kirby drew a cover of Daredevil and Captain America and it would sell some comics. Three Stars.
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Mike Murdock
Parts of a Hole


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2018 8:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 #44 - I, Murderer!



Quote:
The Jester threatens to reveal Daredevil’s secret identity…on the George Washington Bridge! With such a public outing at stake, Matt Murdock acts recklessly in his bid for control. NYPD vs. Daredevil! But why is the hero being hunted by the law?


Due 6/9
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Matt Murdock's cooler twin brother

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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Dimetre
Child's Play


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2018 9:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

First, let's take a look at the cover. The image of Daredevil in brilliant red swinging in front of the cityscape and the the grinning visage of the Jester, all in black and white, is a strong one. What I don't get is why the logo changed. Maybe the book wasn't one of Marvel's top sellers, but why would you take a hero with a one-word name and hyphenate it for the book's title? I guess an argument can be made that if you break "Daredevil" down and take up two lines, each of the letters can be bigger and the name can dominate better, but I think hyphenating the name makes the name weaker. Thankfully the series reverted back to the original logo by #48.

Gene Colan and Vince Colletta continue their fantastic collaboration on pencils and inks this issue. Honestly, you could place this issue alongside any of Marvel's top art from 1968 and it could proudly stand beside the best of Jim Steranko, John Romita Sr., John Buscema or Jack Kirby.

With this issue Colan began playing around with the panel layout, and it gives the entire issue this off-kilter feel. I thought it worked very well here, but I remember getting confused as he continued playing with it several issues down the road. At the end of this issue there is an oddly placed dialogue bubble, which made me unsure as to when I was supposed to read it.

I liked that the Jester isn't concerned at all with committing crimes for material gain, but simply for "the excitement of the game -- the thrill of the chase!" I also liked how we could follow his train of thought -- he was worried about the inevitably of people finding out his true identity, so he figured that Jonathan Powers had to be seen dying, so why not implicate Daredevil with his murder? Honestly, why not?

I guess I can accept that someone as capable as Powers could accumulate gadgets that would follow his motif, and steal the materials needed to make them. And I like how super-villains always are able to invade TV studios. It makes me wonder why no one hijacks CNN or Fox News to deliver a sinister address.

I was able to tolerate Matt's pining for Karen a little more easily this issue. It was kept at a relative minimum, and when it did show up, I felt for the guy.

Honestly, I don't see why Daredevil couldn't have ensnared the falling Powers with his billy-club cable before he hit the water. That seems like something easily within his capabilities. But, I guess the main thing is that it puts Daredevil in a pickle, and the draw of the story is to see how our hero gets out of it. I just would have liked it better if the way our hero gets in the pickle was more believable.

Foggy's complaints about Debbie protesting against poverty haven't aged well. Apparently Foggy is conservative, but I'm pretty sure conservative meant something different in 1968 than it does fifty years later. I hardly think Foggy is in favour of poverty. And I'm pretty sure that in the series first 44 issues that Nelson and Murdock had taken on some pretty progressive cases. But nothing has aged worse than the following exchange between an exasperated Foggy and the more chipper Matt.
Quote:
Matt!! Maybe you can drum some sense into her! I sure can't!

How can you expect her to be sensible? She's a female!

Nevertheless, what makes this issue stand up is not only the amazing artwork, but the Jester operating at the peak of his madness, his intelligence and his skill. At this point he is a great antagonist for Daredevil, and forces our hero to work harder. I give this issue a four out of five.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2018 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For some reason I forgot I had this story in trade through the Epic Collection. Oh well, I can start reading it that way now.

This issue starts with a delightfully strange sight of a little miniature robotic elf stealing some jewelry. Gene Colan draws some interestingly dynamic panels, abandoning straight-lines for chaotic, curved borders. I think it just adds to the jumbled nature of the whole thing. Once again, the two aspects of the Jester stand out - he invents toy-like gadgets that help him succeed and he doesn't actually care about getting the riches, just the fame, as he throws back the jewelry anyway in the escape.

Unfortunately, the fun of the Jester is immediately killed by the buzzkill that is mopey Matt Murdock wining about Karen. Luckily, the interlude is short before we're treated to Jonathan Powers once more. With the way he's dressed, I almost thought he was Mike Murdock for a second, though. It doesn't make sense that the Jester has the resources he does. If you think about it for more than two seconds, the whole thing falls apart. It's also interesting that he's so changed by the success of the Jester that he's willing to forego any fame for Jonathan Powers ever again. However, what does make sense is he treats this as an elaborate show. He's staged what will happen, acts his part, and makes sure it gets caught on camera.

There's a brief Foggy scene with an awkward line from Matt that I'll just ignore. It's good to see Debbie get some characterization even if I'm never sure it's consistent characterization.

I do think the Jester brings a sense of energy to the story and I like his plot. Although he doesn't really know Daredevil, this story actually comes off as far more personal. The stakes are never about a threat to New York City or the world. The Jester isn't really in it to get rich or hurt the public. Instead, it's all about whether he will personsonally ruin Daredevil just for his own benefit.

Four Stars. I'm still having a lot of fun with this story and I think the Jester is a fairly strong villain. Hope it can keep up the pace.

Dimetre wrote:
At the end of this issue there is an oddly placed dialogue bubble, which made me unsure as to when I was supposed to read it.


Yeah, I know exactly which one you're talking about, which shows that it stands out.
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Mike Murdock
Parts of a Hole


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 8:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daredevil Vol. 1 #45 - The Dismal Dregs of Defeat!



Quote:
Daredevil has been framed for the Jester’s murder, and now all of New York City is after Ol’ Hornhead! As a defender of the law, will Matt Murdock know when to bow out? No chance! Daredevil’s identity is challenged by the public- and a more private audience.


Due 6/16
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Matt Murdock's cooler twin brother

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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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