Interview with DG Chichester (November 2023)

The writer of DAREDEVIL: BLACK ARMOR chats with me about his return to Marvel and the often maligned era of the "armored" costume.

Many thanks to him for this chance to speak again about Daredevil, and what it means to him personally to return after all these years.

This interview was conducted November 30, 2023.

Kuljit Mithra: I was checking out our old interview, because Michel Fiffe mentioned it on Twitter.

DG Chichester: Yes, he had name checked it and it had actually come up in something a few days ago. I always liked that interview a lot. Even though we'd done it by email, a lot of it is me working out a lot of issues through that interview, as you know.

Mithra: That was like '97 or something, right? You were the first Daredevil creator who got in touch with me through my site. When I started, it was just me learning HTML and everything was new on the internet at that time. I was in university and one of my classmates just said, look at this thing, you can make your own webpage. So I just started doing it on what I was interested in, right, and then suddenly it just took off.

And the funny thing is that I had complained about Elektra coming back and becoming a dancer in her new series, and you emailed me and said it wasn't really your fault about that. [laughs]

Chichester: No, no, that was once she was out of my control.

Mithra: So I think that's when I thought I better be careful of what I'm saying because there are people actually looking at this now.

Chichester: That is the thing, once you start to realize somebody's paying attention.

Mithra: Also Scott McDaniel got in touch with me and sent all of those designs for what he was coming up with for the armored costume... you don't like calling it the armored costume...

Chichester: Oh, I call it the armor now! Once Marvel Sales said they wanted to call it Black Armor, then I was, “Man, yeah, I'm all over it!” You of all people, I think, appreciate the meta joke on the first page. You know I never called it that.

Mithra: For sure. Yeah, there were a few things you put in there that we'll talk about. I just wanted to first say thank you. All of these years of support. We've been in and out of touch in our different careers for almost 30 years.

Chichester: It actually is. I was a big advocate of digital stuff early on and usenet and even the early AOL message boards, Genie, Compuserve... and I remember going to the sales and promotional guys at Marvel, saying, “There's a lot of conversation going on about comics, really in depth stuff — beyond what you even get at conventions. This is the thing to jump on.” And I just remember kind of being brushed off like, “What are you talking about?”

Publishers’ early efforts to get online were understandably limited and crude. But that's what impressed me about what you were doing was you were treating it seriously and you were bringing things together around a central character and doing it really well and that's what caught my attention. It wasn't even so much stuff that, okay, I was involved with the character in one form or another. The nice thing was that your site sort of validated the sense that there can be this kind of conversation. You've maintained this over the years and been very kind when you've had me featured on there.

So I've always been grateful for that. And then when we did that 15 year kind of retrospective on Fall From Grace — it feels to me there's a pattern where people really like that story, and then really hate it. But that was at least a place where it felt like somebody paid attention to it. And it was nice to revisit it in that way. Even though my first email interview, I think, was filled with little bits of attitude, if you will. It still was a way to think about it in a deeper way, and I've thought about it more over the years. That was a really great opportunity to sit down and do that self introspection that you normally don't get a chance to do.

Mithra: Right, and with the way that everything ended on the title... but you did come back for that special issue [#380].

Chichester: [Editor] Tim Tuohy was very kind in getting me and Lee [Weeks] back for that. That was a little moment, where Tim had the book in what I've affectionately referred to its kind of lame duck status. It was going to be passed over to Jimmy [Palmiotti], Joe [Quesada] and Kevin Smith. So no one really cared at that point. That was a really a neat bit to revisit the character in our style before he went on to his new era, and it was neat to be able to convince Lee to do it too — because he was totally against it initially. That was a lot of fun.

Mithra: I'm glad you were able to do that.

So after all this history, I've heard at a convention that [Editor-in-Chief] CB Cebulski came up to you and asked if you want to pitch something to come back because they're doing these retro series at Marvel. Was there anything in your mind that said, no, I'm done, with that character, like I've said all I can say? Or did he convince you that it's going to be related to something that you've already done and you can go back to that world? What went through your mind when he brought that up?

Chichester: When CB came, I didn't know him. I knew of him. I had only done a handful of conventions in the last twenty odd years. So I'm there at Terrific in Connecticut and this nice guy comes up and compliments my work and he's like, “I’m CB Cebulski...” and it takes my brain twenty-five seconds to recognize the name.

We're chatting for a couple of minutes and then in a self deprecating, joking way, I said, “Hey, I've been meaning to send you those proposals that I've been working on…” It was just a joke. And then he just turned and said, “As a matter of fact…” and introduced me to these nostalgia books they'd been doing, as he called them. I knew Peter David had done a couple of them. I'd known Howard Mackie had done one of those, so I was aware of them. But CB basically said, “Would you be interested in coming back and doing something?” I didn't know what he meant by that at that point, although I had a pretty good idea that if you're going to take a swing at me, it's probably not one of my affectionate fringe characters like Terror Inc. or something like that. It's going to be Daredevil, if they're trying to capitalize.

He gave me his email, he gave me his personal email as well, which I thought was nice. And I remember leaving the convention and sending a text to my kid saying, “I might be back in the Hell's Kitchen business.” Jokingly again. Thinking where does it go and does it really go anywhere? Earlier on I had been very black and white in my approach to things. I had not been sitting around thinking I've got one more Daredevil story to tell: when are they going to ask me back? There was no scratching at the door or anything.

CB was on a convention circuit, so it took him a couple weeks to get back to me. But when he did he said he talked to Devin Lewis, the Daredevil editor. They had an idea that they wanted to talk about. As I was crafting an introduction to Devin (“Hi, I’m Dan Chichester. You may know me from such titles as…” [laughs]) — he had already reached out via email. We got on the phone and almost the first thing out of his mouth is, “Well, we want to do something with the costume, with the black armor.” You can imagine my reaction was to laugh out loud. You know me because I said — and excuse me, I'm not saying this from an angry place — but I said, “You have no idea the shit that me and Scott McDaniel took about that costume.” Significant amounts of grief from fans, professionals. And this is pre-Internet, right? So the troll factor was you had to work a lot harder to be a troll, and yet people worked pretty hard to be trolls about that costume.

And so that was an interesting thought process to then start deconstructing in my head. Not that I didn't want to do it, but, “All right, you guys, obviously see some appeal in this that I don’t…” — and having to arrive at that mutual place and then start to understand: there is some aspect of this that has commercial appeal.

I wasn't looking at because I was still stuck thirty years ago and the biggest appeal I had was the new action figure which is really awesome. But I didn't hesitate. I think all my years in advertising have given me a very particular set of skills at this point that I can channel toward things and start to think about them as assignments and how I'm going to approach them, and that's how I started to look at it.

Mithra: Were you doing any writing while at Ogilvy?

Chichester: No matter the roles I had at Ogilvy or TBWA, I always put down on my tax form "writer". That's what I always saw myself as and that's how I always approach things. If somebody was having a problem with something, I was the first to pick up a keyboard and try to crack it from a writing point of view. And that's what gave me a whole different level, I think, of discipline and skills. And then recently I'd started to work with Karl Waller, on what became this Kickstarter project, Axles Infernal. I had kind of put myself back into comics and saying to myself I can write comics still. Serendipity in a little way, because I had reactivated some muscles, and looked at how I would approach writing a comic story — as opposed to having to come into this new Daredevil story totally cold.

Mithra: That's great you were already doing some comic work and then this came along. So was this a couple of years ago that they talked to you at the convention?

Chichester: Well, it wasn't this past summer, right? So not what we just went past, so it was summer of '22. And so that's when we talked.

We had some back and forth and gaps in communication and then I ended up breaking down the entire original plot. Originally it was going to be five issues. So I had broken down the original 110 page plot by around November, December, and then again whatever gaps in communication, holiday times. Then there was another extended set of gaps in communication until probably late spring and that plot had sort of stayed in stasis until they then got back in touch with me and said, “We're going to do four issues now.” So I had to revise it, which was fine. Their notes, enthusiasm, encouragement were all positive. I say gaps in communication, that's just whatever. It's a busy office. I'm the fringe project over here and hopefully I've proven to them at this point that they get quality work out of it.

I did that revision to get it down to the 90 pages it is. I worked the plot out as a kind of a beat sheet, like I used to. I know most comics these days are done full script. That seems to be the standard thing. I had always broken down plots as, if I wrote a paragraph, it was sort of like a panel. It wasn't exactly, but close to it, and I put a lot of dialogue in as I write the plot. So I'm thinking this is going to still have to become that full script.

I've turned in the last revision to 90 pages and then out of the blue is when Netho's [Diaz] pages just started to show up. I opened my email one day from Tom [Groneman], the Associate Editor, and it's the first six pages — including that magnificent encapsulation of Fall From Grace in one spread. No artistic challenge there at all! And I said, “Wow, I guess we're off to the races and I guess we're really doing it!” Old school in terms of plot and script — which was great, because I actually love working that way. I always enjoyed working that way, far, far more than doing it as a full script.

Mithra: So you mentioned Netho Diaz, the artist, and he's doing a great job... the art is sort of like "of the times", but it's modern too. I don't know how to explain... it works with that retro vibe. But I did want to ask you, just because it is based on Fall From Grace... did Marvel ask Scott McDaniel to be a part of this?

Chichester: Not to my knowledge. I floated the question at one point, “Is Scott going to have any involvement with this?” And I heard nothing back. Neither yay nor nay. It's just like one of those questions that went into the ether and didn't come back. If there was any conversation — I’m gonna guess maybe not? A lot of these [nostalgia] series seem to be they bring back the writer and then they go with a more modern artist. That seems to be the way they structure some of them. But I don't know.I actually was in touch with Scott this last week, he was asking about some other reprint issues — and I've been singing his praises in interviews like this. But also I've been trying to plant the seeds of him getting one of these variant covers or something. That's the very least of things, because if people admire that costume or get a kick out of it — the costume exists because of Scott McDaniel.

Mithra: I know I've said this before that it just looked right when he did it and then when other artists, it just didn't look right.

Chichester: Yeah right, right.

Netho is different than Scott, but [Netho’s] is not overly bulky. That was always my problem. We talked about that at one point or another is that when people would do it, they would look at it as armor in the worst way, and then they would bulk it up so much. And I think Netho’s found a happy balance of aggressiveness — because it's very aggressive — and still keeping it In motion, if you will. That's what he does; he's just got a lot of motion and posing to his character, the way he interprets the character anyway.

Mithra: Artwise, it looks amazing and I know that you've been seeing all the reactions online. I know it's a small sample...

Chichester: The one I enjoyed the most was, “Everyone knows he was the worst writer. The editors knew he was the worst writer. He knows he's the worst writer.” [laughs] Those are the good ego checks. But by and large, I feel people seem to be responding positively to it.

Mithra: Yeah, I haven't seen much bad reaction to it at all, which I think is great considering the history that you've gone through already. At least you're getting some praise now, so that's good.

Chichester: Somebody said my Google algorithm is skewed. What I get when I search on my reviews is probably much worse than when somebody else searches on them.

Mithra: After reading the first issue, I was just wondering where in continuity does this story take place... obviously it's past Fall From Grace. There are some elements in the flashbacks that do look like sort of before Tree of Knowledge, maybe during that time, just because Strucker is in that story and he's also in this story. Or do you even think about it like that?

Chichester: Definitely after Fall From Grace. Strucker’s role in this was tricky to navigate my way into: I didn't want to go down the sinkhole of Dan's favorite moments. So I’m not even sure about Strucker for this story. We had some other villains in there at one point that were different. And for various reasons it got reconfigured and Strucker came up. And I love Strucker! I've always had a lot of fun with the character. But I sort of felt like this is me pulling my favorite things off the shelf. But Devin was very encouraging about it and he liked that I had history with the character. He thought that was a positive. When we talked about like, his thought process was, “You used him in SHIELD, you’ve used him in Daredevil…” — and he gave it a positive nod. So I embraced it and went full on lunatic supremacist, channeled my inner HYDRA leader. But where it takes place is... either a little before Tree of Knowledge or a little after Tree of Knowledge, if you were to have to pin it down. But it's so important for people to kind of know that this is not dependent on any of that. This isn't dependent on reading Fall From Grace, this isn't dependent on reading Tree of Knowledge or any of that.

I needed a way to go beyond having to pick up all the corners I painted myself into years ago, when I thought I was going to be continuing to write this book and that I'd have fixed things then. Instead of coming in now and needing to address, “Who the hell is Jack Batlin and who the hell cares?” I just looked at it as like there must have been a lot of adventures. In terms of the black armor, there wasn’t just Fall from Grace, Tree of Knowledge, the Alan Smithee story and then Warren Ellis' issue gleefully cutting up the suit with laser scissors or whatever.

(I had never read that particular story until recently, when the editorial team sent me all the stuff that featured the black armor. Most of those stories were mine, but that one issue was in there and reading it now I laughed at that a lot. I wouldn't have laughed at it then. Then I would have probably been really moribund!)

I just look at Black Armor as it takes place in this expanded zone when there were probably a lot of adventures that took place with this costume. We just never knew about them before. And isn't that a cool thing? At least in my head, that's the way I approach it.

Mithra: Okay, there's going to be people who are going to analyze this anyway.

Chichester: Marvel's so floaty with their time, I said to Devin, “Clearly it's not really 30 years ago. What does the 90s mean in terms of where Marvel is now?” He's like, “Maybe it's five years ago…”If you want to have cell phones, there are cell phones. You get that, like Netho's doing strange little things like 90s punkish haircuts — and yet somebody has a cell phone. Times Square is gigantic screens that they probably didn't have then, but Hell's Kitchen is in its time capsule. The vibe is what I really like about it, more than anything. By that I mean it just feels like this very 90s time capsule. In the 90s that probably never really existed — but now suddenly does.

Mithra: There's a line in the issue where somebody mentions UFC. So even there, I was even thinking to myself, was UFC even around during that time?

Chichester: There's a Cobra Kai reference. Later on there's a hidden Saul Goodman joke, if you really want to look for it. There are little things like that, but hopefully nothing that would trip people up.

Mithra: I think I mentioned this to you. It was kind of strange and I actually enjoyed it. An actual in continuity Karen Page appearance. I didn't realize how much I missed seeing her in a DD comic. And she wasn't really involved with anything going on with the Jack Batlin persona per se right.

Chichester: No, because Murdock was [presumed] dead. So the last time we saw her was at the funeral.

Elektra knows that he's alive. Again, it was that tricky thing of once they said you want to do this — then you have to think through. “Okay, where am I at?” The time period.

A big part of that requires me to use Jack Batlin — which is a mask Matt Murdock is consciously wearing, right? It's not dementia! Jack Batlin has to become more real here in this story, how Matt Murdock uses him. Even so, no one wants to read a Jack Batlin story: they want to read a Matt Murdock story. I don't want to write a Jack Batlin story. I never did. I want to write a Matt Murdock story. But this is the chessboard, these are the pieces, and I had to do a construct around it and figure out where it all fits and plays out. That includes all the pieces of Matt’s life, the Karen Pages and the Elektras. And by doing that it opened up a lot more thinking about identity and how he's managing it and balancing it in ways that I hadn't really even thought of back then. I had vague ideas what was gonna happen next and ultimately he was going back to being Matt Murdock and probably getting his red costume back, and blah, blah, blah. But I hadn't thought through all the particulars — to my dismay!

So this is all new stuff. This isn’t, “Oh, I meant to do that.” This is just now spinning the wheels out. Fabian Nicieza had given me just a marvelous piece of advice. Not that I was looking for the advice, but Fabian will give you advice anyway. [laughs] He said, just write the book like you never stopped writing it. Which was just great. It's just a great thing to sort of put yourself back in that groove and allow things to happen naturally. Of course I want a Karen mention and of course I want an Elektra mention — even though they're not integral to the overall story, they’re integral to Matt. And Devin's the one who said things like, “how's the Kingpin gonna fit in here?” Because Kingpin didn't initially fit in here, but, “Yeah, why not?” Why can't I play with those toys? And I love that scene. It's a fun chew the scenery scene to me.

Mithra: You snuck in that Mayor Fisk reference.

Chichester: Yes, yeah! That was fun, right. That was kind of like a projection forward, a little “Mayor Goldie Wilson.” It's a little bit like Back to the Future.

Mithra: I think you snuck in there too one of the people called him Death Devil and that's from your final issue. [#380]

Chichester: I did, that was a fun callback. Although Blackhorn was my favorite new name, I think there should actually be a character called Blackhorn, who's like really the evil Daredevil.

Mithra: I'm sure there is a Blackhorn somewhere, but then you also brought back Randi Jillette, which I'm sure a lot of people don't remember.

Chichester: I didn't even remember her!

Mithra: I think you did introduce her, but Gregory Wright did some more things with her in Fathoms of Humanity.

Chichester: Right. I had introduced her post Fall From Grace. I had a couple of scenes with her, and obviously I was trying to kind of create like a separate extended supporting cast for Matt in his Batlin persona, with him living down in Alphabet City. But I didn't really remember them fully — I certainly didn’t have time to develop them much.

But once I revisited it, she was intriguing to me and so she continues to play a role through this which I like a lot. I always intended for her to become something — I wouldn't have spent the time on her otherwise. Now she gets a lot of page time, setting things up and in some way she sets things in motion by pushing Matt and aiding him in ways that he wouldn't have. She definitely plays a trigger to position him to think about this story situation in a way that he normally would not, because he's not seeing all the pieces in that way.

Mithra: Did you go back and read all your stuff?

Chichester: I did. And there's these nice people who run this little podcast called the Chichester Chats, Phil Perich and Lilith Hellfire. They review my work and have me comment on it every month and they actually forced me to go back over the last year or so and read stuff. And I infamously never read anything. I just kind of finished writing it and I moved on and I was always uncomfortable reading the stuff. And they forced me to revisit a lot of stuff even before this came up. But between that revisit and some discussion with them about things — and then the Daredevil editorial office sending me stuff — I did go back in and look through things and look for the cues to pick up on.

There were other characters, there were some Tree of Knowledge characters. There was that hacker Sinclair Spectrum. She was an interesting character of the time and a few other things that I toyed with. Should I use this, should I use that? So I looked at the surrounding area, around Jack Batlin and who Murdock was at that time — and tried to then make choices around who comes into the story and what can they serve?

60-75% of the story came on like an August afternoon in 2022. I probably sketched out the bones of the story in one sitting. One line came and then another thing came and before I know it, I had sketched out a big chunk of it and it was the plot. The structure of it. It wasn't all the character stuff. Then I ran it past Devin and Tom, and then they had some, “Hey, that's really good, but bring this over here and don't forget about that and make sure Matt suffers some more…” — all of which were good comments.

But that's when I started to have to fill in, not random character does this — but who is this? Oh, that's Randi! Do you need a hacker? Do you need this? For three seconds I would toy with bringing in my own personal favorites. Should I bring in Terror, which is a big favorite character of mine? But I was really super disciplined, and this time out I was so focused on not indulging anything. If it didn't serve the story, it went away, right away. There's one in joke in this whole thing and that's about my son’s college. Just because I was writing a scene and I needed somebody to reference a college and I said, “You want it to be yours?”

Mithra: So the plot... I've only read one issue, so I don't know where the story is going just yet. But the kidnappings involve Sabretooth and I guess you know the way solicits are, I already know Hobgoblin is coming, so what can you say about the plot?

Chichester: I would say where it's going is actually all in that first issue, if you read very carefully — which will maybe get people to go back and read it again. It was funny when you sent me the solicit-spoiler thing about Strucker. I guess they give away everything at some point so you only get so many moments to keep things secret. One person who reviewed — it was a nice review, it was a constructive review. But they said, “Well, it's a very solid adventure, but it's not the over the top thing we would think of for a 90s level story…” — and I’m, like, man, you got no idea what's coming. I'll just say it continues to kind of ratchet itself up.

Because when I was thinking about well, why did we create this costume in the first place? And also where my tendencies sort of took us with Fall From Grace, where we were obviously just trying to turn the heat up on the book. And then Tree of Knowledge, where we were trying to kind of replicate that to some extent. They’re both a bit crazy stories, they're totally off the leash in a lot of ways and they just kind of keep piling on things. In some cases I didn't have the control to always keep that as refined as I would like, in retrospect. I’m much better about it now. I found places to channel that same energy. If you think that's something, let's do a bit more. If you think he's getting the beat down here, let's do that a bit more. And that's fun. That's a kind of a fun way to think about a black armor story and a Daredevil in this era story. So I will say that it continues to play itself out and the cliffhangers and energy level between issues really crank things up,in a pretty strong way. And the condensing of it from five to four issues — while it gave Netho a few more headaches — I think ultimately that actually turns the heat up even more because there's very little, if any fat on the story.

Mithra: Nice. So, were there any characters that you were thinking that you can't put them in there now... just way too many guest stars like Fall From Grace?

Chichester: There's a few extra bodies, but they're used, I think, in the right way. I always described Fall From Grace as a fission experiment. It was one proton away from the whole thing just going critical mass. It's like that Chernobyl movie on HBO, when the guys look down into the open reactor core — it's a copy of Fall From Grace there.

In comparison, Black Armor strikes a really good balance and the focus is on the main heavies — and the way that they're treated or they're mistreating people. There are a couple of fun little side nods — fun to me, at least. But they don’t distract. Some other side characters maybe get a little less time than I thought they were going to get, and that's okay. I didn't sweat it. They didn't get as much play or prominence, they were just enough to add the right taste or the right energy or advance the plot and then I moved on from it.

Somebody said, “He's clearly matured as a writer…” And, it’s like, “God, I would hope so!” Otherwise just go, end it now. I tend to walk away from the screen and the keyboard for a while if I feel like I'm forcing things and I just sort of trust where it's going to take me. If it sort of says all right, that's the focus, that's the moment, that's the scene — then let it play out that way, don't try to force things. There's a lot of forcing in Fall From Grace, and there's a lot of forcing not only from what we were forcing on it.

You know this, we've talked about this: this was meant to accelerate the book. Costume change, big guest stars like Venom. Morbius — maybe not so much a big guest star. But perhaps the first "Morbin Time" moment? Looking back — probably could have left him out.

But in this new mini-series it just feels like the characters and moments channels really nicely. I'm really, really happy with all the beats and the lines and the cliffhangers and all that. It's a very 90s, modern 90s story in its way. There's definitely 90s adventure action vibe to it, if you will. That was the assignment, and I understood the assignment.

Mithra: So it sounds like you're enjoying it, instead of it being like, oh gosh, why did I take on this task?

Chichester: Oh yeah, I'm really...

Mithra: Sorry to interrupt, I was going to say also it's a different Marvel too. You know the company, I mean from when you were there, in the 90s, during the speculators time. The different ownership and then going through the bankruptcy and then, coming out of that and then just the popularity of these characters now with the MCU. It must be like a surreal experience for you just seeing the difference. I don't know how I should even ask... are you finding them more supportive of what you want to try here? There are different things that you were trying back then because nobody was paying attention to Daredevil anyway. You were trying to get eyes back on this comic. Now Daredevil has this reputation, just one great run after another and everybody wants to be on this title. Do you see any difference in the way that editorial is just bringing up things for you to try with the character or even promotion? It's a different time, different Marvel. In your mind, what is the difference in a 2023 Marvel than a 1993 Marvel?

Chichester: Great questions. In the past, from the promotional side of things, you knew the challenges we had then. Frank Miller’s book got big “It’s Miller Time” ads, and we got very few promotions, in comparison to that. I'm not saying this from a bitter place, this is just factual.

Scott and I paid for promotion. We got a lot of articles to run in Wizard or something like that, to try to get attention on the book.

For Black Armor, promotion is in today’s space, a different place. Marvel they asked me to do a few things. A nice press release, they arranged for an interview. But I can also do whatever I want.

I'm doing 120 days worth of social posts. From 30 days out, from that first issue until that last issue. There's a post a day. I've set that up so far in the future, everything is just automated. I've got my little toy ads and I've got Netho's art. I've got the little word balloon things I’m doing where I'm teasing out the dialogue.

I planned that out months and months ago. I think it's generating some traction or interest or people are posting it around. That's a place you can play things out. But as much as I’m aware I think Marvel has gotten behind this. They saw some interest in it or there was a commercial aspect to this that they've embraced. They did five variant covers. They announced the second printing the first day, so they must have seen some traction on that. That's pretty good. I don't think they do five variant covers for every book that comes out. Somebody's putting some weight behind it. I appreciate that. Now this is a chance for them to have a second Daredevil title for these four months while things are going on. That's good for them. I think it's a nice whole nostalgic kick. Somebody in Sales ran some numbers or did some algorithm or ran some spreadsheet or something that said there is a bunch of 35 or 40-year-olds who thought this was the coolest shit costume when they were 12, and now they will buy our book. They'll buy all the five variant covers, including the crazy 3D one. Great, that's good for me, right now, in this moment in time. Fortunately, that seems to have tracked well. People seem to be putting it near the cash register. From an editorial point of view it's interesting because Ralph Macchio was the editor. That was our world. Ralph ran Daredevil when we were doing good. We had a great relationship with Ralph and therefore we could define plans out as far as we wanted. We could start to plan a bunch of books that never happened in spin-off series. There was going to be another Elektra series and there was going to be these other Daredevil offshoots. I felt very connected to plans — they never happened, but I felt very connected to a larger Daredevil “universe.” With Daredevil: Black Armor it's very singular: it's this book and only this book. That's it. I've got no insight into anything else. I would talk to Ralph often many times a week sometimes, and certainly if I called him I'd hear back from him right away

These guys have different schedules and they have a lot of other priorities and a lot of other things — again beyond me. I'm not the regular writer, I'm a writer on a mini series. I'm a nostalgia act, I'm very self-aware. This is my Milli Vanilli, Vanilla Ice tour. But they've been nothing except encouraging — from the first time I have talked with them and then when we've gone through changes. Whether it’s been the page count thing, or some character changes that we had to go through, it was never, “Hey it sucks to be you, just go and do it.” It was a detailed explanation, and I felt like we worked it through together.

Right from the start, Devin said take some big swings, use some characters you haven't used before. Have him face threats he hasn't done before. Play this out, play that out, try this, try that. It's just very open stuff. It was never, “Disney's doing this, so you're locked off here and this is gonna be on She-Hulk, so you can't do this.” It was more like, you've got all these toys to play with — why don't you play with them? I didn't feel constrained at all. I'm sure they're people working for Marvel right now that probably have a much different attitude about things, but for me it has been very encouraging. They've been very clear: “We want to be in the Daredevil business with D.G. Chichester.” For at least these four issues I count myself very lucky that they've been very positive and very encouraging about that aspect of it.

Mithra: Well, that's good. I'm glad that at least you're getting editors that are helping you, because in the past you had some editors that did not support you.

Chichester: The only past editorial issue was when Daredevil went over to Bobbie Chase's realm. And that’s not a dig, that’s just the fact. Ralph Macchio in comparison was incredibly supportive and when the book was pulled over into that other office... not supportive and that's a whole different thing.

Mithra: It's sort of like you go to a school and if you have the right teacher you'll do fine otherwise you're not.

Chichester: Yeah, that's good.

Mithra: I haven't really talked with the Editorial team that much, like when I have tried to speak with them they're very busy. What I have heard is that they really challenge the writers to come up with things and help them when they need to get out of a bind. I feel like a lot of people don't understand what editors do. I think they think they just there to fix typos. I feel they're more like a movie producer kind of thing. They're bringing in the people that need to create the story and give them what they need to make it work.

Chichester: Devin offered up early on that I'm gonna make you work for this. In terms of notes, making sure it was in a good place and so on and so forth — I think there was more there than he expected. The notes were largely move it from here to here — and don't forget to make Matt suffer. That was clearly important, but even little things about romance, that I didn't always index on in the right way. Maybe that was a reason for finding something more in Randi than I expected and making her I feel a real character, where she was sort of a fringe character before.

All helpful, but then I ran those through my own discipline and sensibilities to figure out the who and where. So a movie producer sort of role? Sure. And of course finding an artist like Netho. I mean, that's been a gift.

Mithra: I think I've only seen his Predator art. Where did the editors find him?

Chichester: He's been working in comics for 10 years, and different titles and across different publishers. I think the Predator stuff may be the most prominent Marvel stuff he's done and I think Daredevil will be a boon to him, and rightly so. I think now he'll be a real artist, quote, unquote — and not that he's not a real artist clearly. You know how people are right? He's working on an A-list character and suddenly I think it's going to raise his profile. I got a good chance to work with a real talent who's not going to be available now for a few years.

Mithra: Right, yeah, the 10 year overnight sensation.

Chichester: Exactly, exactly, get him to return your calls now. It's like that kid Walt Simonson. You ever seen his stuff? He's really good.

Mithra: I don't know what I was expecting in the story, like where you were gonna go with it and what kind of artwork it would be. But I was pleasantly surprised, just the things that worked and seeing characters again and it didn't feel like it was just shoehorned in like, okay, this takes place between panel three and four of this issue. This is its own story and, as you explained it, it can happen in a sliding scale or whatever the terminology is. It's somewhere in there. Obviously I'll let you know how the rest goes, but the first issue, I think it's bringing in people that didn't really read Fall From Grace and now they'll want to look at that.

Chichester: All these years later, that might be a problem. [laughs]

Mithra: I got the first issue in the mail [shows the comic] and the one that doesn't have any of the logo and the numbering on it, that's on order. Because I have to get every single cover.

Chichester: That one was expensive.

Mithra: Yeah, especially when they have to ship it to me in Canada with the exchange rate and everything. It's too much. And then I also ordered that exclusive cover and I'm still wondering why they don't make an exclusive cover with him and his armor costume.

Chichester: You're talking about the Galaxycon one, right?

In terms of your reaction to the story — I’m pleased to hear that. I wouldn't expect you to just say nice effort Dan, good job, whatever.

I had a good laugh, because I went to the store the day it came out with my mom and my son. A little store, one I hadn’t been to before. I took a copy up to the counter and I was uncharacteristically self-promotional. I pointed to my tiny little name on the cover — I don't think they could have made it smaller. But I said, well, I wrote this — and the guy clearly thought I was delusional. “Really? Good for you, good for you!” [laughs]

I've had a lot of imposter syndrome and I've had a lot of self-analysis — not therapy, but self-analysis — of what works and what doesn't work and the things I've done over the years. And I think there's some really good stuff in my Daredevil. And I know there's also some extraordinary stumbles in places where I try to reach and I didn't quite get there, or I missed an opportunity. If you ask me to go in a "Squid Games"-like competition with somebody, I'll beat myself up before most people will probably get to me.

But this [Black Armor], is really good. I don't know if it's as seminal as taking down the Kingpin or doing the massiveness of Fall From Grace — which, for all its many, many flaws, had also that big event, you're throwing everything at the wall.

But Black Armor is a crackerjack story. And when you finish the whole thing, I'd be really interested to know what you think of the whole run, and I'm sure you will. But it became more than I expected, and I think that's when you let yourself be taken over over by the character. With a great character like Daredevil, that helps you right? Matt's a character, if you give yourself over to him, he tells you where the story is going to go — that’s one of the things I think really that makes this whole story work.

As I said to Devin early on — after I finished laughing, “You want to use *that* costume?” — I said, “Is this story about the black armor? Or does it just happen to feature the black armor?” And his reaction was, no, it just kind of features the black armor, it's just in there. But while I said okay… that's not the way my mind works.

25 years ago I would have done a heavy handed writer's journey, hero’s journey crap to it — some Joseph Campbell over-intellectualized nonsense with it. But going with that flow, it ultimately becomes about something more than just a suit — which gives me a a lot more to work with, and it’s what really makes it fun and satisfying. While, again, the overall story may not be the most seminal of all things — it is most definitely is a thing of itself — which I'm really very, very happy with. I'm finishing the last one now, so it’s very much, “Don't fuck it up, now Dan!” But I’m comfortable that I know when the pieces fit — and when they don’t, I just walk away for a bit.

For example, there's a sequence right now in this last issue, where I hadn't done the dialogue in the plot, I just knew what was happening. But it is really important to sort of get across certain aspects, especially from the sensory aspect. And I didn't have it — and I was trying to force it and I just walked away from it. That was the best feeling, because then it sort of percolated and then it started to come to me and then it was like a line and a word. And when I came back, it was like, yeah, this fits, this is, “Welcome back to the book, Dan, you're in the zone again!”

I really feel the whole thing really is working very nicely. I'll say this to you especially, given I said our old interview was written from a very angry place. And not that our interview was angry, but that I had written it from an angry place of having been taken off the book. That was a very... and this is the most diplomatic way I've come to say this... it was a very inelegant way of having to leave the title. A publisher can take you off the book at any time. They own the character. That's not the issue, it was the way it was handled was very — inelegant.

In this situation, this is very nice to be invited back and being made to feel welcome and being given not just the keys to the character — but also a very particular version of the character which in an odd way belongs to me. (And Scott.) Oddly nobody else wanted this. The editorial office of that time were very clear they didn't want this outfit, this look. They took a whole issue to tramp all over it. But now it’s a different generation and a different appreciation or whatever. And they’ve said, “Here, this is yours…” It's a really nice invitation. I'm really grateful for that. I feel it's like a bit of a gift and I think that has also fueled my enthusiasm and my enjoyment of chewing the scenery and beating up on Matt and the other things that happen as this thing continues.

Mithra: I'm happy that you're happy. We sort of know each other from all these years. So, in all honesty, I'm happy that you're happy. From these conversations we've had, I know what pain you went through with that. You were able to go and come back and it's still there for you. You are showing that you've still got it and you are enjoying it.

Chichester: Thank you man, I appreciate that. Yeah, it's really nice, it's a lot of fun.

Mithra: I don't want to take up all your time. This has been great. Thank you once again. Just all these years of running this website, I'm surprised I'm still doing it. I'm not sure how long I'll keep doing it.

Chichester: It's sort of like an institution, I think, on the web.

Mithra: We'll see what the future holds for me. I'm all different from when you first met me. I was fresh out of school and whatever. Now I'm married with teenagers who are going off to university. But I still enjoy it.

Chichester: And so the joy of things. My kid couldn't have cared less when he was a kid that I had written comics. My wife was always trying to kind of interest him: “Hey, your dad wrote comics.” Zero. But now? He was beaming a mile wide when we went to that store — for me, as much as anything else. Which was just a really nice feeling. That’s sort of what this whole experience gets back to: joy and change and all the other things around it.

(c) 2023 Kuljit Mithra & DG Chichester
Daredevil: The Man Without Fear

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