To this day, I continue to come across comics that had intrigued me as a child. Earlier this year, at the San Diego Comic-Con International, I finally found an affordable copy of this one, DAREDEVIL #42. I first saw this cover reproduced in the first volume of THE STERANKO HISTORY OF COMICS back in the mid-70s. Having read it, it’s a hell of a comic book.
This issue clearly signified a shift in the nature of the series from a super hero strip into something else (which isn’t surprising, given that super heroes were dying out in 1947). The story opens with Bart Hill being photographed by a sleazy reporter while changing out of his Daredevil costume. Not only doesn’t Hill try to prevent the story from running, he both actively admits the truth of it, and then enters into a partnership with the reporter, now identified as Kilroy, to produce a new crusading newspaper dedicated to the principles he fought for as a crimefighter. The balance of the tale recounts the failed attempts by corrupt rival newspaper publisher Grimes to discredit both the new venture and Bart Hill.
While not originated by him, DAREDEVIL was guided through most of his publishing history by Charles Biro. Biro believed in the power of comics both to teach and to guide young minds, and so he infused his stories with a clear moral element. He also put the emphasis on characterization over action or violence. His books were often little morality plays, in the tradition of the more public-minded B-pictures of the era.
John Romita often used to say that Biro and DAREDEVIL were very much the Marvel Comics of their day in terms of their style and content. DAREDEVIL ran a regular letters page, one of the earliest in comics history, through which Biro communicated with his fans in Stan Lee-style. He even offered a prize of $1.00 for any letter he printed–in an era when the cover price of the magazine was only a dime. And a glance at the cover image above conveys the similarities to Marvel’s own later covers, with big arrows of dramatic copy that almost scream at the reader to buy the book.
DAREDEVIL lasted longer than most comics of the era, all the way to 1956 (though Daredevil himself had largely been written out of the strip by the end of the ‘40s, supplanted by his popular sidekicks, the Little Wise Guys.)