Here’s another book I picked up from the drugstore’s Big Bin of Slightly-Older Comics, affidavit return copies that should have been destroyed, but which were instead sold off in cut-rate lots. A bit of the double-dipping that helped make the comic book industry close to insolvent during this era. But a benefit to me as I’d get interested in assorted Marvel titles and characters, as it was a ready source of recent back issues. In this case, I had started reading DAREDEVIL, and so this was an opportunity to experience one of his earlier adventures.
This wound up being an issue that I enjoyed a great deal, despite the fact that it’s filled with absolutely absurd stuff–and really, maybe even because of that. By this point, Stan Lee and Gene Colan had jelled into an effective team–and Gene’s proclivity for not always pacing his stories properly and Stan’s choice to go wildly over-the-top with certain elements of his plotting made DAREDEVIL an off-beat stew of zaniness and mayhem. Here, Colan is inked by Frank Giacoia, an accomplished inker who gave Colan’s more ethereal and shadow-focused work a bit of welcome solidity.
While this was effectively a self-contained story, it did continue from the previous issue, where Daredevil had battled his old foe the Stilt-Man, who had escaped with the aid of another thorn in DD’s side, the Masked Marauder, a mystery villain who had been plaguing Hornhead for a number of issues and whose true identity remained a mystery. As this issue opened up, Daredevil is on the hunt for the Stilt-Man, but instead he runs across Spider-Man in a fight with a trio of gunsels. Dropping down, Matt deals himself into the conflict, much to the consternation of the Wall-Crawler, who is positively a jerk to the sightless adventurer. After confirming that Spidey hasn’t seen any sign of the Stilt-man, Daredevil takes off again.
Elsewhere, in hiding, the Masked Marauder shows off his helicopter’s new disintegrating force-field to his new ally, and the Stilt-Man responds by demonstrating his own prowess. As hard as it may be to accept today, it’s honestly true tat this guy was a regular and recurring villain in the Marvel Universe for decades–despite the fact that his main ability is to elongate his legs into stilts several stories tall. But later on in this issue, we’d get to see what the Stilt-Man could really do. For now, the Masked Marauder has determined, based on his prior confrontations with Daredevil, that DD must really be somebody who works at Nelson & Murdock’s law office–and so he proposes that they abduct the three-person staff (Matt, Foggy and Karen Page) so that they can determine which one is really Daredevil and finish them off.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that this story was published during the period when, in order to safeguard his true identity with Foggy and Karen, Matt had made up the story that he had a twin brother, Mike Murdock–and that it was Mike who was really Daredevil. This is important here (and not just because of the title of the story) because once Matt, Karen and Foggy are captured by the two villains, Matt immediately gives up “Mike’s” true identity to them in a gambit to gain an advantage over his foes. And he does–armed with this knowledge, the Stilt-Man heads out to try to hunt down Mike Murdock, leaving Matt with only one enemy to contend with.
Even knowing that Daredevil is Mike Murdock, the Stilt-man doesn’t have clue one as to how to locate him–so he decides to burglarize a jewelry store in the hopes of luring Daredevil to him. A rocket scientist this guy was not. And who should show up in response to the alarms than out guest-star Spider-Man? Spidey and the Stilt-Man engage in a multi-page fight, and it’s to Spidey’s everlasting shame that not only does he not clobber the Stilt-man in about two seconds (maybe try pushing him over, Spidey!) but in fact, the Stilt-Man is able to catch the wall-crawler off-guard with a faceful of gas, incapacitating Spider-Man while the Stilt-man makes his getaway. Truly, this was the Stilt-Man’s finest hour.
Back at the helicopter, the Masked Marauder has decided that he doesn’t really need his three hostages after all, and moves to start dumping them out the door and into the disintegrating force-field that surrounds his craft. This is the opportunity that Matt has been waiting for–he goads the Marauder into tossing him out first, after knocking him into the force-field controls and deactivating them, then grabs onto the landing gear, shedding his outer clothes to return moments later as Daredevil to take the fight to the Marauder.
And fight they do! It’s another big multi-page battle that seems expansive despite the fact that there can’t be all that much room in that helicopter. At a key moment, Daredevil reveals that he’s figured out that the Masked Marauder is really Nelson & Murdock’s landlord Frank Farnum–which is a meaningless revelation in this issue, since Farnum wasn’t ever set up in it. He was also just about the only possible suspect in the cast, so I doubt this was much of a surprise to the readers. Anyway, as the two combatants tussle, Farnum reactivates his helicopter’s force-field, and only moments later winds up falling out of the helicopter himself, becoming totally disintegrated. The menace of the Masked Marauder is ended forever–at least for now.
But there’s still the Stilt-Man to deal with, right? And that guy just beat Spider-Man, so he must be riding high. And this is where Colan’s odd pacing rears its head in this issue. Having used up so much space already on the prior Spidey-Stilty and DD/Marauder fights, Colan is out of pages–and so when Daredevil and the helicopter come upon the Stilt-Man, he’s making his way across the river–and the water completely short-circuits his armored rig as soon as he tries to fire off one of is weapons. It’s an ignominious defeat for the once-glorious Towering Titan (and it looks to me as though Colan intended for DD to have diverted Stilt-Man’s ray gun with his Billy Club cable, causing him to blast himself–but Stan chose to script this moment differently.) And that’s where the issue wraps up. The whole thing is completely bonkers, but in an extremely fun and engaging manner, and I completely enjoyed it.