John Romita Jr: Daredevil


"Ralph Macchio offered me Daredevil and said 'You can do whatever you want and do your own finished pencils.' At this point I was so tired of doing breakdowns and not feeling a apart of it, I wanted to do finished pencils. That might be a turning point I can't compare to at any other time in my career, because I was able to suddenly draw again, putting in shadows and shading."

The shading and light lines, as finished beautifully by Al Williamson (inks) and Max Scheele (colors), are a visual hallmark of JRJR's run on Daredevil.

"Ann Nocenti even asked me what I thought about some plots...'Wow! Someone asked me about a plot!'

There are some nice overviews of Nocenti's DD run out there (here's one.) I didn't like it at the time and had given up the book before JRJR came onboard. But looking at it now there's a lot to admire.

There's a lot of inaction, but when the action arrives, it's very cinematic.

As Gerard Jones and Will Jacobs wrote in The Comic Book Heroes: "Ann Nocenti wrote a strange and astonishing run on Daredevil, including a story in which the blind crimefighter journeys to a heavenly realm of 'billboard beauties,' a consumer-culture version of Plato's world of ideals, where women lose their souls to gain plastic perfection."

It comes off a lot looser in the reading than that description.
This evocation of Plato and existentialism might seem obtrusive to audiences today, I don't know. I can remember when stuff like this was always cause for a "in a comic book?" comment from some quarter.
Perhaps things get a little too meta with the all-nude swords-crossing of the Inhumans Gorgon and Karnak.
"Woomb!" Judd Apatow said somewhere that he'd worked out the exact amount of screentime dudity can capture before invoking total discomfort in an audience. Ann and JRJR might have contributed to the research here.
Of course, the point (or part of it) would be that similar amounts of nudity for females not only is taken for granted but is encouraged and internalized, etc. But this is a Scenic Route, not a Thematic Route.)

Back to TCBH: "John Romita, Jr., who left behind the pyrotechnics - and the big money - of X-Men assignments to turn in the most sensitive art of his career." 

Some pyrotechnics, to be sure.


As before I'll skip any covers, but JRJR really outdid himself on so many of these. Chapeau! Here are some title pages I enjoyed from this run:


I've never read each and every Inferno cross-over to know if this is absolutely true, but it seems from my limited overview of the storyline that it's explored most compellingly in Daredevil. Daredevil works himself to exhaustion fighting back against the demon tide, then recuperates in a bar, where he's almost picked up by Mephisto in disguise. 

More on Mephisto in a moment, though.




Many hate JRJR's redesign of Mephisto, but it fit the mood and characterization given for Nocenti's plots. It only lasted for this run of issues, I think, so what's the big deal anyway?

Either the Mephisto stuff (which is much more involved than just a visual redesign) or Typhoid Mary is probably the most memorable feature of this run

Of the two, I prefer the former, but the schizophrenic Elektra-foil of Mary has more ups than downs.
Pretty Blue Velvet in some spots, too.


Oh Daredevil. You madman.


This guy is in everything every other month throughout the 80s. How and why did this happen?

I'm skipping over the whole DD-on-the-road-finding-himself stretch, and I shouldn't but can't cover everything. It's a very interesting run on the book. I only kept up with Daredevil for the Miller/ Jansen era, the subsequent Mazzuccheli era, and the very beginning of Nocenti's run. This might have been the last DD I bought off the stand. By this point the title had gone through so many radical changes over the years that it just confused my adolescent mind. I wish I'd appreciated it more at the time.


"I'll never be able to thank Ralph Macchio enough for getting me on Daredevil. That led to working Frank Miller on Man Without Fear."

Man Without Fear began life as a treatment for a Daredevil TV series that never materialized. In those days, the best DD anyone could envision for television looked like this. It's interesting to compare that clip to this Man Without Fear series, which was later used as a template for the ongoing Netflix show; we all could have gotten something like the Netflix show (which pleases new, old, and even indifferent Hornhead fans) twenty-five years before we did had studio execs not been so narrow-minded on the genre's potential.

Although it didn't see publication until 1993, Miller and JRJR began working on Man Without Fear several years before that. What started as a treatment kept growing until they had a full-fledged limited series on their hands.

Production value. Prestige series.
The action storyboarding is great. Some of the most kinetic comics ever made up to this point in time.
This sequence in particular is great.

Almost put this pic up as my 9/11 tribute today, but the towers aren't quite the focus of the shot. And the text might have confused the message.

"Man Without Fear really cemented people's opinions of me, and after I was through with it, I still continued to do Iron Man for a couple of years, then got a chance to get back on the X-Men again, for another three years. I think. Then I had a couple of personality problems with some guys. I got the worst treatment, the worst I've ever been treated was this period of time. After this one editor got fired and I heard what he had done to me behind my back, it really ruined a lot for me. It took the fun out of it, and I was tempted not to go back to Marvel but to go to DC, as my contract was coming up. * But when artists went over to start Image and left Marvel with few big names, Marvel felt they had to ensure the remaining talent would stay, so they overpaid me. The Kuberts, Bagley, Ron Garney - the company felt they had to cement us guys as Marvel artists, and they gave us great contracts."

* We'll look at all this other 90s stuff in the next post.


Some familiar faces drop in.
We've seen JRJR draw all these guys before, of course, but always nice to see more.
And an appropriate segue to:


So, so much hair!

All quotes from Comic Book Artist #20 and the 30th Anniversary tribute except where noted. 
Next Time: 

See you then.


  1. (1) Right below "But looking at it now there's a lot to admire" -- who is that Daredevil is teamed up with? Black Widow? I love that panel! (I love a lot of these panels, actually, but that one really struck me. Always a sucker for a redhead, even a fake one. Meaning literally not real.)

    (2) "the all-nude swords-crossing of the Inhumans Gorgon and Karnak" -- the HUH?!? I mean, hey, whatever, but ... HUH?!?

    (3) "Of course, the point (or part of it) would be that similar amounts of nudity for females not only is taken for granted but is encouraged and internalized, etc." -- Do you suppose there are lesbian superhero fans who think that comics from this era are just, like, the best thing ever? I think that'd make me pretty happy. As I've probably said before, my answer to this problem is to just objectify everyone. Give ALL audience members something to gawp at! Leave nobody unserved!

    (4) Those "dentist" panels ... yikes!

    (5) Shatner as Daredevil. Where's my Ur-Kindle?

    (6) I never understood the appeal of The Blob. Him and Rhino, any time I saw 'em, I was just like, "Why?!?"

    (7) Hey, I've read "Man Without Fear"! It's great, obviously. Does it seem like Romita leveled up somehow for that one? I mean, what I've seen of his stuff prior to that is good, but here, he's kind of inspired.

    (8) That said, while I mostly like his approach to hair, I'm not a fan of that massive Deanna-Troi-gone-insane pile atop Elektra's head. Looks like La Toya Jackson in an enormous wig.

    (9) Who is that Ultron is about to smooch?

    (10) Matt, you hush about the Bill of Rights. You might be correct, and nobody needs to know that!

    1. (1) It is indeed. It's funny, when they cast ScarJo as her originally, I thought it was just a case of shoehorning her into the MCU by hook or by crook. But when I see how she was drawn here (or in Miller's original run by Jansen) I see a distinct likeness. Good casting choice. Not because she did/ is doing a good job with the role, but because of the physical likeness.

      (2) Yeah, man! A whole lotta dudity in this stretch. Along the lines of your pt. 3, I bet there's something for everybody at this party. And more power to it/ them/ everyone.

      (5) Amen.

      (7) Absolutely. Self-consciously, too, I think, like okay world, here I am, I better make this count.

      (8) True. There are some even worse panels/ examples of this, too. La Toya Jackson and Elektra should never be associated by the viewer, but you're unfortunately very correct.

      (9) She's "Number Nine," the barbie-doll stand-in character from this storyline. A disadvantage of this Scenic Route approach to JRJR's career is I don't get to really dive into the writing, but there's an awful lot going on in these issues even beyond what I briefly describe. The story where Number Nine comes along, for example, starts off as an anti-factory-farming story then slowly turns from a "we're breeding chickens to have bigger wings" to a "we're breeding women to be the ideal wife-slaves" sort of deal, then grows from there into the whole Platonic world of ideals in Hell thing that follows. And in-between (!) you have the ACTS OF VENGEANCE cross-over where Doom reprograms Ultron to go after DD (in keeping with the ACTS general set-up of villains "swapping" the heroes they usually fight in order to win a coordinated victory over the good guys) but instead finds in Number Nine his ideal / flawed mate and DD has to (again!) channel Kirk and get him to Landru/Nomad himself to death.

      Phwew. Good stuff, though! I never thought much of Nocenti's other stuff I've read, but this stretch of DD is ambitious as hell and she mostly pulls it off. (And the art is fantastic.)

      (10) I know, right! Stop it, Matt, STOP IT RIGHT NOW.

  2. That "Man Without Fear" splash page is, in my humble (and biased!) opinion, one of the single greatest pieces of art in all of comics. You've got the awesome kinetic flow, the homages to DD's old costumes, and the big story pay-off of waiting to see Matt in the costume for the first time.

    I actually have a set of original MwoF singles signed by J.R. Jr! I keep intending to find a con or event that Miller is attending so I can have him autograph them as well.

    Regarding Inferno: "As shown in Daredevil and X-Men, most residents of Manhattan treat the demonic invasion as a part of normal life in the city. Buses still run, under an all-volunteer force since the drivers had either been eaten or transformed into demons themselves. Subways function, and people ride them willingly, even though some only go into Hell. Stores still sell products. Helicopter tours run." Ah, comic books, especially from this era.

    Nocenti's run on DD is... definitely unique. Typhoid Mary is an all-time classic DD love interest / femme fatale. She pops up to interesting effect during both the Bendis and Brubaker runs. (Trivia Thursday Fact: Her origin story was ret-conned to her being the hooker Matt knocks out of the window in MwoF.)

    For my money, I'll take a J.R. Jr over someone like Rob Liefeld any day of the week. You look at something like Spawn and it's obvious just how much influence his style had on the industry, especially for artists trying to tell a certain type of story. If you've never checked out Mike Grell's Green Arrow, it's a great companion to this era of DD artistically.

    I absolutely love the first season of Netflix DD, and have been mostly pleased with their efforts since then (although I admittedly still haven't seen Iron Fist). The biggest downside since that first season has been the lack of D'Onofrio's Wilson Fisk. Even in the comics, I always liked the ongoing "chess match" between Matt and Wilson better than arcs about the war between the Hand and the Chaste, etc.

    Man, I miss the philosophizing (ham-handed though it was at times) that you used to get in comics. Everything these days is cross-overs and events and reboots and what-have-you. There's still plenty of silliness, despite what some readers would have you believe. A recent DD villain was a Hand traitor named Tenfingers who had - wait for it - ten fingers on each hand. Just marvelous nonsense!

  3. The art in MAN WITHOUT FEAR is arguably the most iconic DD art going.

    Liefeld blows! 'nuff said.

    I caught the first 8 episodes of DAREDEVIL and keep meaning to catch the rest. They started cranking out so much stuff for Netflix-Marvel that I'll never get caught up, though. What I saw I loved and it really reminded me of both MAN WITHOUT FEAR and some of the original Miller/ Jansen run. I hear they're going to work in BORN AGAIN next - great!

    That's good stuff re: Tenfingers.