Comics

The Daredevil You Don't Know Part 3: Devil Boomerangs Back

J. C. Maçek III

To Be Continued...” springs back into action with Daredevil, the remarkable Bart Hill, supplanted by history, reinstated by fate.

Continuing the story of “T.O.D.D.” (The Original Daredevil) requires a rewind to the history of comics where a very different superhero met his cancellation and resurrection. Ever hear of “Shazam”? What's he look like? If you said something along the lines of “Like Gandalf.”, then you're right. If you said “He's a big dude in red with a lightening bolt on his chest.”, then you haven't paid much attention.

The “Big Red Cheese” with the gold lightening emblem on his chest, as most every real comic fan knows, is Captain Marvel. The wizard who gives young Billy Batson the powers of Captain Marvel every time he speaks the wizard's name is “Shazam!” It's easy to understand the confusion. Ever since the 1970s, the comics, DVD releases and TV shows (yes there have been two) have carried the name “Shazam”, not “Captain Marvel”. Why can't DC Comics use the character's name on his own comics?

Well, it's actually DC Comics' fault. Captain Marvel was a Fawcett Comics creation that DC felt was a bit too close to their own hero Superman (especially once “The Marvel Family” started outselling Superman's titles each month). So DC did what any good sport would do and sued Fawcett for copyright infringement. After a 12 year legal battle, Captain Marvel was no more. But with the same assault on comics that closed Daredevil's publisher Lev Gleason Publications hitting the entire industry, superhero titles were on the decline anyway.

That is until the Silver Age truly took hold. When Timely Comics changed their name to match one of their earlier golden age successes “Marvel Comics”, they began to make a killing in the 1960s both by resurrecting their older heroes (like Captain America) and creating new ones (like the Fantastic Four). In 1967, one of their new characters took on the name of Daredevil, usurping the name from the Golden Age's Bart Hill, who was no more. Similarly, in 1967, Marvel decided it was just obvious that they should have the copyright on the name “Captain Marvel” and, thus, they created their own character, copyrighted the name and set about their task. And why not? After ceasing publication, Fawcett's copyright lapsed on that name. Thus, when DC decided it was ready to ride the Superhero wave with their own licensed Captain Marvel comics, they found themselves decidedly screwed. Marvel wouldn't allow another comicbook with “Captain Marvel” in the title (or, in fact, “Marvel” at all), so DC had to publish its comics (and their adaptations) under the only other name that related to the character “Shazam!”. And thus years of naming confusion were ensured.

Why am I telling you this? Because in the meantime, the copyright on Lev Gleason's Daredevil had also expired, thus leaving the character (if not the name) in the public domain. That's right, true believers, anybody (even you) can legally publish stories with that character. So go do it. The catch? Much like Captain Marvel and Shazam, the name “Daredevil” can't appear on the cover of said comics.

Thus, since the late 1980s, the remarkable Bart Hill has appeared in comics published by other companies. AC Comics brought Daredevil into their universe, but renamed him “Reddevil” (and, alternately, “Red Devil”). Continuing that trend, Daredevil showed up in Roy Thomas' Alter Ego from First Publications, there renamed “Doubledare”.

So far, the only comic company with the cojones to publish Daredevil under his original name (again, in interior pages) has been the mighty Image Comics, who brought back Daredevil as part of their “Next Issue Project”. There, Daredevil appeared in Silver Streak Comics #24 which continued the comic magazine Daredevil first appeared in. Erik Larsen later brought back both Daredevil and his “Little Wise Guys” buddies as bona fide major supporting characters in his own Savage Dragon comic book. Outside of the gridded page, Daredevil's adventures have continued in prose format in Wild Cat Books' Legends of the Golden Age.

Perhaps the most notable resurrection of the character came at the hands of painter extraordinaire Alex Ross, who teamed with writer Jim Krueger to reintroduce Bart Hill as “The Death Defying 'Devil” in Dynamite's Project Superpowers series. Although the character's name is not (directly) used, his history and hero affiliations remain intact and the character has never looked better.

As an interesting side note, even Marvel Comics has done their own Daredevil homage when their own Matt Murdock donned a hybrid costume incorporating his own Daredevil look with Bart Hill's color scheme.

Yes, it's that hard to keep a good Daredevil down. The character made a hell of a mark in his own time (I can't stress enough the impressive impact of six million copies per month) and he's doing a hell of a job making his comeback not for one publisher, but for many. May I advise you to make your own version right now? Just remember you can't call the comic itself “Daredevil”, only the character. So think of your own snappy title. And might I recommend “T.O.D.D.”?

And so we've proven that even the fallen and supplanted character of Daredevil is To Be Continued... What exciting revelations will I have for you next week? Watch this Space and find out... if you DARE!

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