For about four years now, writer Mark Waid and his artistic collaborators (mainly the amazing Chris Samnee, as of late) have been crafting what is almost universally hailed as Marvel Entertainment’s best (or one of its best) ongoing super-hero titles, Daredevil. Waid’s novel take on the title character’s sensory powers, his exploration of some more obscure Silver Age characters, the incorporation of the title character into the larger, more wondrous elements of the Marvel Universe and the various artists’ brighter approach to the character to match the fun tone in the writing have all combined to achieve something new and interesting that’s spiced with a love of the old. It’s a wonderful read, and I just finished reading the latest issue — another entertaining and surprising bit of fantastic fiction.
And it just might be the wrong Daredevil comic for Marvel to publish at the moment. (But not really. Stick with me.)
Far be it for me to malign how Waid and company have altered the life of intrepid lawyer and crimefighter Matt Murdock. It’s been applauded and awarded repeatedly, and justifiably so, but someone’s potentially about to make Daredevil’s life complicated. And it’s Daredevil.
In April, the first television show to arise from Marvel Studios’ partnership with Netflix will debut, and it’s another take on Daredevil. I’m a big fan of Netflix’s original programming, a big fan of the super-hero genre and a big fan of Marvel Studios’ output thus far. Now, what little we’ve seen from the show’s production would seem to indicate it’s a darker story, setting the titular character against a world of organized crime, no doubt led by the intimidating Kingpin.
Now, I fully expect this won’t be an entirely new vision of the Man Without Fear. All signs point to the Netflix show being rooted in the darker interpretations and stories that Marvel has published over the years, from Frank Miller’s ground-breaking mix of noir and ninjas, to Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada’s successful launch of the Marvel Knights brand, to the Miller-esque stories that Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker crafted in the opening years of the 21st century.
Should the Netflix show connect with subscribers, the same question arises every time there’s a major other-media adaptations of a comics property: will fans of the show (or movie, whatever the case may be) flock to comics shops and bookstores to explore the character in the original medium in which it was first presented? Certainly, there’s usually some spinoff business in such situations, and there’s no reason to expect that won’t be the case for Netflix’s Daredevil. That leads us to the obvious followup question: what will await potential new readers when they venture forth in search of Daredevil comics?
It’s safe to assume collected editions of Waid’s DD are readily available, but would those be the right books to put into the hands of new customers curious about the blind protector of Hell’s Kitchen? I’m guessing the grittier crime comics — crafted by Miller and David Mazzuchelli, by Smith and Quesada, by Bendis and Brubaker, and by so many more — would be a better fit for those captivated by the upcoming show than the more colorful and carefree tone we’ve seen from Waid, Marcos Martin, Javier Pulido, Samnee and others more recently.
That assumption leads us to the next question: are collected editions of the darker Daredevil currently available for order so retailers can stock up? While such availability information doesn’t appear to be readily available to the public, I checked in with a retailer friend of mine, who informs me there’s an extensive array of DD books available for order from Diamond Comic Distributors at the moment. So that’s good news and an optimal circumstance for the medium and industry to capitalize on a potential opportunity to expand the audience.
Ultimately, the task falls to retailers to get the right books into the hands of the right readers, and this is where the wheat is separated from the chaff. Savvy retailers will lead those potential new Daredevil fans to material that’s in line with their expectations, and there’s a wealth of strong storytelling to further fan the flames of interest in the character. And that, with any luck, will lead those theoretical new readers to related Daredevil material that might not hold true to what they’ve discovered on Netflix, such as the Waid-written books or even older material from the Silver and Bronze ages.
And it’s in that moment, when that reader discovers there’s more than one Daredevil that there’s more than one genre in comics, that there’s diversity. Intellectually, sure, he or she will know it, but it’ll be a chance for such a reader/customer to branch out further, to discover new characters, new creators and new publishers.
Sometimes opportunity knocks, and occasionally, it taps the sidewalk with a cane.
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