Certainly not talking about myself. But that red suited lawyer from Hell's Kitchen himself, Matt Murdock, Daredevil.
Having been an off and on fan of the character over the years, I certainly know enough about him to talk about. The Miller run was an amazing feat for the era it was published in and made the character certainly freeze in a certain way. By freeze, I mean, how people perceive the character. More noirish and darker than other contemporaries of the time. And away from the laughing devil-may-care character Stan Lee wrote.
It was brilliance. But as Miller and eventually Mazzuchelli faded, so did my interest. I kept up with the character from time to time, (and cringed with that early 90s black armor look). And loved when Frank returned with JR Jr. for MAN WITHOUT FEAR. But never has the character resonated more to me than the last couple of years.
Thank you Mark Waid and Chris Samnee for that.
Just finished reading the last issue by those very distinguished creators and as bittersweet as it was, I was left satisfied. They crafted a wonderful story and their time with Matt was certainly defining. Something a man in his early 40s didn't think he'd ever say about mainstream comics again.
Why did it hit me so hard?
I think what Waid was going for a redefinition of aspects of Daredevil a lot thought could never have been used again. And he did it organically and with full utilization of the characters past. No reboot or retake needed.
Maybe the fact I was in a lot of transition moments myself, did I key in with what Mark and Chris were trying to do with Matt. I have had my fair bits of depression and alienation fits over the years. Most of it stemming from not enjoying my day job and the fact I never had time to draw and make comics like I always wanted to. As the years flew by, it worsened. Worse even more so, was the fact I KNEW I was generally my own worst enemy and making things bad on myself. So when I saw what avenue Mark was aiming for in his version of Matt Murdock maybe subconsciously I felt a touch of the familiar.
Right before I started reading Waid's run, I was kind of fed up with my own self sabotaging ways. But I didn't know how to escape it. I started having panic attacks, the depression worsened. I found myself incapable of working. I didn't know what I was going to do. Went on for months. Took a lot of soul searching, but in the corner of my office I kept my comics portfolio. Within, held everything I've ever drawn and created. Usually I didn't open it much. Years of pushing down the want to create comics, had made me stay away. However, one day, after a particularly hard hitting panic attack I opened it up. Instead of making me feel bad for all the years I was throwing away not creating comics, it made me feel good for the memories of how happy it made me creating each drawing.
My comic is a great reflection on the relationship I had with my Pop. I spent so much time with him, he taught me how to be a man by example. And such, I did inherit by dna or nurture some of his mannerisms. Namely the way he dealt with things around him. Translation: he didn't. He was a man of the 1940s. You didn't put your feelings out there for the world to see. You kept them to yourself and went on. That's how a man is supposed to be. And so then, did I.
And then he wasn't here. When I lost him a lot of things went through my head. While he knew I loved him, there were other unresolved things I never got to say. That weighed on me.
I think it was the first break in my resolve to keep up appearances.
That day I opened that portfolio I expected to feel guilt that I never got to show him my comic. Instead I saw my drawings and realized why I wanted to do the book at all. He made me believe I could.
So that started it. My want to create comics again. And I wanted to bring MAN IN THE MASK with me. The panic attacks lessened. My depression wasn't as hard edged as it had been. I had a goal. But as much as I wanted to get MAN IN THE MASK out there, my love of masked characters and those type of comics has certainly dwindled. Not because of me mind you, but of the way they were being treated by their corporate masters. THE NEW 52 pretty much did my love for the DC characters away. I hadn't touched a Marvel book since Peter David's Hulk run. And while the indy press certainly kept my comics addiction alive, I was just missing a good old fashioned super hero comic to look forward to every month.
And then I found Daredevil by Mark Waid.
I had seen rave reviews of it. But since I wasn't collecting main stream books any more, didn't buy it. But with my renewed feelings of creating my own comics I sought out new books to try out. I asked my wife to get every trade paperback she could for Christmas that year. That's all I wanted. Within the first book, they had me. And when Chris Samnee joined the crew, I was theirs hook, line and sinker.
I was very surprised to find Mark was re-establishing Matt as a positive person in a very human and not very comic booky way. He used all the bad stuff that Matt had endured and used it to craft his version. Mark's Matt was a guy that was viewing his life from a distance and didn't like what he saw. The entire run was Matt trying to do the very opposite of the things he had done in the past with success and failure.
I saw a lot of reflection in Matt of what I was going through. He was trying to cast off the past and be maybe the person he always felt he was. That connected me instantly.
While Matt and Foggy were always good friends in the other versions I've read, they were never as tight as this book. And Foggy's cancer brought them even closer. Instead of a femme fatale, Mark chose to pit Matt against a strong independent woman in Kristin. No sign of danger or trying to kill him from her, and their relationship grew very naturally.
While Matt would fall occasionally because of the character traits some of us can't run away from, he always got back up.
For every heroic action Matt accomplished, we got to see him in his lesser moments, just a man collapsing in bed, weighted by his actions and life.
Luckily I have been able to see both Mark and Chris of them over the last year and a half to tell them how much I had been enjoying Daredevil. Something I got to share with my son (Chris even drew a Daredevil profile in one of our hardbacks). We no longer will be fighting over who gets to read it first. But we both agreed how good it was. It will be missed. But at least we got to read that version of Daredevil at all.
And so, reading this book, aided in my belief that maybe my little masked man book wouldn't look so off putting on the shelves with the violent, over saturated with whatever books. Maybe someone else is looking for pure escapism and fun from their masked men, with a little drama to help push the story.
So while Matt Murdock, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee didn't reignite my want to produce the book you may be holding in your hands right now, they certainly helped keep the fire going while I was producing it. They helped, for maybe just one moment, just enough of one, to make me the man without fear to sit behind a table and ask someone if they'd like to read MY book.
A lifelong comics fan, Mike W. Belcher is the writer/artist of MAN IN THE MASK. A story he's had with him for over 20 years.