Daredevil is a character nearly defined by bad things happening to him — dead girlfriends, secret identity outings, imprisonments — and Shadowland, the recent Marvel Comics event which wrapped early last month, showed some of the worst, with Matt Murdock possessed by the Beast of the Hand, killing Bullseye and turning on all of his superhero pals.
Just how he deals with that is the subject of Daredevil: Reborn, a four-issue miniseries debuting this week from Andy Diggle, writer of Shadowland and the for-now last run on Daredevil, with art by Davide Gianfelice, of Vertigo’s Northlanders. The comic finds Murdock far away from the familiar trappings of Hell’s Kitchen, attempting to reconcile the past and move on with his life. Of course, things are never quite that easy, especially for blind attorneys/costumed vigilantes.
Newsarama talked with Diggle via e-mail about the reception of Shadowland, the decision to kill off Bullseye, what to expect from Reborn, and a bit of a tease for future projects from the writer.
Newsarama: Andy, before we get too much into Daredevil: Reborn, let's step back just a bit to Shadowland — now that the last issue has been out for a bit, what's your reflection on how that experience went, anchoring a Marvel event with multiple tie-ins for the first time in your career? Did it pretty much end up matching your expectations going into it?
Andy Diggle: I was a little daunted going in, I’ll admit, as I’m not exactly a walking encyclopedia of Marvel continuity and I’d never written a big crossover event before. I had originally intended the Shadowland storyline simply to be a part of my regular Daredevil run, but Marvel were keen to spin it out into something bigger and use it to reinvigorate some of the street-level characters. My editor Steve Wacker did a great job helping me keep all the plates spinning at once. I’m never 100% satisfied with my own work, but it came out pretty much as I’d hoped. Billy Tan definitely made me look good!
Nrama: And I think it's fair to say that Shadowland, for whatever reason, was a somewhat polarizing story among fans. How closely did you monitor that reaction, and why do you think it elicited such a response?
Diggle: We knew going in that it was going to piss off some of the fans, but that goes with the territory. Trying to please all of the people all of the time is a guaranteed way to fail, both creatively and commercially. When I first pitched my plans for Shadowland to the senior editors at Marvel, I fully expected them to ask me to rein in some of the darker aspects of Matt Murdock’s fall from grace. But instead, Joe Quesada and Dan Buckley both encouraged me to go even deeper and darker with it. That gave me a lot of confidence, knowing they had my back like that. You know Joe Quesada loves Daredevil, and he trusted me not to screw up his favorite character. Some of the best ideas in the book came from Joe, including the Shadowland castle itself, which became the centerpiece of the whole story. So yeah, we knew the readers would be concerned about how dark the character was becoming, as they should be, just as Matt Murdock’s friends were concerned. But I always knew that after I dropped Matt Murdock into the darkness, I was going to show him climbing his way back into the light.
Nrama: Other than the effects on Daredevil himself, one of the biggest impacts of Shadowland was the death of Bullseye at the end of issue #1. It definitely appeared that he may be resurrected at some point during the series, and I think a lot of people were surprised when he stayed dead. What prompted the decision for you to kill off a character you had spent so much time on, in Thunderbolts and the Dark Reign: Hawkeye miniseries? Was it simply the best way to illustrate what Matt Murdock was capable of in that state?
Diggle: Personally I thought Bullseye had it coming! I’d already written him doing some pretty horrible things in the pages of Thunderbolts and Dark Reign: Hawkeye, and it really felt like somebody ought to do something about him once and for all. I wanted to kick off Shadowland with Daredevil crossing that line, establishing this new uncompromising direction. And of course, like Shadowland itself, or Civil War, I knew it would be divisive. Some characters (and readers!) would think Matt Murdock had gone too far, while others would think it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do, taking out a mass-murdering psychopath for the public good. But I wanted that moment to be shocking. It was a shame to see it plastered all over the publicity material, although I can understand why Marvel did it – it sold more copies.
The thing about company-owned characters is, they never stay dead. You’re hard-pressed to find a character who hasn’t come back from the dead at some point. So I deliberately pulled a bait-and-switch, making it look like the Hand were going to resurrect Bullseye — as they did in Elektra Lives Again, let’s not forget — but then interrupting them before they could pull it off.
So yeah, I killed Bullseye. Place your bets now for how long he stays dead!Nrama: And beyond the creative implications of a move like that, can you clue us in a little bit as to what goes on behind the scenes when a major player like that is taken off the board? Was it such a vital part of the series all along that it was an easy thing to get approved, or does it take some level of convincing editorial at Marvel?
Diggle: Honestly, I was very pleasantly surprised when Marvel basically just said, “If you want to kill him off, go for it.” No hesitation. I think the character had maybe been a bit over-exposed during Dark Reign, so people were ready for him to go away for a while.
Nrama: It seems that ever since Daredevil became part of Marvel Knights in 1998 with the Kevin Smith/Joe Quesada "Guardian Devil" run, that things have progressively gotten worse and worse for Matt Murdock. Is it fair to say, then, that Shadowland was a bottoming out for the character, and that Daredevil: Reborn is the beginning of things finally getting a bit brighter for the poor guy, and maybe shifting tonal gears a bit?
Diggle: Reborn certainly isn’t as dark as Shadowland, but it’s no picnic for Matt. But yeah, it’s definitely a different tone, a slower pace — at least, at first. It starts off with this slow, gentle introduction, very much a classic Western feel, with Matt as the mysterious stranger who walks into town. But once the action starts up, it pretty much accelerates right to the climax. After we put him through the grinder for the past couple of years, Daredevil: Reborn is Matt Murdock getting his mojo back.Nrama: Moving to Daredevil: Reborn itself, the solicitations have remained pretty vague for the first three issues, other than it looks like Matt being called into action when he least expects it. What can you tell readers about the challenge he faces, and how it helps him on his journey?
Diggle: The solicitations were vague because they came out before Shadowland had finished, and we didn’t want readers to know whether Matt would survive! The fans I met at cons said they were loving the book but were really worried I was going to kill off Matt. So, y’know, I kind of deliberately left them hanging. You want to find out, read the book!
But yeah, Matt survived – although he’s so guilt-ridden about all the awful things that happened during Shadowland, he has renounced Daredevil and fled New York. He thinks he doesn’t deserve to be a hero any more, and he just wants to lose himself in the wilderness while he gets his head straight. He isn’t looking for trouble, but trouble finds him anyway, in the form of a corrupt small-town police force and the killer they work for, a mysterious figure known as Calavera. Complications, as they say, ensue. “Complications” in this instance meaning “extreme violence.”Daredevil: Reborn #2
cover.Nrama: It also looks like this story finds Matt completely removed from his usual surroundings — so does that mean no chance of checking in with someone like say, Foggy, in these four issues?
Diggle: Matt has run away from his friends — he’s too guilt-ridden to face them. But never say never.
Nrama: You've stated that this is your last Daredevil story. For a writer working in a shared universe, it always seems fairly rare to get a chance to truly end things the way you want to; how valuable is that kind of opportunity? And would you say that Reborn has been the ending you've been working towards?
Diggle: It’s very satisfying being able to end my run the way I always planned. It would have been awful to put Matt through the Hell of Shadowland without being able to redeem him afterwards. I’ve had the final scene mapped out in my head for a long time, and it was a pleasure to finally write it. To get Matt back where he belongs.Daredevil: Reborn #3
cover.Nrama: Speaking of brightening things up, from the preview pages released last week already display a contrast to much of the last 10 years or so of Daredevil, artistically — it's much brighter and sunnier than we've seen in the recent past on the book. How much of that is a deliberate stylistic choice? And how has working with artist Davide Gianfelice been?
Diggle: I knew I wanted a crisp, clear-line style for Reborn to differentiate it from the gritty noirish murk of New York stories, and that’s why I requested Davide Gianfelice. I was flattered when he said he wanted to work with me. I’ve been a huge fan ever since I first saw his work on Brian Wood’s Northlanders, and the work he’s doing on Reborn is just amazing. The fluidity and movement in his action pages are just incredible. I’m hoping he’ll be able to draw my next Marvel book!
Nrama: Finally, with your Daredevil run wrapping, what else do you have in the works that readers should know about? There's Astonishing Captain America out in the summer with Adi Granov — anything else people should be on the lookout for?
Diggle: I’m still Marvel exclusive, but my Vertigo Crime graphic novel Rat Catcher hits stores January 19. It’s a tight little action thriller about the hunt for a hitman who specializes in silencing snitches in the Witness Protection Program. I’m really proud of that book. I think they’re previewing it in some Vertigo titles like Hellblazer.
The next thing I’m lining up is closer in tone to The Losers than anything I’ve done at Marvel, although I can’t say too much about it just yet. Not a superhero book, but still set in the Marvel Universe and very heavy on the action. Gritty, gun-toting, tough-guy action. I’m having fun with this one!What would you like to see from a reborn Daredevil?