Some things are so good it hurts, especially in comics. Some comics are just so good that they become this white-hot blind spot of quality that make it hard for people to realize how good it is. The Walking Dead has that problem; so does Saga. And so does Daredevil. Since its relaunch in July 2011, Daredevil has won universal acclaim and become Marvel’s most critically acclaimed title in its line by far, with Waid earning the “Best Writer” Eisner award along with numerous others for the title. And last year it stepped up another notch when Chris Samnee joined the book, adding a stable, humorous and substantive nature to the book.
After some particularly harrowing events in Matt Murdock’s life recently, this past week’s Daredevil #30 brought back some of that light-hearted, jaunty gleam with the introduction of an alien and the sentinel of the spaceways, Silver Surfer. Never one to bow to expectations, Waid and Samnee brought the cosmic herald of Galactus down to earth and made him a quirky guest star without missing a step. Newsarama spoke with the award-winning duo about this great one-off issue, as well as the future of the book from old foes like the Jester to a milestone coming in 2014.
Nrama: When I saw the cover for last week’s Daredevil #30 with Silver Surfer, it was quite the eye-opener. For those that haven’t been to their stores or downloaded it digitally yet, what can readers expect with this issue?
Samnee: Well this is certainly an issue you can judge by its cover. The Man Without Fear vs. Silver Surfer. It's a fun one.
Waid: It's pretty offbeat given where we've been with the series so far. We've not done science-fiction space-opera material in the book yet, and this touches on that--but on a street-level, human way. (So far, better to bring those elements down to Daredevil's level rather than try to throw him that far out of his element.) The impetus really came simply from wondering how Daredevil's senses would perceive the Surfer - and that alone led us to a story.
Nrama: In this issue, an alien name Ru’arch comes to Earth and pulls these two together. Can you tell us about Ru-arch’s predicament?
Waid: Ru'arch, a bizarre alien man, has come here seeking asylum From the Surfer - and he turns to Matt because Matt once gave a half-serious speech on "alien rights" that got back to Ru'arch's race, and...well, better you read about what happened next.
Nrama: So, let’s jump right into it – what’d you think when you learned you’d be drawing Silver Surfer in a Daredevil book?
Samnee: I was excited! We'd just come off a pretty heavy few issues and I had a good feeling about the whole thing. Especially when Mark told me what he had in mind for the board.
Nrama: Last time we saw Silver Surfer and Daredevil together was in an issue of Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr.’s Daredevil in 1990 facing down with Mephisto. I know this might be a fool’s errand, but any connection?
Waid: Nope. What's interesting is that, in doing all the research, as near as I can tell, all their previous meetings have been super-fleeting (as in that Daredevil issue you cite, where they don't really even interact). Daredevil and Spider-Man guest-starred in Silver Surfer a decade or so ago, but then were dealing with a weird doppelganger - so I can't find a single panel where the two have ever actually exchanged dialogue. That opened up lots of possibilities.
Nrama: I’m really impressed with how you handled drawing someone so huge a presence in such a down-to-earth book like Daredevil. You’ve balanced real world events with some crazy things before like in Thor: The Mighty Avenger, but how’d you approach introducing someone so alien to the style and tenor of Daredevil?
Samnee: Honesty this is just one giant fictional world in my head. There's really no stylistic difference between how I approach drawing Matt and Foggy in their office or Daredevil jumping out a window to tussle with Silver Surfer. I'm just trying to hit emotional beats and make the story as immersive an experience as possible though a series of static images.
Nrama: Silver Surfer comes to Earth – and Matt Murdoch’s doorstep – in pursuit of an alien named Ru’ach, seeking asylum. First off, Ru’ach’s got a great design – what were the conversations/notes like between you and Mark to figure out what he’d look like?
Samnee: I think I asked Mark how big a guy he had in mind, if he was thinking humanoid, big and bulky or kind of non-imposing and skinny. That's really about it. I scribbled in a design in the margins of the script, used that design in my layouts (all the while tweaking it throughout the layout stage) and locked in the final design with Mark, Steve Wacker and Ellie Pyle before I started inking pages.
I'm pretty happy with the li'l guy. His final look has bit of gangly Gil Kane alien in him, little bit of Alex Toth's "Daddy & the Pie" and a lot taken from the armor of an elephant beetle.
Nrama: This issue seems to really hammer home this series' continued work to expand the perceived expectations of what a Daredevil story can be, which had been restricted somewhat by decades of gritty, street-level stories. What do you think of the continued expansion of the idea of what a Daredevil story can be, and did you have any apprehension about taking it to Marvel as your idea for a story?
Waid: No apprehension - I love the way that Steve Wacker and Ellie Pyle will always give me enough rope to hang myself. The general process is this: when we write solicitations five months out, I say "Ooh! How about the Silver Surfer! I bet we could make that cool!" Then, weeks later, when it's time to submit the script and the deadline is looming, I call Steve in a panic: "How am I gonna fit Silver Surfer into a Daredevil story?" And he just laughs. But so far, so good...
Samnee: I'm loving it. There seems to be this pre-conceived notion that Daredevil has to be street level grim and gritty but that's far from the case. A lot of amazing creators have done great stuff holding to that but there's no reason we can't try something different. And besides Mark has such a firm grasp on the characters that there is absolutely no story we can't tell in Daredevil these days. Heck, the Legion of Monsters will be popping up soon if that tells you anything [smiles].
Nrama: Speaking of the future, next month we see the return of long-time Daredevil foe the Jester. There have been several Jesters in comics lore – which one is he?
Waid: The original--the one that has plagued Daredevil with media-manipulation crimes over the years, the one that the Superior Spider-Man just thrashed royally a few months back. Jester's out for blood.
Nrama: In previous appearances, the Jester has shown himself not only to be a foe of Daredevil but also of Foggy Nelson, even undermining an attempt by Foggy to run for political office once. Does Foggy need to start worrying about himself come September?
Waid: "No comment," he said ominously.
Nrama: It’s sometimes hard to take a character seriously when they’re wearing a harlequin outfit – so why should Daredevil fret about the Jester?
Waid: I figure if Daredevil doesn't really know what he looks like, why should it worry me?
Nrama: Last question, guys -- I know it’s a ways down the road but you’re less than a year away from the 50th anniversary of Daredevil’s debut back in 1964. Any plans you can talk about?
Samnee: That'd sure be a smart move, wouldn't it?
Waid: Nothing we can talk about, but concrete plans afoot. Big things. We're not about to let that landmark come and go without acknowledgement!
Samnee: Guess you'll have to wait and see [winks].