This past Wednesday saw the final issue of Daredevil, #36. While it’s true that a new Daredevil series starts just one month later with a new #1 and a new volume number, series creators Mark Waid, Chris Samnee and Javier Rodriguez have threaded the needle by providing a gripping story worth the moniker of “finale” while also setting up what comes next in March’s Daredevil #1. Other series and other relaunches may vary, but what the Daredevil creative team have effectively done is given this the feel of a television season finale before they return for next month’s new “season.”
***SPOILERS For those who haven’t read Daredevil #36****
In Daredevil #36, readers saw Matt Murdock put on the stand and forced to fully admit his superhero identity in a place where he can’t argue his way out of it. After the bombshell was dropped, a cascading series of events played out where Daredevil put his origin and his thoughts on secret identity and superheroics in a brand new context, while simultaneously seeing his final battle with the Sons of the Serpent play out. Newsarama spoke with writer Mark Waid, artist Chris Samnee, as well as colorist and back-up artist Javier Rodriguez about this issue, about their partnership, and about what comes next.
Newsarama: Mark, Chris, Javier – thanks for doing this. You three have made Daredevil is one of the most unique and multi-faceted books in superhero comics and this issue, Daredevil #36, really puts an exclamation point on that. This is a real finale of a series or season – not just an arc – and something that couldn’t have just come out of nowhere. When did the ideas for this first pop up to you, and how’d you go about keeping them on track to this issue?
Mark Waid: Honestly? The idea to move to San Francisco came first and was where we've been heading for a while – outgoing editor Steve Wacker and I thought it would be a good way to shake up the book--but the Big Turn of Matt finally owning up in public to his Daredevil identity came very late in the plotting. I knew I wanted Matt on the witness stand, and I knew I wanted him to use the courtroom setting to turn the tables on the Sons of the Serpent, but not until I started working out the beats of the last two issues did it occur to me to take that drastic a step. Wacker backed me all the way, God bless him, because it's a pretty big genie to let out of the bottle, but it's always bugged me that (before my time) Matt of all people just flat-out lied his way out of it when every reporter in New York City was busy outing him as Daredevil. I addressed a lot of the "why" of it in Daredevil #36's Big Speech, but the chance to repair Matt's integrity was irresistible.
Nrama: And now Matt leaves New York, leaves Hell’s Kitchen – to return to San Francisco. That city is big part of Matt’s past, but for many people Hell’s Kitchen dominates Matt’s identity in so many people’s minds. What were the conversations like with others – and the inner workings of your thoughts – about taking Matt out of New York and back to California?
Waid: Again, Wacker and I had been mulling it over for a while. I don't remember which one of us had the idea, but it came out of one of the Spider-Man summits a few years ago, when all of us working on the Spider-books spent an entire day plotting out a run of stories that would have Peter Parker moving to Boston for a long run. The very next day, we all decided for reasons I no longer remember that this was a total dead end and we abandoned the notion, but ever since, Steve and I were always looking for a good excuse to move Matt someplace new. We finalized it at a scotch-whiskey bar in lower Manhattan, but the final flourish was handed to us by Marc Guggenheim, who because I'm an overworked moron I forgot to thank in the #36 credits. It was Marc who pointed out that if we disbarred Matt Murdock in New York State, the only place he could reasonably move to would be California--because it's the only other state in which he's licensed. Thank you again, Marc!
Nrama: Pouring over this issue, that page with the “I Am Daredevil” keep sticking out to me. Can you talk about the genesis of that and how it developed into such a striking composition?
Chris Samnee: Mark's description of the page was really just two sentences. The gist being that the first shot is of Foggy and his nurse watching the TV followed by shots of Marvel Universe characters reacting to the news. Since Matt Murdock has been denying the fact that he's Daredevil throughout the series I really wanted his "I am Daredevil" line to hit home. The big block letters as panels was my addition, as that seemed the best way to really sell that idea.
Waid: Dude, I could point to six pages every issue that are just as delightful a surprise the way Chris interprets them. If you liked that, wait until you see page five of issue #1.
Nrama: Another moment I really enjoyed is that panel where the water pitcher is shot and Daredevil gets that look on his face. There’s a lot of things going on there, but was it something particularly notable for you in working on it or just another panel?
Samnee: I knew that I needed something to get Daredevil to jump for cover behind the overturned table, preferably something that could be done in just a shot or two since panels were piling up as I was laying it out. A gunshot to something nearby seemed a good, quick option to get him going. Not much more to it than that.
Nrama: That moment, as well as the rooftop scene at the end are a few choice examples of the particularly great color palettes at play in Daredevil. Javier, the rooftop scene with that sunset, the blue dress, even the colors of those background buildings. How’d that all come together for you?
Javier Rodriguez: Thanks. I don't know. Maybe because my approach to coloring doesn't come from painting. I'm a former graphic designer, so I use a lot of theory that I learnt at art school which is more focused on shapes and bold colors than hues. Who knows?! There's a lot of basic color theory there, you know, "if you use a cold color for the background go for a hot one in the foreground." The color wheel and stuff like that.
Nrama: People deride comic companies relaunching series for the sales boost and a new creative team, but in this case you’re all sticking with it. Can you talk about using the reality of series relaunches as sales tools with the idea of creating “seasons” so to speak with ongoing series like you are here with Daredevil?
Waid: Given the radical change in status quo, it makes sense to me and doesn't feel gimmicky. In fact, Marvel asked us last year, around the time we were beginning issue 22 or 23, if we wanted to relaunch then as part of the "All-New" initiative, and we said no, thanks--we were just gearing up for the Bullseye run and a reboot would have been painfully artificial. To their credit, the Marvel high sheriffs let us follow our muse. This time, when they again suggested a renumbering, it fit much more snugly with our plans.
Nrama: Daredevil #36 is the end of an era here, but the new #1 is already announced. So was doing #36 a big deal for you, versus doing other issues?
Waid: It was inasmuch as we all wanted to end very, very powerfully and bring our "A" game, the whole team. Not that we don't try to do that every month, but this really did mark the end of an era, and we especially didn't want to fumble at the one-yard line.
Samnee: I certainly wanted to end Volume 3 on a high note artistically but I honestly try to give this title my all each and every month. I wanted to make it my best issue yet while I was working on it... but I'm on Daredevil #2 of Volume 4 and still doing the same.
Rodriguez: The new volume is a new story with the same team. To me, it's especially fun since my first Daredevil comics I read as a child were the San Francisco ones. We'll have to wait and see what Mark has in mind but I'm surely excited.
Nrama: And in this team you have a real jack-of-all-trades with Javier Rodriguez, who colors the entire series while also being the back-up artist drawing issues between Chris’ longer arics. I think it’s not often that you have a colorist who has the ability, knowledge and time to act as an artist on the book as well – but Javier does it seamlessly. Can you talk about having him on board, not just as a colorist but also as the fill-in artist?
Samnee: Javier is the glue that keeps us all together. He does an amazing job of keeping a consistent aesthetic from issue to issue, especially when he's pulling double duty as penciller and colorist. He's always game for trying new things and is really innovative in his page layouts. In his colors he always manages to sell the needed mood while never sacrificing clarity or his patented bright palettes. I think it's really his smart color choices that are helping to keep the title seeming so upbeat, even through the heaviest moments.
Waid:Javier's a true blessing. I'm lucky to work with a lot of outstanding colorists, but extra kudos to Javier for being able to match the tone of the series and of Chris's art perfectly from page to page. His color work is subtle, never over-rendered or distractingly flashy, but bang-on perfect. And as our regular back-up artist, his design skills are spectacular. The way he interprets and choreographs my scripts is just stunning and always a delightful surprise.
Nrama: Javier, how did it call come about that you’d be in this dual role?
Rodriguez: Well, I've a 15 years old professional career as complete comic artist here in Spain. One day, by my surprise, Stephen Wacker noticed this and he asked me to draw a couple of Daredevil books and I couldn't say no. Looks like they liked my work enough to let me draw Daredevil #34 and the new extra 1.50. Hope that I will have a chance to draw more because I've been in love with Daredevil since I was a child.
Nrama:You three, along with letterer Joe Caramagna and editor Ellie Pyle are all returning for Daredevil #1 in March – but Stephen Wacker is not. Can you tell us how big a part of the team Wacker was, and what you’ll personally miss with him gone?
Samnee: Hearing that Steve was leaving was a real punch in the gut.
Waid: He was a huge part of the team. He was the captain. He put the whole damn book together, and as I've said a hundred times, if we'd relaunched Daredevil in 2011 with the wrong artist, I could have turned in the same exact script and no one would have cared. His eye for talent was unerring.
Samnee: I wouldn't have this gig without him. He's always been available if I had a question or concern, did his best to keep me from having downtime and has been super supportive from day one. He was sitting right next to me at the Eisner awards and was the first person to give me a hug when my name was called to come up to claim my award. I'm really going to miss working with him but I wish him all the best in his new position.
Rodriguez: I'm really gonna miss Steve. He was the first person to give me the chance to draw a comic-book here in the States and I'll never forget that. Hope everything goes so well for him in the animation department.
Samnee: As sad as I was to hear that Steve was moving on to animation I was incredibly relieved and excited to hear that Ellie Pyle, who has been assistant editor on Daredevil since the relaunch in 2011, will be stepping in to edit the title in Steve's stead. She's been fantastic from the get-go and I'm sure she's going to continue that streak as takes on the role of lead editor.
Waid: We couldn't be in better hands than with Ellie, who's great with story and loves this book every bit as much as we do. Remember, you can't spell "she’s invaluable" without "Ellie," a sentence I started writing as a joke only to realize right before the words "a sentence" that it's true.