When the final issue of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s Daredevil hits stands later this week, it will signal the end of a landmark run loved by fans and critics alike. Seen by many as a return to form for the Man Without Fear, Waid and Samnee’s Daredevil brought a sense of fun back to the character that had been missing since Matt Murdock’s earliest days.
While the series has gotten darker again in the lead-up to its finale, Samnee promises that Daredevil #18 will provide a fitting end to three years of stories characterized by Matt Murdock’s brighter outlook on life.
Newsarama spoke to Samnee about the upcoming finale, gaining insight into just how Matt Murdock wound up caught between Kingpin and the Shroud, whether Matt will ever finish his autobiography, and how – and if – everyone will make it out intact.
Later this week, look for the second part of our interview with Chris Samnee looking back at his entire Daredevil run with Mark Waid. And, in the meantime, check out a collection of behind-the-scenes art from Daredevil right here.
Newsarama: Chris, this final Daredevil arc truly seems to be the culmination of all the themes you and Mark Waid have explored in this volume. What can you tell us about how you - and Matt Murdock - arrived at this point?
Chris Samnee: I think it started all the way back at the beginning of Mark’s run, when he and Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin began the new direction with volume three, with a new outlook for Matt. And it all just caught up with him. Ever since the beginning, it’s slowly taken another bite, and another bite every time he’s fought another villain. Matt is finally coming to grips with his depression and everything that he’s been putting a smile on top of, and his world is crumbling down around him.
Nrama: The last several issues of Daredevil have seen the return of Ikari, who is (or was?) something of an anti-Daredevil. Tell us about the genesis of the character, and how you went about designing him.
Samnee: The original idea was that since we were already doing Bullseye who was, from way back when, when Miller first started doing it, meant to be the antithesis of Daredevil, we wanted to try another opposite for Daredevil, like his literal opposite number. And I just started fooling around with robot designs, and giant guys, and little guys - just throwing everything at the wall and seeing what stuck.
Finally, I did a ninja Daredevil, and for some reason that just clicked. And we just started calling it “Ninja Daredevil,” and Mark wanted to come up with a name that had two I’s in it, because Ikari could see. That was just a little joke, but that’s where his name came from. It just started out as trying to find the opposite of Daredevil. A new take on a Bullseye type.
Nrama: So he kind of evolved from your design, then.
Samnee: Yeah. We had the idea of what we wanted to do with the character, and Mark had the line “Try the red one.” in his mind before he ever had the character or story plotted out. We knew that we needed a new character for this since Lady Bullseye was also being used in that arc; so I sent him a few designs and we landed on the ninja one. The ninja stuck-- I mean, Daredevil and ninjas go together like peanut butter and jelly - and so Ikari was born.
I’m glad that we finally got the chance to do a second fight between Matt and Ikari though. We were really proud of what we did with him, and it was really well received by readers, so before we snuck out the door with #18, we thought “Maybe we can squeeze one more fight in before #18.” We had a laundry list of things that we wanted to get in before we wrapped everything up but Ikari was pretty high on the list for me. I wanted to do the Matador, and it was only for a page or so, but I managed to squeeze in a quick appearance.
There were a few things that didn’t quite make the cut, but you’re never gonna get to do every single thing off your bucket list. But hey, maybe one day I’ll come back around to Daredevil and finally check off the few things that didn’t quite fit. Daredevil is a hard character to completely walk away from.
Nrama: Speaking of characters you did get to use, you’re also finally getting to play with the Kingpin in this last arc.
Samnee: I never thought we would!
Nrama: Was his return to the title something you saw as inevitable for the conclusion, or is that something, like you said, you thought you’d kind of avoid?
Samnee: Well, I think it seems like every creator that has an extended run kind of has their own take on Kingpin, and we, I think, were intentionally trying not to use Kingpin. But as we got closer to the end of the series and were tying up story threads with the Owl and his daughter, The Shroud and Julia Carpenter… Kingpin was really the only villain that could logically bring it all together. And with Matt’s world crashing down around him, who else could be behind it, other than Kingpin?
Nrama: There’s an interesting visual symmetry between Matt’s red three-piece suit, and Kingpin’s iconic white suit. They almost look like chess pieces. Was that an intentional connection when you were designing Matt’s latest look, knowing what was coming in the final story?
Samnee: No, I wasn’t really thinking about Kingpin when I designed “new look” Daredevil - but they do work well off of one another. Matt’s red three-piece suit, and Kingpin’s big, expensive white suits.
What I was actually going for with the red suit was sort of “Daredevil as the Spirit.” In an old interview with Frank Miller, during his run on the title, he had said that he was writing Daredevil as Will Eisner’s The Spirit. For the new look I wanted to make that more literal. So instead of a blue suit, he has a red suit - but they have the same cuffed gloves, the same silhouette - Everything but the fedora and domino mask. It’s pretty blatant, but I don’t know if a whole lot of people picked up on it. But that was my original goal, to make Daredevil look like more of pulp hero instead of just a superhero.
And in Daredevil’s mind, or Matt Murdock’s mind, he’s wearing just another costume. Every suit that he wears is a costume. He’s not really just one person. He’s a lawyer, but that’s not really who he is. He’s the son of a boxer, he’s the hero of Hell’s Kitchen, but a suit is just a different uniform he wears to work, and a red costume is what he wears to fight.
Nrama: Speaking of the pulp tone, and Daredevil’s many identities, this final arc of Daredevil has somewhat moved back towards the darker tone that was the hallmark of Daredevil’s stories in the years prior to Mark Waid taking over. It’s something that’s been building in the latest volume, with your explorations of death and depression. Is that something you’ve consciously tried to reflect in your artistic approach to these final issues?
Samnee: Not really. I don’t feel like he was ever super light to begin with. The colors are a little brighter, but the art has been fairly consistent. I’m trying to get better with every issue but, but I haven’t been trying to make it “darker,” per se.
One of the first stories that Mark and I did together on Daredevil was the Spot/Coyote arc. And the Spot, at first blush, is a goofy, funny, character, but Mark took this story to some really dark places. There was human trafficking, drug mules and a closet full of human heads - it got really dark, really quick. But Matt just has to have a brighter outlook on things, and I think that’s sort of the tone that comes across a little more to the reader, because the dark undertones have been a constant all along.
There’s always an undercurrent of darkness to Matt Murdock. I don’t think he can help it. And there’s nothing really intentional to try and make darker. We did have a colorist switch with #8 of volume 4.
Nrama: Yeah, you had Matt Wilson come in.
Samnee: Yeah, Matt Wilson came in, and he’s done his own thing, and it’s been amazing. There might have been a little bit of a palette change, which I think might help to make it feel a little darker in tone, if that makes sense.
Nrama: You and Mark have definitely teased the death of Foggy Nelson before, going so far as to fake his demise at the end of Daredevil vol. 3 and the beginning of vol. 4. Now, things have gotten a little hairy with the Kingpin. Are things finally coming full circle for Foggy and Matt with this last arc? Or do you have one more curveball to throw at us?
Samnee: It’s a little hard to say too much ahead of time. I don’t want to spoil anything. It’s a natural story choice, but I don’t want to say too much and ruin it. I feel Mark made a really, really smart decision on how to end the story, and I feel like… I don’t want to step on any toes or ruin any plot points. I just want people to read it and enjoy it for what it is.
Nrama: We’ve seen that Daredevil will return to New York as part of "All-New, All-Different Marvel." Is that something that’s set up by your finale, or is that all on Charles Soule and Ron Garney who are taking over for you and Mark Waid?
Samnee: That’s all Charles and Ron. Marvel's Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso said we could wrap up our story however we saw fit, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re doing it on our own terms, and we figured out how we’re gonna do it, and we’re doing it. We’ve just been treating this as if it’s the last issue of Daredevil. I can’t speak for Mark, but I don’t think there was too much thought put into what’s to come after we’re gone. We’re just trying to tell the best story we can, and give Matt Murdock the best possible conclusion we can to this chapter in his life.
I’m excited to see what those guys do, I’m a huge fan of their work, but it doesn’t play in to what we’re doing. The issue’s already in the can, and we were wrapping up our last issue when they announced as the next team. I’ll admit I was curious as to who was going to follow us-- but I was trying not to learn too much so that I didn’t end up with stage fright on those final issues. We just tried to tell the best story possible. And I think we did. I’m really, really proud of it. I’m excited to hear what folks think.
Nrama: Volume 4 of Daredevil saw a total upheaval of Matt Murdock’s status quo. You moved him to San Francisco, you outed him as Daredevil. There’s kind of a long tradition, in Daredevil runs, and this is something that I think Brian Bendis, Ed Brubaker, and even Andy Diggle all have said, is that they’ve all kind of tried to one up each other in where they leave Matt Murdock and his status quo at the end of their runs. Is that something you guys had in mind when you were planning out what you were going to do to Matt, what you were going to put him through?
Samnee: Not that I know of. Mark might have. But since we didn’t know who was going to follow us, we were just trying to wrap up his tale. I don’t think Mark likes to leave characters in a bad place, because he respects them too much to end a story that way. I think it would be a really bad capper for Mark’s brighter outlook on the Daredevil character to end him like-- like in jail or in an alley or something. It started out with swashbuckling, good times with volume 3 #1. I think it would sort of put that on its ear if we ended #18 in a slump.
Nrama: Will Matt’s autobiography ever get finished, or will it go down as one of the great, unread manuscripts of Marvel history?
Samnee: Without spoiling anything, he does finish it. That’s all that I’ll say!
Nrama: When it’s all said and done, and the final issue hits stands, what will you miss most about Daredevil?
Samnee: I want to say working with the team, but the whole team is jumping over to a new book. So all of team Daredevil is now team “redacted.” But besides all of my amazing co-creators, it’s just been a fun book to draw every day. I’ve been working on it for three years now, and there have been days where it’s hard to get work done, and some times where deadlines are kind of crushing. It can be hard, but it’s been a ball. I love working with Mark, I love getting pages back from Matt Wilson and letterer Joe Caramagna.
I love the team. I love getting to tell these stories with Mark. But if I had to pick one thing, it’s just getting to do all the emotional beats. There’s a really great supporting cast with Daredevil that I don’t think you typically see in superhero comics. It’s not a typical superheroes hanging out with other superheroes sort of thing. They’re normal people who don’t have to have costumes. I think being able to play real world characters against superheroes was a nice change of pace for a few years.
I started out my comic book career with lots of black and white crime stuff and stories that leaned a little closer to real world situations--so I didn’t jump straight into superheroes. So being able to do a slice of life intercut with capes and tights has been a lot of fun. I think that’s what I’ll miss most.
The double D logo though I’ll miss the least. Three years, thirty some-odd issues and even tweaking it back to sans serif at the start of volume 4, and I still never quite got the hang of it!