Yesterday, Newsarama caught up with departing Daredevil artist Chris to look back over his time drawing the Man Without Fear. Along with Mark Waid, Samnee defined a new take on Daredevil for the modern era. Eschewing much of the overt darkness and grit of previous incarnations, Waid and Samnee returned Matt Murdock to the swinging, swashbuckling tone of his earliest adventures.
Today, Newsarama concludes our chat with Samnee, exploring the creative team’s move to a new volume of Daredevil, along with Samnee’s favorite stories from his long run, and what readers can expect from Samnee – and Waid – now that their time on Daredevil has concluded.
Newsarama: When the end of Daredevil vol. 3 was announced, there was a gap in time before Marvel announced that you and Mark would be returning with vol. 4, and the fan outrage at you and Mark possibly leaving the book was palpable.
Chris Samnee: Yeah, that was positive marketing, haha. We kept asking “Can we say that we’re coming back? When can we tell people we’re coming back?” People were upset that we were gonna be gone, and Marvel was like, “Hold off a little bit longer, just a little bit longer before we announce that you’re coming back.”
That wasn’t really something that Mark and I had a hand in. We were already starting stuff for vol. 4. We just had to keep it quiet until they were ready to announce it. When Marvel started doing “Marvel NOW!” they said Daredevil needed a new #1. And we were in the middle of a story arc, and Mark convinced them to let us finish our arc before we started over with a new #1. We needed to have a real reason to have a new #1 instead of just a random #1 in the middle of a story. I think we were a little late to the "Marvel NOW!" game, but we needed to finish telling the story. There needed to be an end of a chapter before a new one could start. I don’t think that would have been fair to the readers at all to start a new #1 halfway into that last story.
I know some people still kind of frown on the idea that a new #1 jumped in while Mark and I were still on the book, but Marvel wanted a new #1 and there was really nothing we could do about it. And I think a new #1 helped sales. You can frown on new #1’s all you want, but if they help sales I see the point. As long as there’s good content in them, I don’t see how it matters what number is on the outside of the book. People buy Sports Illustrated, but nobody looks what number it is. They just see what month it is.
Nrama: You stepped into Daredevil after Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin exited. What was it like following a pair of artists that have such strong skill and reputation? Did you take anything from their work into your run?
Samnee: It was daunting, for sure. As soon as the series was announced, I was like, “Mark Waid? And Marcos? And Paolo? I’m in!” and I was just eating it up with a spoon. And I had a couple people say, before I was ever working on it, “This is your kind of stuff. You should work on Daredevil,” and I was like, “I don’t know. I think I’d rather just read it.” But then when then-editor Steve Wacker asked if I’d do it, I was like, “Oh, yes please.” I was working on Ultimate Spider-Man at the time – I did three or four issues of Ultimate Spider-Man with Brian Michael Bendis. And jumping over to Daredevil, I just couldn’t take that job fast enough. I’d been reading the issues already and it was so good.
I didn’t take a lot from Marcos, but I definitely took Paolo’s version of the RADAR vision, the pink and purple sort of wireframe. I definitely took that and ran with it. And the collapsing cane, that sort of turned into a “J”. It’s not the rounded cane that Colan and Wally Wood did – that’s really outdated, that’s not like an actual cane that a blind person would use nowadays. But Paolo used more of a modern looking cane and made that work. I guess I could’ve done my own take on it, but his was such a novel way of doing it that, from my first issue until my last, I drew the same cane. I really liked what Paolo did with it.
Mainly I just tried to live up to what they did. And seeing Mike Allred draw Matt Murdock with the same bruises that I’d drawn on him the issue before was awesome. I was so excited to see the same band-aid that I put in one spot, and Allred drew it in the same spot. I’ve been a big Allred fan for ages. To follow him was a little rough, but luckily, he only did one issue.
Nrama: He’s a beast.
Samnee: He’s just one of the nicest guys in comic books. But to sort of rub elbows with these guys on Daredevil was just a ball. I didn’t have a whole lot of contact with Marcos, cause he was in and out so quick. But Paolo and I exchanged e-mails. He sent me reference of the building Matt and Foggy were practicing law in at the moment when I jumped in, so there’s reference from all different angles, and actual photographs of the building that he based it on. Paolo was a big help when I first started.
Nrama: Daredevil has often served as something of a proving ground for artists like Frank Miller and Alex Maleev, who really kind of made their reputation on the book. Did you see it as an opportunity to bring your work to a new level and start building that reputation for yourself?
Samnee: Not really. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to get the work done. I don’t want to think too much about people reading it or what they’re thinking of it… For some reason, Daredevil really manages to get a lot of great artists. I mean, he’s a great character. Luckily, I managed to squeeze my way in there and tell some stories.
But a proving ground? No. I just wanted to be a part of the fun with Mark and Wacker and everyone. I’m happy it’s gotten more eyes on my work, but I was just having fun while I could, trying to get in there and make it last as long as I could.
Nrama: Did you come up with any kind of tricks to portray a blind character in a visual medium? Did Matt’s blindness come into play in your work on Daredevil?
Samnee: Yeah, you can’t draw a blind person without trying to put yourself in their shoes. I spent a lot of time trying to think about how Matt Murdock experiences the world. I know Mark does that. He probably still does that to this day, even though he’s not writing Daredevil anymore. How would Matt Murdock interact with this on a level different than ours?
Just from not turning your head to look at something – you turn your head to look at something when you’re surprised, but Matt Murdock doesn’t need to do that. He has 360 degree RADAR sense, so he doesn’t have to turn to see something. Sometimes you have to do shortcuts to visually show the reader what’s happening. I had to try to put myself in his shoes, and try to figure out ways to put the readers in his shoes, too. It’s hard to try and put yourself in the shoes of a blind person, especially a blind person that has super powers.
To try and portray it visually, the RADAR sense is a bear. Every time I saw it in the script, I was like, “Ugghh.” But it’s sort of a necessity. But a lot of it was just telling a story without eyes, without seeing Matt’s eyes. Until the later issues where we gave him a buzzcut and got rid of the sunglasses, you didn’t really have his eyes to emote. You had the sunglasses covering a quarter of his face, so you really only have his eyebrows, and from the nose down to sell an emotion. And there’s so much that’s usually in the eyes. There were a whole lot of tricks that I had to try and come up with to sell how he was feeling, just from the lower half of his face. There were a lot of different kinds of acting I was doing just with Matt Murdock.
Nrama: I know this is like asking you to choose between your children, but is there any arc or story on Daredevil that you would consider your favorite, or one that particularly resonated with you on a personal level?
Samnee: The most emotional was the issue where Foggy found out that he had cancer. That was a really tough issue to draw, but I’m really proud of what we did with it. There were a lot of silent beats just between Matt and Foggy while they were at the oncologist getting the news. The dialogue was really spare, so we were just selling the emotional beats of it, and I feel like that came across really well. It’s hard for me to be objective, cause I’m my own worst critic, but I feel like we did that pretty well.
As far as the most fun I had, that was probably the Silver Surfer issues. And the one issue I got to do with the Marvel monsters. That was one of those stories where we needed something for the October solicitations, and we wanted to do something Halloween-themed. So I just started drawing all the Marvel monsters on a layout, and that became a story that Mark had to try and shoehorn into that arc. That was a lot of fun. I didn’t get to draw the second issue. I did the layouts for the second issue of that story, but it was fun to draw Werewolf By Night and Frankenstein. Getting all that and Daredevil in a story was a lot of fun.
And the Silver Surfer one, just because it was so far afield from the noir that people got used to with Daredevil, for Daredevil to be surfing through New York on the Silver Surfer’s surfboard, and talking to aliens. It was just so Silver Age. There was just a lot of joy in that for me. There were a lot of backgrounds to do, flying through the city, but it was all fun while I was working on it. I had a smile on my face while I was drawing the Silver Surfer.
Nrama: You mentioned earlier that you actually wrote one of the stories in the recent Daredevil #15.1. You also said that’s something you’re going to be exploring a little more going forward in the new title you’re working on with Mark. Tell me about the experience of actually writing an issue. Is that something you feel your working relationship with Mark primed you for? Is it something you’ve wanted to do for a long time?
Samnee: Ever since I was a kid, I just wanted to make comics. My career goal was to be a penciler, but really I just wanted to make comic books. When you’re a little kid, you do everything. You write and draw it all yourself. You’re writing everything, you’re penciling and inking, you’re doing the whole kit and caboodle. And that’s really all it is now. I’m still just trying to tell stories. And working with the best writers in comics has sort of let me learn through osmosis. Getting to work with Mark for all these has given me a chance to dissect how his scripts work. You know, talking to him on the phone, and in person, I can sort of glean some knowledge from him, and it’s given me a little more nerve to try and draw some of these stories that I have stuck in my head that I really want to put down on paper. I’m trying to get some creator-owned stuff off the ground while I can.
Being a “Storyteller” on Daredevil afforded me the opportunity to do that short story, and that was my first writing work aside from really, really indie stuff that I’ve done since high school, and that was a lot of fun, just seeing my name in the credits that way. It’s given me the itch to do more.
Nrama: Now that Daredevil has wrapped up, you talked about how you and Mark Waid and Matt Wilson are all moving on to a new project that you’re doing together. I don’t know whether you’ve heard any of the rumors that have been going around as to what that project’s going to be, but can you give us any hint about what you’re working on next?
Samnee: I have seen the links to rumor sites… I try not to follow the links – I’d much prefer to get my news from folks like yourself, CBR, or The Comics Journal: actual comic book journalists. So I wouldn’t put too much stock in rumor sites.
But besides the fact that the team is staying together, I don’t want to say too much about what the next thing is. It’s gonna be tons of fun.
Nrama: Last question, how do you think you’ve changed as a creator, and as a person since you started on Daredevil?
Samnee: I’m all ego now. [Laughs]
Changed me as a person? I don’t know… Mark’s and my working relationship has sort of evolved over the years. Scripts used to be a lot more full of details, and panel descriptions. It’s gotten a little more spartan nowadays as I know what he’s thinking, and he knows what I’m thinking and we have sort of a shorthand between the two of us.
I think just the way that we work together has changed. I don’t know that I’ve changed too much. With the new book, I’m trying a few things with layouts that I wouldn’t have had the nerve to do before. With each new book, I sort of try and throw out all my old rules. I make rules for myself when I take on a new project, and it’s sort of fun to cast off the old things that kept me in a box when I start something new.
As a creator I don’t feel like I’m much different. Hopefully, I’m getting better as I go each month. I have a lot more gray hair than when I started on Daredevil, but I don’t think I’m too much of a different guy.