Artist Ron Garney and writer Charles Soule are bringing Daredevil back to the gritty, noir-ish tone that defined it for decades, and embracing the character’s modern history by pitting him against The Hand and other latter-day Daredevil mainstays. To reflect that, Garney and colorist Matt Milla have created a visual language unique not just to Daredevil, but to Marvel Comics. It also helps that Garney also moonlights as a jiu jitsu instructor.
Newsarama spoke to Garney about developing the style that makes Daredevil stand out, the genesis of Matt Murdock’s protégé Blindspot, and which classic villains may be making their return to the series under his pen.
Newsarama: Ron, you’ve worked on many of Marvel’s biggest characters in your career, from Captain America to Wolverine. What sets Daredevil apart in the Marvel Universe?
Ron Garney: I think in a physical sense his abilities are unique. Being blind and yet having developed a radar sense through that tragedy I think has a profound message of developing strength though a traumatic weakness or tragedy, particularly one of such importance as the loss of one’s eyesight. It makes Matt Murdock an interesting character and when coupled with the loss of his father adds a layer of depth overall.
A lot of other characters have their power but through the accident that imbued them as such didn’t really lose that aspect of themselves to gain another: Spider man was bitten, but was augmented, his trial came through the tragedy of losing his uncle. The Hulk was irradiated through an accident, like Matt--but again was augmented rather than actually losing anything physical, his trauma comes through loss of physical control.
Even though DD’s considered a darker character I find it interesting that he's actually one of lightness, really—there’s as great sense of contrast in that and the way he presents himself to the world. As if Michael the archangel was in disguise as the devil in order to bring justice and light.
Nrama: You and writer Charles Soule have brought Daredevil back to a much more noir-influenced atmosphere, and that’s reflected in your art style for this book. How did you develop the look of this volume of Daredevil?
Garney: Actually if you look back as far as the title Nightstalkers I did back in the early nineties, there’s glimmerings of those black and white relationships in the art and then even more in Ghost Rider subsequently. I looked back recently at some areas in those titles that I had done and was surprised myself to find it working its way out from time to time without really thinking about it.
Currently, It became a byproduct of the commitment to inking myself again. Once I started on my creator owned Men of Wrath (with Jason Aaron), I had made that decision to really emphasize the negative rendering in white and it sprang forth from there on its own. It was then it started to really evolve and it was serendipitous that I was offered Daredevil during this time, People have compared it to Frank Miller and Scott McDaniel, and that’s quite flattering as I’m a huge admirer of both of them - although I’ll say it wasn't a conscious effort on my part for it to look that way on Daredevil.
Nrama: To that end, you’re working with colorist Matt Milla. Did you develop Daredevil’s limited palette together, or is that something that grew out of your lifework?
Garney: For sure Matt and I have a close working relationship, and he's great. When this began he wanted to know what I was thinking and I was concerned with how the black and white was going to translate with the current 'hot' coloring, so I sent him a lot of noir photographs - black and whites with splashes of red colors, some Andy Warhol art - and many other references that I thought would work for this. The vision for it, from my perspective, was to take chances and think outside the box and for the reader to, on some level, maybe experience the world inside this art with a flavor that Daredevil would. So everything looks like a skewed perception of color and value, black and white, and has a different 'sense' to it the way DD’s radar sense works for him.
So through a lot of trial and error we came to this great place. For Matt I think it was such a departure for him from his normal style but his obvious talent and professionalism is evident all over these pages and I think he's really grown artistically from working outside of his comfort zone.
Nrama: This volume of Daredevil has introduced Matt’s protégé, Blindspot. What role did you play in creating Blindspot?
Garney: He was based on Charles’s great idea of DD having an invisible protégé, and visually I had a couple of sketches in an old sketchbook that had floating masks of comedy and tragedy as characters and a not exacting but similar look to another costumed character I was goofing around with. When Charles told me about this as of yet unnamed character for DD I thought it was interesting that he thought of him wearing a mask, and when looking back at the sketchbook character I thought it might work pretty well. I adjusted it to have him have a fire escape pattern on his clothing so even when he was visible he was still 'invisible' in the right lighting as well as have the mask float creepily in space to intimidate once he turned invisible, much like the comedy and tragedy masks. I suppose it really was rather serendipitous again.
Normally I don’t like to use things I have in my sketchbook, but I thought it worked here and was too cool not to try. It’s not perfect visually but I think it works and will keep evolving depending on what may spring to mind and what makes sense.
Nrama: Blindspot has the power of invisibility, and Daredevil is blind. What are the challenges of depicting someone who can’t be seen, and someone who can’t see?
Garney: Well DD can actually "see" Blindspot with his radar sense -- which we handle with the magic of Photoshop and filters, which works beautifully. Blindspot can be a bit challenging in the midway from visible to invisible to depict the backgrounds through him but otherwise its workable.
Nrama: So far, Daredevil has been clashing with the new villain Tenfingers, and most recently, the Hand. What can you tell us about Tenfingers and his connection to Marvel’s ninja mainstays?
Garney: [Laughs] Well, you'll have to read the book! Let’s say that Tenfingers hasn't exactly earned his connection to the Hand through the proper channels.
Nrama: I'll take that.
The Hand are pretty classic Daredevil villains. We’ve also seen from advance solicitations that Elektra is coming back into Matt Murdock’s life. What other classic Daredevil villains and supporting cast members will we see? Are there any you’d really like a crack at?
Garney: Sadly, I wont be drawing the Elektra section. As much as I wanted to, there needs to be a break to keep the book on schedule, but I’ll be in full throttle for the next arc. As far as upcoming villains, who knows if we'll hit the bullseye or not, or whether we come down with a case of typhoid and lose our memory, but we’ll see.
Nrama: "Bulleye," "Typhoid"... I see what you did there.
Obviously, one of the big mysteries in this volume of Daredevil is how Matt regained his secret identity and was reinstated by the New York Bar Association. What can you tell us about how that all happened?
Garney: Thats kind of a spoilery question [laughs]! The answers will unfold in the book as the months go on.
Nrama: Without being too spoilery, what’s on your drawing board right now?
Garney: An enormous shot of Daredevil fighting Ant-Man on an oil rig. Just kidding! (But hey, not a bad idea! No one better steal it!)
Actually a big double spread fight scene of DD fighting a Frankenstein ninja.
Nrama: What’s coming up in Daredevil that we should keep an eye on? What are you most excited to draw in upcoming issues?
Garney: To be honest, I would have loved to have drawn the Elektra issues --but there will be others!