One of the most exciting announcements of last week’s “All-New, All-Different” Marvel news avalanche was writer Charles Soule and artist Ron Garney taking over Daredevil, largely because of Soule’s background as an attorney. Soule’s legal knowledge made his run on She-Hulk a riveting exploration of the law in a superhero universe, but his Daredevil looks to be a considerably different beast. The tone will be much darker than the bright, breezy She-Hulk, with artist Ron Garney doubling down on the noir elements in his art. Matt Murdock has a new job, allowing Soule to highlight a different corner of the legal world by making Matt an employee of the New York City District Attorney’s office. The relaunched Daredevil will feature a new status quo, supporting cast, and sidekick for the hero, and The A.V. Club spoke with Soule and Garney to learn more about how they’re changing Matt’s life in the future.
The A.V. Club: How are you moving Matt’s story forward while staying true to the work done by the exiting creative team?
Charles Soule: One of the nice things about the launch of our new Daredevil series (and I say “our” because this is very much a joint effort between the artist, Ron Garney, and myself) is that it picks up after an eight-month leap forward in the continuing story of the Marvel Universe. All the books will do that, across the line, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to build something that can start a new tone, a new set of stories—a new status quo, really. Still, Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, and the rest of the folks who worked on the current Daredevil book did a truly revolutionary job with the character; that original #1 is a master class in how to reinvent a title. So, I’d be a fool not to keep their work in mind.
With all of that in mind, here are the big three things that mark our Daredevil, in brief form, as that’s how my lawyerly brain tends to organize stuff: First, he has his secret identity back. No one knows that Daredevil and Matt Murdock are the same person. The hows and whys you’ll have to wait for, but there you go. Second, Matt is back in New York City, working for the DA’s office. To clarify what this means for those who might not know:
- Throughout most of his history, Matt Murdock the lawyer has been a defense attorney, with his own practice. So, his clients have been bad guys, or wrongfully accused individuals.
- Now, though, he is working as a prosecutor—an Assistant District Attorney, or ADA, to be specific. His job is to make a case against the bad guys the cops bring him and send them to jail. His only clients are the city and people of New York.
- This is important, because it means that for the first time, his actions as Daredevil and his lawyering gig are aligned, instead of pushing and pulling against each other. Everything he does is in pursuit and service of justice. He’s pretty psyched about it, although we’ll have to see if it works out the way he hopes. Among other things, he now has a boss: the District Attorney of New York City, an awesome new character named Benjamin “The Hawk” Hochberg (very loosely inspired by the legendary Robert Morgenthau).
Third, Daredevil now has a sidekick, of sorts: a young man from Chinatown who has a very cool style of (and reason for) fighting that pairs up particularly well with Daredevil’s power set. It’s not really a Batman-Robin relationship; they’re each their own person, for sure, but it’s one of the things I’m most excited about for the series.
AVC: Are you taking any cues from the recent Daredevil TV series in terms of tone and narrative?
CS: I love that show. I think it’s done wonders for Daredevil’s profile in the pop cultural world, and I’d be lying if I didn’t think I got a lucky break launching the new title when Matthew Murdock Esq. is in the forefront of many readers’ minds. I can say that our book skews marginally darker than the prior run, but most of that is just in the story choices. I loved Mark Waid’s take on DD as sort of a charming rogue—which we also see in the TV show—and that’s definitely sticking around. But story-wise, it’s completely its own thing. You can pick it up cold and you’ll get a great, engaging story, but like most long-running superhero comics, it also works on another level for those who have been following the character for a while.
AVC: How does the legal environment of Matt Murdock differ from that of Jennifer “She-Hulk” Walters? Do you see a difference?
CS: Oh, man, huge difference. She-Hulk has her own tiny practice; she’s a generalist, who takes whatever case walks through her door. Matt, however, is now part of a much bigger machine. He is one of the veritable Justice League of legal Avengers who work to keep bad guys of all kinds off the streets of New York. He’s about stopping criminals day and night. He’s a hyper-focused engine of righteousness. One of Matt’s greatest strengths has always been that ability to focus, but we’ll see if that ends up being a plus or a minus for him long-term.
Not to mention it again, but Matt is now part of a team at his job. He has obligations, and people he can’t let down, and a boss. Every other time we’ve seen him he’s been his own boss, running his own practice with Foggy. It creates a whole set of complications—pretty relatable complications—for his life as Ol’ Hornhead.
AVC: How is working with Ron Garney as a collaborator?
CS: So great. I’ve seen a ton of pages from him at this point, and I’ve been trying to back-channel lobby to get the book released in black and white. I don’t know how much traction I’ll actually get, but you should see these things, especially issue one, page one, and a lengthy sequence set underwater in that issue. Ron brings a grit to his New York City that’s essential for the story we’re telling. I see some Frank Miller in it, too, although it’s really his own style.
Ron knows NYC, too, which is really important. New York has always been a character in Daredevil in its own right, and getting the details down is a big deal. Chinatown is a big factor in the first arc, and wait until you see how he approaches it. He did a sketch of a Chinatown rooftop as part of his warmups for the book, and wowsers. Anyway, like I said, so great.
AVC: How can we expect Matt’s new job to affect his lifestyle?
CS: Well, the best analogue for what Matt does these days would be that TV show Night Court, if that rings a bell for anyone, or even a legal version of Scrubs. Basically, there are a lot of ADAs like Matt, and the junior guys (again, like Matt) are on a sort of rotation, something called ECAB [Early Case Assessment Bureau]. The court runs until 1 a.m., two full shifts, and you don’t necessarily know ahead of time when you’ll be on call to appear, work cases, etc. It’s all really fast-paced, both grueling and exciting, and there’s a bunch of horse-trading that goes on with the young ADAs as they try to figure out how to work those shifts and still live their lives. It’s a really neat environment for stories, which we haven’t seen before in comics to my knowledge, and certainly not in Daredevil.
So, you combine that hyper-intense schedule with another demanding gig as a masked vigilante, and the fact that Matt is trying to protect his secret identity at the same time, and we have a classic superhero juggling act that I think will generate some fun moments.
AVC: Why introduce a new sidekick for Daredevil? How does that change the book’s dynamic?
CS: The genesis of that idea was simply to explore things we haven’t really seen in the title before. Daredevil has usually been depicted as a lone wolf and this was a chance to give him someone to mentor, someone to be responsible for. I will reiterate that it’s not really a “Robin” situation; the new guy has his own life and his own goals, and just because he’s working with Daredevil and learning from him doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t more going on, but we’ll see how that develops over time.
I love having him around, I’ll say that. It gives me story angles that I think will feel fresh and interesting. Among other things, the new guy is an undocumented immigrant. He was born in China, but his mother brought him here when he was just a kid, which means he’s lived almost his whole life as an American but doesn’t have access to citizenship or even basic things like a social security number or a driver’s license. It’s an interesting dynamic that I feel like I can explore from an informed place. I’ve been working in immigration law for a long time, and I know tons of people like this fellow.
AVC: What’s the most exciting thing about writing Daredevil?
CS: Daredevil, to me, is a lot like Swamp Thing. It’s a legacy title that has had some of the very best writers in the business attached to it. Frank Miller, Mark Waid, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, and more. Some of my favorite comics stories and moments have been in Daredevil books.
Really, though, I feel like everything I’ve done so far has been building to this book. I think it’s uniquely suited to my background and sensibilities, and that’s not always something you can say. I do feel the pressure, of course, both from the title’s legacy and reader expectations about what my Daredevil will be, but I’m really happy with what we’ve put together so far. Time will tell!
AVC: Ron, are you changing your art style at all for this book?
Ron Garney: Well, I’m always experimenting and trying different things. That’s what keeps it fun and encourages growth and usually when I get the opportunity to do a single character I tend to draw the character with its own unique set of visual cues and strokes. As of late, I’ve really been digging what I came up with for the art in Men Of Wrath and carrying it over and evolving it into the noir-ish world of Daredevil.
AVC: There are some changes to Daredevil’s costume in the promotional image. How did you approach his costume redesign?
RG: Well, there are a lot of costumes for the heroes over the years that I think are sort of timeless that don’t require a whole lot of reworking and Daredevil is one of them, and I think Charles agrees with me on this. At least in the sense that he’s so good at what he does and that he’s the “man without fear” that it’s not necessary other than sprucing it up a bit or streamlining it with ideas that make some sense. In that case, for instance, I thought that his DD logo would make sense if it had a more urban, slightly graffitied look to it, with graphic flame suggested. There were a lot of initial ideas being talked about and it got whittled down until the best ones got incorporated in and less became more.
AVC: What did you have in mind when designing Daredevil’s sidekick?
RG: I’ll say that we had some cool ideas visually that we wouldn’t want to reveal just yet. There’s an element to the character were doing that’s just so unique that I don’t believe anyone’s done before. I’m excited about it.
AVC: What do you appreciate about Charles as a collaborator?
CS: Charles’ ideas feel very fresh to me and we seem to be in the same space as far as how we see Daredevil. In my first conversation with him he stressed that he wanted this to go darker and not quite so lighthearted as it had been, with all due respect to the book’s predecessors. I agreed 100 percent. It’s been particularly fun working on his script and he’s left me with some great room to play visually. But like I said, his ideas and the direction we’re going is really new and interesting, and the fans and readers are definitely going to feel it as well. From the short collaboration we’ve had thus far and after 26 years of experience I’ve had in this business, I think he’s right at the top in creativity and intelligence and it’s a great pleasure working with someone like that.
AVC: What are the visual elements you want to emphasize most in your depiction of Daredevil’s New York City?
RG: Noir, noir, noir, and color, color, color. Black and white; balance and negative space; movement; energy; and composition.
AVC: The recent Daredevil TV series highlighted the brutality of the violence in Matt’s world? Does that have any influence in how you’re approaching the action in this book?
RG: When I was first offered Captain America eons ago, he was a character that instantly resonated with me and that I could see in my head, both visually and action-wise and I feel that same thing working on Daredevil. We have to make that aspect of it, the violence and brutality, something the reader can face head on, but at the same time let the reader’s imagination fill in some of the dark spaces. It becomes more intriguing that way as the story unfolds, and hopefully that comes through here.