Cover of an early issue. Artist: Charles Biro.


Original medium: Comic Books
Published by: Lev Gleason Publications
First Appeared: 1940
Creators: Jack Binder and Jack Cole
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All present-day comic book readers know who Daredevil is. He's the blind guy that's a superhero at Marvel Comics. But once, Daredevil was a long-running, boomerang-wielding superhero published by the company that did Crime Does Not Pay. And everyone reading comics back then knew …

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… that, too, because Daredevil was one of the more prominent of the hundreds of superheroes of the early 1940s.

Silver Streak Comics was a rather obscure anthology comic from a rather obscure publisher (tho after a change of ownership, the company made a real mark on the field as Lev Gleason Publications). The title began with a December, 1939 cover date, and no particularly memorable features except The Claw — and how much can you do with a villain that has no hero to oppose him? In the sixth issue (September, 1940), Jack Binder's studio (which produced Bulletman, The Whizzer and various other features — including the late-arriving title character of Silver Streak itself) contributed a story about a character named Daredevil, who (like the later Daredevil) had a handicap that one would think made him ineligible for superherohood — he'd been rendered mute by the horror of the crime that left him an orphan (tho he regained his voice when in costume). The crime also left him a boomerang-shaped scar on his chest and a determination, like that of Batman, to eradicate crime. He made himself an expert with boomerangs (recalling his scar) before launching his heroic career.

At least, that's how it was in the first story. But editor Jack Cole (who had created The Comet for MLJ Comics and would soon create Plastic Man for Quality Comics) saw Daredevil as just the guy to oppose The Claw. They first met in the very next issue, and by the time their five-issue battle was over, Daredevil, who had started with a mere eight pages toward the rear of the magazine, had become a major star.

But in taking him over, Cole re-made the character from the ground up. He kept the secret identity, Bart Hill, and the boomerang motif. The costume was changed from blue and yellow to red and blue — divided sharply down the middle, by the way, an unusual pattern even for a superhero suit. Cole's Daredevil also had a belt that looked like a spiked dog collar. The inability to speak was dropped without explanation. After a couple of years, he was even given a new origin. In August, 1943, cartoonist Charles Biro (Airboy, Crimebuster), who took over the character early on and stayed with him for years, did a version in which he was raised in the Australian Outback by Aborigines, who gave him both his skill with the boomerang, and — no kidding — his costume.

The big fight with The Claw was a tough act to follow, but the next villain was a real winner — Daredevil Battles Hitler, in which he teamed up with all the other heroes of Silver Streak Comics against the biggest villain in the world, was dated July, 1941, five months before the U.S. entered World War II. From then on, Daredevil was the star of his own title (a good thing for him, as it turned out, because Silver Streak Comics ended in 1942).

Daredevil Comics #13 (October, 1942) introduced The Little Wise Guys, a kid gang along the lines of Ad Carter's Just Kids or DC Comics' Newsboy Legion. Reader interest in these new supporting characters was kicked up a notch two issues later when one of them, Meatball, was killed off. After that, The Little Wise Guys consisted of Scarecrow, Peewee, Jock and Curly.

The series continued that way for years, Daredevil and his four quasi-sidekicks. But toward the late '40s, when superheroes fell out of fashion, Daredevil was de-emphasized. As the decade closed, he was generally there just to introduce stories in which The Little Wise Guys were the stars. After the 69th issue (December, 1950), he didn't even do that, tho he did return briefly the following year. Daredevil Comics continued years longer, but Daredevil was no longer a member of the cast. The series ended in 1956, when the publisher left the comic book business.

Daredevil was never spun off into other media, nor was he revived in comic books (unless you count a reprint here and there and a similar hero, named "Red Devil", from AC Comics (Femforce)). The Marvel Comics Daredevil has been running three or four times as long as this one did, but other than the name, there's no connection.


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Text ©2002-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Lev Gleason.