DAREDEVIL #5: In Plain Sight

Published: December, 1964

Published: December, 1964

“The Man With the Mask!”
Script: Stan Lee
Art: Wallace Wood

THE MAGNIFICENT MATADOR
Let’s start this one with our villain, the Magnificent Matador. Well…okay…not really that magnificent. In fact, the Matador is far from the greatest villain ever. He doesn’t even have a superpower. All he has is a few fancy moves, and a cape. Which can be stepped on. But I quickly made the decision to put up with him, for a couple of very good reasons.

One: It took me only three panels to realize that though this guy is nothing more than an unemployed entertainer, he’s imbued with all the swagger of a Doctor Doom. What he lacks in substance, he makes up for in style, incorporating a heavy dose of arrogance and irony into all his actions.

There’s no place in the Marvel Universe for villains who aren’t brimming with self-confidence and bravado. So, muchos puntos to the Matador for being audacious enough to first of all, take on Daredevil, but extra points for robbing a safe, in plain sight…while attending a costume party! And if that isn’t brazen enough, his next move is to burglarize…a burglar alarm factory!

dd5saferobYou’ve got to admire the Matador’s command of the ironic. This fellow is as full of himself as Donald Trump, and he’s having a blast messing around with people’s expectations.

And then there’s this: With all his flowery hyperbole, somehow I couldn’t help but assign him a funny voice. Within only a few pages, I realized he sounded very much like cartoon character Speedy Gonzalez or the iconic corn chip salesman, Frito Bandito. Once you go there, you’re having as much fun as the Matador, and there’s no turning back. You’re willing to forgive the “villain” for not being the most fearsome foe ever, since he’s so damned entertaining.

NOBODY SAW THAT ONE COMING…
So, who exactly IS the Matador? At the beginning of our story, nobody knows. Police hunt for clues, while prominent criminologists are summoned for consultation. Fearing that “throughout the nation, the young people, and the foolish, unthinking adults, will soon start making a HERO of him,” Murdock takes matters into his own hands. By dead of night, as the crime-fighting dd5bullfightDaredevil, he infiltrates the archive room of the public library and runs his super-sensitive fingers through the international newspapers to discover that his latest opponent is actually disgraced matador Manuel Eloganto who got butted in the butt by a bull. Blaming his injuries on hecklers, Eloganto seeks revenge upon “all mankind.”

That kind of “all or nothing at all” self-centered thinking makes absolute sense for an ego-maniacal villain, but here’s what doesn’t make sense: why does it take a blind man to see what no one else can? The answer to the Matador’s true identify was right there in plain sight for anyone who cared to do the investigative journalism…but I guess the press was too busy writing stories about Giant-Man and the Fantastic Four, and the police…oh, never mind

Thank goodness Matt Murdock/Daredevil is on the case! He’s apparently the only person in town who has enough brains to actually solve this mystery. Or…was it something else?

dd5dumbfoundTHE DUMBFOUNDED DAREDEVIL
Sure, Murdock’s a super-smart guy, but in this case, he may be more highly motivated than anyone else to solve the mystery and see the Matador brought to justice.

You see, Daredevil was burned badly by the Matador in scene one. In fact, I was sorely disappointed by his failings in his first confrontation with the Matador. It’s not believable that Daredevil’s superpowers would be rendered useless because there are “too many voices” and “too much commotion.” Isn’t Daredevil above distraction, able to pick out only those details that are most important at the moment? What’s going on here? Does he really have such a huge Achilles Heel? Does his concern for Karen’s safety put him off his game? Or, are the writers simply stretching for a plot device to infuse this otherwise benign confrontation with an added dose of drama?

Well, I guess we needed to set the stage for Murdock’s hell-bent determination to outsmart the bad guy. And that he does, and rather cleverly, by making the outrageous claim that “Matador IS Daredevil.” An accusation this crazy flies right to the top of the front page, and now Daredevil only needs to sit back and wait for the inevitable confrontation.

dd5excellent

Murdock’s ploy works, because he’s a very smart guy who understands the psychology of his enemy. The Matador cannot resist this open invitation to the offices of Nelson & Murdock, where he naturally finds Daredevil waiting, and they naturally fight. Daredevil lures the Matador out the window, into plain sight, so the entire neighborhood can see, first of all, that Daredevil and Matador are NOT the same person, but more importantly, that Daredevil is the superior combatant. Having been overwhelmed by the Matador’s cape during their first encounter, Daredevil’s not going to let that little detail confuse him again. He deftly steps on the cape, incapacitating the flamboyant villain until the police arrive to cart him away to jail.

dd5scrunchProblem solved.

One final point, though: I found it ironic that in this story it’s Murdock, not Daredevil, who plays the greater part in capturing the criminal. Murdock does all the investigative legwork, and the psychological heavy lifting. Basically, all Daredevil has to do is step on the Matador’s cape. Who’s the superhero now?

THE NOBILITY AND STUPIDITY OF FRIENDSHIP
But never mind all that. Let’s finally get to what this story is really about. Because the entire Matador story pales in comparison to the soap opera going on in this issue. Our love triangle has suddenly gotten both acute and obtuse, at the same time. Acute, because there’s a proposal of marriage about to be laid on the table. And obtuse, because none of the three points of the triangle see clearly enough to realize this is the most ridiculous plot development that could possibly take place.

KAREN
Until now, Karen’s been minding the front desk of Nelson & Murdock, answering phones, filing, a little light typing, and a side order of harmless flirting thrown in, just to keep things interesting (“Mind if Matt escorts you,” Foggy asks, “and I join you later?” To which Karen replies with a grin, “I guess I can stand it if he can!”). I doubt she has any idea that Foggy’s about to propose. And why should she?

FOGGY
Because unless a whole lot has gone on behind the scenes in these first five issues that Stan and company have unfairly kept secret from the readers, Foggy is as blind as Matt in thinking Karen might be anywhere near ready to marry him. Sure, they may have gone on a few dates, and even dressed up together as Antony and Cleopatra, but that hardly seems enough of a foundation upon which to build a future. dd5triangleFoggy’s left all his logic and deductive reasoning skills in the courtroom, and is operating on sheer wishful thinking. Should he present the engagement ring to Karen, I predict her gentle “Let’s Be Friends” speech will shatter his heart into a million pieces. And he’ll really have no one to blame but himself, but still…how sad.

MATT
But here’s the most baffling part.

When Foggy appears with the engagement ring, Matt is totally blindsided (pun intended). He may be blind, but that doesn’t give him a free pass on not knowing how Foggy feels about Karen. Shouldn’t he at least have SUSPECTED? If not because these two are buddies who presumably talk to each other about what’s going on it their lives, wouldn’t Matt have been able to detect something suspicious in Foggy’s rapid heartbeat whenever Karen enters the room?

dd5believeFor that matter, shouldn’t Matt also be able to determine just by listening to heartbeats whether or not Karen feels the same way about Foggy? Or, about him?

But it’s been previously established that although Matt’s superpowers work for criminals, they short-circuit every time regarding matters of the heart. He WANTS to believe, but doesn’t dare trust the supernatural evidence, even when it’s in plain sight.

Of course, when Matt learns that Foggy is interested in Karen, he does the noble thing and steps back to allow his friend to pursue the girl, while he nurses a broken heart and cultivates the lonely melancholy of the superhero.

Sigh…I guess it has to be this way. With the end result that nobody gets what they want. But then, we’re only five issues into the title. Plenty of time for all of this to work itself out.

One more thing: this is the first time I’m seeing the artwork of Wally Wood, and though I’m not as sensitive an art critic as more experienced comic book readers, I like what I see. At the very least, Karen looks attractive, both as her blonde self and the temptress Cleopatra.

dd5karenShe’s stylish, pleasant, sympathetic, and not difficult to look at. Even if it doesn’t make sense that both her bosses are madly in love with her after only five issues, it at least makes sense that there’s interest on both their parts.

Of course, it should have been evident to both Matt and Foggy from the start that the addition of a pretty gal to their two-bachelor office might lead to romantic complications. But then, after reading this issue, it’s evident to me that no one in the Daredevil corner of the Marvel Universe, blind or sighted, is adept at seeing things that are in plain sight.

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