Saturday, June 2, 2012

Golden Age Throwbacks: Daredevil

In this installment of Golden Age Throwbacks, we're going to take a little break from the characters that grace the pages of Nedor Comics and take a look at Daredevil, an iconic Golden Age superhero now in the public domain from Lev Gleason Publications. Daredevil is interesting in that the origin story, background and look presented in his very first appearance were changed and later re-written starting with his very next appearance. Initially, Daredevil was mute, the result of a childhood trauma at the hands of vicious criminals who murdered both his parents and tortured the young Bart Hill by branding a boomerang-shaped scar on his chest - a mark that led him to take up the study of his signature weapon later in life. He also wore a two-toned costume of yellow and blue. In his second appearance, the colors of Daredevil's costume were changed to red and blue and he also regained the ability to speak (how and why was never explained). He did, however, retain his spiked belt and his skill with the boomerang. Daredevil's origin story was officially retconned much later when he had his own comic book title, and that is the version presented below. One other important thing came about from these early concept changes: Daredevil was firmly established as the leading opposition to Lev Gleason Publications' major super-villain, the Claw!

Origin: Trained
Real Name: Bart Hill
First Appearance: Silver Streak Comics #6 [Lev Gleason Publications September 1940] 

World's Most Daring Man of Action!
Prowess  5
Coordination  6
Strength  6
Intellect  3
Awareness  3
Willpower  6

Stamina  12
Determination 5

  • Acrobatics Master
  • Athletics Expert
  • Martial Arts Expert
  •  Pilot
  •  Stealth Expert
  •  Weapons Master (Throwing - Boomerang)
  • Blast Device 8  - Boomerang
The Little Wise Guys
  • Motivation: Hates crime and evil as passionately as the underworld loves it
  • Sidekicks: The Little Wise Guys
  • Connections: United States Government and Military
  • Connections: Tonia Saunders (girlfriend)
  • Identity: Millionaire Playboy
  • Arch-Enemy: The Claw
  • Enemy: Adolf Hitler and the Axis Powers
Point Total: 50

John and Mary Hill with baby Bart
Bart Hill was the son of John Hill, a wealthy American who owned a lucrative gold mine in Australia that was managed by his stepbrother Edgar. When Edgar informed him that the mine had dried up and no new veins of gold ore could be found so he should sell it off immediately, John took his young wife Mary and infant son Bart with him to Australia to investigate further. In reality, Edgar made up the story because he wanted the highly profitable mine for himself, and when the young Hill family arrived in Australia, he decided to kill them off now instead to inherit the mine as the family's sole survivor. Edgar tricked a local tribe of aborigine pygmies into believing the Hills were evil spirits, and the tribe hunted them down and killed John first and then went after Mary, but not before she had hidden her infant son Bart in a tree trunk. Mary Hill went down firing, killing several pygmies before saving the last bullet for herself. The aborigine pygmy chief informed Edgar of John and Mary's death, but knew nothing of their infant son, so Edgar left to collect his inheritance, convinced that baby Bart would die in the jungle all alone.

Young Bart Hill battles Pygmy Chief
Fortunately, the pygmy chief's father, who did not approve of his son's actions as leader, found Bart in the tree trunk his mother had hidden him in and took him back to the tribe. The chief took the boy from him to sacrifice as an evil spirit that prevented rain from falling by burning him alive. Just as the fire was lit, a heavy rain began to fall and extinguish the fire, and the aborigine pygmies took this as a sign that the child was blessed and decided to adopt him into their tribe. Bart grew up amongst the pygmies where he learned their ways as well as their athletic and acrobatic skills, and became extremely proficient with the boomerang. Eventually, the pygmy chief and Bart came into conflict, and Bart defeated him in a duel and became the tribe's new chief. Bart spared the life of the former chief, who then graciously handed over the symbol of his office, the two-toned red and blue porous rubber suit of the Daredevil! Bart later learned from the former chief's father about his Uncle Edgar who had stolen the family fortune, and went back to America to settle the score and reclaim his rightful inheritance. Now a wealthy young man living in America, Bart went on to high school and college, but took up the secret identity of the Daredevil to avenge his parents by dedicating himself to battling crime, corruption and evil.

Daredevil, Silver Streak and Winston Churchill
During World War II, Daredevil was personally called upon by President Roosevelt and the United States Military for assistance, and he frequently came into direct conflict with the Führer himself, Adolf Hitler. Winston Churchill also called upon Daredevil in England's darkest hours, and during the course of the war, he often formed team-ups with other superheroes of the day such as Silver Streak, Lance Hale, Dickie Dean, Cloud Curtis and the Pirate Prince to thwart Hitler's plans and deliver crushing blows to the forces of the Axis Powers around the globe. But as evil as the Axis and its leaders were, they could barely hold a candle to his greatest arch-nemesis, the Claw!

The Claw was some sort of powerful supernatural being of Asian origin, perhaps a demon or a god, who was determined to conquer the United States and eventually become the emperor of the entire world. He could appear gargantuan in size, had the ability to control minds, and possessed a tunneling vehicle that could travel rapidly underground by boring through solid rock. Only Daredevil stood in his way, and over many epic battles that often spanned several comic book issues, he was always defeated in the end, often a victim of his own arrogance and overconfidence. In addition to the Claw, Daredevil had other enemies over the course of his crime-fighting career such as the Scarlet Skull, the Deadly Dozen and the Bolt.

Tonia Saunders
Daredevil had many personal connections in his life, perhaps the most important being the love of his life, Tonia Saunders. Tonia and Bart Hill fell in love after he rescued her (as Daredevil) from the Bolt who had kidnapped her and tied her to the railroad tracks. She was frequently the target of many of his other enemies including the Claw. After he almost died in her arms, Tonia refused to agree to marry Bart until he gave up once and for all his Daredevil alter-ego, afraid more for him than her own safety, something that Bart couldn't commit to while the world still needed Daredevil. He also had a group of four young sidekicks, the Little Wise Guys, who often became involved in his adventures as well as a loyal butler named Williams. Eventually a nosy reporter named Kilroy exposed Bart Hill as the Daredevil, which he used to his advantage to wind down his career and take up publishing and crime reporting, and his young proteges the Little Wise Guys began to take center stage. Hopefully Tonia and Bart, now retired, were happily married soon after!

Daredevil first appeared in Silver Streak Comics #6 (September 1940) published by Lev Gleason Publishing and was created by Jack Binder and revamped in the next issue by editor Jack Cole. Artist and writer Charles Biro later took over when Daredevil was given his own comic book title.  

If you enjoyed this edition of Golden Age Throwbacks, be sure to check out the next installment of Golden Age Thrilling Action from Stark City Press featuring Daredevil vs. The Claw! Available now from RPGNow for just a buck! In addition to Daredevil, it includes the origin story and stats for the Claw and a battle scene in the Claw's Skull Monastery in Tibet!