Being involved with such a seminal character, one whose origin was so simple and yet so unique, being drawn by a true great such as Orlando, and being entrusted with this wonderful creation by no less than Lee Falk, whose unbroken run on writing the strip may very well be the single longest daily gig in history. It meant a lot to me.
And what happened? I screwed up.
Because I wrote a sequence wherein the Phantom yanked out his guns and shot-to-wound. He didn’t shoot to kill; that simply wasn’t the Phantom. But I thought absolutely nothing of having him wing some bad guys.
But that annoyed Mr. Falk, because as far as he was concerned, the Phantom only shot guns out of people’s hands. Never mind that, in reality, such an action would likely have far greater negative consequences. The Phantom’s bullet could mangle the guy’s hand, doing permanent damage. Or it might ricochet off the solid metal of the gun, either striking the bad guy in a more lethal area or even injuring innocent bystanders. If the hammer was cocked and the gun struck out of the hand, the gun could still go off. I, being too rooted in the real world, just figured that incapacitating the baddies by shooting-to-wound was what the Phantom would logically do. Hell, I hadn’t given him the guns. They were there. I figured, hell, let’s use ’em.
Nonetheless, if anyone had told me ahead of time that Mr. Falk wanted it otherwise, I would have done it in a heartbeat. Because he was Lee Falk, that’s why. His character. His concept. His rules. Not a problem. But nobody told me, and apparently no one ran it past him in the plot stages, and consequently he hated the final product because the Phantom wasn’t shooting guns out of people’s hands.
But I wouldn’t have known it—in fact, didn’t know it—when I finally got to meet Mr. Falk. He greeted me politely, seemed genuinely happy to meet me, and he autographed the original artwork for the cover of the first issue which I’d gotten from Joe Orlando, inscribing, “To Peter, Mit luv, Lee Falk, 1988.”) Joe Orlando signed it, too. It’s one of my prize possessions.
Brian Cronin ponders the criticism whether Mark Waid’s Daredevil would be an average book if it were published in an earlier era. If more comics were tonally similar to Daredevil, it would still have a reputation as a well above-average series. Cronin seems to agree, comparing the book to five series in the 1980s.
My issue here is that I think people are either underrated Waid’s Daredevil or overrating your average old school superhero comic book when they make that argument. It seems like folks are thinking that books like Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ Batman were the average superhero comic book back in the day when they were very much the exception. So I thought it’d be interesting to compare the last five issues of Daredevil against the equivalent five issues of what were ACTUALLY the “average” superhero comic book titles at Marvel and DC forty years ago. I had some ideas of which books would be considered the “average” from each company, but I didn’t want to risk any selection bias on my part, so I instead asked a fellow whose opinion I respect and who is more than well versed in the comics of that era to name the average superhero comic of 1973. That fellow was Mark Waid. Mark’s choices were the Superman titles for DC and Daredevil, Fantastic Four and Iron Man foe Marvel. The Waid Daredevil issues I’m looking at are #25-29, the June 2013 issue through the September issues (the last two issues double-shipped.)