For Lee Weeks, the path to working on his favorite Marvel Comics character started, appropriately enough, on a dark night.
“For the first years of my career, I was so happy to be working in the business that I didn’t have the power to ask for certain assignments. I didn’t for four or five years, and I was becoming invisible,” the veteran artist told CBR. “Then I was sitting around one night and thought ‘If you could draw anybody, who would it be?’ I started doing ‘Daredevil’ sketches and made sure I took them into Marvel the next time I went and talked to that editor. I was scared to death, but I got a fill-in and it became an almost two-year run.”
The issues Weeks drew for the blind superhero at the start of the ’90s helped form an association with the character that has brought the artist back to Hell’s Kitchen many times over the years. Though in the just launched “Daredevil: Dark Nights” anthology, he’s writing as well as drawing Matt Murdock for the first time with the three-part “Angels Unaware.” Weeks’ story sees Daredevil in an amnesiac state in the midst of a pounding blizzard in New York City, searching the streets for a heart that desperately needs to reach a hospital if a little girl has a chance at survival.
And while the arc tests Murdock’s limits as he must rediscover how to use his radar-like powers with no knowledge of his past, the story also stands as the latest test for Weeks as a creator. From that first night finding his way to push for the jobs he wanted on through to this assignment as sole storyteller, the artist views Daredevil as a character that connects with his own ideals of heroism, faith and aesthetics.
“I do have a real connection to the character,” he told CBR News. “I think there’s something that allows creators – and I know a lot of fans -Â to feel really strongly about the character. There’s a lot of potential in Daredevil in large part because of the work Frank [Miller], Klaus [Janson] and David [Mazzucchelli] did back in the ’80s. It was phenomenal. He’s got a lot of pathos. And I think a mechanical reason we might connect with him more is because we don’t see the eyes. I could be way off, but I wonder if we’re somehow able to project ourselves into him a little bit more because we don’t look in his eyes.
“Certainly, it’s the most significant run I’ve done. I’ve done mostly special projects, story arcs and mini series for the last 20 years. In terms of a monthly title, that was the last one I did. So it kind of tends to be the one I get thought of. And that character is one I have a great affinity for and did for years before I got on the book.”
Weeks agreed that Daredevil seems to bring out the best illustrative qualities of classic pen-and-ink comics art from Wally Wood and Bill Everett’s heyday with the hero on down the line to Gene Colan. “There’s an incredibly organic quality about him more than most characters. The a fluidity to his motions. You can get away with different kinds of looks and movement with certain characters. I think with Wolverine you can go several different ways, but I don’t think you could do it successfully with Daredevil. There’s a fluidity to his motions but also a hyper control because he doesn’t see. He has to be aware of every pixel in his radar screen and where everything is. So there’s great grace and a peacefulness to his movements while at the same time ultimate control. It’s these arching with a lot more symmetry in it than a Spider-Man who’s much more wiry and all over the place. He can see, and he’s got the web to bail him out.”
But more importantly for the three-issue “Dark Nights” run, those artistic touchstones have aided Weeks in his goal at crafting a story. Though he’d only written one comic story before this one, the idea for “Angels Unaware” has been with him for years, and his connection to Daredevil allowed him to play up the cinematic noir style of the character even in a story that doesn’t play as a traditional mystery.
“I had an idea, and a few people have told me that Mark Waid wrote a similar setup a while ago, though I haven’t read the book in a couple of years,” Weeks said of his story’s origins. “I thought I came up with it about five years ago, but then a friend reminded me ‘No, no. You came up with that and wrote it in bullet form 12 years ago!’ I’d totally forgotten that. But I’d just done ‘Death & Destiny,’ which was a Spider-Man story and the last thing I wrote. I didn’t want that feeling to cool off, so I wrote down a bunch of quick story ideas, and then my life took a bunch of big turns. I just never got around to pitching them or doing them. I don’t think I pitched one thing.
“The biggest genesis for this story was that I was feeling a disheartened by the level of darkness in comics -Â and this was ten years ago. There was just some really dark things happening, and I felt we were losing our way as to what heroic was as creators and storytellers. We were doing things just for shock value,” he said. “The other big thing was that I was thinking of characters, and this scene popped into my head -Â this Good Samaritan scene. It’s the first thing I saw, and it’s right in the book. Matt is laying face down in the snow, and there are these little horizontal panels of people walking by. You can tell a lot about who the people are from what they’re wearing, and then the most unlikely group of people stop to help him up. That combined with these other feelings and grew into a story. I wanted to tell a story about ‘Why is Daredevil a hero?’ and in an unconscious way, whiting him out literally where he loses his memory and becomes a blank slate lets you build him back up. As he regains his memory, the rest of the story about this simple task he has to accomplish, but I hope it’s also about him discovering who he is in a metaphorical and spiritual sense.”
As part of his storytelling style, “Angels Unaware” is told in a rhythmic series of single-page story beats. “Even when I’m drawing somebody else’s story, I like to begin and end scenes at the beginning and end of a page -Â unless there’s a real intent to it and it feels important to break a scene in the middle of a page. But I’m big on feeling like the story is under the control of the storyteller,” Weeks explained. “There are even great artists I grew up reading who were working from that loose plot-to-script method where Stan [Lee] would speak a couple of lines over the phone, and you’d get an issue that starts with this big, open spaces and by the end, there are these ten little pages where they’re trying to cover everything they didn’t fit in when they were playing it freely. So I always liked the element of control.
“And I can get lost quickly in the craft of this -Â especially in the writing because I do it so infrequently. I think of a story as a sequence of scenes, and then I work really hard to construct that scene. I was talking to my editor Tom Brennan -Â who’s been a great, patient guy through all of this as I’ve been dawdling with this for a while -Â but there’s a scene on page 3 of issue #1 with a family that’s a whole story in one page. It’s all right there. I liked that -Â little stories within my story.”
Looking forward, Weeks is unsure whether or not he’ll be doing a lot more writing, but he’s enjoyed the process of making comics all by himself. “Every once in a while, I want to jump off a ledge,” the artist joked. “It’s an incredible roller coaster ride, and I think part of that is that I don’t have a method. I read things about constructing a story, but I’m really not sure how I do it. Honestly, I’m not even sure how much of a method I have for my drawing after 25 years. I just do it. So this was the hardest thing for me creatively. It’s so hard to do, but that’s what I love about it. I have more energy and am going on less sleep while I’m figuring out pacing and story. It’s not just the writing. It’s the melding of these two things to make this unique art form. They can say so much together that each of them on their own couldn’t say as well.”
“Daredevil: Dark Nights” #1 is on sale now from Marvel Comics.