Year of the Artist, Day 358: Wallace Wood, Part 3 - <i>Daredevil</i> #6

Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today's artist is Wallace Wood, and the issue is Daredevil #6, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated February 1965. These scans are from Marvel Masterworks: Daredevil volume 1, which was published 2003. Enjoy!

Wood continued to work in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but after EC imploded, he found work outside of comics, doing covers for science fiction and fantasy novels, and in comics, he was drawing a lot for MAD before walking out in a huff in 1964. His health was never great, either, which had to have an impact on the amount of work he did. In 1964, Stan Lee brought him on to work on Daredevil, and of course his lasting legacy of that book is the costume redesign he did. He wasn't happy with Lee, though, and unlike Kirby but like Ditko, he decided working for Marvel just wasn't for him. It's too bad, even though his work on Daredevil isn't the best work of his career. Like Al Williamson, a lot of Wood's genius came from inking, and for whatever reason (I'd say the grind of a monthly book, but a decade earlier Wood was able to do a lot of short stories that probably added up to as many pages as an issue of Daredevil), his inks aren't quite as stunning on Daredevil. Interestingly, the issues he inks over Bob Powell's pencils (issues #9-11) are a bit more like "classic" Wood, but as I've noted throughout the year, I'm worse at writing about inking than I am writing about penciling, so I'm sticking to issues that Wood definitely penciled. (Powell is another artist I wish I had gotten to this year ... oh well!) So let's take a look at the issue before Wood redesigned the costume! I mean, come on, you've all seen his battle with Namor! Brian posts it once a year, at least!

Our hero tumbles on a robbery disguised as a movie shoot (oh, those clever criminals!) and fights the Ox and the Eel. We can see that Wood's line work is simply not as detailed and lush as it was in the 1950s, but again, I'm not sure why - I imagine it's Lee, wanting all the 1960s Marvel comics to have a similar style, which means simpler lines and little brush work. Wood hadn't lost the ability, certainly, as we'll see in the next two days, and I can't think he was already pressed for time, as this was his second issue. We saw yesterday that Wood can draw a good fight scene, and while his layouts in this issue are good, his figure work is a bit stiff. Daredevil himself is a pretty good, as he moves around the page (Panel 3, where he "flies" at the Eel, is the only one where he's a bit wonky), but the Ox is kind of stiff, and I don't think it's because he's a big lunkhead. The layout, as I mentioned, is nice - in Panel 4, Wood elongates the scene so that the Eel flying out of Daredevil's grasp has a good effect on the reader, and Wood does get a nice flow going in the final four panels, as the Eel flips over the two, lands, grabs Daredevil, and then gets punched when DD slips from his grasp. Wood obviously had the skills to do a superhero book, but I really do wonder if Lee held him back.

Occasionally, the "classic" Wood shows up, if only in small doses. Mr. Fear's origin is one such place. First of all, Wood gets to ditch panel borders (because it's a flashback), which he was comfortable with, and that allows him to use hatching on the edges to blur the scene just a little. It's supposed to be a bit creepy, so he's able to add more blacks and nuance than in other parts of the issue. In Panel 2, he uses a shadow to cut across Zoltan's face, which is unsubtle but nicely shows his descent into evil. He gives the cat some ragged stripes that remind us of earlier inking work, and when Zoltan is afraid of the kitty, Wood uses blacks on his face to show his terror and also to show where the light is coming from. Zoltan is a bit "mad," so Wood gives him some rougher lines on his face and makes his eyebrows a bit ragged. In Panel 7, he uses silhouettes to show Zoltan working long into the night and also to show the darkness taking him over. Wood didn't get to do this kind of quirkier work too often during his Daredevil run, so it's neat to see it here.

Wood gets to show Matt, Foggy, and Karen at the office, and Lee stuffs it with words, as Matt and Karen are pining away for each other but neither says anything about it. We'll see Wood's inks on Karen's hair better in another example below, but they are quite nice. Wood can still do subtle stuff, like Karen's downcast face in Panel 2 and her gleeful reaction to the Daredevil wax figure in Panel 3. Little things like that give us a glimpse of what Wood's work on Daredevil could have been, even though it's pretty good already.

Foggy thinks he saw the Ox at the wax museum, so he returns that night and discovers that Daredevil is already fighting the bad guys. He tries to stop Mr. Fear from firing his fear pellet at our hero, but gets pummeled for his efforts. This is another nicely laid-out page - Wood moves us across the panels well, and he manages to fit a lot into each panel, as we see with Panel 2, where the main action is Foggy ripping Mr. Fear's mask, while Wood fits Daredevil in the background to show that he's once again been affected by the gas. The figure work is again a bit stiff - Daredevil looks like a mannequin in Panel 3 - but Wood does a terrific job with Foggy in the final two panels, drawing him like a puppet with its strings cut. So often in superhero comics, especially in early ones, unconscious figures look only like conscious figures with their eyes closed, but Wood draws Foggy as limply as possible, and it brings home the sadness that Matt feels in Panel 7 as he supports his friend. It's very well done.

In Panel 3, we get a little bit of Wood's inking, as he uses blacks to add some lushness to Karen's hair. Again, in Marvel superhero comics of the 1960s, there wasn't much space for Wood's more nuanced approach - that might have been why Kirby was so successful, because his bombastic style matched Lee's bombastic scripting so well. But Wood did what he could, and we get nice little scenes like this, with Wood drawing a very nice, upset Matt in Panel 5 and using spot blacks on his suit to make his face stand out a bit more. It's not a lot, but you take what you can get.

Wood, of course, wasn't done with superheroes, as he was the driving force behind T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, which began shortly after he left Daredevil. However, I'm not showing anything from T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, for a few reasons. One, it looks very similar to his work here, and two, he assembled a bunch of artists to work on it, and a lot of it is credited to Dan Adkins, co-penciling with Wood, and while I assume Adkins tried to look like Wood, I don't want to get into that here. So tomorrow we'll take a look at something else he did soon after leaving Marvel, which is much more in his wheelhouse. Come back and take a look! And don't forget - you still have time to skip through the archives!

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