Beat The Devil
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer Scott Braden gives us his eighth in an regular series about comic series that never were. Today it’s the turn of Frank Miller and Walter Simonson’s Daredevil: The Devil’s Own …
Frank Miller and Walter Simonson’s Daredevil: The Devil’s Own
“What Frank had in mind was really cool,” acclaimed storyteller Walter Simonson remembered, “but really creepy!”
Having just come off his groundbreaking work on Marvel Comics’ Thor, Simonson had been asked by his former studio-mate and longtime friend, Frank Miller, to illustrate the nightmare vision that was Daredevil: The Devil’s Own. Originally pitched as a two-issue limited series for the House of Ideas, The Devil’s Own would’ve followed the critically acclaimed “Born Again” storyline that had seen print in the Daredevil monthly comic, as well as being Miller’s first venture into the world of horror.
“I was really jazzed by what Alan Moore had been doing on DC Comics’ Swamp Thing,” said Miller, “and since all of my Daredevil and Elektra stories had strong religious undercurrents running through them, I was going to use The Devil’s Own to tie together a bit more of that mythology.”
Though Miller agreed that The Devil’s Own was somewhat influenced by Moore’s work, he’s still very adamant that the story would’ve been told in his way and no one else’s. “Both Alan and I have always enjoyed each other’s work, but we still disagree about what our work means and what a super-hero is. It’s an enjoyable disagreement. But if you look at Watchmen and compare it to my Dark Knight, you’ll see that for all its teeth-gritting, Dark Knight is still intensely romantic. And, for all its apparent romance, Watchmen is deeply analytical and even cynical. They’re two very different pieces of work because Alan and I see things very differently.”
The tapestry of storylines that Miller had woven throughout his work at Marvel would all come together in The Devil’s Own. Reintroducing the Beast (not the furry, blue X-Man) from hisElektra: Assassin limited series, Miller was going to use this personification of evil as both the story’s protagonist, as well as the catalyst from which Daredevil would continue his transformation from a moonlighting crimefighter to an unrelenting force for good.
As the story begins, Matt Murdock – the “Man Without Fear” known as Daredevil – is still living in Hell’s Kitchen and working as a short order cook. (Miller revealed: “I’ve always felt that super-heroes ought to have jobs that give them more flexible hours.”) He falls prey to a series of bizarre events that occur around him and those he’s closest to – beginning with the mysterious nun who nursed him back to health in “Born Again.”
“She witnesses the first omen that alerts her that something very bad is coming into Matt’s life,” Miller explained. “And, everyone around him suddenly starts to experience very strange occurrences that all involve shattered glass – including the stained glass window that dominated the church where the nun worked.”
Fearing for Murdock, the nun finally confronts him with both a warning of dark times ahead and the fact that he is her son – a truth Matt had already guessed at.
“One of the key lines I wrote in the script was, ‘She’s my mother and she’s a nun.’ It’s enough to confuse anybody,” Miller laughed. “Meanwhile, the Beast, who’s behind these strange occurrences, has turned his attention towards Murdock as well, because he’s seen that after ‘Born Again,’ Matt has become a powerful agent for good. Therefore, he’s decided that the time has come for darker forces to line up against Daredevil. So, even though there would never be a knockdown, dragged-out fight between Daredevil and the Beast, he would still be manipulating things through his agent and pulling the strings from behind the curtain.”
Miller would then introduce readers to the Beast’s agent, a serial killer that he compared to Dracula’s Renfield – only deadlier. Using mental powers to kidnap and “recruit” weak-willed people, the Beast’s agent was gathering an army that would serve as the supernatural villain’s impending war against Daredevil and the world.
“The agent lured his victims through mind-control,” Simonson explained. “He would then dispatch them to do the Beast’s bidding. I remember one scene where there was a teenager who was either at a train station or in an airport with his parents. He got up to go to the bathroom – and never came back! It still gives me the chills.”
Attempting to fight the Beast and his minions alone, Daredevil fails miserably. But, as Miller brings Murdock to the realization that he’s up against something more than even he can handle, the “Man Without Fear” asks for help from a certain Sorcerer Supreme.
“Matt ends up needing Doctor Strange to survive the episode,” Miller revealed. “After his final confrontation with the Beast, Matt becomes aware of the underlying evil that creates the crime he’s been fighting all these years. But, even though the episode increases Matt’s commitment to fighting crime as Daredevil, he still knows that a deeper evil exists in the world. And, no matter how hard he fights, it will always be there.”
With the first issue completely scripted and ready to be drawn, Miller and Simonson were informed by the House of Ideas that it wasn’t ready for the project.
“Daredevil was going through a series of fill-ins with different writers at the time,” Simonson said. “We had this two-parter all lined-up to go, and just as Frank was writing the script, Marvel asked us to put the story on hold. They told us that they had a new regular writer who was going to take over the book, and he wanted to get off to a running start during the summer – the same time that our series was scheduled to be released. So, essentially, we were put on hold.”
Waiting several months for Marvel to greenlight the project, Miller and Simonson finally had to commit themselves to other books – shelving The Devil’s Own indefinitely. Simonson went on to produce X-Factor and chronicle the first adventures of mega villain, Apocalypse, with his wife, Louise. Miller, on the other hand, focused on a little project he was cooking up for DC Comics.
He called it The Dark Knight Returns.
As far as The Devil’s Own is concerned, Miller would still like to tell this lost tale someday – the only question is where? “You never know when something is going to pop up again. And, though there’s no denying that I’ve got a lifelong affection for Matt Murdock, it wouldn’t be any truer to him that it would be to me to play a game as old and tired as what’s going on at Marvel. So yeah, I’ve got tons more Daredevil stories to tell. I just don’t where they will appear, if they appear at all.”
“Of course,” Miller paused, “you never know.”
Lost Tales©2019 Scott Braden. All Rights Reserved