Whatever comics commentary I may have is generally going to be lagging behind fresh releases. In particular, my Marvel Comics reading is almost always off by six months or so, since that’s about how long it takes, I believe, for a comic to make it from the newsstand to Marvel Unlimited’s digital subscription service. A new Daredevil series just popped up, story by Chip Zdarsky, art by Marco Checchetto, and color by Sunny Cho. Any time there’s a new Daredevil creative team, there’s the opportunity for a new take on this rare blind superhero (with heightened hearing, among other senses).
In this early scene from the first issue, just two pages in, Zdarsky gives us a glimpse of Daredevil’s own perception of his super-senses. (Origin story in brief: as a kid, Matt Murdock “lost his sight in an accident involving radioactive chemicals,” and rather than dying of cancer like the rest of us would, he became an infamous New York City vigilante and, by day, a crusading lawyer). The pills depicted are pain medication for a recent injury. (I don’t know if there’s an addiction plot line coming, like the classic Iron Man alcoholism one, “Demon in a Bottle.” I’ve only read this first issue.) His comment gets at the diminished role that listening plays in dark, loud places (he’s in a dive bar at this moment, perhaps the last dive bar in the Epcot for aesthetes that is modern Manhattan), how it levels the sensory playing field. I especially like how other senses are of particular use in such situations, how “the smells fill in the cracks.”
Now, when he says, “Places like this are a picture,” he’s saying one thing to the woman he’s in the process of picking up, and something else entirely to the true-believer reader. To the woman, it’s an artful observation. To the reader, it’s a consideration of how echolocation gives Daredevil a sense of whatever space he’s in, a detailed sense, a “picture” as it were, due to his superpowers.
While the “picture” is largely inside Daredevil’s head in the comic, it becomes fairly literal in a tasty little treat in the back of the book, where there’s a four-page comic, both art and story by Zdarsky.
For example, spend a moment with these three panels:
And then compare that sequence with this one:
See how the first is a sound/echolocation depiction of the “visual” sequence? See how the tiny, lowercase (i.e., quiet) sound effects in the second sequence are dwarfed by the larger, all-caps effects in the first sequence? This back-section, four-page comic in Daredevil is actually two pages repeated twice: once as visual, and once as sonic. Interestingly, all four pages are not depicted from Daredevil’s point of view. The depiction is omniscient, with Daredevil in the frame. There are two standard pages, which is to say: two pages drawn as a sight-normative narrator/reader would experience the activity. Those pages then alternate with the same sequence as if the narrator/reader were viewing it in Daredevil’s blind-yet-enhanced state.
These distinct reproductions of the same sequence bring to mind Matt Madden’s excellent book 99 Ways to Tell a Story, while the focus on disability, as always, stirs memories of the great “deaf Hawkeye” work by Matt Fraction and David Aja, not to mention such characters as Alicia Masters, the blind secondary figure in the Fantastic Four comics, and Black Bolt, the nuclear-voiced Inhumans leader, and … well, the list goes on and on. Sound and comics, it’s a thing.
Anyhow, that’s just a peek into the way sound is depicted and employed in this new(ish) Daredevil series. I’m looking forward to the next issue.
After posting this initially on Twitter and then to my This Week in Sound email list, I was reminded of some earlier, related posts I’ve made in to Instagram, from two other first issues of Daredevil runs. This panel is from a 2014 issue of a different Daredevil #1, written by Mark Waid, drawn by Chris Samnee:
And panel this is from the 2016 Daredevil #1 issue from writer Charles Soule and artist Ron Garney:
This post is lightly adapted and expanded from a version first published in the August 26, 2019, issue of the free Disquiet.com weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound (tinyletter.com/disquiet).
The above image is a detail from a contemporary piece of calligraphy by artist Kim Jongweon, who is working toward a new visual vocabulary born of ancient and modern Korean writing. Until dissuaded, I’m going to believe this character (in both the sense of a written character, and of an image depicting a human face) is playing some sort of woodwind, or perhaps is singing. Note the smaller, inset figure. It appears to be dancing. Also shown, below, for context is a photo of the full Jongweon piece, currently displayed as part of Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing, a large-scale exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. That one little dancer is but a filigree amid this expanse of orderly, buoyant drawings:
The exhibit is phenomenal, massive walls given over to single characters the size of a human body, glass cabinets with fine ancient texts, and rubbings of even older examples of Koreans expressing themselves with lines, lines that some day would evolve into writing, into an expression of voice as much as of thought. Try, for example, returning the gaze of a 7,000-year old face as seen in this petroglyph. I’m fascinated by the absence of ears. Is this how someone saw themselves? Is it a drawing of a mask? Stare back in time and time stares back at you:
A focus of the exhibit is hangeul, a modernized and simplified Korean lettering, or “phonetic script,” that dates back to the 15th century. It was developed in order to replace the classical Chinese that had long been the region’s lingua franca. (That’s not actually an accurate description. As a This Week in Sound reader, Anne Bell, helpfully clarified for me, via email: “The Korean language has always been distinct from Chinese but the elite used classical Chinese characters as the writing system for centuries. What hangeul did was mimic the actual sounds of spoken Korean, making it a true phonetic alphabet. The hangeul alphabet has 28 letters. Compare this to Chinese where basic literacy requires learning between 2500 to 3000 characters. This was huge in terms of democratizing the written word.”) I’ve always marveled at the pleasing geometry of the Korean language, and this exhibit brings it alive in a way I had long dreamed of. Look at these bold letter forms and ponder that this was published in 1446.
At times in the exhibit the connection between line and tongue is made explicit, as in this 1947 document (almost exactly 600 years later than the above book), which explains how “mouth movements” match various aspects of hangeul:
More on the exhibit at the museum’s website, which explains that due to how rare many of the displayed pieces are, the show will not be touring: lacma.org.
This is lightly adapted and expanded from an edition first published in the August 26, 2019, issue of the free Disquiet.com weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound (tinyletter.com/disquiet).
Start the day by returning the gaze of a 7,000-year old face: a petroglyph rubbing from the excellent LACMA exhibit Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing. I’m fascinated by the absence of ears. Is this how someone saw themselves? Is it a drawing of a mask? Stare back in time.
More on the exhibit at lacma.org