Why Daredevil Was a Step Forward for Marvel
The second largest words to appear on the cover of Daredevil #1 is 'Spider-Man', and it even features a facsimile of the cover of The Amazing Spider-Man #1 on the splash page.
There's a reason Daredevil is often compared to Spider-Man - of all the original Marvel heroes, these two probably have the most in common. Both were teenagers who studied while other kids played sports, both got their powers from radiation accidents, both felt a sense of duty to a slain father figure, both were acrobatic heroes who like to wise crack while fighting villains... etc. etc.
And while, in many ways Daredevil is the more interesting of the two characters, his origin, as originally presented here in Daredevil #1, is in some ways weaker than that of Spider-Man. While Spider-Man was actively picked on, Daredevil just had kids calling him a sissy for not playing with them, or 'Indian wrasslin' with them. But unlike Peter Parker, Matt Murdock was in top shape prior to becoming Daredevil, all it would have taken was ten minutes of his time to prove them wrong, but no, somehow he has time to study and get straight A's and time to workout on every conceivable piece of gym equipment every day - but can't spare those 10 minutes.
The real clincher though is the way Daredevil gets his powers - by saving a blind man from being hit by a truck he himself becomes blind (what is that supposed to mean?), when a radioactive cylinder flies from the truck and hits him in the face. Are we supposed to believe that even in the 1960s they were just driving radioactive canisters around unsecured in pickup trucks, and that radiation would make you blind but give you super senses and make you a better student (seriously that's in here)? Spider-Man's radioactive spider bite is more believable than that.
As one more, admittedly smaller quibble, Murdock makes his cane that night, and while it's a more believable accoutrement for a hero to self manufacture in one night than oh, say, web-shooters, it's not without it's problems - the biggest one being the cane's handle which is sometimes straight, sometimes hooked. Calling it flexible just doesn't gibe, since he wouldn't then be able to do things like catch people's limbs and hook onto flagpoles with it.
But, if this is an origin story, and it's not as compelling an origin as the one for Spider-Man, why do I rate it higher as a comic?
The answer is, because this issue of Daredevil is a better story. All the supporting characters from Foggy Nelson to Battling Murdock are more believable than the initial supporting cast of Spider-Man. And, there is just something more exciting about the seedy world of boxing and underworld crime in Daredevil.
Recently Marvel has gone back and re-colored this comic using modern digital techniques, and it looks outstanding. Best of all (at least for the now) they've made it available for free on their website!