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Episode 1744 Talkback - BOMC: Daredevil: Born Again

It was the worst of times for Daredevil; it was the best of times for his readers! It was 1986, and comics auteur Frank Miller was making his second pass at writing Marvel's Daredevil series, accompanied this time by master draftsman David Mazzucchelli as artist. What Miller accomplished over seven revolutionary issues (Daredevil #227-233), collectively titled 'Born Again,' was the total decimation of Matt Murdock's life and Murdock's subsequent triumphant resurgence, in a masterful tale steeped in hardboiled crime fiction and Christian allegory. Join our CGS literary circle (including Doctors of Daredevology Chris Eberle and Kevin Moyer) in an examination of this deft deconstruction and reconstruction of one of Marvel's iconic characters. (2:30:22)

Listen here.


  • Mark_EngblomMark_Engblom Posts: 343
    edited July 2019
    Hi guys! I really enjoyed the in-depth exploration of Miller and Mazzucchelli's Born Again, one of my absolute favorite fictional works since first reading it in 1986.

    Speaking of that glorious year in comics history, I just thought I'd correct the publishing timeline you were using during the podcast. You guys all seemed to be under the impression that Miller's Dark Knight Returns was published some time after Born Again, but having been a "boots on the ground" college-age fan at the time, that didn't quite ring true. Sure enough, after confirming it through some quick Google-Fu, Born Again and The Dark Knight Returns were actually published concurrently.

    The publication dates of Born Again were February through August of 1986. The publication dates of The Dark Knight Returns were February through June of 1986. As an aside, Moore and Gibbons' Watchmen began publication in September of that same year, so as you can imagine, this was a banner year to be a young adult comic book fan.

    Some other random observations:

    1. Kevin: Your heartfelt reflections on how Born Again spoke to you during a dark time in your life was quite touching. The power of art to transform never ceases to amaze me.

    2. Chris: You read Born Again at the age of 12? I don't know whether to be happy for you or feel sorry for you! Seriously, you definitely broke the mold on what a pre-teen is capable of not only appreciating, but understanding. Of course, I'm sure that, as an adult, you have a much more well-rounded understanding and appreciation of this masterpiece...but good on you for wading into it as a young lad!

    3. Murd: I really enjoyed your sharp observations regarding some of the Christian symbology. Even I (a Christian and student of the Bible) didn't see the Ben Urich/Apostle Peter connection, so great catch! However, I was a little bummed out by your characterization of the Avengers as "crypto-fascists" in their brief appearance. My perception of the scene was one of pure awe and fearful wonder, much like the street-level perspective that Busiek and Ross would so masterfully explore in MARVELS eight years later. I guess knowing your preference for lighter and more whimsical fare, I can see how you might perceive their depiction as somewhat ominous (especially within the context of such a dark story), but I still think "crypto-fascistic" is a bit strong.

    4. As incredible as this story was, I’ve noticed an unfortunate side effect of its success has been how often subsequent writers have returned to that same well. The "How Low Can You Go?" limbo of making Matt's life increasingly bleak, chaotic, and tragic not only veered the Daredevil title into virtual self-parody, but also served to diminish some of Born Again's emotional power to younger audiences who've long since become accustomed to Daredevil's "Charlie Brown" status within the Marvel Universe.

    5. Thanks for the tip on DD #226. I never realized it was somewhat of a table-setter for Born Again. Going onto my "To Buy" list immediately!

    Great show, guys! Hopefully we'll see some more BOMC episodes yet this year. The long-form discussion format is a nice change from the more "drive-by" aspect of Spotlights or Top Fives (my other two favorite formats).

    Some suggestions for future BOMC episodes:

    1. Kurt Busiek's Superman: Secret Identity

    2. Waid and Ross' Kingdom Come (you may have already covered this in some respect, but I didn't see it pop up on a search of your BOMC archives).

    3. Darwyn Cooke's DC: The New Frontier

    4. Wein and Perez's Wonder Woman: Gods & Mortals (covering the first seven issues of their fabled WW reboot)
  • ChrisBeckettChrisBeckett Posts: 535
    Just starting the episode, Gentlemen, and wanted to get some initial thoughts out of the way.

    Firstly, I feel similarly to @wildpigcomics: Born Again is my favorite superhero comic book story, period. I managed to grab the same 1987 trade he and Kevin brought to the studio, and it just floored me, when I read it. I had only been collecting comics for roughly three years, at the time, and it was one of the very few collections to be found at my local bookstore, up here in Maine, Mr. Paperback's (I was still a couple of years away from discovering real, actual comic shops that would lead me down many another rabbit hole of collecting, but I digress). This, along with Dark Knight Returns and the first Saga of the Swamp Thing collections, were the only "books" of comics to be found, for me, and they all had a significant impact on my comic reading habits.

    There is definitely something about the combination of Miller & Mazzucchelli on this book. The story, including dialogue and characterization, is emotional and engaging, from the opening scene, and it just ramps up throughout the rest of the story. Admittedly, the "Nuke" aspect derails things slightly -- or did for me, when I was younger -- but I've gotten used to it and enjoy it's almost coda-like feel. But everything is definitely elevated by Mazzucchelli's art. His work is almost flawless in this book. From the graceful and powerful figure of Matt Murdock in the DD costume to the slightly impressionistic work on Ben Urich, in certain instances, it's just an amazing display of beautifully rendered images coupled with a thoughtfulness as to how best the story can be told. I cannot heap enough accolades onto this book (and most certainly am blind to any deficiencies that might be evident to a less enamored reader), but it has been at the top of my list of comic stories for a long, long time, and the wear and tear visible on my collection is testament to that. Which is one reason I also got the Artist's Edition (the only one I had for a long time, until Dark Horse came along and offered a Lone Wolf & Cub edition, which, not coincidentally, was a huge influence on Miller and his storytelling approach).

    And one other note, before I return to the discussion -- utilizing cover dates, from February 1986 to May 1987, Miller, along with some legendary artists & collaborators (Mazzucchelli, Sienkiewicz, Janson, Varley, et al.), had the following comics published:

    -- Daredevil: Born Again (DD 227-233)
    -- Batman: the Dark Knight Returns 1-4
    -- Elektra: Assassin 1-8
    -- Daredevil: Love & War OGN
    -- Batman: Year One (Batman 404-407)

    Not a bad run.

    Thanks, as always, for the show, and the work that goes into it. It's much appreciated, Geeks!

  • SharkJumperSharkJumper Posts: 204

    3. Darwyn Cooke's DC: The New Frontier

    That would be my vote.
    I'm just finishing this up.

  • I saved this episode until I finally read this story and boy was it worth the wait. So glad I finally had a "reason" to sit down and read this story I've known about mainly through flashbacks, OHOTMU entries, and Marvel Trading cards.
    Thanks for bringing this type of episode back. I can't wait to "have to" read even more great comics I missed out on or need a refresher before listening to your thoughts.

    I enjoyed the story and have gained a new appreciation for the Netflix Daredevil show as a result. I still prefer a brighter swashbuckling horn head but there is no denying this is an iconic storyline and worthy of it's praise.
  • This is one of my favorite comic stories ever. Thanks for doing such a great job discussing it.
  • mwhitt80mwhitt80 Posts: 4,583

    I finally got around to listen to the episode. Great job.

    I really liked it, When is the next bomc? I would love to have more.

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