The only hope in Hell’s Kitchen for nearly fifty years has been Daredevil: the Man Without Fear and living proof that justice is blind. Known as Matt Murdock to his friends (and briefly, several million civilians when his secret identity was revealed), Daredevil spends his time fighting crime on the streets and in the courtroom as a lawyer — representing everyone from the Hulk to the guy next door being screwed over by the latest Big Bad. Murdock may be physically blind but the accident that left him that way heightened his other senses and gave him a “radar” sense, allowing him to discern the outlines of nearby objects. This may be in part why he seems fearless, but that’s also a testament to his character for surviving confrontations with the likes of Bullseye, Kingpin, and even the Hand.
Which is what makes Daredevil: End of Days such a surprising story: it begins with death of our hero and the mysterious circumstances surrounding it. That’s right, End of Days is the final chapter in Daredevil’s story, a post-mortem tale narrated by Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich. Combining an all-star comic team of Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack, Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkiewicz and Alex Maleev, the End of Days hardcover edition comes out on July 3rd. We had a chance to chat with co-creator David Mack about this long-awaited and shocking series.
David Mack: I was talking with Brian Bendis about writing something new for Marvel. You’re probably aware that I began my work for Marvel as the writer on Daredevil, taking over for Kevin Smith as writer, and working with Joe Quesada as artist. Brian and I had worked together on his first run in the Daredevil series. I had written and drawn another run in Daredevil after that, and I was gearing up to write something else for Marvel. Editor Warren Simons (now EIC at Valiant) was pitching me a few other ideas to write and I was discussing it with Brian, and Brian said that there was a Daredevil project that he and I should write together. He said that Marvel editor Warren Simons had suggested an idea about the last days of Daredevil, a kind of book-end to Daredevil’s story and Brian said that he and I should write it together.
Originally announced over five years ago, were there any drastic changes to End of Days between then and now?
DM: Not so much a drastic change in the concept, but in the format. The concept has come through fairly close to how we had envisioned it from the start. But it was originally going to be in oversize format for each issue, with less issues. So the majority of the story was written in a different format: each issue being 32 plus pages. Years later, under new editor Steve Wacker, we were told the first issue could be oversize but all the rest of the issues could only be 20 pages each. So I went back, and re-edited all of the scenes, moved them around, and cut each chapter down to 20 pages. Some scenes were omitted. Some new scenes were added, and many scenes were reordered… but the result was an improvement in the order and the pace.
After each issue is drawn [and] the art comes in from Klaus [Janson], Bill [Sienkiewicz] and Alex [Maleev], Brian and I do bold rewrites on the dialogue: cutting it down quite a bit because the art comes in so great, and so much less dialogue is needed. We want the art to really shine and we finesse the script to integrate it better with how the art comes in. And then Brian and I debate over some details of wording until we agree at a certain point, so it becomes a really perfect blend of each of our visions and writing styles.
Although, something interesting… What became issues #1-7 were all written in an early script form in 2007. It was later changed around to the new format, tweaked and scenes rearranged to be #1-7, but issue #8 wasn’t written until late 2012 and early 2013. That final issue #8 took as much (or more) time to write as all of the other issues put together– not because we didn’t know what went in it, but because we knew what had to go in it and each scene had to be delivered with just the right pacing, just the right timing, in the best order and [we] had to keep trimming it to fit it in the standard 20 page [issue]. So there was a lot of whittling and a lot of tinkering on each and every scene of that final issue. I spent most of November/December 2012, and all of January/February of 2013 writing, rewriting, tinkering and discussing with Brian about that last issue. Then when the art came in, there were more bold changes in dialogue and Brian and I spent many more hours discussing and debating over wording. All to the benefit of the book. There were entire scenes in that last issue that just had to be left out for the page count, for the pacing and to keep the focus on the thrust of the reveals and main characters.
The good news is that the hardcover collection has 24 pages of bonus material. It is mostly art, but you can see some early versions of script pages for issue #8 that include omitted scenes, omitted reveals, and lots of more information and backstory: particularly about Bullseye, the origins of the word “Mapone” and information delivered by the Punisher based on his knowledge and possible leads to what the word had meant to him.
I urge you to get that Hardcover collection. Lots of gems in the back including amazing art process [pages] by Klaus Janson and Bill Sienkiewicz.
Why Daredevil, and why focus on his death?
DM: Well it’s more a focus on his life and a focus on his legacy, his world and his effects on his world: the ripple effects on the people in his life.
Daredevil is a complex character. Structuring the story this way, as a mystery, and as a story that gives pieces of his life from the perspective of the people in all the different levels of his life, creates an opportunity for exploring multi-faceted complex dimensions of the character.
Clearly there are comparisons to the structure of the film Citizen Kane in the story and it gave us an opportunity to play with the dynamics of that structure, and play against it at times.
Why Daredevil? Because we love him. Because each of the creators of this book grew up with him, and pledged large chunks of their careers as storytellers in the service of creating different eras to the character. Eras that are different, and complex, but that all gel together in this story. We all acknowledge the different dimensions to this rich character, and found a story that intertwines the eras and dimensions of the character together.
We all had something to say about the character in this story that was very personal to all of us.
There are very specific artistic choices for certain pages (e.g. your illustration of flashback scenes, Bill Sienkiewicz setting the tone for a villain’s reveal). Was that something you intended on from the start or did that grow organically as you all began to collaborate?
DM: Yes and yes. It was intended from the start, very organically. Each of the creators had left a certain mark on the Daredevil and his fellow characters and an era of Daredevil. So it gave us an opportunity to hearken to a different era by using the style of a specific creator.
It also gave us the opportunity to have the point of view of a specific character, by having that character’s pages and perspective drawn by the creator that was most associated with that character.
Did everyone involved know where the story was going when they started working on it, or was it kept a secret?
DM: No one got, or saw the script to the final issue until it was time to draw it. Up until then, the artists and I would all meet and discuss certain things over dinner about once a year. Some things were discussed in broad strokes. But the ending reveals were not discussed in detail until the artists had the script and were drawing it.
You’ve brought back a lot of quintessential Daredevil characters that haven’t been seen in years, did you set out to do that or did the story evolve to include them?
DM: It was a very organic process. With Ben as the investigator, he follows the leads he would have, in the order that would be natural to him, with the connections that he would have, and it flows from that. Also I give a shout out to my brother Steven Mack. Way back in 2006 or 2007 when Brian and I first started discussing this project, I told my brother Steven the basic idea and asked him to give me any notes or ideas that he would have for who Ben might talk to, the nature of the visit, [etc.]. He gave me some great notes, many of which became germs of ideas for some of the scenes. The Gladiator scenes are some that came from my brother’s notes to me.
The Punisher was a favorite character of mine since I was a child. My introduction of the Punisher came at the same time as my introduction to Daredevil, in those early issues by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson. So I knew the Punisher was going to play a pivotal role in the course of this story. The scene where Ben visits the Punisher in prison was a very personal scene to me. I wrote that scene right after I visited someone who was incarcerated. The dialogue that the guard says to Ben is almost verbatim [to] what the guard told me as I went into the depths of the facility with the doors closing behind me. That entire scene had a lot of personal things that came from real life. In fact there are many very personal details and themes in this story that are manifested through these characters, and that we worked out in these scenes between Ben and these diverse characters.
Ben Urich is a great “everyman,” someone readers can easily identify with. Telling the story through him gives it a very noir detective feel. Was that tone intentional? Why Ben?
DM: In a way this story is a kind of bookend to Daredevil: Wake Up, Brian’s first Daredevil story. I drew it and it comes right after the first Daredevil story that I wrote. It features Ben as the investigator and it also introduces a nine-year-old Timmy that Ben adopts in the story. So this story takes place years later: that adopted son is a teenager, and Ben is again investigating.
You’ve probably made that connection that the Timmy in [End of Days] is the young boy in Daredevil: Wake Up who saves Daredevil’s life. An interesting note is that the young boy who modeled for Timmy in Daredevil: Wake Up thirteen years ago, modeled for my painted art in this series as the teenage Timmy in Daredevil: End of Days. That worked out to be some detailed continuity.
What are some of your favourite moments, both story-wise and artistically?
DM: Honestly, just working with the other creators on this project. Brian and I grew up with Daredevil stories by Bill and Klaus. We learned from them as children. They are mentors to us before they even knew us, and now we get to work with them every day for seven years! On a story that all of us LOVE and connect with. That has truly been a high point of our careers. I only hope Bill and Klaus know how much that means to us (even though we tell them). As I said, the story itself has so many personal elements to us. To get to write the Punisher was a dream come true. I’m very happy with our presentation of that character in the series.
An interesting note about that: when I was doing rewrites on those issues in 2011 and trimming the issues to the 20 page format, I was staying at actor Thomas Jane’s house. Each day, I’d wake up and be working on these Punisher scenes, and it occurred to me that I was writing Punisher scenes while staying in the house of the actor that portrayed the Punisher in the film. There were fascinating synchronicities like that all through the making of this series.
What has fan reaction been like?
DM: We were braced for a backlash against the book. It is such an intense story (and a VERY intense first issue), and even though we are doing a story of substance and character depth, there is always the chance that people will make snap judgments about the book before reading it based on the radical premise of the project. So we were so delighted when readers and reviews responded with such a grand connection to the story and the characters and the heart that is in the story.
Mapone is the word that started it all. What can you tell us about it?
DM: It’s not such a strange word. It is a city in Mozambique and people are often named after the city they are conceived in. We know Matt had disappeared for a while. There is more back-story on the word in early script excerpts in the hardcover collection. But we left out back-story about it, to focus on the heart of the story and the emotional reveals of it. The details of the word itself are reasonable to surmise in the context of the story. So we didn’t want to over-inform about back-story (and I am tip-toeing around spoilers). It’s there if you want to think about it and put it together though.
There is another bit of fun about it (also revealed in the early script version included in the hardcover extras): the Punisher says he had once surmised it was one meaning, and that meaning has to do with Bullseye’s history. Then he surmises another meaning it may have, based on another shred of information he has. It makes you wonder if the word had a different meaning for Bullseye than it had for Matt, and that is one of the very fun aspects to a story like this. Each character has a unique point of view, and each character is NOT objective, and not always reliable in what they say to Ben. They each have their own agendas, their own blind spots and their own emotional trigger points. So Ben and the reader have to puzzle through these odd-fitting pieces of the facets of the story that the various characters offer. Each time you reread the story, you may see other possibilities encrypted in the story. That is the kind of story I love to read and reread.
Daredevil: End of Days hardcover edition is available at your local comic book shop on July 3rd.