Interview With Alex Irvine and Tomm Coker
(April 2009)

The creative team behind the new Daredevil Noir limited series reflect on their first issue and why certain choices were made for this take on Daredevil.

Please note: This interview talks about issue #1... so SPOILERS ahead...

Kuljit Mithra: The first thing I noticed right on page 1 is how much it looks like a film noir opening shot, with dead bodies and an almost grainy feel to the art, like you're watching an old crime movie. I was wondering some of your thoughts on this establishing shot, in terms of writing the scene and the choices made in art (like using the "big dots" in old style comics).

Tomm Coker: I was trying to invoke the opening of films such as Sunset Boulevard or The Third Man where you open with gruesome shots while a voice over catches the viewer up to speed.

I think the quiet calm of the scene really adds to the tension. You know that something really nasty just took place here and you're being forced to look at the aftermath and wonder what's going to happen next. Pretty classic noir stuff.

Alex Irvine: I had these kinds of opening sequences in mind too, because they always create a frame narrative that then opens up into the main story. I wanted the reader to be, in a sense, in the position of the detective, coming in after the crime has been committed and trying to figure out how it happened and what's going to happen next.

Mithra: I found that there is a lot of focus on Matt's heightened senses... especially his hearing and smelling. Conscious decision to do this, or just using the character's existing traits fully?

Irvine: It has always seemed to me that Daredevil's enhanced senses would be as much a curse as a blessing, for some of the reasons spelled out in the first issue. And I wanted to dig into what it would really be like to have four senses so powerful that they not only replace the missing fifth, but generally improve on it? Daredevil has a better sense of the reality around him that his sighted opponents. What are the psychological consequences of that? How does it feel to know that no one can ever lie to you because you will know from the changes in their voice and body chemistry?

Kuljit Mithra: In terms of collaboration, how has it been? I've interviewed creators in the past who never spoke with the artist involved, but others were constantly in touch, refining some areas.

Coker: The scripts were written when I came aboard so there wasn't a lot of collaboration in creating the story but Alex and I communicated quite a bit while I was drawing the book. Most of my suggestions were art related - pacing and panels per page.

I ask tons of questions in order to understand the writer's intent and that allows me to make the best visual decisions I can based on that understanding. I also discuss any changes I might want to make before moving forward.

Irvine: Some of these communications were funny. We were talking about a big fight scene in issue 1, and I was explaining what I had been trying to do in the script, and there comes this long pause... after which Tomm says, "Sometimes people just write 'They fight.'"

Kuljit Mithra: While Daredevil is certainly a basis for this take on the character, there are several changes. First is obviously the costume. How many designs were "tested" and why did this design win out?

Coker: The mask was the first thing I worked out. I wanted something similar to the Vaudeville devil / Venetian masquerade Casanova. I'm not sure why but the longer horns felt more in keeping with the period. Originally the mask had a much bigger nose but it just looked silly so...

As far as the costume goes, I think there were two designs the only difference being the first had Daredevil's arms covered in the same gray material as his legs. Joe Quesada wanted bare arms so that was that.

Mithra: Another change (and please let me know if I read this the wrong way) was that this Daredevil kills. He has a mission and will not stop until the thousands of criminals in his city are gone. What's the fundamental difference of your Daredevil that makes him believe this is okay?

Irvine: This was deliberately left vague in the script, but from what I'm hearing a lot of people are reading it the way you are. Which, I think, is okay. From one perspective, why wouldn't a vigilante in Prohibition-era Hell's Kitchen kill? He doesn't know he's occupying a superhero archetype. I don't think I wrote a scene in which I said, "Daredevil kills Goon X," but that reading is certainly available. I'm okay with it.

Mithra: I guess this relates to the previous question... There's a two page spread where Matt is at his window at home and he's lamenting about his efforts to rid his city and he doesn't feel like he's "home". The reader is pulled in on multiple closeups of Matt's face, especially the look in his eyes. The line "Home is a prison I carry in my head" is quite powerful here. Here we see Matt's eyes, but when Matt is in costume, it seems he's drawn so that you can't see his face properly; it's in shadows throughout the issue. Both of your thoughts on this?

Irvine: From a story standpoint, I was working through what it would be like for a guy to call a place home when at times he hates everything about it, and it seems like the place is out to get him. It's noisy, and it stinks, and it's dangerous-and unlike us, Matt Murdock can't hide from it when he goes home because all of the stimuli follow him right into his living room. It drives him crazy sometimes, genuinely crazy, to the point where his vigilantism is catharsis as much as anything else. You see that happening in the first big fight scene in issue 2.

Coker: I don't know if it was ever specifically stated but I never wanted to light Daredevil's face. He's a scary blind guy who's moving in the shadows and using the dark to his advantage. He's the "devil" in a crime noir - Daredevil should never be lit for retail. It would defeat the purpose.

Mithra: It shouldn't come as a surprise that the artwork is being compared to longtime DD artist Alex Maleev. Tomm, are you producing your artwork in the same kind of way digitally that he does? The inking reminds me a lot of Bill Sienkiewicz.

Coker: I'm familiar with Alex Maleev and Mike Lark - but not with the way they work. I assume we're all using lots of reference, photos, models etc - but beyond that I don't know.

This is the first job I've done where there are no "original" pages once I'm finished and I love it. So much of the pressure has been relieved and the process sped up to an extent that I don't think I'll ever go back.

My method is to pencil and ink a lot of individual drawings (panels) that I scan and assemble in Photoshop to create a page. After that I add more black, splatter, razor-blade lines and half-tone (big dots).

As far as influences are concerned I'll run down a quick list - Al Williamson, Angelo Torres, Jim Holdaway, Mike Mignola, Bill Sienkiewicz, P. Craig Russell, Sergio Toppi, Dave Mazzucchelli, Attilo Micheluzzi, Jorge Zaffino, Creepy Magazine... etc.

Mithra: I like how the reader is tricked into believing Matt is a lawyer, but then we learn that Foggy is a PI and Matt is his helper. Why the change here? Just more believable for this time period?

Irvine: Yeah, I wanted to nod at his canonical origin but it didn't make any sense for anyone to pretend that he could have been a blind lawyer in 1930. Also, it wouldn't be a classic noir without a PI involved somehow- that seemed like a natural way to get Foggy involved.

Mithra: I also like how the Kingpin already has suspicions that Matt is DD. Was this something you felt should have been in place in the main DD title before he actually found out?

Irvine: All of the guys who have written the main Daredevil title have had their reasons for doing what they did. I thought this made sense for the story I wanted to tell, and the reasons for that will be a lot clearer at the end of the book than they are right now. It's always seemed to me that it would be awfully difficult for a guy as sharp as Wilson Fisk not to have any idea about possible identities for Daredevil, but that's part of the superhero archetype too, right?

Mithra: And finally, we can't spoil anything about the rest of the series, but can we get a hint of what to expect from the Bull's Eye Killer (costume-wise, character-wise)?

Coker: I plead the fifth on this one.

Irvine: If Tomm's bailing out on this one, I am too. But you'll dig it when you see it.

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(c) Kuljit Mithra 2009
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear
http://www.manwithoutfear.com
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