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Daredevil: Fall From Grace -- A Retrospective
(April 2009)

In the summer of 1993, writer D.G. Chichester and artists Scott McDaniel & Hector Collazo were working on Daredevil #319, the first issue of Fall From Grace, an arc that promised to turn Daredevil's world upside down. Later that year, by the time issue #325 was released, Daredevil was in a new armoured costume, "Matt Murdock" was no more, and Elektra had returned.

I've had the chance to interview all three main creators of Fall From Grace separately in the past, but I thought I'd get back in touch with all of them to do a special retrospective look... 15 years later. No matter what you thought of this time period in DD's history, I hope you enjoy this look back with the creative team.

Many thanks to all three creators, who took time out of their busy schedules, and who were all very excited to take part in this very honest discussion about their work.

Please note: This interview was conducted from November 2008 - April 2009. Also note that Hector Collazo's full contribution to this interview will follow at a later date, due to unforseen personal circumstances.

Reader discretion, as the interview does contain coarse language.

Kuljit Mithra: Aside from making all of you feel very old when I mentioned it's been 15 years since "Fall From Grace" came out, I was wondering what first went through your mind when I broached the subject of this interview?

Hector Collazo: It's unreal that it has been 15 years since the FFG run. It feels as if it was yesterday! Memories of sitting in the old studio in Queens pulling all-nighters inking pages that were just beyond anything... good days!

Dan Chichester: The first thing that came to mind for me (aside from, "Gee, I haven't touched base with Hector and Scott since my previous life!") was to flash back to the state of mind I was in around then. And suddenly realizing, having stepped well outside that earlier incarnation, just how much Fall From Grace was written from a relatively angry place.

Especially when contrasted with Last Rites/Fall of the Kingpin, my first real pass at hornhead. In writing that proposal and dropping it off on [editor] Ralph Macchio's desk, I had no expectation I would get the gig. That was all swing-for-the-fences stuff. The essential "Why not?" that, when I'm on, surprises me with where its answers take me. And leads to good narrative. Storytelling with a rush. I remember waiting to hear back from Ralph as being all about possibilities and potential and excitement. And when he said, "Take the blind guy for a spin around the rooftops!" it was making good on all that.

Contrast that with the climate just ahead of issue #319. Mutants ruled the day. A B-level, hypersensed lawyer couldn't catch a break -- or a promotional dollar. Word from Pat Garrahy, Ralph's very tall and encouraging assistant, was that e-in-c Tom DeFalco was out to get me off the book. (I would soon after broach that subject with Tom directly. And my impression was that being called on it threw him off his game enough that it took much of the wind out of that shadow campaign.)

Scott and I were summoned to a lunch where we were supposed to lay out the details of this "big story" we had in mind. It didn't have the feeling of a brainstorm, or a creative pow-wow. The tone, to my recollection, was much more, "This better be good!" (The first half of the lunch was actually pretty pleasant. Congenial comic book pro BS. I was hoping we'd be able to get to "Check, please!" without ever getting to the point. But then Ralph, curse him, had to go and, "Why don't you guys tell Tom what you're thinking?")

And it wasn't good. The whole Eddie [Passim] loses the vial in the subway -- and this happens -- and that happens -- and there's a costume change -- well, lead balloons were positively airy by comparison. Tom held a withering court around the breadsticks, and the verdict was a resounding, "Eh." Take the stuff out of the subway, stick it in a warehouse, there's a break-in. Done and done. All the rest -- fuggedaboutit.

There was no joy in Murdockville that day. A long, long walk back to the nearby Marvel offices. And a resigned surrender from Ralph, who in effect said, "So, you'll change things up like Tom says?" But the thing was, until that lunch, we'd all been jazzed about the story and direction. Editorial and creative. But now it was a bad idea, a bad scenario, a lousy approach? I told Ralph my inclination and intent was to move ahead with the storyline just as we'd been planning all along.

No marketing love for ol' DD. No respect for my wordsmithing. No enthusiasm for our big pitch. What a chip I must have had on my shoulder! It's right there, in the opening line.

"These are the facts. And they are indisputable."

I guess I must have figured, "Fuck you!" wouldn't have made it past the Comics Code.

(In fairness and through the lens of time, the story's tendency to spontaneously convolute would have been better served by some injections of Tom's inclination toward simplicity. Certainly if I ever get my flux capacitor working, the message I'd send back to that D.G. would be "Edit yourself, stupid!" A theme I'm sure we'll return to many times throughout this exercise.)

Scott McDaniel: Kuljit, my first thought after you asked about this introspective was - "have I been working in comics for THIS long already??!" Although my body has aged, I think I'm emotionally arrested at the age I entered this industry! I suppose there are worse fates than feeling perpetually 26 years old. My second thought was - "this will be a terrific opportunity to catch up with Dan and Hector - two guys that hold great sentimental value with me (they carried me through my first full-time assignment!)."

My memory is a bit faded over the long years - so much so that I had to ask Dan to fill in some key gaps in that recollection! See that - he's STILL carrying me!

My first memory of "Fall from Grace" is a large, Marvel Age interview session held at Marvel in NYC with various editorial representatives (editor Ralph Macchio, assistant editor Pat Garrahy, EIC Tom DeFalco - and some others that I can't really recall), John Romita Sr., our creative team (Dan, me and Hector) and John Romita Jr., the artist of the "rival" creative team that was preparing to launch "Man Without Fear." This interview was to gather information for an article detailing all things Daredevil soon to hit the stands.

Right off the bat, I felt very unqualified to be sitting at this table with JR Jr. and JR Sr. JR Jr. was an artist I admired and respected and who clearly was better than me (and in the club-house kind of way - he let me know it!). JR Sr. was an artist of legendary skill and accomplishment whom I greatly admired and respected (who, after the interview, graciously helped me work out some anatomy problems on a cover I was doing for a book titled Designer Genes).

Daredevil was my very first monthly assignment, and this was my very first face to face with real creators having a lively exchange of ideas. Everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) was new and very intimidating, so I entered this gathering very much like a deer-in-the-headlights. During the interview I mostly recall a lot of mostly good-natured sparring: Dan and Ralph and Pat and me versus others in the gathering. But when the subject of changing DD's costume came up - suddenly there appeared several more unknown people (unknown to me), each seeming to have a very definite, contrary opinion on the subject. John Romita Sr. had very strong, negative opinions of the idea. It was all very intimidating!

Dan proposed the idea that if Daredevil was to tangle with the likes of Venom and Siege, he'd have to take appropriate, temporary precautions in the form of a suit armored with cutting-edge materials (biomimetics - a real area of research and development). The idea seemed to go over like the cutting-edge lead balloon, but after some wrangling, the design by committee process started.

Eventually this interview session broke up and our creative team went off to meet privately and begin to artistically develop our story. Assistant editor Pat Garrahy, a talented artist, had some very definite ideas of dramatic and stark covers that would grace this story. The idea of a tiny DD falling off of the Chrysler building was his, as were many of the other cover concepts in the series. We were going full steam ahead!

It was exhilarating, intimidating, liberating and frustrating all at the same time! I felt I was at a cross-roads in my career, and thanks to the clear support and encouragement from Ralph, Pat and Dan, I wanted to make the most of the opportunity set before me.

Mithra: So the lunch didn't exactly go well... how did the project get the go-ahead then? Were you doing this behind Tom DeFalco's back? And Dan, why did he want you off the book anyway?

Chichester: Pretty much as I'd put forth: I said to Ralph, "We were all on board before the lunch, right?" "Right." "Okay, then I'm just writing the story that we all liked up until then."

It wasn't so much going behind Tom's back. But he never said specifically, "Don't do your story, do it this way instead." He just strongly suggested it. And Tom had a big, strong personality, so in general that would be that. But because it wasn't Yay or Nay, I took some advantage of that. "Is there wiggle room? Well, then let's wiggle." And Ralph, while a fabulous editor in many regards -- tremendously encouraging, a deep understanding of the heart and soul of the characters -- could have a tendency to "go along" with the strongest voice in the room. At lunch, that had been Tom's. Afterwards, me and Scott. If Tom had definitively said, "No way, this way..." probably a different story.

And after he "laid down the the law," Tom really didn't pay much attention to the day to day. And once the book started to get some spotlight (and not by pure creative magic, either -- Scott and I engaged some PR on our own behalfs) -- then even less reason to question what we were doing.

LINK: Daredevil: Fall From Grace newspaper ad from Comics Buyer's Guide

As to why he wanted me off the book, again that was what Pat had told me on the QT. And which I decided to address directly with Tom, rather than let it fester and work its way through the shadows. Pat didn't have any more details than, "Watch out, Tom wants you off the book." Maybe 'cause my stories weren't standard? Maybe 'cause my writing sucked? Maybe 'cause I wasn't part of one of the many Marvel cliques? So while it wasn't confirmed, when I asked Tom straight on, "So, I hear you've got a beef with me?" -- the look on his face and the fact he took my hand and made a great show of shaking it, paisan-like, said something was up. To me at least. And from that point forward I never heard anything else like that from Tom's quarter.

(I don't want this to seem like I'm knocking Tom DeFalco. I'm relating my addled impressions from another time. Which don't all together map to later. While I didn't agree with his take on our direction for the book, or had issues with his approach to me at the time, there's a lot to like about Tom, his writing, and certain aspects of his editorial vision. I think who I am NOW would probably get on with Tom better than whoever I was then.)


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