Interview with John Jennings (December 2023)

Marvel Super Stories is a new anthology for young readers which features many stories written and drawn by talented storytellers. It is edited by John Jennings, who also wrote and drew a Daredevil story "Secret Weapon". In this interview, we discuss the origins of the book and some of the choices he made in his DD story. Many thanks to him for taking the time to answer my questions.

Kuljit Mithra: This book has been one of those surprises where I kind of stumbled upon it as part of my weekly tasks I do for Daredevil shipping updates. One thing that really stuck out for me in the promo description was that this was Marvel's first middle-grade anthology, because you would think this would have been done previously. How'd you get involved as editor, and also did your involvement as writer/artist on "Secret Weapon" come before or after taking on editorial duty?

John Jennings: So, I've done other work for Abrams ComicArts as both a creator and curator. I have my own graphic novel imprint with them called MEGASCOPE. When Charlie Kochman and Andrew Smith struck this deal with Marvel, they both knew of my hankering to do more kid-friendly material. So, when they offered me the editorial spot, I was super excited! I love Daredevil as a character. He's been my favorite since the Frank Miller years. So, I basically stated that a stipulation that I come on as editor was that I could do a Daredevil story.

Mithra: From your introduction, you talked about trying to show the wonder of this world as a kid. Daredevil has been geared towards older readers/viewers, at least since the late 70's.What were some of the things you wanted to showcase in your story with DD, and what did you want to avoid, just because you had limited space and had to make sure it aligned with the age of the reader?

Jennings: I've always felt that underneath it all, Daredevil is a character that is centered on not giving up, trying harder and not letting people tell you what you can and can not do. I think those are great lessons for kids to learn. That life is hard sometimes and that you have to get up when you fall. Matt Murdock gets up. That's his real superpower. I tried to keep the fisticuffs a bit more fun and not the grimy violence that we see with Daredevil. I had to make sure that he wasn't revelling in the fights as he sometimes does. The fight was just a means to an end in my story.

Mithra: How were other characters chosen to be included in the book? Did you ask the cartoonists to pitch anyone they wanted, or did you have characters in mind that you knew had to be there?

Jennings: We chose stories connected to which characters were more classic Marvel and which were popular in both the comics and the MCU. Charlie, Andrew and I came up with a list of possible characters and possible creators and went from there. When Lauren Bisom and Caitlin O'Conell from the Marvel side came on, they were able to help drill down on which characters were more suited and they also had a bunch of creators they wanted to work with too. It's been a great pleasure working with both teams.

Mithra: You used Sons of the Serpent, Mr. Fear and Turk in your story, so is it safe to say you've been a Daredevil fan for a while?

Jennings: I have been a fan of Daredevil since about age 11. I am now 53.

Mithra: Did you purposely want to keep Kingpin, Elektra and Bullseye on the sidelines, just because they are used often?

Jennings: Yes. I wanted to use characters that are Daredevil staples and sort of leave the very serious baggage that those characters have with Matt. Also, they are all extremely violent and they speak to the darker aspect of The Man Without Fear.

Mithra: I wanted to get your comments on your design choice to have DD's ears uncovered. Just one of those things to help kids understand DD's hearing powers?

Jennings: I love the uncovered ear mask! As you said, it's a great way to focus on his powers for kids. I think it makes sense both design-wise and story-wise. Overall I used Chris Samnee's suit design. I think he did a great job with making Matt really svelte and clean but it also speaks to the iconic renderings of the characters throughout his history. So, even though he covers the ears, I wanted to shout out his great design of DD.

Mithra: And last question... on the spine of the book it was a number "1"... are more volumes coming soon? Thank you again, I appreciate it.

Jennings: We are currently working on Vol. 2 right now! It's already a great collection and, once again, I get to do a six-page story of an iconic Marvel super hero. Not DD this time! They are good friends though. :)

(c) 2023 Kuljit Mithra & John Jennings
Daredevil: The Man Without Fear

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