Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Too Tall... Too Small

In the beginning of his career, there's little dissent that the crime-fighting Daredevil had a bizarre array of foes to pit his talents against, including but not limited to: a criminal who fashioned himself a human owl... a stunt-cyclist... a jester (no, really)... a group of animal-men... a matador (no, really)... a man outfitted as a frog (with springs on his feet, it goes without saying)... and how about a man-bull, complete with antlers. In such a mix, you may think that a man pulling off heists wearing a pair of stilts ranks low in such a gathering--but not low enough, as far as Daredevil is concerned.

Yikes! The "Daily Press" is breaking this story?? J. Jonah Jameson must be fuming!

In his mid-1965 debut, the Stilt-Man actually turns out to be a formidable villain who seems to have all the bases covered in his criminal undertakings. He can't exactly accomplish much crime at ground level; but operating in New York City, he (like the Vulture) has his pick of ripe jewelry or cash deposits residing in buildings throughout Manhattan. And there are also aerial targets ferrying profitable cargo, one of which the Stilt-Man closes in on--and he's even had the foresight to create a distraction for the police in the form of a runaway car containing a bomb, which is also keeping occupied a certain Man Without Fear.

We have to assume the casing for that billy club of DD's must have some sort of insulation working for it, since those delicate gadgets inside wouldn't stand up too well to the impact from being used in battle. We also have to assume that at some point he ditched the microphone in favor of making the club a mini-rifle.

And that's not all the gadgetry DD is packing:

Jeez, DD! How is it someone like Electro hasn't managed to electrocute you by now? And do you have Tony Stark on retainer?

Regardless, it all does him little good against an evasive foe like the Stilt-Man.

The Stilt-Man has obviously turned out to be a compelling character on his own. But there are other characters in the story who appear to have some connection to its plot--particularly a man named Carl Kaxton, who seems a good bet to be our stilted perp in disguise.

In hindsight, however, we know that it's Wilbur Day who is actually the Stilt-Man--which makes Kaxton a convincing red herring to keep the reader guessing.

DD gets another crack at the Stilt-Man soon enough, but unfortunately strikes out once more.

Yeesh, is everyone reading the Daily Press? Heads are going to roll at the Bugle!

In the meantime, we learn that Matt Murdock makes a pretty lousy role model for sightless people, essentially saying that marriage for such people is out of the question. Thinking out loud while working out is obviously something you should avoid, Counselor.

Later, the story manages to sidestep DD's lie-detector ability when Kaxton and Day meet and argue in Murdock's office--which actually works out in Day's favor, since Murdock uses that stellar judgment of his to suspect that Kaxton is the Stilt-Man. But when Daredevil tails Kaxton, he gets about as far with him as he did with Stilt-Man.

Daredevil's third strike with Stilt-Man occurs shortly afterward, when the villain reappears and battles the police--an engagement which nearly costs DD his life.

When Murdock and Day meet again, Murdock suggests that they pay a visit to Kaxton at his home--where Day takes the opportunity to extend his duplicity by effectively framing Kaxton.

We can only assume that Day placed his stilt-legs outside of Kaxton's home as a means of escape; yet it's anyone's guess why he would turn on Murdock, since, as far as he knew, his deception had worked completely. Instead, he blows his cover and reverts to type, presumably for the sake of expediency.

With Murdock now assured of the knowledge of Stilt-Man's identity, he changes to Daredevil and races to find Day, who, as we've seen, has raided Kaxton's lab and found the molecular condenser he was after. Day certainly owes quite a lot to Kaxton's inventive genius, though clearly Day has no intention of compensating his unwilling benefactor for the stilts that have literally changed his fortunes. The same also holds true for the Condenser, a device which Daredevil soon realizes is in entirely the wrong hands.

With nothing but rural landscape in which to pursue his foe, Daredevil would normally be hard pressed to keep up with the distance that the Stilt-Man's legs help him to cover with every step. Fortunately for DD, the trains in the area are running on time, despite the danger posed by a super-villain striding parallel to the tracks--and this time, the Condenser itself plays a part in DD's final attempt to bring down the Stilt-Man. Way, way down, in this case.

As for Kaxton, what does he get out of all this, given what he's been put through? After a little incentive on Murdock's part for Kaxton not to press charges, he's willing to walk away...

--but only on the condition that Murdock throw in a free subscription to the "Daily Press."

The Stilt-Man elevates into the big leagues and tackles the God of Thunder!

Daredevil #8

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils and Inks: Wally Wood
Letterer: Sam Rosen


Big Murr said...

Wow. Stan had no clue what to do with Daredevil back then. I can only imagine that he put all his writing time/energy into the F.F. and Spidey and never had more than the time it took to commute to the office to spend on D.D. Later writers obviously took some time to sit inside Daredevil's head and imagine what being blind but gifted with super senses would mean to a crimefighter.

Those are the stupidest array of utility gizmos since the 1960's Batman tv show.

Gordon said...

I didn't realize how Batmanesque DD was in the early days-I can almost hear William Dozier (the narrator on the 60s "Batman" show) saying, "what's this? Daredevil defeated by a wimpy guy on clumsy stilts?"

George Chambers said...

Knowing how the "Marvel Method" worked, and observing that DD's bewildering array of gadgetry only appeared during Wally Wood's brief tenure at Marvel, I'd conclude that the gadgetry and most of the plotting in these stories were Wood's, and Lee just added the dialogue.

Comicsfan said...

Dozier's exclamation rings in my mind to this day, Gordon! :)

Mike Hood said...

Am I the only person who preferred the Stan Lee version of Daredevil, before Frank Miller made him dark? I loved his witty repartee and his array of outlandish opponents.

Tiboldt said...

So Stilt-Man is spelt with a dash. But the Daily Press headline has no dash, while the announcer, in the same panel, pronounces the name as one word.

So who decides how his name is spelt?

This must be a dilemma in the superhero and supervillain community - who ultimately chooses the correct spelling of their operational name, especially during the nineties?

Comicsfan said...

Tiboldt, there's a post in there somewhere. More than once I seem to recall a villain giving someone the spelling of their name without being prompted, just to make sure "the papers get it right!" or words to that effect.

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna make a confession here, I never saw ol' Stilts' origin before. I enjoyed it, and I dig Wally Wood's stuff, but the ending bums me out. Stan the Man must've just seen "The Incredible Shrinking Man" or heard about it, anyway.
Stilt-Man apparently returned from some "Microverse" none the worse for wear, but it would make an interesting story to see what happened to him there.
"The Micronauts face the terrible team-up of Psycho-Man and Stilt-Man! The Microverse isn't big enough for all of them!"
It really isn't, ya know.



Anonymous said...

whoops, signed off twice there.

Fred W. Hill said...

From everything I've read about Wood's run on DD, he did most of the plotting even before he got credit for it and the reason he gave for quitting was the lack of credit & monetary compensation for the plotting. As to Stilt-Man, he's one of those characters who, seems to me, could only work in comics -- certainly it would be extremely difficult to portray such a character convincingly in live action and even in animation showing him moving would pose problems.