A bright yellow costume on a man called Daredevil. It was simply never going to work putting a slightly older, lawyer/vigilante, protector of Hell’s Kitchen in a bright yellow costume. How many reasons are there for it not being a great idea? It’s a colour usually reserved for children’s playrooms and bright insects. It would glowingly make Daredevil an easy target at all times. It’s ugly. It certainly doesn’t go with red (which you have to remember was possibly the main colour of the suit with only the arms, legs, and head yellow). It looks too cheery. Is that enough to show the initial costume used by Matt Murdock in his crime fighting exploits was a bad idea?
Yet, the look has seemingly aged incredibly, and perhaps surprisingly, well. Whenever I think of it, or see it, I only get a warm glow inside me.
The yellow Daredevil costume only lasted six issues before even Stan Lee realised it made no sense. The man called himself DareDEVIL and no respectable minion of any hell, even one from the Kitchen, would don himself in yellow spandex. Red was clearly the colour to be solely used and this was rectified and the yellow was never returned to again. But it has been looked upon fondly.
In 2002, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale produced the miniseries Yellow which focused on the initial issues of Daredevil and framed them with a love letter Matt wrote to his love in those issues (and perhaps his greatest love of all time) Karen Page. It was a dreamy nostalgic piece that added some depth to those early tales and made for a well formed read. But the masterpiece of that series was clearly Sale’s art. Each cover, each page, was a glorious celebration of the old costume and it never looked better than it did through Sale’s washes. There was a dreaminess to the old Daredevil that just felt right. This is probably the most mainstream attempt at showcasing the old costume and it’s not the only time it’s been made to look good.
I have to admit; I hold a soft spot for the yellow costume in my heart. I couldn’t even explain it on a logical level, I like it on a sub-chemical level. I just KNOW it’s kind of cool and further analysis is rarely engaged in. The yellow is not practical, it isn’t even exactly pretty, but it’s that old timey awkwardness that makes me fond of it. But is this attraction based more on me than it is the actual suit?
I also like the smell of garage sales and I once had a massive television from the 1970’s in my university room that was more Griswold wood panelling than it was actual screen. You could only watch the hulking bastard for about 88 minutes before it started to tick, pop, and eventually spark. Movies were chosen very wisely so you could realistically make the end credits; no pausing for bathroom breaks. But I still loved that thing, as The Dude would say, it really tied the room together.
I’m also a man who has a collection of vinyl, lovingly pilfered from flea markets and my father’s collection, that rarely gets played though I often get the chance to sit down and pour over the liner notes and check the moulded surfaces for any defects. I have a record player, it’s an ancient standalone HMV special that plays 33’s, 45’s, as well as 75’s (which I didn’t even know existed until I bought this centrepiece from someone’s front yard) and it also cranks a mean wireless but sadly the wife deems it too ugly to live inside so the garage gets yet another item. (Hmm; I guess if Daredevil’s yellow costume is the record equivalent then the red costume is the standard CD format we all know and love today, and that damned armour from the 90’s would be the cassette tape…, if you don’t mind bending the timeline somewhat…I wonder what that makes the black Shadowland costume? The mini-disc or iPod Touch, both of which were stepping stones in the right direction but neither perfect; or perhaps just the walkman, something that’s cool, but only for a short period of time).
I’m a man who loves to experience the past, though not necessarily live there. Not everything is golden purely by being old; I’ll never own a hamburger phone, nor do pipes tickle my fancy, but getting the chance to play some old tunes on an 8-track player is a delight, even if only because it reminds me why I love my iPhone so much.
The yellow costume is a guilty pleasure, something you get out because it’s just as much fun later putting it away again. It reminds you of how good you have it now (or at least how good we had it before Shadowland) and it’s something you can reminisce safely about because there’s no real chance you’ll ever have to see it again in action. It’s like the childhood clothes or items you keep around but aren’t exactly for use anymore. They remind you of a simpler time, even if only retroactively made one by rose-coloured lens of memory.
For my money, though, it has to be said that the yellow costume can still play well with others. Sale’s aforementioned run with the costume was pretty damn fine, and Alex Maleev had the chance to toy with the lemon as he drew an earlier Daredevil in the main series when Brian Michael Bendis wrote the arc Golden Age. Maleev made the costume still look pretty cool, even if by also using the Ben Day dotted effect to play on the inherent old school vibe of the ensemble. There was also a Rafael Grampa pin up included in the back of the anniversary #500 issue of Daredevil that looked might fine. Not to mention a fine sketch by Mitch Breitweiser that certainly melds the older style of costume with the grittier sensibility of the character as he is now.
I know if I was able to get a convention sketch book together (something extremely difficult to do in Australia), I’d be very keen for it to be full of yellow Daredevil’s on every page. There’s just something about it and I’d have no regret in focusing on that costume. It’s got a groove, an edge, and seeing the interpretation by others would be extremely cool.
You can look at the yellow costume and love it, and it’s okay to admit, but in the end even I have to admit that the red costume still makes the most sense. The yellow duds are like tasting an old recipe your grandparents used to make, or smelling an old girlfriend’s scent, or hearing a song last heard in your first car. It’s a perfect memory, which everyone knows is an oxymoron because you always change things in your mind, you shuffle the pieces of life to create exact snapshots that you want and will convince yourself happened. It’s best not to worry about it and just enjoy whatever makes you happy.
Me? I like the yellow costume and I’m happy to just accept that and smile every time I see it.
Note: this love of the yellow costume may stem from my ownership, and immense love, of my own pretty decent copy of Daredevil #1 with the eponymous hero swinging across the cover and looking all fine. Or; this note purely exists for me to brag, either/or.
– originally published 10/7/2010
Ryan K Lindsay is an Australian writer who finds time in nearly every day to get words of some description down. He was published by Marvel once, in a back matter essay in Criminal, but he can more regularly be found penning reviews and op/ed pieces on comic news website The Weekly Crisis. His favourites are; character, Matt Murdock; story, Y: The Last Man; novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay; movie, Chasing Amy; and woman, his wife.