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DAREDEVIL: YELLOW - Tim Sale

The artist steps back into the light with his upcoming Marvel Knights project.

By Russell Lissau     November 27, 2000

Now that the Batman: Dark Victory maxi-series has come to an end, artist Tim Sale is ready to fully focus on his next comics project, which will star everyone's favorite blind superhero, Daredevil. The six-issue tale, simply titled Daredevil: Yellow, will spotlight the early days of lawyer Matt Murdock's crime-fighting career, a time when he wore a bright yellow and red costume that waslet's admit itless than attractive.

Sale, who spent a year illustrating the depravity and mayhem of Batman's gloomy world in Dark Victory, is more than ready to step into the light with the new series, which will be published in the spring under the venerable Marvel Knights banner. Although Daredevil has occasionally been depicted as angst-ridden and emotionally troubled in recent years, Sale promises that Yellowwhich will be written by Dark Victory scribe Jeph Loeb, Sale's longtime creative partnerwill show readers a costumed champion who enjoyed battling bad guys and protecting the innocent, a guy who absolutely loved being a hero.

'Hopefully it will visually express the joy that we feel Daredevil has being a superhero,' Sale says. 'Just the way that he can move without seeing and do things that are frightening, things he's joyful for. I'm hoping to be able to translate that.'

Into the Light

The last time Sale and Loeb did an uplifting comic together was 1998's Superman For All Seasons, a four-issue mini-series that looked at the Man of Steel's early days in Smallville and Metropolis. It was a far cry from its grisly predecessor, Batman: The Long Halloween. But just because Daredevil: Yellow will have a lighter feel than Dark Victory or The Long Halloween doesn't mean Sale will repeat the artistic approach he used on Superman For All Seasons.

In fact, Sale says Yellow likely will visually resemble Dark Victory more than SFAS. That's because most of the artwork will be completed using diluted inka technique called a washto give the scenes a hazy appearance, much like the gray-toned flashback sequences in Dark Victory. 'I very much enjoy working in wash,' Sale says. 'The page will be in color, but it will be muddied up a little bit.'

The costumed Daredevil will be the only figure who will stand out against the washed-out backgrounds, Sale says. Not only does the artistic trick give the hero of the story more prominence visually, but also the sharp yellow of his outfit (and of the title of the series, of course) will symbolize Matt Murdock's happiness amidst the dulled-down New York streetscapes and skylines. 'It's a metaphor for the joy that he has being a superhero,' Sale says.

As ugly as the yellow-and-red costume might be, especially when compared to the basic-but-cool crimson threads Daredevil wears today, Sale insists the original outfit served an important purpose. That's something he and Loeb plan to examine in Yellow. 'It [the costume] doesn't make any sense at all, and it doesn't look good, but Jeph has come up with some great reasons for having it,' Sale says.

Coming Home

Sale and Loeb have made a name for themselves working on DC projects. Their only prior Marvel work as a penciler/writer team was 1995's Wolverine/Gambit: Victims mini-series. But both creators have been itching to work as a team again in the Marvel Universe. Sale was a bona fide Marvel Zombie as an adolescent in the 1960s, so it's only natural that he'd want to illustrate new tales of his childhood heroes.

'I didn't read anything but Marvel,' the 44-year-old artist remembers. 'I really fell hard for Marvel. The first and most obvious thing to me was the look of the books. I much preferred the artists who were working there to any of the regular people working at DC, with the exception to that being Neal Adams. I really dug the energy John Buscema had for a couple of years, and what Steranko was doing. And obviously Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and John Romita Sr. I loved the energy they had.

'And it seemed to me that it was not coincidental, that it was something Marvel was seeking to do. They knew that they weren't going to be able to compete with DC if they were just trying to do the same thing. And the niche that they went for was more pop art, high-energy stuff. And then there was Stan Lee's take on the neurotic superhero. The soap opera of it was more interesting to me. The best one was [the relationship between] Spider-Man, Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane.'

As a successful pro, however, Sale has been reticent to work for Marvel because of the creative problems the company has experienced for much of the last decade. 'I had not liked the direction Marvel's books were taking for some time,' he says. 'They no longer interested me.' But then artist Joe Quesada formed Marvel Knights with partner Jimmy Palmiotti (who has since left the imprint), producing books that were more like the energetic, groundbreaking comics of Marvel's heydayand of Sale's youth. The independent spirit of the Marvel Knights operation was attractive, too.

'We knew that [Quesada] ran his own ship over there, and that he didn't have to deal with the Marvel editorial staff, and that was a big factor for both Jeph and me,' Sale says. 'Joe's sensibilities about the Marvel characters were very much in line with what Jeph's and mine were, like what was wrong and what should be different and what should be emphasized or de-emphasized. And he had that power with the few Marvel Knights characters that he had control of. We were interested in a lot of Marvel characters. But we didn't pursue them because we wanted to work with Joe and [have] the freedom that working with Joe and Marvel Knights would give us, as opposed to being part of the regular Marvel Universe.'

Shortly after Sale and Loeb signed on to do the series, Quesada was promoted to editor in chief at Marvel Comics. His replacement as the creative head of Marvel Knights is Stuart Moore, a former editor with DC's Vertigo line. Moore, whose editing credits include such well-regarded titles as Transmetropolitan, Preacher and Hellblazer, can't wait to work with Sale and Loeb on Yellow. 'I've been a great admirer of Jeph and Tim's work, together and separately, for a long time,' Moore says. 'It's terrific to have them working their magic on Daredevil.'

Quesada is excited to have Sale and Loeb working back in the Marvel Universe, too. 'This is going to be a real treat for Marvel fans and comic fans in general,' Quesada says. 'Tim and Jeph are a real catch for us, especially if you know ahead of time, like I do, what they have in store for Marvel and Marvel Knights. I'm pretty confident that their involvement doesn't stop with Daredevil: Yellow, and I'm completely psyched about what the future will be bringing.'

Daredevil: Yellow will hit stands at a time when Ol' Hornhead is riding high on a renewed wave of popularity, a wave that started rolling two years ago when Quesada and filmmaker-turned-comics-writer Kevin Smith relaunched Daredevil as the flagship Marvel Knights title. Although Sale says he enjoys Smith's movies, he didn't read the writer's popular Daredevil run. 'I'm not a big fan of a lot of words in comicsit's something that I always look for in a writer, to have that pared down,' Sale explains. 'They're really too dense for me. But I did have the opportunity in Chicago [at the Wizard World convention] this past year to see a lot of Joe's original artwork, and it's terrifically impressive.'

A Dynamic Duo

Sale and Loeb have completed comic book projects with other creators, but their biggest successes have come when working together. The partnership stretches back to 1991, when they worked on a Challengers of the Unknown limited series for DC. Their first project to really score with fans, however, was the original Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Special in 1993, which spawned two one-shot sequels and then The Long Halloween, the 13-issue limited series that cemented their places in the comic book pantheon.

With each successive project, Sale and Loeb's working relationship has improved, as has their friendship. 'We are a very good fit for each other,' Sale says. 'I am happy working with Jeph. He works with an artist really well. He cares about what the artist does well and likes to do, and tries to write to those strengths. And he's interested in working with somebody, not just presenting a script that can be drawn by anybody.'

Of course, it helps that Loebwho is also working on the Superman and Fantastic Four regular series nowis one heck of a storyteller, too. 'His feel for characters is tremendously strong,' Sale says. 'And his love of comics comes through.'

In the Beginning

It should come as no surprise to fans of this dynamic duo's work that Daredevil: Yellow will focus on Matt Murdock's early experiences as a costumed crimefighter. All of their Batman projects and Superman For All Seasons took place in the time fanboys like to call 'Year One.' The reason is simple. 'I don't like having to deal with the continuity,' Sale says, unapologetically. 'There's an awful lot of stuff you have to deal with that just isn't fun, that isn't pleasant. There are big and small things. Just as a generic example, you can't have Spider-Man running around here if he's actually on Pluto battling the Green Goblin. I don't want to have to deal with that.'

Doing Year One storieswhether about Batman, Superman or Daredevilalso allows Sale to concentrate on the essence of the heroes and the elements that made them heroic in the first place, before they were corrupted by years of continuity hassles, reader expectations and other literary baggage. 'I want to get back to that really early stuff,' Sale says.

Even though Sale says the story of Daredevil: Yellow will be dramatically different than Batman: Dark Victory, he sees certain parallels between the two title heroes. After all, both men were orphaned as children and fight crime as a way to seek revenge for the tragedies. But whereas Bruce Wayne is never able to bring his parents' killer to justice, Matt Murdock does confront his father's murderers, which gives him the emotional closure that Wayne sorely lacks.

Both heroes also had stern, disciplinarian fathers who set them on their respective paths. Sale and Loeb have always depicted Dr. Thomas Wayne as a cold and somewhat mysterious figure, however, while they plan to paint Jack Murdock as a much warmer man. 'It's interesting to us that there are such similarities between Daredevil's and Batman's origins,' Sale says. 'And we will show why he (Daredevil) turns out so different than Batman.'

Sale is confident readers won't compare Daredevil: Yellow to Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.'s 1993 mini-series, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, which also retold Daredevil's origin. Whereas Miller and Romita's story started in Matt Murdock's childhood and ended just before Murdock actually put on the spandex hero suit, most of Yellow will take place during the events depicted in the first six issues of the original Daredevil series, Sale says, after the adventures shown in The Man Without Fear.

That means no Kingpin or Bullseye, although Elektra may have a minor role. There will, however, be appearances by classic DD villains such as the Owl, the Stilt-Man and the Ox. Just as Sale and Loeb found a way to make the odder members of Batman's Rogues Gallery absolutely terrifying in The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, Sale expects to put a new spin on Daredevil's early foes.

'They're goofy in a way that a lot of the Batman villains that we've done are goofy, and we make them less goofy,' he says. 'But there's something visually 'out there' about them. We take these people who are like that, and if you take them one way you get the Batman of the 1960s [as seen in] the Adam West TV series. But if you go another way, you get what we've done with the Mad Hatter and Scarecrow and fellows like that.'

As he prepares to start work on Daredevil: Yellow, Sale is particularly eager to illustrate the budding relationship between Matt Murdock, his best friend and law partner, Foggy Nelson, and their lovely secretary, Karen Page. Together, they make up one of the great romantic triangles in comics history, and Sale and Loeb will bring readers right to the beginning. 'We get to set up the soap opera,' Sale says, full of anticipation. 'I'm looking forward to seeing what Jeph comes up with for that dynamic.'

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