Issue(s): Daredevil #49, Daredevil #50, Daredevil #51
This is the first appearance of Starr Saxon, who will go on to be the second Mr. Fear and then Machinesmith. The groundwork for his Machinesmith persona is here, as he's developed a giant robot to hunt down Daredevil for the mobster Biggie Benson.
These issues start with Matt Murdock declaring that he's not going to be Daredevil anymore, due to the way it disrupts his personal life. Both Karen and Foggy are mad at him. But Saxon's robot ends DD's retirement within a matter of panels.
If you're wondering how the robot found Daredevil at Matt Murdock's apartment, it's not because Saxon knew DD's secret ID. It's thanks to his nifty pair of devices called the Scentolator and Aromascope.
I won't ask how Saxon got a photo of Daredevil that is soaked with his scent. Maybe it's something DD sends out to his fan club. But, silliness of the scent-based stuff aside, it's interesting to see how clunky robot programming was depicted to be in 1969. Attaching all these devices, feeding in data manually... it's actually a lot more realistic than expecting to be able to just talk to something with a computer brain in casual english and expecting it to understand you.
Somewhat less realistic is the idea that the robot can re-program itself to gain more power and (Jet Jaguar fans will appreciate this) get bigger when it is failing at it's mission (we're into the Smith art now, btw).
Daredevil eventually tricks the robot and manages to follow it back to Saxon.
When Saxon throws liquid phosphorus at him, we learn (or maybe we already knew) that Daredevil's costume is asbestos-treated, helping him avoid the resultant fire. I guess super-heroes die young anyway, so no need to protect your lungs.
With the robot confused, Saxon tries to re-program it during his fight with Daredevil, but he accidentally sends it after the mobster Biggie Benson instead. Benson is currently in jail, and Daredevil has to let Saxon go free so he can chase the robot.
Daredevil doesn't learn Starr Saxon's name at this point.
In the end, Daredevil is ineffective against the robot and it's up to the police, using a high-tech device from Stark Industries, to defeat it.
As the robot falls, it lands on Biggie, so it dies knowing it completed its mission (and maybe if it hadn't, it wouldn't have been defeated).
In the aftermath, a prison doctor takes a sample of Daredevil's blood.
Meanwhile, Saxon figures out Daredevil's secret identity. And while Matt Murdock tries to patch up his relationship with Karen, Saxon starts messing with him. Between Saxon's psychological manipulations and the fact that (as the prison doctor discovers) there's apparently something wrong with DD, we get to see the more experimental side of Barry Smith.
It's while Saxon is messing with Murdock that he first tells him his name. "Have you forgotten Starr Saxon?" Well, considering it's the first time you mentioned it, i can't quite say that i forgot it.
Issue #51 ends with Matt Murdock passed out in an alley.
Wikipedia says, "Barry Windsor-Smith has stated that back in Daredevil #50, Saxon was supposed to be presented as gay; however, he admits that his early art wasn't good enough to get the point across."
I don't know how you draw someone to look gay, but i guess here's Smith trying.
This was a fun arc. Saxon, as a non-powered villain, is an interesting character, and Stan Lee has fun with the gadgetry aspect (Scentolator! Aromascope! Stunulator! Robots that reprogram themselves to be bigger!). Both Colan (with George Klein inks, which i think restrain Colan's more atmospheric tendencies) and Smith's art are simple and clean, with Smith's showing just the barest hint of his future greatness.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
I think Barry Smith was trying to use "effeminate" body language with Saxon to show his gayness, but it didn't quite come through. Johnny Craig's inks didn't mesh too well with Smith either.
According to Roy Thomas, Stan Lee had a problem with Smith's art: he supposedly drew ankles so thin that characters wouldn't be able to stand upright.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 20, 2011 8:54 PM
Roy Thomas took over scripting with #51, if memory serves, as Mark subtly implies.
Posted by: Haydn | July 25, 2012 10:44 PM
Posted by: fnord12 | July 26, 2012 8:59 AM
I remember really liking this three parter when I read it in Essential Daredevil a few years ago. A part of me wished it was art by Gene Colan though since it seemed kind of sloppy and I don't know a thing about Barry Windsor-Smith. I heard Saxon was supposed to be gay and noted he seemed kind of effeminite and flamboyant. I'm sure it wasn't the case back then and was probably to make him more horrifying but I like to think of it as Saxon's sexuality was just something extra to him and not an evil gay person. Just a bad guy that happened to be gay. Anyway it was a treat how Daredevil just lets Saxon go since he can't kill him.
Posted by: David Banes | November 2, 2013 3:41 AM
According to some fanzine reports, Starr Saxon was initially going to be called Starr the Slayer, but the name got used for Marvel's first barbarian character instead.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 7, 2014 3:47 PM
I had not realized before now that the future Machinesmith himself, Star Saxon, had actually appeared in Daredevil so early on, in an issue cover-dated February 1969. Keeping that in mind, and that Saxon was already regularly constructing robots at this point, it's not nearly so awkward that both the Magneto from X-Men #50 (November 1968) and the Baron Strucker from Captain America #131 (November 1970) were later retconned to be robots constructed by him. Of course, all these years later, I don't think anyone has ever bothered to explain WHY he built those robots!
Posted by: Ben Herman | July 3, 2014 1:10 PM
I wonder if Stan told Gene Colan that Saxon was supposed to be gay, too? There's a bit of "come-hither" arch to that eyebrow in the prison scene, now that I'm looking for it.
Posted by: Dan Spector | July 8, 2014 11:40 AM
An unused Smith panel from this story appeared in Comics Interview #68.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 27, 2015 11:23 AM
"Daredevil doesn't learn Starr Saxon's name in this arc." Except he utters his name in the last scan before the Gay Saxon stuff, so where did that come from?
Posted by: Morgan Wick | June 12, 2015 4:03 AM
Yeah i should have said "at this point" instead of in this arc. The story makes a point of saying that Daredevil doesn't know who sent the robot, and even when they meet he doesn't get a name. But then later, when Matt Murdock is disoriented, Saxon approaches him on the street and says "Have you forgotten Starr Saxon?". Kind of weird. Anyway, updated my original line. Thanks.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 12, 2015 11:32 AM
In Astonishing Ant-Man right now they seem to be bringing Starr Saxon back to his roots, with Machinsmith downloading gay porn to Scott Lang's hard drive instead of protecting his firewall.
Posted by: Andrew | October 25, 2015 10:18 PM
Checking out the one scan where it looks like Daredevil is doing either a Greek or Russian dance, those are some funky-looking skinny ankles! It almost looks like DD has hooves. And I see the robot is positioned in the classic Windsor-Smith widestance, where characters' legs are either severely bowlegged, they've spent to much time on the backs of Clydesdales, or they suffer from nasty chafing (Ouch!).:)
Posted by: Brian Coffey | July 16, 2017 11:00 PM
When this stuff was new all I could do was gripe about how crude I thought Barry Smith's art was, and how he was copying Kirby's and Steranko's styles. I'm glad Stan Lee was able to see his potential when I clearly couldn't, since he later became one of my favorite artists.
Posted by: James Holt | September 28, 2017 9:57 PM
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