Comic Review: American Daredevil (Chapterhouse)

For those of us too young to know, there was another Daredevil, before the Marvel Daredevil. We’re talking the 1940s. Its creator, Lev Gleason, is the subject of American Daredevil, […]

For those of us too young to know, there was another Daredevil, before the Marvel Daredevil. We’re talking the 1940s. Its creator, Lev Gleason, is the subject of American Daredevil, a nonfiction biography from Chapterhouse.

Author Brett Dakin, the late Lev Gleason’s great-nephew, takes us on an in-depth investigative journey into his (Gleason’s) life. It’s certainly NOT an open book when Dakin opens up the family archives—and the files of the FBI.

Brett Dakin (Another Quiet American: Stories of Life in Laos, etc) never met his great uncle; Gleason passed away five years before Dakin was born. But family stories about Gleason fascinated him, leading Dakin to start digging into the past. The results are chronicled in Dakin’s methodical, colourful accounts.

Brett’s writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, the International Herald Tribune, The Washington Post, and The Guardian. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Brett grew up in London and now lives in New York City.

Gleason was an opinionated personality; loved making money, making waves, making change. He was left-of-center politically, and that’s putting it mildly. Gleason was involved in early comic book history, including the invention of Daredevil, and later published a line of comics under his own name. Crime Does Not Pay was one of the best-known titles, and Charles Biro was one of Gleason’s associates in publishing this title. To summarize, however, Gleason’s association with known leftists and communists brought him to the attention of the FBI, who opened files and actively tracked his activities, including listening to his phone calls and opening his mail. Gleason, ever-on-the-go, juggled home life, business, and politics on a daily basis.

Gleason then went from the frying pan into the fire, as Dakin reveals. Lawsuits, FBI interviews, the US 1950s community backlash against garish comic books, it’s all here in text. Dakin really enhances our understanding through Gleason’s trials and travails. He interviews family, friends, and former associates of Gleason, and gleans a strong understanding of this innovative entrepreneur.

American Daredevil is not a comic book nor does it include reprints of 1940s Daredevil comic pages, but it does include several fascinating photographs of Lev Gleason, its creator. If you enjoy biographies of American publishing figures, this book is ideal for you!

Chapterhouse, American DareDevil, (nonfiction, biography, not illustrated), $24.99 for 254 pages, Available in bookstores or directly from www.chapterhouse.ca

Alan Spinney

About Alan Spinney

After a career of graphic design, art direction and copywriting, I still have a passion for words and pictures. I love it when a comic book comes together; the story is tight, and the drawings lead me forward. Art with words... the toughest storytelling technique to get right. Was this comic book worth your money? Let's see!!