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A Marvel Illustrator on Creating a Seedier New York

Chris Samnee applies his comic prowess to make NYC's Hell’s Kitchen dirty again.
Daredevil dashes off to fight crime in crowded panels meant to obscure and encase the hero. From Daredevil #1 (Vol. 4). Screencap via

In this week’s episode of Strip Panel Naked, host Hass Otsmane-Elhaou concludes his conversation with Marvel illustrator Chris Samnee. In their final chat, Samnee and Otsmane-Elhaou talk about the artist’s incredible work on Daredevil (Vol. 4). The comics, made alongside Mark Waid, Javier Rodriquez, and Joe Caramagna, breathed fresh life into the franchise. As always, Strip Panel Naked uses a single comic page as the jumping off point for a much larger conversation which includes talking about claustrophobic panel framing, using the character’s color scheme properly, and how to recreate a New York that no longer exists.


Samnee speaks to the nature of the new Daredevil comic as they were first introducing the hero. “This was the first issue of Volume 4 of Daredevil, and he had become less Daredevil, and more Matt Murdock [the hero’s secret identity]” he explains to Otsmane-Elhaou. “So he’s bigger as Matt Murdock in panel one than he is as Daredevil in the final panel.” This conversation with the illustrator shows just how much attention is paid to every aspect of the page, even the titles. “The Daredevil title is actually bigger than the character,” explains Samnee of the final panel (pictured below), “because the title is what’s more important than anything. It’s just going to be Daredevil from now on, it doesn’t matter if he’s wearing a costume or not.”

Daredevil bursts out and into freedom with Chris Samnee’s structuring. From Daredevil #1 (Vol. 4). Screencap via

“A lot of times going with your gut is the best way to do it,” explains Samnee. “A lot of comics is just flying by the seat of my pants and hoping for the best. I’m still learning on the job.” Daredevil itself has always been about a blind lawyer fighting for justice in the seedy, corrupt, and generally nasty New York neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen. But how does Samnee deal with the Hell’s Kitchen of today, versus the Hell’s Kitchen of Daredevil’s inception back in 1964? “I’m trying to ground it for the reader so they feel like they’re reading the real world, they’re not just reading a comic book that takes place in some amorphous fake New York. It’s a fictional New York, because Hell’s Kitchen isn’t Hell’s Kitchen anymore. It’s Clinton, it’s gentrified, it’s clean. It’s not what it is in the comic so I got to make a fictional New York in Daredevil.”


Watch the conversation between Samnee and Otsmane-Elhaou below and see how the artist brings it all together into a meaningful work:

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