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One must wonder if Stan Lee and Wally Wood, the writer and artist of Marvel Comics' Daredevil vol. 1 #8 (1965), believed that their co-creation, the escalating evildoer they called the Stilt- Man (alternately written “Stilt Man” and “Stiltman” in this same issue), would have the legs to survive the decades. Their tale “The Stiltman Cometh” introduces disgruntled Kaxton Industries scientist Wilbur Day, who pockets his employer's new technological achievement, a hydraulic ram, and adapts it to an armored battlesuit with legs that telescope to nearly 300 feet in height. As Manhattan's towering thief, the Stilt-Man takes a spill after encountering the rooftop-swinging Man without Fear, Daredevil. Stilt-Man's later mid- to late 1960s Daredevil appearances were highlighted by the art of Gene Colan, whose inventive upshot and downshot perspectives created a sense of vertigo on the two-dimension comic-book page. Despite the blast– and grenade–firing capabilities of Stilt-Man's armor, however, the David-versus-Goliath-esque Daredevil-versus- Stilt-Man formula wore thin; even grouping the villain with other criminals as the Emissaries of Evil (Daredevil Annual #1, 1967) barely helped his stature. Over the decades, the Stilt-Man nonetheless stepped into scuffles with several Marvel heroes including Captain America, Spider-Man, and Thor, as well as rematches with Daredevil—there was even an obligatory “when giants clash” battle with Black Goliath in 1976. By the time Stilt-Man was featured in writer/artist John Byrne's tongue-in-cheek, fourth wall–breaking satire The Sensational She-Hulk, in issue #4's “Tall Dis-Order” (1989), it was clear that the high-stepping supervillain was not to be taken seriously (although he was played straight in a second-season episode of the 1994–1996 television cartoon Iron Man). The miniseries Spider-Man/Daredevil: Unusual Suspects (2001), published under the edgy “Marvel Knights” imprint, attempted to make Stilt-Man more formidable by darkening his armor and his personality, but Peter Parker: Spider-Man #149 (2003) regarded Stilt-Man as a joke, as Spidey overcame him with little effort. In the bleak, ultraviolent comic-book world of the twenty-first century, where supervillains are more bloodthirsty than ever before, perhaps a role as a comic-relief crook is one Stilt-Man will take in stride.
The Supervillain Book: The Evil Side of Comics and Hollywood © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.