There Shall Come A Gladiator by Denny O'Neill, Stan Lee, John Romita and Frank Giacoma
One sentence overview: Foggy, wanting to impress Karen, who thinks he is Daredevil, obtains a Daredevil costume but bites off more than he can chew when the costume shop owner suggests setting up a fake battle...
First appearance of the troubled Melvin Potter, aka the Gladiator this issue, though oddly he isn't namechecked at all - he's merely the anonymous costume shop owner who becomes a villain. There is some sense of the troubled soul he will become. After coming across as thuggish and arrogant when dealing with Foggy in his costume shop (Foggy's there to get a Daredevil costume, to help him impress Karen), he lets rip on his shop dummies, accusing all superheroes of being 'braggarts'. Ah, that's a word I miss from the past.
The best thing about Foggy getting his DD costume is the potential image of the, as revealed last issue, 'flabby' lawyer wearing his suit, his belly flopping out in the figure hugging costume. Alas, Foggy only wants the costume so he can hide it in his work drawer for Karen to find it and presumably go weak at the knees. However, Melvin persuades Foggy to wear it whilst he wears a supervillain outfit and they can battle it out. Foggy of course thinks this is a terrific idea though he's unaware that Melvin isn't being completely honest about how he wants the fight to end. But, best of all, we end up with a glimpse of Foggy checking his slightly overweight frame in the mirror. He naturally looks like a guy who likes hanging out at Comic Cons and couldn't possibly be confused for the real Daredevil. Could he? Despite his pot belly, even New York's finest are fooled by Foggy in his cossie at the end of this month's issue.
Matt is deeply troubled. He's worried about Foggy living out his fantasy pretending to be Daredevil, knowing that he'll end up in deep water because of it. Yet he can't say anything without revealing his true identity. What a to do! Foggy's deception though has worked and he scores a dinner date with Karen. However, Karen is soon less than impressed when Foggy's diner of choice turns out to be a foggy and deserted waterfront with Gladiator on the menu.
When the Gladiator appears, Foggy runs off behind some crates to change into costume, telling Karen not to worry. Brilliantly, and in direct contravention of what usually occurs with superhero costume changes, he takes ages! Which, let's face it, you would, especially if, like Foggy, you don't want to ruin a good suit. The real Daredevil meanwhile 'looks' on, worried that Foggy's tardiness is going to ruin his reputation.
Once battle commences, Foggy is laid out pretty quickly and Matt has to step in, suddenly realising that the Gladiator's in the fight for real. Back in the 60s the creators could only hint at the psychological problems of a character like Melvin Potter, but it's still nice to see Daredevil throw in a line about if he were a psychologist, he would think the Gladiator had an identity problem. Thus a villain with mental health problems was born.
It's all too much for Karen too. After all the excitement, she faints from fatigue. To date she's still the fragile female with the delicate constitution, though that'll change over time.
First writing credit this issue to Denny O'Neill, who helps Stan out on this issue, and does a really good job playing around with Foggy. I hadn't realised that Denny, who of course would later script Daredevil post Frank Miller, was with Marvel so long back in the mid 60s. All in all, a really fun issue, one of the best of the first 20 or so - certainly the funniest - with a lot of focus on Foggy's bogus Daredevil and a nice introduction to a long standing, troubled villain.
Melvin Potter/The Gladiator
Rating: 7 out of 10