RSS Feed
May 26

Daredevil Villains #24: Crime-Wave

Posted on Sunday, May 26, 2024 by Paul in Daredevil

DAREDEVIL #60 (January 1970)
“Showdown at Sea!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: Gene Colan
Inker: Syd Shores
Letterer: Sam Rosen
Colourist: not credited
Editor: Stan Lee

At his core, Crime-Wave ought to work. He’s built up over three issues of sub-plot as the top criminal menace in New York. He’s talked about as an unprecedented threat to the rule of law. Intimidation of witnesses and jurors is apparently a big thing. He’s a kingpin of organised crime and a natural opponent for Foggy as DA and Matt as his assistant. He’s not just a street-level threat but a systemic one. It’s precisely the sort of thing that works for Daredevil in later years.

But Crime-Wave doesn’t work, and never returns.

Issue #60 is where Daredevil finally meets him. But his on-panel debut is in issue #59, where Willie Lincoln meets him and escapes alive. That issue rather sums up the problems with Crime-Wave. It opens with Crime-Wave’s thugs demanding protection money from a corner shop. True, the whole point is that Crime-Wave is a systemic background threat, and the shopkeeper does refuse to testify, but it’s still fairly underwhelming stuff for an archenemy.

We then learn that Willie Lincoln has managed to locate Crime-Wave. Willie has achieved this feat by the simple expedient of going to the bar where he first heard of Crime-Wave, and accidentally stumbling through an unlocked door marked “KEEP OUT”. Immediately through that door is a chute that leads him straight to the underground lair of Crime-Wave. A bunch of armed gunmen surround the man himself, who is dressed in the traditional Silver Age villain colours of green and purple, wears a hood, and sits behind a snazzy red desk. Incredibly, Crime-Wave decides that Lincoln – who is dressed in a perfectly respectable looking suit – is a “harmless beggar”, and sends him on his way.

How does this headquarters work, exactly? There’s a set of regular stairs in the background, but is the chute a normal means of access? It doesn’t seem to serve any other function. On a normal day, do the henchmen arrive for work by coming down a slide clutching their guns and shouting “Wheee!” while the theme to The Banana Splits plays in the background? This is one of Crime-Wave’s problems – the premise wants to be played grim and gritty, but the reality is a man with a gangster chute who thinks Stunt-Master might make a good assassin.

Now, until the Comics Code was revised in 1971, it didn’t exactly lend itself to any version of “grim and gritty”. Drug dealing is not a thing. “Crime shall never be presented in such a way as … to promote distrust of the forces of law and order”, so you can vaguely hint at Crime-Wave infiltrating the authorities or paying off judges but you can’t show it. I’ve pointed out before that 1960s Daredevil often toys with the sort of crime story shown in issue #1 only to back off from it – perhaps another reason for that is the simple difficulty of doing that version of Daredevil under the constraints of the Comics Code as it stood at the time. After all, it was designed to strangle the crime genre.

Still, none of that stopped the Kingpin from being introduced successfully in 1967. Crime-Wave is a  similar idea, but his more explicit supervillain trappings cut against his gimmick. And thanks to Amazing Spider-Man, Crime-Wave is a new arrival in an already crowded field. The point of distinction here isn’t so much Crime-Wave himself; it’s Daredevil, whose role in the legal establishment means that he comes at this trope from a different angle. In theory. If you can actually commit to the corruption angle.

In issue #60, Daredevil actually catches up with Crime-Wave, and we get to see him commit an actual crime. He’s running a casino ship in international waters. Of course, because it’s in international waters, that’s not a crime in itself, and the customers are genuine New Yorkers. The crime is fraud: Crime-Wave has rigged the roulette wheels.

But wait, because all this is apparently just a means to an end. Crime-Wave’s plan is to lure in Foggy’s fiancée Debbie Harris, rig the games to get her into debt, and then use that to get leverage over her. The story is ambiguous about whether this whole ship is there solely for Debbie, or whether she’s just his latest target – the latter would make more sense, so let’s go with that. At this point, Debbie has just broken off her engagement with Foggy out of nowhere, because she’s belatedly decided that being associated with an ex-convict is bad for his political career. It’s a bit late for this plot development, since he won the election months ago, but that’s the idea. Debbie has been fed information that links the ship with Crime-Wave, and she’s hoping to bring him down in order to make herself an eligible partner again.

Debbie and Foggy are seemingly reconciled at the end of the story, and Foggy mentions her again in a couple of issues time as if she was still around. However, she doesn’t appear again until issue #108, so apparently a retrospective decision was taken that this issue’s break-up should stick. By this point Matt and Karen are firmly a couple, and Debbie’s original function of prising Foggy out of the romantic triangle is spent; Foggy’s new role is to be Matt’s friend and boss, and Debbie isn’t really needed any more.

Anyway, Crime-Wave’s plan fails completely. Daredevil doesn’t just beat up the whole gang, he steers the boat back into US waters, where it gets raided by the police. Crime-Wave himself doesn’t put up much of a fight, and he’s unmasked as Foggy’s assistant Hollis. Oh, sorry, have we not mentioned him before?

Yes, it’s the same problem we had with the Masked Marauder, in an even more extreme form. The villain’s identity is supposed to be a dramatic reveal, but there aren’t any candidates. So Crime-Wave turns out to be a bland-looking guy who had a single line of dialogue 12 pages earlier, and who doesn’t even get a full name. True, his one line of dialogue did have him trying to undermine Foggy and Debbie’s relationship, but it’s still not much of a reveal.

Logically, the idea seems to be that Crime-Wave was always one step ahead of the authorities, because he had compromised the DA’s office. But we never see anything specific along those lines – perhaps because it could only be hinted at for Code reasons, but still. The haziness of Crime-Wave’s actual villainy, the tell-don’t-show quality of his threat, the underwhelming reveal of his true identity and the sporadic mismatched elements of Silver Age wackiness make him a failed execution of a basically sound archetype.

Bring on the comments

  1. Michael says:

    Another guy named Turk appears in this issue, but it’s a bald white guy, so it’s definitely not the guy who appears in Miller’s run.
    Weirdly, the warden of the prison Matt is sent to in Zdarsky’s run turns out to be Crime-Wave’s father.
    Yeah, by this time not only the Kingpin but also Silvermane had been introduced in Spider-Man. It’s easy to see why no one used Crime-Wave again.

  2. Thom H. says:

    Kingpin already had the better name and the better visual. If Crime-Wave was going to lean into the supervillain schtick with the costume and the entrance chute, then he should have also had a gun that shot soundwaves.

    On a separate note, the action on the covers has improved so much under Colan. But can we all agree that they’re still a nightmare in terms of graphic design? Why is everything shifted to the left on this one?

  3. Skippy says:

    I recall a Crime-Wave being used in Sleepwalker. Maybe the same guy?

  4. Dave White says:

    According to the appendix, different guy.

  5. Chris V says:

    No. His name is Carl Wilkinson, and he’s a businessman as well as a crime boss. To avoid trademark infringement with this one, he calls himself “Crimewave”. The one in Sleepwalker actually managed to be a competitor of the Kingpin, as if it were a slap in the face of Hollis. It’s as if that Sleepwalker story (issue #5) went out of its way to make this Crime-Wave appear even more pathetic.

  6. Chris says:

    I would have imagined Crime-Wave to be a more ocean-centric or surfer-adjacent criminal.

    Namor is annoyed by him.

  7. Jason says:

    “Another guy named Turk appears in this issue, but it’s a bald white guy, so it’s definitely not the guy who appears in Miller’s run.”

    Daredevil is swimming in Turks.

  8. Mark Coale says:

    Crime Wave also seems like the name for a group, not a single person. Unless you are a “one man crime wave” like you were the One Man Gang.

  9. Si says:

    “Turk” is unfortunately an old derogatory term in the US for uncouth people of Irish descent. The stereotype of the low-level criminal Irish thug was pretty widespread, hence the regular usage in comics. I don’t know how a black character ended up with the name, but he meets the other criteria.

    And by the way, Crime-Wave is an excellent name. You just have to sing it like the CW McCaw song Convoy. Crime-Waaaaaave

  10. Chris V says:

    I’ve never heard it used specifically in reference to people of Irish descent. “Turk” was also an offensively derogatory term for a Turkish male which meant they were “savage or barbarous”. The gangster named “Turk” in this story sort of looked like a stereotypical depiction of how a person from Turkey was supposed to appear (like with his moustache). I thought that was why the person in this story was called “Turk”. Although, it did seem odd that a person of Turkish descent would be a member of Crime-Wave’s gang.
    In fact, it may explain how a Black man ended up with the name if the artist/colourist didn’t know how to portray a Turkish person. Maybe this is supposed to be the same Turk, but Colan had a better reference so they changed the character. Then, when Turk was brought back post-Thomas, the writer wanted to use the original Turk not realizing the discrepancy. Now, I’m just speculating.

  11. Mark Coale says:


    I was just playing Convoy after Parker made a truck driving joke about the Furiousa movie and I said

    “We gotta drive this trucking Convoy ‘cross the Wasteland.”

  12. Douglas says:

    I always figured Miller’s Turk and Grotto were named in homage to the prolific Belgian comics duo Turk & de Groot…

    Crime-Wave is only identified here as “Hollis”; a much later Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe entry gave him the first name “Mason.” Mason Hollis, as in Hollis Mason, a.k.a. Nite-Owl!

  13. Michael says:

    Grotto was probably named after de Groot. But Turk first appeared in Miller’s run a year and a half before Grotto, suggesting that Miller didn’t have Grotto in mind when he first used Turk.

Leave a Reply