The Raw Emotions That Will Make Mister Miracle One of the Best Comics You Read This Year

Image: Nick Derrington for DC Comics
Image: Nick Derrington for DC Comics

Hundreds of thousands of people think that Tom King is a good writer. He’s won some of the comic book medium’s most prestigious awards for work like The Omega Men, Vision, and Sheriff of Babylon. But he’s still nervous about his work.

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Illustration for article titled The Raw Emotions That Will Make emMister Miracle/em One of the Best Comics You Read This Year
Illustration for article titled The Raw Emotions That Will Make emMister Miracle/em One of the Best Comics You Read This Year
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I got the chance to talk to King at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con at a DC Comics press breakfast. The superstar writer had just finished regaling dozens of journalists with charming warmth, curse-filled jokes, and earnest explanations of how he views the ongoing romance between Batman and Catwoman. The outdoor patio was quieter when I spoke to King, who seemed more readily confident to talk about his work on Batman. But, having read the entirety of the first issue of Mister Miracle, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk to King about it.

A thoughtful person who always owns up to his narrative ambitions, King knows how to work a crowd and talk about the high-minded subtext of his work. We’d already been talking about Batman in this same conversation, but there was a surprising note of neurotic worry after I asked about Mister Miracle. I’ve interviewed him a few times now and have never felt like I was being put on. His concern felt believable. You can read about how he’s getting into the head of the Jack Kirby creation in the conversation below.


io9: So, I’ve read Mister Miracle #1.

Tom King: You’ve read Mister Miracle?! Is it okay? I worry about it.

io9: I think it’s a better first issue than Vision.

King: Oh, man!

io9: But your angle got me wondering. For a lot of fans, the most popular recent interpretation have of Scott Free is the happy-go-lucky guy from the Justice League books written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis. He’s kind of been off to the fringes, especially since New 52. He hasn’t been used, really, in a significant way. And now you’re making him fucking depressed! Do you worry about the tension between those interpretations?

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King: No. When I think of Scott Free, beyond the Kirby stuff, I think—most recently—of Justice League Unlimited. DeMatteis and Steranko wrote an episode that was about Scott Free, and it’s exactly like you said: He’s a happy-go-lucky/nothing-wrong-with-his-life guy.

I love all that, but to me, what makes him interesting is that he’s the son of God, given to the Devil. And he’s so unlike Orion—who is always moody and grumpy despite being raised in Heaven! Scott is a dude who was raised in Hell.

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io9: There’s a nature-vs-nurture question built into that.

King: Yeah. The idea of a guy who is happy-go-lucky, but spent his childhood on Apokolips. It’s not like he just spent his childhood in Hell—that’s one thing, to spend your childhood in Hell—but to know that your father put you there? To be like, “This trap that I’m in now? It’s called the X-Pit. This Hell, this Granny Goodness—I’m being tortured every single day of my life—because my father decided to throw me away.” Like, that is a deep pain inside you.

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You go to your therapy session, when you tell them that, your psychologist is going to be like, “Let’s talk about that for awhile.” And so, to me, the happy-go-lucky stuff, when you put it in the context of having that childhood, it becomes a shield. And it becomes something like, he’s happy-go-lucky, he’s found someone to love, but that might just be something he’s putting out there to cover up the pain of his childhood.


io9 will have a review of Mister Miracle #1—by Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Clayton Cowles—when the book comes out this Wednesday.

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Video games. Comic books. Blackness.

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DISCUSSION

I remember when Mr Miracle, The Forever People, New Gods and other comics first hit the stands. OK, I’ll admit I never thought Kirby was the best artist, but he was certainly dynamic. And, the same way Stan Lee (with others) kept thinking of new super-heroes and villains, Kirby kept creating these entire mythologies which captivated my young mind. New Gods, Etrigan the Demon, The Eternals, Kamandi. Everything was just so damn BIG!

Mr Miracle didn’t seem like that at first. He was an escape artist. That put him up there with, say, the Human Target or Walt Simonson’s Manhunter, just a guy with incredible skills and a few tricks. And, we only got a few issues in before we realized the whole thing was just a big fat cheat. WTF??? It never mattered how over-engineered the deathtrap was, mother box was basically getting him out of it. They made a pretense of him using a hidden lock pick now and again, or figuring out some puzzle or doing something to keep up the facade of being a highly skilled escapist, but in the end, he’d have been dead nine times out of ten if not for good old Mother Box. Even the Tardis gets more credit and thanks than Mother Box ever did.

Nonetheless, the series was engaging because both Scott and Barda, and the ancillary cast, like Oberon, were on the run and emotionally conflicted about their past and their futures. There were real dangers, though often the danger was of each losing the other.

Despite the later crap about Barda being a Darkseid sleeper all along and betraying Scott and everyone, Barda was a better Wonder Woman than Wonder Woman. She wasn’t about girly outfits and getting the boys to stop fighting and talk it out using their inside voices. She was the ass kicker and name taker. When the ultraviolence started, Barda was the rescuer and Scott the one in distress. No one doubted if she got into it with Superman there would be an epic throwdown. Scott was the one in bondage and no one was going to spank Barda.

Unfortunately, most of Kirby’s grand mythologies usually have a half-life of only a few years before they become repetitious. Yes, Darkseid has been the big bad in DC for decades, but he’s as tedious as a pontificating Doctor Doom, because all of Kirby’s mythological characters achieve dimension together, but often lack it when apart.

I hope a new generation gets the same thrill out of Mr Miracle as I did when he first escaped from Kirby’s imagination.