The First 10: Mister Miracle

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Hey, everyone! Welcome back to the First 10, our regular series that looks at the first ten issues of a long or short-running comic book series to explore how it grew and matured. This time, it's our second DC Comic, the original Jack Kirby series of Mr. Miracle!

The current King/Gerads Mister Miracle comic is friggin' fantastic, so I want to dig back into the character’s origin and first series, which ran 18 bi-monthly issues from April 1971 to March 1974. Every issue was written and penciled by Jack Kirby and inked by Mike Royer. Three years later, a different creative team revived the book, and that lasted another seven issues, bringing the total run to 25 issues. The run officially ended in September 1978. But for now, we’ll go back to the original Kirby, starting with"¦


1. The Murder Missile Trap!

Writer/Artist: Jack Kirby

And we start off with a bang.

Our first issue opens as super escape artist Mister Miracle and his faithful assistant Oberon prepare to do a stunt in the middle of nowhere and with no audience. Oberon chains up Miracle, locks him in a wooden hut, and blasts the hut with a flame thrower. A horrified bystander rushes in as the building burns, but before he can do anything, Mister Miracle escapes the trap with the greatest of ease, and takes off his mask to reveal his identity"¦and he’s Thaddeus Brown!

The bystander introduces himself as Scott Free, adding that he was a foundling who’d been raised in some sort of orphanage. He has a bag loaded with weird, futuristic technology that helps him master and improve upon Brown's escape artist techniques. Scott comes on board as an assistant, and Brown reveals that he has to do one more big escape. Years earlier, he’d made a bet with noted Inter-gang crime figure The Steel Hand that he could escape the ultimate trap.

During the escape, The Steel Hand arranges Brown’s murder, and Scott takes over the Mister Miracle identity to avenge him. And now, we end our incredibly action-packed story as Scott and Oberon ready themselves for their next adventure.

We learn shockingly little about Scott here. No Granny Goodness, no New Gods, just a dude on Earth with a Mother Box.


2. X-Pit!

Writer/Artist: Jack Kirby

Remember how I said the first issue had no Granny Goodness? Well, here she is, in all her glory.

In this issue, Miracle and Oberon are busily working on a new escape when they’re attacked by Granny Goodness' super powerful machine, Overlord. Oberon is kidnapped, and Scott chases after him. They’re trapped in the X-Pit, but Scott overloads it, destroys Overlord, tells granny to go screw herself, and leaves with Oberon. Okay, he doesn't actually say that. He tells her to "dry up and blow away”, which is harsh as hell.

This ish gives us a couple of firsts. Granny Goodness obviously makes her debut here, we get our first look at Mr. Miracle's iconic aero-discs, the Mother Box finally gets a name, and we hear its distinctive pinging sound. Kirby's framing really rules here, with wild close-ups and crazy angles you didn’t see in other comics of the time.

Also, I was surprised by how much Granny Goodness cares about Overlord here. It's a different take on the character from the one I'd been used to.


3. The Paranoid Pill!

Writer/Artist: Jack Kirby

Holy hell.

I had heard that this issue was incredible, but this"¦It’s rad as hell to the extreme. In the issue, Doctor Bedlam appears on Earth to defeat Mr. Miracle on behalf of Darkseid. He does this by calling him on the phone and telling him to meet him on the top floor of a certain building at a certain time.

Scott shows up, and Bedlam reveals the plot. He locks down the building, leaving the ground floor as the only way out. That done, he uses the Paranoid Pill to poison everyone in the building. This turns them all into scared, angry psychos, who try to murder each other and anyone else they might see. And Scott has to get through 50 floors of them. It's awesome.

The issue ends as Scott is grabbed, locked in a box, and thrown down the middle of a staircase. This is my fear.

Speaking of which, in this issue’s standout art sequence, Scott teaches Oberon about Bedlam's terrifying talents. The panel that chilled me to my core has monsters clawing at a perfectly calm Scott’s face.

As a quick note, I love that we haven't yet seen Darkseid, although people keep mentioning him. Real sense of foreboding.


4. The Closing Jaws of Death!

Writer/Artist: Jack Kirby

Issue Four introduces a character who will be forever important to Mister Miracle: Big Barda.

Barda and Miracle have what is definitively my favorite romance in the history of comic books, and maybe in all of fiction. They reinforce the idea that the perfect relationship is built on support and love. And they kick ass together like no other couple can.

By the time she appears here, Barda is already pretty much fully formed as a character. She's bold and brash, and she loves Scott. She's a little harder-edged, but that's not a flaw; it’s the starting point for an arc.

In this issue, Barda shows up and immediately rushes off to help Scott. They brave Dr. Bedlam's monsters, and escape together. At this point, it looks as though Barda will become a main cast member. I hope so; Barda is extremely great.

Another thing that sticks out is that at no point does Barda or Scott explicitly need the other's help. Scott gets out of every trap, and Barda never loses a fight.

They complement each other perfectly, but each can function on his or her own, as well. It's so good.


5. Murder Machine!

Writer/Artist: Jack Kirby

I really love that this book feels like a story in progress.

Plot progression is slow, yes, but characters are also rolled out in a slow and effective manner. In this issue, the Apokolips forces abduct Barda. Scott heads off to help her, and runs into this issue's antagonist, Doctor Vundabar,  an Apokoliptian who’s so obsessed with military might and precision that he has a monocle and a German accent.

Vundabar locks Scott in an inescapable trap and then watches as he apparently dies"¦But Scott emerges, and he’s perfectly fine. Then Scott defeats Vundabar, as usual.

I don't love Doctor Vundabar, but he's fine enough. Also, the opening scene in has Barda embarrassing a bunch of movers, and it’s friggin' awesome.

But the real highlight is the backup story, which seems to indicate that we’ll learn about Scott's childhood on Apokolips. And the taste we get is horrifying, with a bit of Nazism and a bit of Bradbury-eque sci-fi. It also has Granny Goodness' super unsettling sense of dystopia.

I can't wait to see where this goes.


6. Funky Flashman!

Writer/Artist: Jack Kirby

Look, this issue is hilarious. It's so deeply funny that I can't believe it exists. It’s 20-something pages of Jack Kirby venting all his anger at Stan Lee, and it’s glorious.

We meet a mysterious charlatan named Funky Flashman, who looks exactly like Stan Lee did in the 1970s. Flashman runs a slave plantation, and uses constant alliteration and flowery prose in his speech. And he literally listens to recordings of his own voice…for pleasure.

He approaches Scott, looking to leech money from him, and Barda and Oberon immediately hate him. Meanwhile, the Female Furies appear to kill Barda for betraying them, and to bring back Scott as their prisoner. So Barda spends quite a bit of the issue saving Scott, who never notices that he's in danger. It's great!

Amid the chaos, Flashman steals Scott's Mother Box. He’s accidentally attacked by the Furies, who are tracking the Box. Scott and Barda save him, and he runs off to come up with new ways to rip people off.

Jack Kirby invented throwing shade, folks.


7. Apokolips Trap!

Writer/Artist: Jack Kirby

Here we go! After six issues of build-up, Scott and Barda finally decide to go back to Apokolips together to officially win Scott's freedom.

So they say goodbye to Oberon and make their way to the Hell Planet. There, they match wits with Kanto, weapons master of Apokolips, who pretty much defeats them. But Scott appeals to his boredom by simply telling him to leave them alone, and then waits to see what happens. It turns out that Kanto is game for that scenario, and he does just that.

The duo present themselves to Granny Goodness for their combat trial. Granny has her guards, the Harassers, drag Barda away. Scott is sent to do battle with his next foe, The Lump. I know that Mister Miracle predates the modern six issue arcs, waiting for the trade mentality of current comics. This feels like a new start, anyway.

The first six were about Apokoliptian generals coming to Earth to get Scott, but our heroes are now bringing the fight to them.

This issue also shows us a statue of Darkseid, which is the closest thing we've had to an actual Darkseid appearance. Really drawing this out, Kirby. Or maybe he was just keeping him over in New Gods.


8. The Battle of the Id!

Writer/Artist: Jack Kirby

I"¦uh, I teared up a little as I read this one.

Dragged off in separate directions, Scott and Barda have to take separate paths to reach the goal. Barda immediately walks straight into the headquarters of the Female Furies, takes complete command, and leads them to Section Zero to break Scott out. Meanwhile, Scott is in psychic battle with The Lump, a grotesquely misshapen creature with a deep psychic landscape.

Scott is imprisoned within that landscape, where the Lump constantly stalks and outmatches him. But Barda eventually breaks in, and Scott breaks out, each using his or her own method.

Okay. So the part that made me tear up came toward the end. Barda thinks Scott is dead, so she attacks and restrains Granny Goodness, telling her:

When my Furies return from the chamber with Scott's dead body, I'm going to kill you.

It's frighteningly straightforward, and pretty brutal. You can feel Barda's love for Scott, as well as her blistering rage, and it's incredibly affecting. And when she learns that Scott’s still alive, the single tear running down her cheek just really spoke to me.

The love between these characters is just printed in every panel.


9. Himon!

Writer/Artist: Jack Kirby

Flashback issue!!!!! Where did Mister Miracle learn how to escape and fight? How did he meet Barda? All of my questions are answered in this issue!!!

It takes place during the period before Scott’s escape from Apokolips, when he’s an air trooper in Darkseid's army. But Scott befriends the great Himon, builder of the Mother Box and almighty technician of Apokolips. Scott hangs out with Himon and his fellow outcasts, including Auralie, who escaped the Female Furies.

Just before her first encounter with Scott, Lt. Barda suddenly breaks down the door and grabs Auralie. Then she meets Scott, and immediately threatens to kill him. Auralie is brought back and killed. Scott and Barda are called in to witness her murder, and both are driven to escape. With support from Barda, Himon, and Metron, Scott fights against everything and everyone, and gets away.

And right at the end, as he’s so close to getting out"¦Darkseid.

In just a few panels, Darkseid’s presence has an immediately terrifying impact, and I audibly gasped when I first read them. We learn that Scott’s escape from Apokolips will kick off the war between New Genesis and Apokolips. It’s all so good, but the last two pages are especially wonderful.


10. The Mister Miracle to Be

Writer/Artist: Jack Kirby

Well, this is a weird one. So far, every issue but the first was heavily mired in New Gods stuff, but this one really isn't.

Scott, Barda, and the Furies Boom Tube back to Earth, where they accidentally stumble upon the World Protective League, a group of evil scientists and soldiers who are about to use a plague bomb to ransom the planet.

This horrifies Scott. The head of the World Protective League (who’s a literal head in a jar, mind you) sends Scott to be poisoned to death, but Scott escapes. He sticks the Head on the Plague bomb and lets it harmlessly detonate while in orbit. I mean, it’s not harmless to the head; it kills the head.

Oberon is overjoyed to see Scott, Barda, and the Furies when they finally show up at home. And now they have a new guest. It’s Ted Brown, son of the original Mister Miracle, Thaddeus Brown!

How does Brown react to Scott's new identity? Will the Furies manage to get along with the others? What adventures will they have? To find out, you gotta go pick up the rest of the series!

I HIGHLY recommend these comics. They're incredible, and if you don’t love Kirby now, you will when you read them.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a deadline to escape.

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