Today’s story begins at the end. The very end.
Jack Kirby, when working with Stan the Man on The Mighty Thor, decided to go out with a bang. In a series of back-ups called “Tales of Asgard” Kirby laid out the end of Asgard and the House of Ideas’ Aesir, as he adapted Ragnarok for the 616. This was “prophecy,” a fore-telling from the mind of the King, rather then the direction Marvel editorial would have one of their stars go. And so it came some half decade later, when Kirby left the Bullpen for a spot at the DC (then National Publications) table.
And so, in the mind of Kirby, the Norse gods fought the final battle, a battle with no winners–a battle so bloody, so brutal, that the world was un-made and begun again, and that was the beginning of The Fourth World. From the ashes of Asgard and Jotenhiem sprung first the twin planets of New Genesis and of Apokolips, and upon them, the New Gods. But exactly none of that has anything to do with Mister Miracle #1!
Now, when Kirby migrated to DC, he began a task that has been largely unrivaled–he became the editor, writer and designer for an epic spanning four comic magazines: The Forever People, The New Gods, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, and Mister Miracle. Although the News Gods and the Fourth World are now firmly entrenched in the DCU, the original series only lasted a few years, so I never expected to run across a #1 in my price range.
And there I was a few months back, walking through Game Time, our local Scottsbluff, NE Nerd-stablishment; and what did I spy amongst the back issues, but a tattered and “well loved” copy of Mister Miracle #1 from 1971. Now, Game Time sells their back issues for cover price (with a minimum of $1), but this wasn’t some 1990’s x-men-foil-cut-common thing—this was a bit of history! I don’t know if you spotted it from the image, but this copy has one element that I was certain would turn it into a cheap comic. Some kid from years ago had a Mister Miracle book, but must have really wanted Doctor Strange! It was a classic moment captured from a time when comics were still for kids, not the pristine realm of basement-dwelling live-at-homes.
So I got the comic for a buck, and took it home to read. I got into comics in 1990 (you can read about that here and here), and by then, Mister Miracle was member of the Justice League, and his Apokoliptan past was no secret. He was, after all, the abused foster-son of Darksied, abandoned to the orphanages of Apokolis’s ghettos, using only his wits, determination and a bit of stolen gadgetry to escape that burning planet. None of that was mentioned (barely hinted at) in this first issue. Rather, Kirby introduces the wandering Scott Free as a carpet-bag-carrying observer, a device to allow the readers to meet the first Mister Miracle.
Meet Thaddeus Brown, aged and lonely circus escape artist hoping for a return to glory. In an era where Evel Knievel was a household name, surely Mister Miracle could make a come-back. Yet, there was one thing that stood in his way—Years ago, Brown had made a bet with the mobster Steel-Hand. Brown said no trap was beyond his skill to escape, and Steel-Hand had taken the bet and spent years developing the perfect trap. However, in the intervening years, he had grown tired of the bet and the uncertainty, and decided that murdering Brown was just the easiest course.
So as Brown, aided by his dwarfish assistant Oberon, practices and hones and shapes his reflexes back to his prime, and as Scott Free watches and ponders; so does an evil scheme shape! Brown is gunned down just as Scott spots the assassin. Unable to save Brown, Scott vows justice, and taking the Mister Miracle suit, he uses a combination of natural skill and alien super-science to not only escape, but take down Steel-Hand and his pocket of Intergang.
As I mentioned before, this comic was not what I was expecting. There is no hint of Scott’s alien/New God heritage, nor of any direct alien connection. Yes, Intergang has advanced weaponry and goofy outfits, but this is a universe were knock-a-day thugs like Leonard Snart have freeze-guns! Rather, Scott is very down-to-earth and straightforward, very unlike his foster brother Orion over in The New Gods. He does not set out to be a hero, but falls into the role by just being a nice guy doing the right thing. Even in his determination there is an endless hope that permeates the character Scott Free, and from him to the whole book; and is is certainly enough to make me want to read a bit more. Like my son said after reading the issue, “Mister Miracle, huh? That was pretty cool.”