Sunday, August 28, 2016
Mister Miracle #1 (1971)
Mister Miracle #1 (April, 1971)
"Murder Missile Trap!"
Writer, Artist & Editor - Jack Kirby
Inker - Vince Colletta
Cover Price: $0.15
Well, how about that... today August 28th, would have been Jack Kirby's 99th (!) birthday! I figure what better way to celebrate/commemorate than to talk about one of my very favorite Kirby Kreations... definitely my favorite of his time at DC Comics... Mister Miracle! What better place to start than at the very beginning... wayyy back in 1971.
Happy Birthday to the King!
We open up with Mister Miracle being shackled by his assistant Oberon as he practices escape from a flaming cabinet trick. Miracle feels extra motivated to get this trick right as he's noticed there's a dark-haired young man watching the exhibition from a distance. Oberon locks his man in the cabinet and then... unloads a flamethrower (!) at it. The young man hops the fence and tries putting out the flames with his sport jacket. Mister Miracle bursts through the wreckage... and laments the fact that his advanced age has seemingly dulled his escape-senses. Ya see, Mister Miracle is not Scott Free here, but Thaddeus Brown! Scott's the onlooker.
Scott, Thad, and Oberon share some pleasantries and as they are about to part company a group of thugs emerge from a car. They're apparently from (the hyphenated) Inter-Gang and they've got some bid-ness with Thad-eus. Scott gets involved, and starts... well, it looks like he's beating them with his purse. The battle is short-lived, and the good guys come out on top. Scott helps Thad to his feet, and the elder tells the story of the man called Steel Hand.
Speaking of Steel Hand... thankfully not Sarge Steel (Hand)... we shift to a scene with him bunkered in a sealed room where his artificial mitt is getting zapped with radiation. He received an update from one of his underlings via a "TV" (quotes theirs). He vows that he will take Mister Miracle out himself (or by using a sniper)... and karate chops a bar of solid titanium to punctuate his point.
Brown was so touched by Scott's altruistic act that he offered his spare room to him. Scott, unable to leave the poor old man at the mercy of Inter-Gang, agrees. Thaddeus enters and we get his "secret origin"... he used to be The Great Thaddeus, however his (late) son Ted thought it lacked flair... and so, Mister Miracle was born. Thad displays a great amount of fatigue... he's been relentlessly training for something he called the "Big Trap". Scott presses the subject, but Thad doesn't really want to expound... as it's upsetting to Oberon.
Scott won't let up... his curiosity is piqued about this "Big Trap". He tries giving some hints about eliminating any and all confounding variables that may cause his trick to be unsuccessful. Now Thad's curiosity is piqued... he wants to see how Scott would escape the chains. Scott's down with it... but he's gotta get something from his bag first. After that brief detour, he's wrapped in chains, and well...
He tells Thad and Obe that he's a modern man in the age of gadgets, and shows them his magnetic repulsor doohickey. He continues by explaining that the contents of his bag were an inheritance from his time at the orphanage. Oberon suggests that Thad use it for the "Big Trap", but the ol' man ain't havin' it. He will "live or die" by his own methods. Dude's got conviction... gotta give him that!
We rejoin our pals the following day. Mister Miracle is bound to a tree, and Oberon is set to dislodge a one-ton metal sphere from the top of a hill and send it directly into Thad's path. All that, and there's currently a sniper with Thad in his cross-hairs.
Scott hears a loud "coughing" sound, and runs in to stop the sphere from crushing his new buddy. He does so by blasting it with a beam emanating from his hand. By the time he gets to Mister Miracle, it's already too late. He's been shot!
With his last words, Thaddeus tells Scott that the "Big Trap" was conceived by Steel Hand, and it's escape-proof reputation was due to it only ending in death. Scott rolls up his sleeve and removes a strange box from the odd metal arm-brace apparatus he wears and holds it up to Thad's ear... it lulls him into the hereafter peacefully. Once he passes, Oberon shares the complete story with Scott. Steel Hand and Thad met in a hospital some years earlier. While there, they made a $10,000 wager about the "escape-proof" trap.
We flash to a few days later in Steel Hand's office (?) where he is preparing to test the might of his magical mitt by arm-wrestling a robot that can "punch holes in a battleship". Steel Hand handily (nyuk) beats the bot. As he celebrates with a stogie, he is shocked to find see Mister Miracle climbing through his window. He wants another chance to escape the "big trap".
It isn't long before the Inter-Gang thugs storm the room. It's funny, they're all brandishing ridiculously powerful rifles, but only thump Mister Miracle with the "butt" of the gun. With him kayoed, Steel Hand issues the command that he be bound to the nose of a rocket that is about to be launched into space. Man, Inter-Gang's got connections!
Mister Miracle touches his two index fingers together, which causes a little electrical current to start to sizzle as the rocket takes off. Steel Hand and Inter-Gang gleefully look on while it bursts into flames. Job well done, Steel Hand returns to his office. Only, he finds somebody's sitting behind the big desk... Mister Miracle!
What follows is a brief bru-ha-ha, that culminates in Mister Miracle blasting Steel Hand's... steel hand off, and tying the goon up with his compact cocoon spinner! All that's left is the crying... the police come and haul Steel Hand's radioactive rump to the slammer.
Ya know... it's been so long since I'd read this that I'd almost totally forgotten about ol' Thaddeus Brown. Once I saw him, it all came flooding back to me, but gotta say, I was a bit thrown off for a moment there! Love it when a comic can do that to me... doesn't happen nearly enough!
I came into Mister Miracle through the Justice League International run, so I think I've always kind of equated him with "bwa-ha-ha" antics. Even his own mid/late-80's solo series was very lighthearted. It's a bit strange seeing the character in a (relatively) serious story like we have here.
I also remember wondering how Mister Miracle would have worked in the Marvel Universe had the King not gone to DC during the 70's. How weird would that have been... we might have had a Marvel Fourth World right now... that would likely be retconned into Inhumans by now, but that's neither here nor there.
I was chatting with a buddy about Kirby's post-Marvel work, and I was of the opinion that he might have lost a step in the transition. I was looking at work like Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter and the Manhunter entry in 1st Issue Special... but, reconnecting with ol' Scott (two T's!) Free... I'd put this up with much of his Marvel stuff.
I enjoyed the story... I've always liked the way Oberon works off of other people. During many of their later stories, I'd always gotten a bit of a Sam Beckett/Al from Quantum Leap vibe between Scott and Obe'... just really enjoy their chemistry. I like how we learn here that "Scott Free" was a name given to him at the orphanage to give him "individuality"... it's such a simple explanation, but it really does explain away any questions of the corniness of being named after a pun.
Then we've got Steel Hand... who actually makes a few sparse appearances following this, if the DC Wikia is to be believed. I was getting some Charlton flashbacks from the bubba... thought for a second he was going to say he was Sarge Steel Hand... and that gave me the heebie-jeebies to be sure.
Overall, a great introductory piece for a wonderful character. The script is (surprisingly?) strong, and the art is top-level Kirby. Definitely worth checking out. I was happy to revisit this one to commemorate the life of the architect of so much of what I/we love. Happy 99th, Jack!