DC NEAR-MISS: Ms. Mystic #1 (1982)
DC NEAR-MISS: Ms. Mystic #1 (October, 1982)
Creator & Writer – Neal Adams
Assists – Mike Nasser (hey, I’m just copying what the credits say!)
Letters – John Costanza
Colors – Cory Adams
Zips – Joel Adams
From Pacific Comics
Cover Price: $1.00
Here’s a bit of a strange one… and one that’s kind of controversial in the telling. I usually preface these DC Near-Miss pieces with a disclaimer about how I’m “probably not blowing any minds” with whatever revelation I’m about to share… but, this one… the deeper I got into it, kinda blew mine! Ms. Mystic’s ownership and creation history is… a bit muddy (though, I’m sure those involved don’t see it as such). I’m no expert on law, and don’t claim to be… not even on the internet, which I suppose might make me a something of a unicorn these days.
I’m just wanting to walk you through some of the more interesting bits of Ms. Mystic’s tumultuous beginnings, how she was supposed to be a DC Comics character… why that never actually came to pass, and then I’ll leave some links to where you can read a whole lot more regarding the issue of who owns what, and why.
Let’s start with a look at Mike Nasser/Netzer’s blog. There is a page there titled, “We All Know what You’ve Done, Neal” which is directed at Neal Adams… and walks us through some of the more seminal moments in the creation of our Mystic Ms.! I’ve included the first six bullet points below.
|From Michael Netzer’s Blog|
As we can see, Ms. Mystic was originally slated to be a DC Comic… interestingly, if we look at Item #2 – We learn that it was supposed to be DC’s first-ever “Creator-Owned Book”. Keep that in the back of your mind… seems there were at least two other concepts which also purported to be slated as DC’s first creator-owned book… Mike Grell’s Starslayer, and Larry Hama’s Bucky O’Hare. We will be getting to those pretty soon, don’t worry.
Item #3 tells us that Neal Adams included Ms. Mystic on the cover of the immensely popular Superman vs. Muhammed Ali treasury. No way… right? Hmm… let’s head up and grab that big-fat TASCHEN Bronze-Age of DC Comics book and look into this a bit deeper. Here’s the cover-code:
Well, I’ll be damned! Ms. Mystic is right there, Number 24! She’s got an (H) after her name, which… in going by the Code, tells us that she’s… a DC Character! Let’s double-check that on the ol’ cover itself!
Well, well, well… there she is, in all her glory! Her hair is a bit blonder than it’ll be in the issue we’re going to discuss, but… that’s her, alright!
Let’s jump all the way to Point #6… the cancellation in 1978. Plenty of wannabe comics historians (like myself) know what happened to DC Comics in 1978, right? There was… that opposite-of-explosion thing that went down. The DC Implosion wound up costing DC Ms. Mystic (along with Starslayer, and Bucky to boot!). Here’s a blurb from page 102 of Comic Book Implosion: An Oral History of DC Comics Circa 1978 (TwoMorrows) to further explain:
|From Comic Book Implosion: An Oral History of DC Comics Circa 1978 (TwoMorrows)|
As for that “November, 1977 Publishorial”, Ms. Kahn might’ve written it in November of ’77, but it wouldn’t appear until DC Comics cover-dated February, 1978. I only know that because I’m such a devoted idiot that I ran upstairs to the stacks to try and track it down! Here it is in all it’s glory (as found in Action Comics #480 (Feb, 78)):
|Tracking this down was a half-hour well spent…|
A little more evidence that Ms. Mystic was originally a DC (or DC-adjacent) character was the inclusion of a little Easter Egg on the first page of her comic (which Mr. Netzer drew back in 1977). You’d never notice it, if you weren’t already looking for it… as a matter of fact, even after finding out that it was there, I still had trouble seeing it. It felt like I was looking at one’a them “Magic Eye” Puzzles! Here, I’ll show ya! This is the bottom-right hand corner of the opening Splash Page from Ms. Mystic #1:
Clear as mud, right? Well, allegedly, if you toss this image into a Photoshop-like program and up the brightness to el-effen it’ll make it a bit easier to see. So, let’s give that a try!
D’ya see it? Maybe? And no, I’m not talking about that little ink smear next to her leg… that’s just some “misprinting”, which naturally means I’ll be putting my copy up on eBay as a “rare misprint” and make hundreds of dollars by the end of the day. Lemme get in there with my ink-pen, and see if I can’t make this a bit easier.
Why… izzat… izzat, one of my least favorite DC Comics characters of all-time… Deadman?! Yeah, it is… how would we ever know that from that chicken-scratch I scrawled across my phone’s screen on that above image? Well, if we go back to Mr. Netzer’s blog, he gives us a wayyyy more professional-looking “upscale”:
|From Michael Netzer Online|
So yeah, there you have it. Ms. Mystic… a victim of the DC Implosion, who wouldn’t see publication until nearly a half-decade later… at a different publishing house altogether!
Now, before heading into the spoilery-synopsis of her first issue, I wanna leave a(nother) link to Michael Netzer Online, where you can read way more about the rights issues and what-not.
Our story opens in the Arizona Desert… because, in comics-speak, more often than not, that’s all there ever is in Arizona. We check in on a unique-looking vehicle that barrels down the barren road. Inside, we meet a half-dozen scientists, whose expertise appears to be in pollution. They’re out here looking for a remote factory that’s been spewing it out by the cloud-ful. To further hammer that point home, we can see that nearby animals and humans are falling ill. Get used to this issue “hammering” things home… we’re going to get a lot of that.
Finally, our Science Team arrives at the remote factory… and so, they exit their vehicle… and the leader, an older fellow named Dr. Raas, proceeds to… well, shout a whole lot into a megaphone. The factory itself responds to this by… producing a gun, and shooting at the pesky annoyance.
Raas and the Gang hustle back to their rig, and throw out a shield made of a full inch of solid steel. Thankfully this is enough to deflect the incoming fire. One of the group, the athletic Dennis Swan, takes aim at the laser-gun with one a blaster of his own, and manages to take it out.
It looks like everything’s gonna be hunky-dory… that is, until the factory releases a… uh, these weird unicycle spider things? It’s not lookin’ good for our gaggle of geeks!
The team reconnoiters back behind their solid-steel-shield, and tries to plan their next move. Doctor Raas claims that his “detectors” have deduced that these unicycle critters are being controlled by both psychic and mechanical means. Hmm… “psychic detectors”? That doesn’t sound terribly scientific, does it? Meanwhile… somewhere else, a woman floats in space.
At this point, the Scientists are pretty much outta tricks, and so they have to rely on… I dunno, their “energies”. I’m not sure if it’s been established whether or not this crew has powers. It really hasn’t been explicitly stated either way. Whatever the case, they gather around this cannon… concentrate their energy… and fire!
Now, in firing this energy cannon, our team somehow disrupts the entire multiverse or something… because in the three-seconds it takes for this blast to do… whatever the hell it is that it did, our floating woman is able to “cross over” into the real world!
This woman, who is… duh, Ms. Mystic, immediately faces off with the wheelie-spider thing, while the scientists look on in confusion.
Ms. Mystic gives the machine everything she’s got… but it doesn’t look like it’s having any effect. She eventually rushes the thing with her strange sword drawn… and, bada-bing, bada-boom… no’ mo’ juggerno.
When the dust settles, the Science Team heads over to our gal and tries to reconcile everything they’d just seen. Actually, it’s more like… they tell her how powerful she is, and ask if she can help them break into the factory. It doesn’t take much convincing for Ms. Mystic to come on board. She sets to using lasers from her weird antenna things to break on through the wall.
She dramatically refers to herself as a “Vessel of Earth’s Revenge”, to which, nobody laughs. I’m sorry, I’m thinkin’ I’d have busted a gut if I ever heard someone say that.
Inside, Dr. Raas gets a load of what the baddies are workin’ with… and deduces that this is among the 2% of manufacturing processes that he is unfamiliar with. Ms. Mystic finally decides to ask them what their purpose here is… and what we learn is that they are the S.I.A., the Science Investigation Agency… a special task force put together as an act of Congress to fight pollution.
Suddenly, the crew finds themselves surrounded by some very angry-looking blue-collar workers! What’s more, they’re armed… with, ya know, crowbars and stuff. Ms. Mystic isn’t sure what’s going on, but is quick to reveal that this mob isn’t acting of their own volition… they’re being controlled by somebody, or something.
That “something” is… a gigantic golden box in the room… which Ms. Mystic destroys, returning the blue-collar workers to normal… or at least as “normal” as they were before the mind-boggling. Boy, the business of making pollution (and only pollution) must be booming for the baddies to go to such lengths, no?
It’s here where the Science Team decides… hey, maybe we oughta know a little bit about this strange woman we’re rollin’ with. And so, she volunteers her entire origin story! Ya see, she’s a three-hundred year old witch…
… who, during the Salem Witch Trials was burnt at the stake… only, before she could burn, she was zapped into another place… where she’s remained ever since. Dr. Raas wipes a tear from her eye, welcomes her “home”, and tells her next time, not to stay away so long.
The rest of the team… ehhh, they ain’t so sure they buy this story. I mean, just how far are we willing to suspend our disbelief, right? Weird flying woman with laser antennae appearing outta nowhere is perfectly logical… but, that witch thing… tsk, I dunno! Anyhoo, they continue down the factory hallways until they find a very brightly-lit room. Ms. Mystic bee-lines it.
Inside, she is blasted by… uh, some goofball in a construction helmet? Oh, wait… he’s not just any goofball in a construction helmet… this, my friends, is The Foreman! He tells them to beat it… and also is about 100% sure that he killed Ms. Mystic dead.
Naturally, she starts speaking the very next panel. She asks Raas to distract the Foreman… while she petitions the Earth for assistance. And so, while she chats up Gaia, Dr. Raas proceeds to… uh, show the Foreman his government ID? This might be even worse than the megaphone!
Ms. Mystic finally rises, and takes on the Foreman… knocking him down, and also… knocking off his helmet. We see here that the inside of his helmet had all sorts of circuitry in it… and he too was being controlled! Mystic cannot believe that all of this pollution was created by some doofus in a helmet… and so, she faints! That’s where the story ends… annnnnd, the next issue ain’t comin’ for something like two years (cover-date February, 1984)!
But! We’ve got a back-up! “Rescue Rhapsody” from the “Tales of Zed” by Chris Miller. In it, a Fairy takes a bath… before being nabbed by some strange beast.
She cries for help, which wakes up a sleeping piper… who, proceeds to, well, pipe.
The enchanted tune makes it so the only thing the beast can do… is dance! And so, it releases the little half-bathed Fairy!
But, that’s not all the music did! It looks like it’s caused the beast to sorta-kinda fall in love with the Piper! And so, it grabs him!
Now, since the Piper is being forcibly danced with by the beast, he can no longer pipe… which, kinda ticks the beast off? I think? This is much harder to follow than it ought to be. This chapter ends with the beast hurling the Piper away. Not sure if this ever gets followed up on… and, I can’t say I’m all that interested in finding out!
So… that was Ms. Mystic! What’d we all think? When we look at the fight for her rights, it kinda feels like much ado about nothing, dunnit? I mean, no disrespect to Netzer or Adams, but… I’m not at all convinced this character warrants all that much in the way of hub-bub.
Here’s a bit from a Neal Adams interview regarding the character that appeared in Back Issue! #94 (February, 2017)… it’s actually the interview that prompted Mike Netzer to deliver that 36-point itemized list I included (the first six points of) above:
Seems Neal’s a little dismissive of Mr. Netzer’s contributions… I can kinda see why he’s a bit ticked off. Though, I don’t know either of these fellas… so, it’s probably best to reserve judgment.
What we have here is… I dunno, it’s going to be a lazy comparison, but it feels very much like Captain Planet. Our main threat is… pollution just for the sake of it? I never understood it when the baddies are cool with destroying the planet… because, it just seems counterproductive, don’t you think?
The heavy-handedness of this story bordered on being silly… I mean, it’s the sort of story that would make Hard-Travelin’ Hero-era Ollie Queen roll his eyes. Ms. Mystic’s dramatic soliloquy as she melted her way into the factory was also wildly cringy… and kind of pulled me out of the story.
On the other hand, the characters… what little we “got” from them, were more or less likable enough. Ms. Mystic herself has a really cool design, and is also the kind of character you could get behind. Also, the art here was pretty fantastic!
Had DC not “imploded”… I could see Ms. Mystic being mentioned in the same breath as characters like Madame Xanadu and Amethyst. Probably would’ve been part of a Justice League Dark line-up at some point… which, considering she hasn’t been seen since 1994 (to my knowledge), might’ve been her best-possible timeline.
Is this worth checking out? I think so. I don’t know a heckuva lot more about this property than what we discussed today… and, I suppose I wouldn’t mind learning a bit more.
Oh… yeah, there was a back-up, wasn’t there? It was… fine. I will say, even if the story left me wanting… I did love the art.
(Not the) Letters Page:
5 thoughts on “DC NEAR-MISS: Ms. Mystic #1 (1982)”
Interesting. I could see DC publishing something like this in the late 70s. I'm surprised it didn't end up in Cancelled Comics Cavalcade. I'm guessing you don't have a copy of either of those lol. Gotta love how independent comics came out with new issues whenever the hell they felt like it (two years between issues 1 &2 of this book) like how it took Ben Edlund five years to produce just 12 issues of The Tick (and technically never finished that series). In also surprised this was in color being an independent comic in the 80s and all though I heard it was TMNT a couple years later that started that craze.
No doubt! This totally feels like something that would've been at-home at DC Comics during the late-Bronze Age! Could see this appearing in SHOWCASE, or one of the DC SPECIAL SERIES books, if not just launching as its own title!
I unfortunately do NOT have either issue of CANCELLED COMICS CAVALCADE… now, that would be a pretty fun piece of ephemera to have kicking around in the stacks!
The indie-release schedule is staggeringly weird. Especially when you have a name like Neal Adams attached to a project (though, I'd heard from a Production Manager at DC that he wasn't *always* the best when it came to deadlines). I can't imagine many folks were chomping at the bit for MS.MYSTIC #2… some two-years later!
The fact that this was in color was pretty novel, I take that as an indication that Pacific Comics was trying to prove that they were a "player" in the industry, and wanted to be seen at a similar level as Marvel, DC, and the like. Unfortunately, these weren't the savviest of business-people (the operation was run by a pair of brothers in California, if I'm remembering right… and started life as a means of distribution), and when their distribution-end fell off, so too did everything else.
Pacific Comics were definitely different looking than other contemporary indies… things like Cerebus and ElfQuest! It's a shame that it all fell apart!
Just to be fair and balanced, here are a couple links from Bleeding Cool that featue some more back and forth between Neal Adams and Mike Netzer.
That's hardly the end of it; anyone who's interested should definitely poke around BC and the rest of the internet. There's even a lawsuit!
I thought you did a good job covering this and it was far more than "surface level." I do worry about these DC Near-Miss posts being too time consuming on your end, but at least there's no set schedule or deadline.
Speaking of no schedule or deadline, I'm pretty much in agreement with everything you said about MS. MYSTIC. It's hard not to go all fanboy over Adams art, but that story leaves a lot to be desired. Like most comics about super heroes fighting pollution, it involves the super heroes literally fighting pollution and that just comes across as silly.
I keep thinking about The Pollutoid from that five page Len Wein / Neal Adams story printed in the AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS SPECIAL EDITION and distributed in conjunction with the Super DC Con '76.
And how weird is it that the Piper circa 1982 looks almost exactly like Mike Netzer circa 2020?
It's so weird to consider how much of a "to-do" is made over this character… who, over the course of four-decades, has only appeared in like 20 issues! I was chatting with someone on Facebook yesterday who was curious about this issue… and I told him that the back-story is around a million-times more interesting than anything between the covers! Gotta wonder what would even happen if Nasser/Netzer was just *given* the property… probably nothing? Maybe he'd try and sell it to Marvel or DC? Maybe he'd grab the first movie option he could… and let MS.MYSTIC sit in Hollywood-limbo for the *next* four-decades? The whole thing is just so strange…
Which brings me to… Yes! These Near-Miss pieces are incredibly time-consuming, haha… but, it's that weird sort of time-consuming where (between writing, researching, and heading up into my "stacks" for materials) I barely even realize that I've lost a handful of hours! This story, being SO weird, I was completely captivated!
I only planned on writing the pre-ramble for this piece the other night… figured I'd finish it up over the weekend, and release it next week… but, the deeper I got into it, the more I got HOOKED! This was a heck of a fun story to share, and I only hope that folks enjoyed it as much as I did, and some folks might've learned something new (just like I did!)
The "heroes fighting pollution" thing… yeah, it's so silly! Maybe if they fleshed out the bad-guys here a bit better, it would've been easier to "swallow"… but, all we know about 'em is… their business is pollution! Where's the profit in that?!
Great piece! I feel like I missed it before, but very cool read tonight?
Also liked seeing your comparison to Captain Planet…I was already thinking along that line, “hearing” the narration from the CP opener about “Gaia, the Spirit of the Earth..”
I don’t think I’ve given the indy release schedule much thought, but that’s definitely a turnoff for me…I want “regularity” and “consistency,” not to have to wait ages between issues. I’m kinda doing that with Silverline books these days, but as I’ve been acquiring without nearly as much reading (yet) it’s not too much of an issue (yet).
I’ve tried some random indy/local stuff that folks have gotten into local shops…but other than a first issue, or a couple at once, I don’t think I’ve ever really seen CONTINUATIONS…and in February 2022 here, I’m again trying to trim BACK what I’m buying, and so I’m getting a lot more discerning on trying a bunch of #1s and such.