Wednesday, December 21, 2005

MISTER MIRACLE #10 DC Comics, 1972

I was a little late to the party when it came to comic legend Jack Kirby’s DC work.
Kirby, who made a name for himself creating/drawing many of the classic Marvel comics characters, created an entire mythos of extraterrestrial super-beings for DC comics known as The Fourth World or New Gods. My first exposure to Kirby’s DC characters was in the pages of Giffen & DeMatteis’ Justice League run, which featured Mister Miracle, one of the coolest characters EVER. Intrigued, I tracked down some of the original comics that the character appeared in, which bring us to Mister Miracle #10.

For those unfamiliar with Mister Miracle, he’s a super-escape artist with a ridiculously colorful costume and an arsenal of tricks up his sleeve, the stand-out star from Kirby’s Fourth World comics.

Why are the comics collectively called The Fourth World? Where are worlds number two and three? No fucking clue. I’m sure a Kirby scholar will jump in and help us out.

Kirby’s Fourth World books told the story of two warring planets chock full of exotic superhumans, the idyllic New Genesis and the malefic Apokolips. The original comics were Orion, The Forever People, New Gods, and Mister Miracle (I believe) and they have spawned a number of series and mini-series since their inception in the early 70’s. Kirby created a massive Manichaean mythos* from whole cloth, populated by iconic figures and strange beasts. It’s one of the most ambitious and wildly creative works in comics – second only to Lords of the Ultra Realm. Kidding. I kid.

This comic kicks ass; I don’t know how else to say it. It’s told with such vibrancy and confidence that it just sucks you in. Jack Kirby was a master of his craft, and he produced outrageous, wacky shit like this with such certainty and skill that you either had to embrace it or just stop reading comics altogether because you suck.

Our story starts with Mister Miracle, aka Scott Free (get it?), his amazon paramour Big Barda, and the all-lesbian Female Furies as they appear on Earth via a “boom tube” teleportation device. They land in the wrong spot: right above the secret base of the sinister World Protective League! What are the odds?

The WPL’s automatic death cannon begin shelling them, until Mister Miracle springs into action and attempts to dismantle it:

“Like a supersonic eel…” I love that. Scott disables the cannon but is captured by WPL goons, who have that unique Cro-Magnon Kirby look that all his goons seem to have. Barda and the Furies are captured as well, but we’ll get to them in a minute.

Mister Miracle meets a disembodied head who is aptly named The Head, leader of the World Protective League. The Head has cooked up an extortion plan involving an Orbital Plague Bomb, or OPB. It would have been funnier if his plan involved ODB, Ol’ Dirty Bastard from the Wu-Tang Clan, but this comic was sadly decades too early for that joke.

Anyway, take a look at the excellent, uniquely Kirby design of the Orbital Plague Bomb:

Come on, an Orbital Plague Bomb – how cool is that? Stuff like that makes comic books so goddamn cool.

While Mister Miracle is down with OPB, the Female Furies bust out of their cell. I’m not 100% sure why the Furies are in this book – Barda was a member of this Apokoliptic all-female death squad before she hooked up with Scott, but they’re usually portrayed as villains. It doesn’t matter, I’m a big fan of Mad Harriet, the cackling psychotic with green hair and power spikes, and I’m just happy she’s here.

That’s Stompa and Lashina next to Harriet. Tell me they’re not lesbians – killer super-lesbians from outer space!

Mister Miracle escapes from several of The Head’s death traps while the Furies open a can of Sapphic whup-ass on the World Protective League’s goons. The Orbital Plague Bomb launches with Mister Miracle onboard, but the master of escape does what he’s good at – escaping – and he magnetically attaches The Head to the departing OPB. See ya, Head.

Scott and the girls make their way back to Scott’s house, where they are reunited with the sideburned midget Oberon, who is apparently a sight for sore eyes:

Man, what would it be like to date Big Barda? You’d be out at dinner and she’d be all, “This crème brulee is better than ripping the heart out of an ash-crawler. When I finish I will take you to my bed and you will pleasure me until I am sated.” And you’d be all, “(gulp) Okay…”

Mister Miracle #10 is everything that is good about comics and nothing that sucks about them. Again: it kicks ass.

Rarely have comics seen such a unique, visionary, singular work as Kirby’s Fourth World books. Jack Kirby was the Orson Welles, the Bob Dylan, the Kurt Vonnegut, the Jimi Hendrix of sequential art – a creative force with a seminal body of work that has influenced generations of creators.

Hail to The King, baby.
*I want extra points for working the word “Manichaean” into my post.


Justin Cognito said...

I remember Michael Chabon wrote an article a few years back where he confessed his love for Big Barda.

Anonymous said...

Wrong! Orion didn't have a comic. He starred in the New Gods!

Anonymous said...

...and the fourth title in the original New Gods mythos was (and you'll love this): Jimmy Olsen. No, really.

As to why it was Jack's 'Fourth' world-- ah, that is the stuff of debate. Even Mark Evanier doesn't seem to be sure, so there's no hope for the rest of us.


Anonymous said...

His name was in the title for issues 2 and 3.

Anonymous said...

Even better than the Fourth World Kirby stuff is some of this 70's Kirby smack I've been mainlining recently. The Black Panther looks too cool for school but the fun stuff is in Captain America. The guy bumps into Mister Two who lives in a watch and is teeny tiny but has a big brain and bug eyes and Mister One who is enormous and has no brain. I can't tell you how much fun it is to watch America's littlest Aryan take these freaks in stride as if defending the Homeland is one of those jobs where just naturally your brain gets jumped by surreal goofs every day of the week.

I'd love to see the new, grimmer Captain America get taken down by some of these forgotten freaks from the past.

Anonymous said...

Christ (or: Bah! - as Kirby would prefer), Simon managed to post first. As the man pointed out 'Jimmy Olsen, Superman's pal' was the one you got wrong.

Dave, you deserve extra points for using 'mythos' and 'malefic' as well.

I highly recommend the Mister Miracle TP from DC. 12 Mister Miracle stories in black and white, printed on pulpy paper.

Anonymous said...

The placement of sideburned midget Oberon's otherwise bald head in that last panel makes it look like Mister Miracle is pregnant.

Anonymous said...

I love how the head doesn't get a hover-platter or anything, he just scoots around on a Big-TRAK. You'd think Scott would just stomp him.

Edward Liu said...

Michael Chabon's article about Big Barda, where he also describes his wife's inner Big Bardaness.

According to Mark Evanier, Barda was also based on Nia Vardalos' mom from My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

I think my favorite bit is how a device named the "Orbital Plague Bomb" has so many warnings on it, including the last one that just says "Deadly." I bet someone sued the manufacturer after they spilled their Orbital Plague Bomb in their lap and died of ebola or something.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed Kirby's work on 2001: A Space Odyssey. The first seven issues were like a remake of the movie, only KIRBY style, yo! Some really insane shit. The last few issues were the debut of Mister Machine, who would later become Machine Man.

BigSleep666 said...

Coop should totally draw Big Barda!

Harvey Jerkwater said...

Late-period Kirby was so freakin' insane it makes me weep at the coolness.

The Black Panther and "King Solomon's Frogs?" Time-travelling brass frog statues? HELL YEAH!

OMAC and the girl bombs? HELL YEAH!

Kamandi and the Orangutan Surfing Civilization? HELL TO THE YEAH!

I...I must sit now, for I grow faint. The awesomeness has overwhelmed my feeble constitution.

Anonymous said...

bigsleep666: Coop has a drawing of Big Barda here:
But you must have known about it.

As for Kamandi's world... wow. I couldn't never expect something like that existed. Wow.

Anonymous said...

Harvey J: I've always wanted to see a sequel called "King Solomon's BLOG!"

Preist brought back Abner Little briefly during his BP run.

Anonymous said...

I should point out that from about #8 onward of this series, the Furies had turned GOOD, thanks to Barda, and were hiding from Darkseid at Scott's house.

Every subsequent writer pretends that it never happened. F*ckers.

Anonymous said...

Some other Anonymous said:
I should point out that from about #8 onward of this series, the Furies had turned GOOD, thanks to Barda, and were hiding from Darkseid at Scott's house.

I say:
Sounds like the makings of a kick-ass sitcom!

zailo said...

Oh man. I am so happy to be amonst fellow travellers. So many people give Kirby shit for his later drawing style. I try to explain that he was giving up certain anatomical details in favor of dynamicism.
Plus... Arnim Zola!!

Gayest Neil said...

You get extra points only if you can work the term "Mon-Chi-Chian" into your post!

BigSleep666 said...

"Konstantinos Stamoulis said...
bigsleep666: Coop has a drawing of Big Barda here:
But you must have known about it."

I had not known! Thanks!

Chris said...

Wow. I'm definitely in the minority here --- while I dig the Kirby art, almost everything Fourth-World related has left me cold, like the blackness of space.

Anonymous said...

Man, those late Kirby comics- I like them a ton. They're so packed with weirdness, and the dialogue is so bizarre, however, that I can only read a few at a time. Still, Kirby in the '70s = Super Happy Comics Funtime

Anonymous said...

Kirby's 2001 may just be mankind's greatest literary achievement ever. I want to live in a society based on its teachings. And the Jimmy Olsen stuff isn't far behind, particularly the one with Don Rickles and that one with the mad scientist who created his own world that he keeps in his basement, but it's populated entirely by vampires, werewolves, and Frankensteins because he projected old monster movies onto the atmosphere of his man-made world that he keeps in the basement. Genius is far too mild a word.

LT said...

I raved about New Gods #6 in my show in October and I submit these two pages as proof of his brilliance:

The Glory Boat
Orion rides a living weapon

Jack Kirby fucking rules.


Kevin Church said...

Man, what would it be like to date Big Barda?

Two words: Hot. Freaking. Uhn.

Anonymous said...

Gotta love the informality of the WPL workplace, with that cheery "Hello, Head!" and everybody openly griping about the unsafe working conditions. You couldn't pull that shit with Kobra.

corbiscide said...

I must thank you all. You make my day regularly as I laugh till I cry (wipes tears from eye).
Dave your longbox rocks and the comments are always the icing on the cake.

corbiscide out

MarkAndrew said...

Man, I love the crap outta Mister Miracle. I always liked the idea of superhero-as-metaphor for human-yearning-for-freedom

And I like big, googly arse machines, too.

"Jack Kirby was a master of his craft, and he produced outrageous, wacky shit like this with such certainty and skill that you either had to embrace it or just stop reading comics altogether because you suck."

This is the truest thing ever.

Anonymous said...

You know, when Seaguy came out, people were all "Oh this is too weird! All this crazy shit happening at once! None of it makes any sense!" and all I could think was, did you people ever actually READ any of those Kirby comics you supposedly worship? Cause it's just like that! Cosmic crazy shit! Yes please!

thekelvingreen said...

Dave Lartigue, exactly.

Anonymous said...

While Kirby always said his favorite New Gods story was "The Pact", "The Glory Boat" is mindblowing.

J said...

I always figured that Kirby's "Fourth World" was a riff on the then-ascendant notion of Third World countries. (First World countries were aligned with the US and its allies, Second World countries were in the Soviet sphere, and the Third World were neither West nor East.) Fourth World was, obviously, one better.

NiolK said...

Kudos on your use of "Sapphic" also. Now if you can use it again along with the word "Squirters" without seeming like a perv I'll be impressed.

"You're a better sight than a multiple barrelled cosmic controlled planetary howitzer!" thats fuckin beautiful. Thats going on my girlfriends christmas card.

Kirby and Eisner were the two most influencial comic artists of all time. Noone will ever come close to that again. Props to the lads. Perpetual cosmic powered supersonic eel props.

NiolK said...

Ah! Anon 1.03 thank you for mentioning the Jimmy Olsen with Don Rickles, I have that!! It's so fuckin surreal. You Just don't get shit like that in comics anymore.

Tim Easy said...

my kingdom for a 2006 Big Barda pinup calender!

Anonymous said...

One thing I like about the Fourth World was that while everything, even the weird stuff comes off at times as deliberately so, it doesn't feel self-conciously or gratuitously weird like far too many comics, books, etc. do, that whole desparate and strained "CHECK THIS OUT, ISN'T THIS WEIRD AND WACKY?"

Not so with Kirby's Fourth World.

tomorrowboy 2.9 said...

what's really cool about mr. miracle is that he's based on jim steranko, who was an escape artist in real life

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'm sold. I've never read any of Jack Kirby's Fourth World stuff. Where should I start? What trade paperbacks should I pick up to get some Kirby goodness?

Anonymous said...

Paz Vega in Spanglish is sooo Big Barda.

Anonymous said...


go here :

and grab anything that says 'Jack Kirby's'

The Forever People, Mister Miracle, New Gods and Jimmy Olsen, Superman's Pal were the 4 titles comprising the 4th World saga.

From Marvel you must own the first three Essential Fantastic Four collections: Silver Surfer, Galactus, the Black Panther, the Inhumans, Doctor Doom, Annihilus, the Negative Zone...

Chris Arndt said...

Repeating what was already said and fleshing some of it...

The four Fourth World titles were New Gods, Mister Miracle, Forever People, and Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy Olsen came first and the story was started there.

New Gods sounds like a team book but really was Orion's book. One legend ( believe that it is true) was that the Orion title was supposed to be called "Orion" and not "New Gods" and "New Gods" was originally supposed to the umbrella title for the four-series series, not "the Fourth World". When Gerry Conway over the New Gods title it became a team book of sorts.

That's all I care to say right now.

Mister Sinister said...

Miracle Man marketing proposal-

Okay... he's an escape artist...a SUPER-escape artist

And he's friend with a senior midget man

Jiz Gym?

Mister Sinister said...

Wait the villain is named the HEAD?
Like Al Snow? His entire comic book & glory comes from crappy villains creating Bond-like traps that he will inevitably escape...


Teaspoon of Chi cock?

Ram Crammer said...

I loves me the King! This post is so *&%# YEAH!! The King-of-Kosmic-Kool Kirby's '70's DC work is so phantasmagorically deranged. That one man should be so super-endowed with such a fecund imagination is utterly incredible. Lucky humanity to have such an artistic mega-genius to show us the limitless possibilities of the human mind. And Kirby did it in a way that is damn near universally accessible with myths and iconic heroes and gods, and all manner of Homeric and Norse epics that tap into the collective human consciousness. It all fairly staggers my feeble mind.

Dave, I only wish you would devote much more of your own significant talent to producing more posts devoted to the King.

How about a post on Kamandi, the most rad end-of-the-world comic of all time---Planet of the frickin' Apes on 'roids, man! Also, Jack's work on "The Losers" from Our Fighting Forces, in which he depicts a number of his own WWII annecdotes as only he can. So many people don't even know about these gems.

I was fortunate to have met the man at a con in NY when Machine Man #1 was just out. A truly lovable guy, with a boundless love of the medium, and of his fellow man. A class act in every way. He is sorely missed.

Metz77 said...

Wait a second.

Wait just a goddamn second.

Jack Kirby wrote Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen?

Jack "The King of Comics" wrote JIMMY OLSEN? The only series with a number of retarded plots that rivaled Lois Lane?

I feel so underwhelmed.

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