Mister Miracle #8 (May-Jun., 1972)

In March, 1972, the eighth issue of Mister Miracle picked up right where #7 had left off.  Having voluntarily returned to the dark god-world of Apokolips with the aim of formally earning his freedom through trial by combat, our titular hero, aka Scott Free, had been taken into custody by the forces of Granny Goodness — as had been his friend, ally, and fellow former inmate of Granny’s “orphanage”, Big Barda.  But while Scott was taken away to the mysterious Section Zero to face an unknown fate, Granny ordered that Barda “be returned to the female barracks”.

And that’s just where we find Big Barda on the first page of MM #8 — though the precise manner of her arrival is probably not quite what Granny had in mind… 

We’d met a group of four Female Furies in Mister Miracle #6 (in which they’d tried to assassinate both Scott and Barda on Earth, thereby prompting the latter duo’s present expedition to Apokolips) — but aside from Bernadeth (and Barda, of course), every Fury on this spectacular double-page spread from writer-artist-editor Jack Kirby and inker Mike Royer is someone we’ve never seen before.

Not that it takes that long for a couple of the Furies we’re already familiar with to show up…

Yeah, I really don’t think this is what Granny Goodness had in mind, at all…

The Section Zero technicians hurry to get Scott into his designated place; they know that Granny Goodness is eager for the show to begin…

The Lump appears to have been originally designed as part of Kirby’s pitch for a Big Barda and the Female Furies series — an idea which predated Barda’s debut in Mister Miracle #4, and doesn’t seem to have initially been connected to the creator’s Fourth World mythos at all.  As we noted in our post on that comic last July, when the Big Barda series proposal didn’t pan out, Kirby simply repurposed the characters he’d developed for it, one of whom was the Lump; intriguingly, the barely decipherable notes from the surviving presentation art suggest that the Lump was originally supposed to be an ally of Barda and the Furies, rather than playing the adversarial role he takes in the present story.

The association of the Lump character with psychological concepts seems to have been there from the beginning — the Barda presentation notes mention his “inferiority complex” — though the link with Sigmund Freud’s “id-ego-superego” model of the mind may be original to the Mister Miracle iteration.  In any event, this story may have been my fourteen-year-old self’s introduction to the id concept; if so, I’m not sure that I was much (if any) more enlightened on that particular topic when I finished reading MM #8 than I had been when I started it.  But, we’ll have more to say about that later…

Virman Vundabar, who’d been Mister Miracle’s antagonist back in issue #5, was indeed last seen falling into a deep pit — though Kirby had made it pretty clear the villain’s descent would prove less than fatal.  Like Kanto, whom we met in issue #7, Virman has patterned his appearance and mannerisms after a specific period in Earth’s history; but while Kanto’s gone with Renaissance Italy, Virman’s opted for Prussia in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Granny, Virman, and Kanto all take their seats in the observation area — and then…

Kirby never names “the infamous ‘mystery prisoner’ of Section Zero” in the course of this story; but readers of New Gods #7 will recognize her as Tigra — the mother of Orion, whose son was taken from her years ago and sent to be raised on New Genesis, as one half of the hostage exchange that also first brought Scott Free to Apokolips.

Mister Miracle manages to kick the Lump away from him, but the latter is hardly daunted.  “I rule here!” he boasts.  “Whatever I command this place to do — it does!!

Granny suggests to Kanto that, if the circumstances required it, he’d be willing to utilize his lethal talents against “poor Granny” herself; and the assassin doesn’t deny it.  “It would fill me with infinite sadness, sweet Granny!” he assures her.  “Still, I should be discreetly silent, — respectful — thorough!”  The guy’s all heart.

But Mister Miracle surprises the Lump by being fast enough to evade his axe.  “I could probably hold you off forever!” he taunts his foe, to which the latter retorts: “Not if I find a way to slow you down”

But the underbrush provides little respite for our hero — rather, the vines, under the command of the Lump, seize Mister Miracle and hold him fast.  And then…

Is the use of the word “massacre” in the panel above meant to be taken literally? I think it probably is.  They play for keeps on Apokolips, after all.

Advancing on to the section director’s post, Barda demands information from a living captive:

With Tigra’s help, the Furies quickly overwhelm Granny Goodness’ minions — but it’s all been for naught, Granny tells Barda…

The reference to the Lump’s inferiority complex obviously hearkens back to Kirby’s original Big Barda and the Female Furies series pitch — but as a rationale for Mister Miracle’s last-minute victory in our present tale, I’m not sure it makes a whole lot of sense.  As we saw earlier in the story, the Lump is “life without form” — “a ‘malleable'”, in Scott Free’s phrase — and he’s clearly well aware of this fact.  Indeed, in his natural state, the Lump is entirely faceless, resembling nothing so much as a gigantic wad of Double Bubble.  So why would he freak out on being shown his “true self” in a mirror?  That’s not his true face, and he knows it.

The realm of the id“, as conceived and presented by Kirby, occasions similar concerns.  As I mentioned earlier, this story may well have been my younger self’s first encounter with the word “id”; assuming that’s accurate, I’m sure I must have looked it up in my family’s copy of the 1965 edition of the World Book Encyclopedia (no Internet in those days, kids).  And after perusing that fine reference resource, I was probably slightly smarter on the topic of ego psychology, but also likely somewhat confused.  If the Lump’s inner world was “the realm of the id”, where was the realm of the ego, or of the superego?  Seems like if you going to deal with one piece of that model of the mind, you should deal with all three… shouldn’t you?  Admittedly, I’m speaking here as someone whose knowledge of this topic is, even fifty years later, fairly superficial; nevertheless, it seems to me that Kirby’s notion of “id” seems to be virtually identical with the related, but still separate, concept of the unconscious mind, and therefore the word’s use here doesn’t really work.  Though I hate to say it, I believe Kirby’s conceptual reach rather exceeded his grasp with this one.

All that said, there’s still plenty to enjoy, and admire, in “The Battle of the Id!”.  However unsatisfying its ultimate resolution may be, Mister Miracle’s contest with the Lump makes for several terrific action sequences along the way.  Beyond that, the scenes involving the story’s other characters — e.g., the quick peek at the Female Furies “at home”, the poisonously polite exchanges between Granny Goodness and her guests, the surprise appearance of Tigra — are, as well as being highly entertaining in and of themselves, fascinating in the glimpses they offer us of how life is lived on Apokolips.  That latter aspect, of course, helps make the present story an appropriate lead-in for the one which will follow it in Mister Miracle #9, “Himon!” — which, despite its title (and the emphasis given to the titular character in Kirby’s “Coming!” blurb), is very much a story of Young Scott Free — a continuation of the narrative begun in the back-up strips that had appeared under that name in the previous three issues of Mister Miracle, as well as a sequel to the “origin story” for Scott that had appeared three months earlier in New Gods #7, the monumental “The Pact!”  I look forward to discussing it with you in two months’ time.


Mister Miracle #8 finishes things up with another reprinted tale of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s “Boy Commandos”.  It’s the fifth such story to date to appear within the title’s pages — which makes it a little odd that it opens with a splash panel in which the B.C.s introduce themselves, as though we’re meeting them for the very first time:

However, the tiny caption-within-a-caption at the bottom of the page directs us to the very end of the story, where we find:

Well, that explains that — though, ironically, “the next Mister Miracle” would in fact put the lie to this blurb, as with the following issue, this title (along with the rest of DC Comics’ line) would revert to a 34-page format, selling for 20 cents — a format which had no room for Golden Age reprints.  Thus, this “first” Boy Commandos story would in fact be the last, at least as far as Mister Miracle was concerned.

12 comments

  1. B Smith · March 19

    With extra pages to fill, were DC throwing in these reprint of old Kirby material as if to thumb their nose at Marvel and rub their face in the fact that they now had Kirby? Or was it simply a case of, “Well, they bought this for Kirby, let’s give them more”…or perhaps a bit of both?

    In any case it was fortuitous timing – Steranko’s “History Of Comics” volumes had not long before been published, and having read about these old comics, one could now read some of the stories.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. DontheArtistformerlyknownasfrodo628 · March 19

    I don’t exactly remember the chronology, but if I’m not mistaken, my first introduction to the idea of the “Id,” and what a poor one it was, was the title of Johnny Hart’s seminal daily comic strip, “The Wizard of Id.” I don’t know if Hart took the name of his fictional kingdom from Freud’s writings or if it was just coincidence, but the comic strip certainly never claimed to be a treatise on the Id/Ego/Super Ego and made no attempt to be one. Regardless, whether I was familiar with Freud’s concepts in 1972 when I first read this story or not, I know I didn’t understand them and therefore blew right over them and into the story itself and gave Kirby’s pontifications on psychological warfare only the most passing glance. Which, as you point out, Alan, was probably for the best, because Jack didn’t seem to have a really complete grasp of the subject either.

    My main problem with this story was how easily Barda re-took command of the Furies and how she led them in open rebellion against Granny and Darkseid without so much as anyone asking a question about what the hell they were doing. Was their training so immersive that they were conditioned to follow Barda anywhere, no matter what? Didn’t seem to be the case previously when Mad Harriet, Lashina and whoever else came to Earth to try and assassinate Scott and Barda, but maybe there was an exception somewhere that no one told us about. Which, of course, can be part of the problem with Jack as a writer…sometimes he left stuff out, if explaining it would bog the story down.

    The introduction of Tigra here is interesting only in hindsight, since Jack didn’t tell us who she was at the time. Talk about not explaining himself! I suppose the identity of Orion’s mom and how that ties into the story and the War with Apokolips was only meant to be a tease at this point, but a tease usually at least hints at something and this particular reveal didn’t really do that, which just serves to underline a point about Kirby that’s been made before in that he was a better plotter than he was an actual writer. He came up phenomenal stories, but had a hard time working out the details of things that didn’t interest him.

    Great art and exciting action, however…that’s what we come to a Jack Kirby story for and that’s what we got. Thanks, Alan, for another thoughtful analysis of a comic I had forgotten about.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alan Stewart · March 19

      The fact that Kirby doesn’t explicitly identify Tigra in MM #8 is actually what I love most about her appearance here. Three months ago, we met Orion’s mom for the first time in New Gods #7 — but only in flashback, raising the natural question of “so where is she now?” And in this story, Kirby shows us — but the reveal only fully makes sense if you read and remember NG #7; otherwise, the woman’s identity is an odd (but I think still intriguing) mystery. It’s an approach that rewards the reader who’s been following the saga through all the different titles for the last year and a half, and reinforces the sense that we’re reading one huge story. As for what Tigra’s role would have been going forward — well, like with so much else in the Fourth World, Kirby was playing a long game, and the fact that DC ended everything so abruptly (that’s coming up in just five months in “blog time”, BTW) means we’ll never know how things would have ultimately played out.

      On the other hand, you make a very good point about how easily Barda reasserted her authority over the Furies; as you noted, none of them seemed especially inclined to follow her commands when they were trying to kill her stone dead back in MM #6. Kirby definitely could have given us a little bit more to work with there. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      • Neill · March 19

        I totally agree, Alan. It was obvious enough who Tigra was if you’d read NG 7, but by not mentioning her name, it gave a more mythological feel to the relationships around the characters, somehow. :Love the “non-person” designation–Kirby was really introducing us kids to political science, if somewhat skewed psychological terms–still, as a kid I implicitly accepted the general idea of the id here.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. frednotfaith2 · March 19

    Lump is a mix of the Thing, Hulk & Mr. Fantastic, but his was too easy and out of left-field, and Don’s point about how too easily Barda got the Furies to join her in rebelling against their superiors struck me as odd and unlikely too. Seems Kirby was rushing through getting his heroes in and out of very difficult situations, but, hey, the word “miracle” is in the title character’s very name, so apparently he has the secret power to generate miracles that defy reason!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I am curious if Kirby’s story for this issue was inspired in some way or another by the “Monsters from the Id” from the groundbreaking 1956 science fiction movie Forbidden Planet.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Steve McBeezlebub · March 19

    Mister Miracle is the only 4th World series I’ve ever enjoyed in its original run. I don’t think I read them though until the revival series. Were any of the new Furies ever featured again? The nearly naked one and the one with the skull on her headdress looked really good.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Spirit of '64 · March 20

    An exciting issue, but like so much of Kirby’s 70s work, let down by the cover.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Stu Fischer · March 28

    While Mister Miracle was my favorite of the Kirby Fourth World books, this issue was one of my least favorite issues. I think the reasons were that I wasn’t impressed with the Lump, that even in 1972 I thought the idea of Barda getting the Furies to attack Section Zero and free Scott (or is that Scott Free?) was absurd for the reasons others have mentioned here, and the ending didn’t make a lot of sense. On the other hand, the two-page spread of the Furies that Kirby drew on pages two and three is wonderful.

    I know that I became fascinated about the concept of the id at some point (and it wouldn’t be until late high school when I took a psychology class that I became aware that the word “ego” is a companion with id and that there was such a thing as a “superego”, well, aside from Muhammed Ali anyway). I too first heard the term “id” when I saw the Johnny Hart comic-strip “The Wizard of Id” (and at the time I thought that the name was a twist on “The Wizard of Oz”) but I find it hard to believe that my interest came out of this comic book issue.

    Oh well, until Kanto marries Big Barda to become Bard and Barda, make mine D.C.! Wait. . . what?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Pingback: Mister Miracle #9 (Jul.-Aug., 1972) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books
  9. Pingback: Mister Miracle #9 (Jul.-Aug., 1972) – ColorMag

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