As I previously covered back in June in my post about the first issue of The Demon, sometime in the first half of 1972 DC Comics requested writer-artist-editor Jack Kirby to come up with a couple of new series concepts to complement the three titles already on his schedule. The results were pitches for what ultimately became The Demon and Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth — and DC liked them a lot. Indeed, from Kirby’s perspective, they may have liked them a little too much. Read More
In March, 1972, the lead story of Mister Miracle #8 had ended with a “Coming!” blurb promising that the very next issue would introduce readers to a “lovable old rascal” named Himon — billed not only as the man who’d mentored the series’ titular hero in his craft of escape artistry, but as an updated take on the character Fagin from Charles Dickens’ 1838 novel Oliver Twist. With Ron Moody’s Oscar-nominated performance as Fagin in the 1968 film adaptation of the musical Oliver! still relatively fresh in the pop-cultural memory, readers might have been forgiven for expecting Mister Miracle #9 to be something of a romp — a tale one might read while listening to the movie soundtrack’s renditions of “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” or “I’d Do Anything” playing in the background.
On the other hand, readers who’d been following the “Young Scott Free” back-up feature in the last few issues of Mister Miracle might suspect that such a level of jauntiness would be incongruous (to say the least) in the context of our hero’s upbringing on the hell-planet of Apokolips. But even those readers might not be prepared for the reality of “Himon!” — probably the darkest and most brutal episode of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World epic yet to appear, although one that still ends on a strong note of optimism and hope. Read More
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… Read More
In November, 1971, the lead story in Mister Miracle #6 had concluded with the titular hero resolving to return to the planet Apokolips — from which he’d escaped just prior to the beginning of his series, only to be regularly menaced by its forces on Earth ever since — to win his freedom “their way!! — in trial by combat!!” Two months later, Jack Kirby’s cover for Mister Miracle #7 indicated that he would indeed be making such a journey within its pages — and also that the “Super Escape Artist” would, not unexpectedly, encounter more than a bit of trouble before achieving his goal. (Not that we readers of January, 1972 would have wanted it any other way, of course.) Read More
Today’s post is one I’ve been looking forward to — with some trepidation as well as considerable anticipation — since I first began producing this blog, six and a half years ago. That’s because its subject, DC Comics’ New Gods #7, is without question my single favorite comic book of all time.
Please note that I’m not saying that I think it’s the “best”, or “greatest” comic book of all time. That would be a foolish thing to do, frankly, considering how many comic books have been published over the last century that I’ve never personally read. I’m not even claiming that it’s the best or greatest comic book in my own collection (though I figure I could argue a strong case for it on that score, if the need ever somehow arose) — simply that, of all the thousands of comics I have read in the last 56 1/2 years, it’s the one I love the most. And since love is entirely subjective and personal, I’m not required to justify why I favor it above all others, as I might if I were to declare that New Gods #7 is the indisputable worldwide GOAT, or whatever.
That said, I’m still eager — yes, and also anxious — to share this comic book with you, faithful readers, in the hope of having you understand, to whatever degree possible, just why I love it so much. Read More
The subject of today’s blog post is probably the best known issue of writer-artist-editor Jack Kirby’s DC Comics title Mister Miracle — or, if not that, at least the most referenced. Its contents are mentioned in most comprehensive histories of American comic books, as well as in the majority of biographies not only of Kirby himself, but also of Stan Lee, Kirby’s primary collaborator at DC’s main rival, Marvel Comics. Most of you out there reading this probably know the reason why; it’s all down to a certain character who, while he doesn’t actually appear on the comic’s cover by Kirby and inker Mike Royer, does have his debut heralded there: “Introducing.. Funky Flashman! Villain or Hero — You Decide!”
And why was — why is — Funky Flashman such a big deal? Because, as Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon so aptly put it in their 2004 book, Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book, Funky represented Kirby’s “considered vivisection of his old creative partner.”
But, here’s the thing — back in November, 1971, my fourteen-year-old self didn’t get that. At all. Read More
When I was nine years old, I fell in love with a superheroine whose unlikely name — a name that still brings a wince of lust and embarrassment to my face when I say it — was Barda. Big Barda. I have never recovered, thank God, from my first sight of her, in Mister Miracle #8 (September 1972). — Michael Chabon, “A Woman of Valor”, 2004.
Your humble blogger’s own first meeting with Big Barda came four issues earlier than did that of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay; and I was fourteen years old at the time, not nine. Nevertheless, I can definitely relate. Read More
In May, 1971, DC Comics continued to chronicle the ongoing saga of the war between the god-worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips in three new releases: Mister Miracle #3, Jimmy Olsen #139 — and Lois Lane #111.
True, the progenitor of that cosmic saga, Jack Kirby, neither wrote, nor drew, nor edited the third of the comic books listed above; indeed, he may not even have served as an informal consultant in its production. Nevertheless, the latest episode in the continuing adventures of “Superman’s Girl Friend” leaned heavily on concepts developed by Kirby for Jimmy Olsen, with a plot centered on an attempt by the minions of Darkseid, Lord of Apokolips, to assassinate Lois’ mighty beau. And why not? Whatever else Kirby’s Fourth World was, it was clearly part of DC’s shared universe, with especially strong ties to Superman’s corner of that fictional world; after all, in his guise of Clark Kent, Superman even had a minion of Darkseid for his boss. It only made sense, therefore, that the cosmic conflict at the heart of Kirby’s four series (which included Forever People and New Gods in addition to Jimmy Olsen and Mister Miracle) would eventually spill over into the rest of DC’s line — and that any stories resulting from such a spillover would and should “count”, continuity-wise, every bit as much as did the King’s.
At least that’s how my thirteen-year-old self saw the matter, fifty years ago; and since I was then avidly following any and all developments in the Fourth World saga, that was enough to get me to pick up my first issue of Lois Lane in almost five years. Read More
The cover of Mister Miracle #2, with its plethora of blurbs, follows in the tradition of the second issues of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World titles which preceded it. Even more than the covers of Forever People #2 and New Gods #2, however, this one’s not just wordy, it’s shouty. To my contemporary, 63-year-old sensibilities, it’s too much, at least by half.
But back in March, 1971, my thirteen-year-old self seems to have seen things differently. That’s my prevailing theory, anyway, when I consider the fact that, unlike virtually any other comics purchases I made in the general timeframe of fifty years ago, I can remember the particular circumstances of my acquiring Mister Miracle #2. While I don’t recall actually picking the book up out of the spinner rack at the Forest Ave. Tote-Sum in Jackson, MS, or paying for it at the counter, I do have a specific recollection of gazing upon that gloriously over-the-top cover as I held the comic in the front seat of my mom’s car, our having stopped at the aforementioned convenience store (at my request, I’m certain) on the way home from school. Read More
The first issue of Mister Miracle, written, drawn, and edited by Jack Kirby, was the sixth book to be released in the creator’s new “Fourth World” project for DC Comics. (Or, if you prefer, the seventh, as both it and Jimmy Olsen #136 — which I’ll be blogging about next week — were published on the same date, January 14, 1971. So, take your pick.) The earliest chapters of Kirby’s epic, published in three consecutive issues of Jimmy Olsen (beginning with #133 in August, 1970), had introduced readers to Darkseid — a mysterious and sinister figure hailing from a world called Apokolips. Next, the premiere issues of two new titles, Forever People and New Gods (both published in December), had revealed that Darkseid was no ordinary alien, but a god — the supreme leader of the “new gods” of Apokolips, who stood in eternal opposition to the more benign divinities of New Genesis. Now, as the new year began, it was time for the fourth major piece of Kirby’s Fourth World to fall into place, and while my thirteen-year old self wasn’t sure what to expect from Mister Miracle, I was confident that we’d see a further expansion of the already compelling, cosmic-scale mythology Kirby had introduced in his first three titles.
I was therefore somewhat bemused, and even a bit disappointed, to find behind the Jack Kirby-Vince Colletta cover of Mister Miracle #1 a completely earthbound story, with nary an alien god in sight (so far as I could tell, anyway), and not even a single mention of Darkseid. What in the heck was going on? Read More