Through A Glass Finally
A look at the character of MISTER MIRACLE created by JACK KIRBY
Writer: Michael Mead Images: DC Comics & Sōsuke Tōka
This article first appeared on www.occasionalmurmurings.blogspot.com/2022/03/through-glass-finally.html
It's tempting to blame others for the burden they seem to place on you. True freedom is when you break that power and free yourself.
In Mister Miracle # 8 (June, 1972), published 50 years ago today, 16 March, 1972, Jack Kirby takes his avatar, Scott Free, further into the transformational journey of the human spirit. All that and appearances by the King's cosmic, murderous, roller girl, ex-girlfriends. Does it get any better than this? asks, Mead.
Look in the mirror, who do you see? Do you see who you are now, who you were then, who you will be, do you see yourself as others see you, others who wish you ill? In Jack Kirby’s Mister Miracle # 8 (June, 1972), published 50 years ago today, 16 March, 1972, the King, yet again, provides us with a multi-levelled tale and takes us deep into ourselves in ‘The Battle of the Id.’
Picking up from last issue, Scott Free is on Apokolips where he is attempting to free himself forever from Granny Goodness’ control, to stand free from the pain he merely escaped from when he was allowed to leave the Hell planet. Like all heroes he has to fight for that freedom but unlike lesser, literal-minded creators, Jack Kirby has Scott's battle take place not just against an evil opponent but against himself.
Tied to a torture table, he is hooked up for a ‘psycho-merge’ in a mind hook-up with The Lump, a creature of the Id while Granny, Kanto, Virmin Vundabar and a mystery prisoner (Tigra, second wife of Darkseid and mother of Orion) look on. Big Barda and her army of Jack Kirby’s murderous, cosmic roller girl, ex-girlfriends, Stompa, Gilotina, Bernadeath, Mad Harriet and Lashina, Manson girls on a tighter leash, are powerless as yet to save the Miracle Man.
Face-to-face with his Freudian fears, Scott Free tries to dodge a death dance with the Sligian monster, an endlessly malleable slug, whose form shifts at will, whose will seems irresistible and whose power seems overwhelming. In Sigmund’s theory, the Id contains sexual and aggressive drives, hidden memories, the super-ego is the human conscience and the ego, the realist who manages the former two . There can be no doubt that Scott Free feels that the Lump is real, that he really will die back on the table if he loses but equally there is no doubt that Scott is in a war with his own mind and heart.
Abused on Apokolips, fuelled by desperation and rage, a cry for justice, Scott Free has largely transcended his desire for revenge but here, in his Id, where the last act of transformation occurs, is the part of him, the part of us, we don’t want to look at because it negates all that we think we have achieved. The Lump is our own burden, the weight of unresolved emotions, thoughts, it’s all that we wanted to leave behind in our lives but can’t.
As a victim of child abuse from Granny and her slaves at her terror orphanage, the Id of hidden memories presents the greatest challenge to Scott Free. The worst memories of the supremely, shape-shifting, knowing evil that he has suppressed, the deepest feelings of visceral revenge that come with those memories, the greatest challenge to how he sees himself now, that is what he faces in the battle of the Id. All those conflicting emotions and thoughts, literally rise from his subconscious mind, ‘….from the depths of the swirling gases…’ and he sees reflected back all the parts of himself he wants to deny.
Whatever our experience, we often struggle with why we are at war with ourselves. Why can’t we control what we say, what we do, what we feel, why do others seem to exert such control over us? Surely as Scott Free says to his Lump, as he challenges the endless cycle of fighting and death, ‘…Till the end of time? Is that the kind of world you want to live in? A world of endless struggle?’
So much of Kirby’s creative life must have felt like that. Just as he thought he was reaching the top of the mountain at Timely, National, Marvel and National/DC, final recognition would be ripped away from him. There’s a sense that you can’t win, you can’t triumph over your greatest pain until you accept that you can’t win, that it has happened, that you’ve given your best and that you are fighting on the wrong ground.
This is the point Scott makes to Barda when in her attempt to free him and hearing that Scott is dead, Barda is about to kill Granny, ‘Hag! You taught me how to hate! But you couldn’t teach me whom to hate!’ A suddenly-alive Scott, cries out, ‘No, Barda! You mustn’t!’ It is the cry of the non-violent victor, the confident voice of the heroic ideal. We don’t fight here, we don’t kill, we are not like them.
Scott has escaped and broken Granny’s hold, ‘…the secret of her power. The ability to shake our self-confidence.’ And how has he done it? Not by killing his opponent, not through his own power but with a simple mirror, subtly forged, to force the Lump to look at himself, to defeat himself. The Lumpian Id cannot handle the sight of the ego of the real Lump and now lies paralysed, ‘….in eternal fear of facing himself.’
Kirby’s proxy, Scott Free, has won out over his own revenge, his own anger, his own violence. He has stared into his own abyss and let everything that once hurt him dissolve, now just a reflection in the rear-view mirror, of a life transformed.
MICHAEL MEAD is a 55-year-old New Zealand comic book collector, who likes to think he can do "contextual" commentary reviews of old comics, asking: "where does this story come from?", looking at the social, political, cultural times it came from, the state of the comics industry, the personal and creative journey of the writer or artist, the personal journey of the reader as a child and as an adult.
As part of this, he is vain enough to think he can bring new insights into Kirby's Fourth World comics and so, on the 50th anniversary of publication of each issue of Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, Forever People, New Gods and Mister Miracle, he will publish a contextual commentary. This is his 39th of a projected 48 Fourth World commentaries (more than three quarters of the way there!). Check out his earlier entries on this blog and tell him to stop talking so pretentiously in the third person for God's sake!
Research this issue -
-According to Jack Kirby (Michael Hill, Lulu, 2021)
-Comics Journal # 134, February 1990 (Jack Kirby interview by Gary Groth)
-Mike’s Amazing World of Comics website
-The indispensable Kirby & Lee: Stuf’ Said! (Jack Kirby Collector # 75: TwoMorrows)
-The equally indispensable Old Gods, New Gods (Jack Kirby Collector # 80: TwoMorrows)
-Helter Skelter, the True Story of the Manson Murders (Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry, W.W. Norton, 1994)
-The Ego and the Id, www.simplepsychology.org
-The Games People Play (Eric Berne, Penguin, 1964)
-There’s A Riot Going On (Peter Doggett, Canongate, 2007)
-The Vietnam War: The Definitive Illustrated History (Penguin Random House, 2017)
-Uncovering the Sixties (Abe Peck, Pantheon, 1985)
-Vietnam: An Epic History of a Tragic War (Max Hastings, William Collins, 2019)