Thursday, August 06, 2009

Mister Miracle #6

[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at the New Gods. I know the last one went up yesterday, but I want to put these up two a week, and I put something else up Monday. We will return to the regular Monday/Wednesday schedule with these next week. I make a brief comment at the bottom.]

“Funky Flashman”

All great collaborations must come to an end. John Lennon and Paul McCartney called it quits right about the same time Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did and neither of these duos could avoid some bad blood in the aftermath. Lennon and Kirby were by many accounts... feistier than McCartney and Lee and they each took a creative jab at their former partners. Lennon had “How Do You Sleep” and Kirby had Mr. Miracle encounter... the Funky Flashman.

Although Mark Evanier, former Kirby collaborator and current Kirby historian, claims that the character began as a parody of a Marvelmania boss he and Steve Sherman worked under, the final version of Flashman is “Stan the Man” through and through. And it isn’t flattering. Funky Flashman is practically drowning in the seven deadly sins throughout his first appearance. The most vicious moment of character assassination is in the opening prologue where Flashman is impatiently waiting for his monthly stipend from a departed acquaintance. Flashman is living for free in a house granted to him from the same acquaintance, yet he’s let the house fall into a state of dilapidation. At the designated time, the mouth of a blocky, Kirby-drawn statue opens and Flashman sticks his hand into the mouth to pull out his hardly earned cash. As you can tell, we’re beyond subtle at this point.

Funky Flashman's stipend has been waning, so he plans to cash in on the talents of Mister Miracle. Donning a wig and a beard, he meets with Mr. Miracle to interview for the position of his tour manager. Miracle accepts, despite the objections of Big Barda and Oberon to Flashman's demeanor and tactics. The next day, Mr. Miracle performs several of his escape acts much to the delight of Flashman. Flashman asks for Miracle's secret and he reveals the mother box he keeps on his shoulder. From around the corner, the two men see Big Barda and Lashina engaged in a struggle. Lashina is a member of a Apokolips battle troop known as the female furies; one that Barda used to command. Miracle jumps in to help Barda but Lashina vanishes with the power of her phasing circuits. The two realize the female furies have been tracking their whereabouts through the mother box signal. During the skirmish, Flashman decided to leave with the mother box in hand. He takes it back to his residence but cannot make heads or tales of it. He discards the box and decides the grift of Mr. Miracle is too risky. Mother box begins to let out an "eeeeee" sounds which summons all the female furies of Apokolips. Funky cowardly tosses his assistant at the attackers and jumps out the window. His inherited house explodes behind him and Funky Flashman walks off to live another day.

I’ve left out many other highlights from the Flashman (including listening to the sounds of his own voice on a victrola to relax himself) because I think the message is clear: Kirby had issues with Stan. I’m not gonna weigh in on who created what or who’s in right or wrong. Details were sketchy 40 years ago, I doubt they’ve gotten any clearer. My sympathies lean towards Kirby because I’ve never been a fan of the boastful hype machines even if it’s done tongue in cheek. When Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas adopted the “big top Stan Lee” attitude for Marvel PR in the early ’00’s, it took all my willpower not to become an evil internet troll. But I digress. I believe Kirby and Lee did ultimately bury the hatchet to some degree before Kirby’s passing in 1996. Yet this issue remains an interesting moment in comic book history.

Final Musings

-The Female Furies: I was quite familiar with this trio from their several appearances in the DC animated series. When they appeared in first in the Superman Animated Series, I thought they were quite goofy in appearance. Now knowing their origins, they have become acceptable. This is a topic I’d like to cover in detail sometime down the road. Kirby did an interesting reveal of Mad Harriet, the first Fury to attack Barda. Barda can see her attacker yet we can only see the flailing arms of her assailant. The final panel of the page reveals Mad Harriet’s face which exudes madness. Her design is the strongest of the three.

-Big Barda: Continues to be Big. She’s often crouching to fit in panels. She takes a bath for a full page which seems a bit gratuitous. That’s cause it is. Evanier suggested it to Kirby merely cause he wanted to see Barda take a bath.

-Miracle’s motivation: At the conclusion of this issue, Miracle realizes that he can no longer hide from Granny and his former captors. Couple this with the ramping backstory of his escape as a youth and it would appear we’re reaching the climax I’ve been hoping for.

[Notice that when Kirby "failed" to get New Gods to work at DC, Marvel had Starlin show them how it SHOULD have been done at Marvel in the pages of Warlock, which itself hilariously ALSO made fun of editorial staff and witers at Marvel (including Stan Lee, I think). Seven Soldiers also had less specific "editors" like the Time Taylor be the villains -- something about cosmic comics seems to demand making fun of the establishment.]


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