Jack Kirby is a titan in the world of comics; he created many of your favorite characters, and one of his most vibrant and iconic inventions was DC Comics‘ Fourth World, a hard sci-fi futurist world which is defined by its technicolor palette and brilliant mechanical inventions.
Tom King and Mitch Gerads reimagined two of the Fourth World’s core characters with the blistering and often brutal Mister Miracle. I sat down with the Eisner winning pair at San Diego Comic-Con to talk about their creation, the legacy, and the shadow of Kirby.
Taking on one of Kirby’s most iconic creations was no small feat in the year of what would have been his 100th birthday, but Gerads and King had a distinct thought process on how to do it. Gerads told us, “We talk about this all the time, you can’t out-Kirby Kirby, and we’ve even been told the Fourth World stuff doesn’t really do very well, sales wise. Even when Kirby’s book was coming out, it wasn’t doing very well. I think a lot of that is that people’s first instinct when you get a Fourth World book is to make it Jack Kirby, but nobody can do that! We knew that going into it, so we veered away from it, while keeping the same ideas, and the tone and the impetus behind everything, but doing it in our way. And that really helped in shaping the visuals, because I had reference then, but I knew I could spin it instead of just using it.”
The book quickly became a critical and commercial success with both fans and creators heaping praise on the bleak and beautiful story. Gerads thinks the reception was to do with the uniqueness of the story. “I think at a time when people were getting used to the same kind of stuff from comics,” he said, “We came out with something different, when no one was expecting different.” For King though, it was all about Gerads stunning work. “This is an easy answer for me, because it means I can cop out, but really I think it’s all about the art, Mitch created something so special, and I really think that’s what drove the book’s success,” King explained.
King’s writing is often focused on the personal. He said, “The best thing about comics, and writing comics, which I like more than novels or writing for television–and I’ve done both–because the deadlines are so quick, you have to write a comic every week, there’s no time to get away from your id, there’s no time for your super ego to sort of clamp it down. You have to come at it with who you are. I feel like comics are vaudeville, they’re improv, because you have to clear your mind and say what’s true.”
When a book is as lauded as Mister Miracle, it’s hard not to wonder about its potential legacy. But Gerads broke it down: “All I can hope for is that it’s a book that stays on shelves for a long time. It’s a book that has become very near and dear to our hearts, and more than sales, it excites me that it will be out there for people to read. Because really, that’s what drives me, just that it is out there and that people enjoy it.”
King sees the comic is a time capsule. “I would like it to be a document of this sorrowful time we’re living in. For me Mister Miracle is very purposefully about the idea of living in a time of trauma, when what happens everyday doesn’t seem real and is incredibly upsetting. But you have to somehow get through that, and somehow have to connect with your loved ones, and still have to get up and function and fight. I hope that people in the future read it, and understand where we are in this moment and relate to it.”
Images: DC Comics