While he may not enjoy the same level of popularity as Superman or Batman, Mister Miracle is a venerable character in his own right within DC’s stable of superheroes. Created by the legendary Jack Kirby, Mister Miracle is the world’s greatest escapist in disguise, and at one point was even a member of the main Justice League superhero team.
Professional screenwriter Brandon Easton (Superman: red and blue, Civil war: choose sides, Truth and justice) sat down with CBR to discuss his version of Shilo Norman, the last man to wear the mantle of the World’s Greatest Escape Artist, in his new miniseries. Mister Miracle: The Fountain of Freedom. Along the way, Easton discussed the personal reason he chose to have Norman hide his identity, as well as the unique challenges faced by the latest incarnation of Mister Miracle.
CBR: Would you mind sharing a bit about how you started writing for DC Comics?
Brandon Easton: I was at Long Beach Comic Con in 2019, which was one of the last live conventions we had before COVID. I saw Dan DiDio, introduced myself and told him what I had worked on in the past. He said they were trying to do some new things in DC and took my card. Two weeks later, I heard from his assistant, and a few months later I began to develop ideas for Future state: Mr. Miracle and the backup stories in the Future state: Superman stories. Here’s how DC things happened in a nutshell.
What work did you do before working for DC?
I started working on comics in 2002 on a book called Arkanium for Dreamwave Productions. I went through a lot of ups and downs in the business, because when you’re a black comic book writer, it can be difficult because you don’t have the same opportunities or the benefit of the doubt as, let’s say, unpublished white. the aspiring writer would get. So in the early 2000s, I spent a lot of time trying to legitimize myself in front of people who didn’t want to give me a chance. That was a wake-up call for me, and many years later I knew why this was the case. But at the time, I didn’t and I thought I was doing something wrong. At the time, no one was giving an unknown black writer a chance. That was an important thing that I had to understand over the years.
The only real solution is to keep pulling material in any way you can, although that process is never easy. Making independent comics is one of the hardest things you can imagine. It’s just a process where you have to realize that you’re going to fail, but you can’t fail to a degree where people never give you the benefit of the doubt again, not that you get it to begin with. That was one of the most important things I had to learn over the years in terms of trying to break through and maintain a career.
While my graphic novel career was pretty much dead, aside from trying to publish my own original material, my television writing career was taking off and I feel like they both helped each other. My big break in Hollywood was when I walked into the Thundercats TV show in 2011. That helped convince people to give me the benefit of the doubt. You really need to have experience in other mediums, particularly when you’re a complete outsider, to get comic publishers or other creators to take you seriously.
2014 was one of my hardest creative years. Money was running out and no one was hiring me. And then I got into the 2015 Disney / ABC writing show. That changed things and I got to work on the second season of Agent carter. So it’s kind of like that where all your credits need to reinforce each other if you have a goal. And this is basically how it works. Some people have a shorter trip than others, but I had fifteen years of success overnight.
How were you introduced to Mr. Miracle?
I knew it because I used to read old Keith Giffen League of Justice series in the late 80s and early 90s. That series had Big Barda and Scott Free on the Justice League International team. I didn’t really understand what they were supposed to be because I didn’t understand the background to New Gods and everything that Jack Kirby created. I didn’t really understand Mr. Miracle until the late 90s and early 2000s when Shilo Norman appeared in Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers story. When I dug into the character’s story, I was blown away by how deep it was and how much you could do with the character if you had the chance.
How does it feel to be able to work with a character that was invented by the legendary Jack Kirby?
It’s a great honor. There’s no other way to put it, and I’m just trying to do my best to honor the legacy while also creating new territory with the character.
HHow is your version of Mr. Miracle different from previous versions?
The Mister Miracle mantle itself is something that has traditionally been passed down. Thaddeus Brown was the original, then he was Scott Free, and now he’s Shilo. The Scott Free iteration was more tied to the New Gods, Apokolips and New Genesis. This version is very much a Hollywood celebrity who is Earthbound with a Mother Box that Thaddeus gave her and that she doesn’t quite understand. Their journey is one of learning and discovery, unlike their predecessors who are better prepared and had a better understanding of the Mother Box and its powers. Shilo has yet to really take advantage of what he can do with his Mother Box. The real difference is that we are taking the first steps together with this character and discovering together who he is.
In his series, Shilo especially focuses on issues of race and identity. What made you want to take the character in this direction?
I had an experience at WonderCon 2017, where I dressed as Deathstroke from the Arrow T.V. series. I was wearing a hockey mask, gloves, and a black jacket, and my face and entire body were completely covered. As a portly black man, you can tell when people are physically uncomfortable with your presence, especially in public spaces. But as I walked, no one knew what I looked like under that hockey mask. And it was a kind of freedom not to be weighed down by other people’s negative expectations of me.
Many black men and women can tell you what it’s like when people get scared in your presence. Whether you’re in a parking lot elevator or in the middle of a department store in the middle of the day, people will sometimes still feel uncomfortable with your presence. But that day I didn’t have that burden, if you want to call it that. I felt free, believe it or not, and I never forgot that day.
I felt that this moment would be the perfect organic insertion into the Mister Miracle concept. He is a black character wearing a mask, and people have no idea who is under the mask, and my own experience was the basis for leading the character in that direction.
That being said, hHow much of Shilo’s story is based on your personal experience?
I work in the entertainment industry and have seen things go behind the scenes. There are a lot of things that happen to black creators that never make it to the media, and I wanted to put a little bit of that in history. Black actors especially have to walk a fine line, and black writers have to fight for things most of the time, but most people don’t see that. You can’t see what’s going on behind the scenes, particularly for black creators in Hollywood.
I’m obviously not a magician or an illusionist. But I understand some of the compromises and some of the bullshit that goes on behind the scenes. Much of the jokes between Vito and Shilo are things that black creators have to explain to their representatives, lawyers and executives.
CBR: Shilo faces identity and legacy issues with the arrival of his new enemy. What can you tell us about the enemy you are facing?
Easton: N’Vir Free is not a joke. He takes who he is and what he wants very seriously. You have a master plan and a good point of view, but you may not be right. You know what I mean? But I don’t want to spoil anything. Then you will see where you are going with your own point of view and your statements. And we’ll see where that goes. And I think that’s where it will all start to make sense.
CBR: What can we expect to see in this series?
Easton: We will learn much more about who N’Vir Free is and why Shilo does not remember his predecessor. The second half of the miniseries will delve into and explore all of that and answer why certain people haven’t come forward. There are great mysteries that are going to emerge, and I think people are really going to enjoy where we go.
Mister Miracle: The Fountain of Freedom Brandon Easton, Fico Ossio, Rico Renzi and Rob Leigh’s # 1 is out now from DC Comics.
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