Although he might not enjoy the same level of popularity as Superman or Batman, Mister Miracle is a venerable character in his own right within the stable of DC superheroes. Created by the legendary Jack Kirby, Mister Miracle is the costumed world’s greatest escape artist, and was at one time even a member of the premier superhero team the Justice League.
Professional screenwriter Brandon Easton (Superman: Red and Blue, Civil War: Choosing Sides, Truth and Justice) sat down with CBR to discuss his take on Shilo Norman, the latest man to wear the mantle of the World’s Greatest Escape Artist, in his new miniseries Mister Miracle: The Source 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 little bit about how you first 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, and I introduced myself to him and told him what I’d worked on in the past. He said they were trying to do some new things at DC and he took my card. Two weeks later, I heard from his assistant, and a few months after that I started developing ideas for Future State: Mr. Miracle and the backup stories in the Future State: Superman stories. So that’s how the DC stuff happened in a nutshell.
What work did you do prior to working for DC?
I started working in comics in 2002 on a book called Arkanium for Dreamwave Productions. I experienced a lot of ups and downs in the business, because when you’re a Black male comic book writer, it can be difficult because you don’t get the same chances or benefit of the doubt that, let’s say, a unpublished white aspiring writer would get. So in the early 2000s, I spent a lot of time just trying to legitimize myself to people who did not want to give me an opportunity. That was a wake up call for me, and I learned many years later why it was like that. But at the time, I didn’t, and I thought I was doing something wrong. At that time, nobody was really giving shots to unknown black writing talent. That was a major thing I had to understand over the years.
The only real solution is to keep putting out material any way you can, even though that process is never easy. Doing indie comics is one of the hardest things you can imagine. It’s just a process where you have to realize you’re going to fail, but you can’t fail on such a degree where people will never give you the benefit of the doubt again, not that you get it to begin with. That was one of the biggest things I had to learn over the years in terms of trying to break in and sustain a career.
While my graphic novel career was pretty much dead, other than me trying to put out my own original material, my TV writing career was taking off, and I feel like they both helped each other out. My big Hollywood break was when I got into the Thundercats TV show in 2011. That helped convince people to give me the benefit of the doubt. You really do need to have experience in other mediums, particularly when you’re a complete outsider, in order to get comic book editors or other creators to take you seriously.
2014 was one of my roughest creative years ever. Money was running out and nobody was hiring me. And then I got into the 2015 Disney/ABC writing program. That turned things around, and I got to work on the second season of Agent Carter. So it’s kind of this thing where all of your credits have to reinforce each other if you have a goal. And that’s basically how it works. Some people have a shorter journey than others, but I was a fifteen year overnight success.
How were you introduced to Mr. Miracle?
I knew of him because I used to read the old Keith Giffen Justice League 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 New Gods background and everything Jack Kirby created. I didn’t get a real understanding of Mr. Miracle until the late 90s and early 2000s when Shilo Norman popped up in the Seven Soldiers storyline that Grant Morrison wrote. When I dug into the history of the character, I was blown away by how deep it was, and how much you could do with the character if given the opportunity.
What’s it like being able to work with a character who was invented by the legendary Jack Kirby?
It’s a huge honor. There’s no other way to put it, and I’m just trying to do the best I can to honor the legacy while also carving new territory with the character.
How is your version of Mr. Miracle different from previous versions?
The Mister Miracle mantle in and of itself is something that has traditionally been handed down. Thaddeus Brown was the original, then it was Scott Free, and now it’s Shilo. The Scott Free iteration was more tied into the New Gods, Apokolips, and New Genesis. This version is very much a Hollywood celebrity who is bound to Earth with a Mother Box handed down to him by Thaddeus that he doesn’t quite understand. His journey is one of learning and discovery, as opposed to his predecessors who are better prepared and had a better understanding of the Mother Box and its powers. Shilo has yet to really tap into what he can do with his Mother Box. The real difference is that we’re taking the first steps alongside this character, and discovering together who he is.
In your series, Shilo is particularly focused 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 like Deathstroke from the Arrow television series. I wore a hockey mask, gloves and a black jacket, and my face and entire body were completely covered. As a large Black man, you can tell when people are physically uncomfortable with your presence, particularly in public spaces. But as I was walking around, nobody knew what I looked like underneath that hockey mask. And it was a kind of freedom to not have the weight of other people’s negative expectations placed upon me.
Many Black men and women can tell you what it’s like when people freak out in your presence. Whether you’re in a parking garage elevator, or in the middle of a department store in the middle of the day, people will still sometimes be 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’ve never forgotten that day.
I felt that moment would be the perfect organic insertion into the concept of Mister Miracle. He’s a Black character who’s in a mask, and people have no idea who’s under the mask, and my own experience was the basis for taking the character in that direction.
With that being said, how much of Shilo’s story is drawn from your personal experience?
I work in the entertainment industry, and I’ve seen how things go behind the scenes. There’s a lot of stuff that happens with black creators that never makes it to the media, and I wanted to put a little bit of that in the story. Black actors especially have to walk a fine line, and Black writers have to fight for things a lot of the time, but most people don’t see that. You don’t get to see what happens behind the scenes, particularly for Black creators in Hollywood.
I’m obviously not a magician or an illusionist. But I do understand some of the compromises and some of the nonsense that goes on behind the scenes. A lot of the banter between Vito and Shilo is stuff that black creators have to explain to their representation, lawyers, and executives.
CBR: Shilo’s facing issues of identity as well as legacy with the arrival of his new foe. What can you tell us about the enemy he’s facing?
Easton: N’Vir Free is no joke. She’s very serious about who she is and what she wants. She has a master plan and a good point of view, but she may not be right. You know what I mean? But I don’t want to spoil anything. So you’ll see where she goes with her own point of view and her claims. And we’ll see where that goes. And I think that’s where everything is going to start to make sense.
CBR: What can we expect to see in this series?
Easton: We’ll learn a lot more about who N’Vir Free is and why Shilo doesn’t remember his predecessor. The second half of the miniseries is going to dig in and explore all of that and answer why certain people haven’t shown up. There are great mysteries that are going to pop up, and I think people are really going to enjoy where we’re going.
Mister Miracle: The Source of Freedom #1 by Brandon Easton, Fico Ossio, Rico Renzi, and Rob Leigh is available now from DC Comics.
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