Miracles and Warriors

Big Barda & Mr. Miracle by Hoa PhongI always loved the characters Mister Miracle and Big Barda.  My first real introduction to them was in the pages of Justice League in the eighties.  I knew they were part of Kirby’s Fourth World characters.  But it was in the Justice League International books that I was hooked.

Mister Miracle-Scott Free-was a super-hero and escape artist.  His wife was a warrior hero.  But the truth is, they were born of the worlds of Apokolips and New Genesis.  Son of the good High FatherIzaya, Scott Free was traded to Darkseid as part of a truce.  Orion, son of Darkseid was raised on New Genesis and Scott was raised on Apokolips by Darkseid and his minions.  Scott grew up, unaware of who he was, always feeling out of place.  He joined underground opposition, where he met Barda, who was trained to be a Female Fury by Granny Goodness.  They fell in love.  They escaped to earth where Scott was trained as an escape artist.  His manager Oberon knew of their past and was ultimately a cohort in their adventures.

What stood out to me about Scott and Barda is that they sought domestic life.  They did not want to lead lives of action if possible.  But their strengths were constantly at odds with the attempts at living a domesticated lifestyle.  Barda and Scott wanted to do normal and mundane things, even if their skill set was not necessarily cooking and house cleaning.

It made them such charming characters.  Scott and Barda depend on each other…support each other.  They find strength in they other.  Barda is a skilled and superior warrior.  She does not need Scott to rescue her.  She wants to be with him-not because she cannot get by on her own-but because she is drawn to his noble and heroic qualities…qualities that compliment her.  Scott is devoted to Barda not because he needs to protect her.  But rather, he is drawn to her forceful nature-her desire to do right.  It is a beautiful portrayal of marriage.  Plus, I have these images in my head of Barda using things like a vacuum cleaner as a weapon.  Maybe it never happened…but if it has not?  I want to see it.

So far, the Nu52 has avoided the fourth world characters for the most part.  Have they appeared outside of the first Justice League story arc?  The Nu52 has been mostly a combination of disappointment and crushing disappointment.  Fans have rightly expressed frustration with choices regarding Superman, Lois and Wonder Woman (Superman and Wonder Woman are an item not, according to DC?  IT’S AWESOME!!!  But people who like Clark Kent and Lois Lane are…less pleased).  So, maybe we are lucky Scott and Barda Free are not around.

Tripping the Light Fantastic: Fantastic Four (2005)

Oh…the controversy.  The first Fantastic Four film was coming up after the successes of X2 and Spider-Man.  The time seemed ripe to bring forth Marvel’s first family.  This is not the first attempt.  Roger Corman made an absolutely terrible film simply to retain the film rights in the early 90’s.  The film was available on the convention circuit, but was never officially released.

Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Fantastic Four ushered in the age of Marvel comics.  Spider-Man and the X-Men may have gotten to the big screen first, but the First Family?  Well…they were…uh…first.  Lee and Kirby produced 102 issues of grand cosmic adventures.

The 2000’s seemed like an ideal time to adapt the film, because effects allowed the possibility of the characters not looking quite so ridiculous.  And both X2 and Spider-Man 2 had proven what you could do with a comic book movie.

Marvel hired Tim Story, who at that time had Barbershop and Taxi as the big films under his belt. Writers Mark Frost and Michael France had long histories (Frost wrote for Twin Peaks and a lot of television since then, while France contributed to several Marvel films).  The announcement of Story was surprising, as this was a big event movie.  But one of the reasons Marvel brought him on board was to have the focus be on the family dynamic of the Fantastic Four.

This is important, because it is that family dynamic that makes the Fantastic Four work.   They are not simply four team members.  They are a family unit and operate as such.


Continue reading