I can’t lie to you, folks: I’m not a big Mister Miracle guy. It’s nothing against the character; he just wasn’t prominently featured during the era of comics I grew up reading. When DC Comics hit me up to see if I would be down to speak with Brandon Easton, the writer of Mister Miracle: The Source of Freedom, I said yes mainly because I love celebrating Black talent, and not out of any real love of the character.
I’m glad I did though, because Mister Miracle: The Source of Freedom turned out to be a book that asks some very thought-provoking questions and features a complex, rewarding depiction of what it would be like to be both a Black man and a superhero.
When we first encounter Shilo Norman, he has taken on the mantle of “Mister Miracle: The World’s Greatest Escape Artist.” Given his status as both entertainer and superhero, there is widespread interest in just who is behind the mask. This desire for Mister Miracle to reveal himself forms one of the core conflicts of the book, as Norman is acutely aware that once the world realizes Mister Miracle is Black, their perception of him will change. At one point he even says “I only feel free when I’m wearing the mask,” which is a whole-ass bar. When I asked Easton if this conflict came from personal experience, his answer surprised me.
“I believe it was 2017 at Wondercon, and I was dressed up as Deathstroke. It was a very bargain basement version because I’m not a cosplayer, I just wanted to see if I could pull it off with the hockey mask. What wound up happening was that I didn’t realize I was covered from head to toe,” Easton explained. “If you’re familiar with body language then you can tell when someone is uncomfortable with your presence and so on. For the first time since I was like 13, people weren’t reacting to me the way they usually do when they see a large Black man.”
One of the greatest strengths of The Source of Freedom is that it authentically captures the weight of Blackness; the understanding that no matter what you do, or who you are, your skin will define your character for a certain swath of the population. “I know a lot of Black filmmakers and showrunners, people who do incredible things and make things that millions of people are fans of. But when those folks are walking around, to some people they’re just niggers, you know? Even if they knew who that person was they would fall on their knees like, ‘I love your work, blah blah blah,’ but we shouldn’t have to be that,” he explained.
A theme that quickly becomes apparent in the first two issues of The Source of Freedom is that of legacy. N’vir Free—the seemingly reality-displaced daughter of Scott Free, the former Mister Miracle—is the primary antagonist of the book. She believes that she is the rightful heir to the mantle, that it’s her birthright.
“I wanted to really make a comment on the argument that has been going on for the last 20 years about race swapping, gender-swapping a legacy character,” Easton explained. “Who is a legacy character? Who has the right to be a legacy character? It’s fiction, right? So no one is actually losing a job. It’s not like Hal Jordan is going to be in the unemployment line because John Stewart showed up.”
If you were initially shocked to find that Mister Miracle was Black, don’t worry, I was too. There have been multiple iterations of the character throughout the years, but until recently the character of Mister Miracle has largely been relegated to the sidelines.
“Mister Miracle has sometimes been in the forefront but has largely not been. When Shilo came along he had a couple of blips on the radar, but did not stay there long enough to make an impact,” Easton explained. “So with this, I’m hoping to get people to realize that not only is Mister Miracle an amazing concept, but Shilo is an amazing character who deserves more recognition and I hope I can help in some way.”
If Easton’s goal was to put some respect on Shilo Norman’s name, then he certainly succeeded. Your boy has been sitting here mad as hell that I have to wait another month to see what happens next. The first two issues of Mister Miracle: The Source of Freedom are out now, and if you can’t already tell, you definitely should check them out.