Hundreds of thousands of people think that Tom King is a good writer. He's won some of the comic book medium's most prestigious awards for work such as The Omega Men, Vision and Sheriff of Babylon. But he's still nervous about his work.
Image: Nick Derrington for DC Comics
I got the chance to talk to King at this year's San Diego Comic-Con at a DC Comics press breakfast. The superstar writer had just finished regaling dozens of journalists with charming warmth, curse-filled jokes, and earnest explanations of how he views the ongoing romance between Batman and Catwoman. The outdoor patio was quieter when I spoke to King, who seemed more readily confident to talk about his work on Batman. But, having read the entirety of the first issue of Mister Miracle, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to talk to King about it.
A thoughtful person who always owns up to his narrative ambitions, King knows how to work a crowd and talk about the high-minded subtext of his work. We'd already been talking about Batman in this same conversation, but there was a surprising note of neurotic worry after I asked about Mister Miracle. I've interviewed him a few times now and have never felt like I was being put on. His concern felt believable. You can read about how he's getting into the head of the Jack Kirby creation in the conversation below.
So, I've read Mister Miracle #1.
Tom King: You've read Mister Miracle?! Is it OK? I worry about it.
I think it's a better first issue than Vision.
King: Oh, man!
But your angle got me wondering. For a lot of fans, the most popular recent interpretation have of Scott Free is the happy-go-lucky guy from the Justice League books written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis. He's kind of been off to the fringes, especially since New 52. He hasn't been used, really, in a significant way. And now you're making him fucking depressed! Do you worry about the tension between those interpretations?
King: No. When I think of Scott Free, beyond the Kirby stuff, I think — most recently — of Justice League Unlimited. DeMatteis and Steranko wrote an episode that was about Scott Free, and it's exactly like you said: He's a happy-go-lucky/nothing-wrong-with-his-life guy.
I love all that, but to me, what makes him interesting is that he's the son of God, given to the Devil. And he's so unlike Orion — who is always moody and grumpy despite being raised in Heaven! Scott is a dude who was raised in Hell.
There's a nature-vs-nurture question built into that.
King: Yeah. The idea of a guy who is happy-go-lucky, but spent his childhood on Apokolips. It's not like he just spent his childhood in Hell — that's one thing, to spend your childhood in Hell — but to know that your father put you there? To be like, "This trap that I'm in now? It's called the X-Pit. This Hell, this Granny Goodness — I'm being tortured every single day of my life — because my father decided to throw me away." Like, that is a deep pain inside you.
You go to your therapy session, when you tell them that, your psychologist is going to be like, "Let's talk about that for a while." And so, to me, the happy-go-lucky stuff, when you put it in the context of having that childhood, it becomes a shield. And it becomes something like, he's happy-go-lucky, he's found someone to love, but that might just be something he's putting out there to cover up the pain of his childhood.
We will have a review of Mister Miracle #1 — by Tom King, Mitch Gerads and Clayton Cowles — when the book comes out later this week.