Detective Comics: the history of “Mythology” - Thaddeus Brown, the original Mister Miracle
In 1971, Jack Kirby kicked off his ambitious Fourth World Saga at DC Comics. The cosmic epic featured brand new characters whose adventures stretched from Earth to the far reaches of space, with the war between the peace-loving inhabitants of New Genesis and the oppressive hordes of Apokolips raging ever on.
April of that same year saw the introduction of Mister Miracle in his self-titled series. Scott Free, the series’ protagonist, would be revealed to be the son of Highfather of New Genesis, who bartered a deal with Darkseid of Apokolips to call for an armistice in their never-ending war. The terms? Highfather and Darkseid would exchange their sons, with Darkseid’s progeny Orion being raised on peaceful New Genesis while Scott suffered under the hellish tutelage of Darkseid and the “nursemaid” Granny Goodness.
Eventually, Scott developed a propensity for escaping any trap, making his way out of the “Terror Orphanage” he called home time and again before ultimately making his way to Earth. It was here that Scott met Thaddeus Brown, the original Mister Miracle, known far and wide as one of the world’s greatest escape artists.
Brown took Free under his wing, teaching him about his routines and introducing him to his assistant Oberon. Unfortunately, Brown was a target of a local Intergang cell, and he met his untimely end at the hands of a sniper. Scott Free donned Brown’s costume and exacted revenge on the thugs that killed his mentor, then proceeded to take up the mantle of Mister Miracle to become the world’s greatest escape artist himself. After he was laid to rest, Brown has never been seen in the pages of a comic since, save for in dialogue and the occasional flashback.
That is, until now, when Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke brought him back in the pages of Detective Comics.
Thanks to the machinations of an unseen force, Bruce Wayne has been travelling the world in the “Mythology” arc, tracking down notable figures from his past who helped shape him into the World’s Greatest Detective. Beginning with the untimely death of Leslie Thompkins, Batman has crossed paths with Henri Ducard, who taught him to be a detective; Yoru-sensei (and his pupil Kyodai Ken) who trained Bruce in various martial arts; and eventually Thaddeus Brown, fully decked out in that classic Mister Miracle costume.
While there may not be explicit precedent that Bruce studied under Brown, it makes perfect sense: Bruce wants to be the best, so he wants to learn from the best. If Thaddeus Brown was indeed the world’s greatest escape artist, why wouldn’t Bruce Wayne seek out his counsel? It’s a retcon that works, because like Bruce’s time studying under various martial arts masters, there’s plenty of room in his globetrotting to fit in even a short tenure with a master like Brown.
It’s not just a good change to his backstory, either; Bruce and Thaddeus’ brief adventure together makes for some mighty fine comics. Detective Comics #996 ends with Bruce encountering Brown, only for the pair to be swallowed up by some sort of mysterious deathtrap. Issue 997 is where the real meat of the story can be found, as the duo find themselves underwater, strapped to chairs and surrounded by hungry sharks. What follows is a thrilling escape, with Batman and Brown both using their wits and skills to escape from the threefold death trap. It’s one of the most exhilarating single issues that I’m sure to read this year, and it’s only February.
While their time together is brief, and quite a bit of it takes place underwater, Tomasi writes Bruce and Thaddeus like they’ve known each other for years. Even if this is a new fold in the history of Batman, it’s believable thanks to their easy chemistry together and the logical reasons as to why they’d know each other. Their time together is cut short relatively quickly, but more because Bruce doesn’t want any harm to come to his former teacher than any sort of stubborn refusal. Hopefully we can see the duo team up again in the future, or explore their history together as student and teacher.
The question does remain as to how Brown survived an assassin’s bullet all those years ago, of course. But then, as the world’s greatest escape artist, if he can escape the jaws of a ravenous shark, who’s to say he can’t escape the icy grip of death itself?