A Tribute to the of

The latest issue of Alter Ego, #161, specifically, is out and right on the heels of the Steve Ditko tribute issue that I mentioned last time, comes the Stan Lee tribute issue. How’s that for some irony? And once again, I have a credit in the new issue, though it has little to do with Stan, other than tangentially.

Stan. He always causes the conversations and the inevitable controversies. In fact, when this new issue of AE came out, I noted more than one person asking why they used a Jack Kirby Galactus cover, knowing what sort of bad blood had flowed between the two men. Me? I’ve got an opinion or two, but nothing I’d care to fall on my sword over. I thought Roy Thomas did a pretty good job with this issue and he even touched a little on some of the less than savory aspects of the Kirby/Lee relationship. It even inspired my selection for this edition’s review. Fear not, faithful readers. This is not turning into the Bronze Age Sage on a permanent basis, despite back to back offerings, but this time around, I thought it might be appropriate to delve into Kirby at DC with Mister Miracle #6 from January/February of 1972. Jack Kirby was going full on with his Fourth World work (and please, would someone explain to me this whole “Fourth World” thing? I still don’t quite get it) and as you’ll see on the credits, he was very nearly a one-man wrecking crew, editing, writing and penciling this issue’s cover and interiors with Gaspar Saladino on cover letters and Mike Royer inking the cover and interior and lettering the interior.

The first story of this issue is titled, “Funky Flashman” and poses the rhetorical question right on that cover, “Villain or Hero—you decide!” The opening captions on the splash page leave little doubt, though: “In the shadow world between success and failure, there lives the driven little man who dreams of having it all!!! --the opportunistic spoiler without character or values who preys on all things like a cannibal!!! --including you!!! Like death and taxes, we must all deal with him sometime! That’s why, in this issue, we go to where he lives—in the decaying ante-bellum grandeur of the mockingbird estates!!---and “wait for Godot” with Funky Flashman!

So, the bald “Funky” is standing there with his sniveling sycophant, “Houseroy,” waiting for his weekly allowance from Colonel Mockingbird. Funky states that he only wishes he could get his hands on all the “boodle of cash” hidden away following the Colonel’s death.

Just then the bust of the Colonel makes a sound, opens its mouth and Funky Flashman removes the cash from it’s gaping opening, cursing the fact that the amount is less and less each time. Houseroy assures Funky that he’ll never be broke and Funky quickly agrees. Flashman is soon applying a wig and a full beard as Houseroy describes the new prospect, a super-escape artist. “Image is the thing, Houseroy! Why—I look—almost holy! I’m ready for you again—world!

A few more exchanges between the two caricatures and there is what amounts to a second splash page featuring that super-escape artist, Mister Miracle, aka Scott Free. He is held fast to a rocket sled at the NASA proving ground while his associate, Oberon, prepares to fire it up. Per instruction, Oberon sets the timer and lunges toward the bunker while the sled with its captive blasts down the track and right over a cliff where it explodes. Oberon is convinced that Scott Free didn’t survive, but soon Mister Miracle is parachuting down to Oberon, who is pleasantly surprised and relieved. Scott describes the ejection seat and that the biggest trick was freeing his hands from the bonds that held them. He speculates that this will be a crowd pleaser.

Then, it’s a segue to Big Barda, who is meeting with Funky Flashman. He is apparently hawking revolvers and Barda remarks that they’re primitive and nearly worthless on their home world of Apokolips, but effective enough on Earth. Funky makes a few sexist remarks and Barda proceeds to crush the gun in her bare hands, retorting to Funky’s comments about her auditioning for him in the future when she has more class with, “Anything hanging on a meat-hook would meet your standards, Mister Wonderful!” She soon excuses herself from Funky’s presence with, “You’re a classic Funky!! Ego—ignorance—and hostility!! –a real powerhouse!!

Soon Scott and Oberon arrive and Funky pours it on thickly: “Aaah! What a tingly, wingly thrill!!---to actually be in the setting where the hallowed Thaddeus Brown, like a warlock of ancient yore—conjured up his majestic manipulations!!” Scott replies that he has more or less inherited the mantle of Thaddeus and after more operatic outpourings from Funky Flashman, asks what he has in mind for this proposed mutual enterprise.

Elsewhere, Big Barda, enjoying a soothing bath, is alerted via her side-clip that there is potential danger. Quickly dressing, she waits, pondering what sort of emissary from Apokolips she may have to deal with while Scott Free deals with Funky Flashman. Just then, Mad Harriet arrives to try and kill Big Barda along with Stompa. She is equal to them, though and they abruptly disappear.

Scott Free shows up and Barda explains what has transpired. They are again on the hit list of Apokolips. Scott says they must get moving and that Funky has agreed to manage Scott’s tour, something akin to a tour by Harry Houdini, but Barda says she can handle the Female Furies and to be cautious of Funky Flashman. “Megalomaniacs love to make noise!!

The next day, Mister Miracle is trussed up in another death-trap, this time facing a giant circular saw blade when Funky Flashman arrives, certain that Scott Free is committing suicide. Scott is, of course, able to free himself and then goes on to demonstrate another feat with a large bowl and a concussion bomb that is equally ineffective against the super escape artist. Funky is sufficiently impressed, but as they depart the chamber, they discover a silent struggle between Big Barda and another Fury, Lashina. Barda again gains the high ground, but Lashina, like her cohorts, phases out, leaving Big Barda a bit sore, but none the worse for wear. Scott suggests it’s time to stop running and stand their ground, but Barda says not to be foolish and that Burnadeth is likely to be next. Oberon wonders how they seem to be able to home in on them and Barda believes it’s through the Mother Box, which Funky Flashman now has in his possession.

Funky has returned to Mockingbird Estates and Houseroy and tosses the pinging Mother Box aside, but as Barda predicted, it is the homing device for the Female Furies, who soon appear as a fearsome foursome. While neither Scott Free or Big Barda are there, they are content to attack those in attendance. Funky Flashman wastes no time in throwing Houseroy to the wolves, quite literally, while he escapes out the back of the exploding house.

Looking back over the carnage, Funky simply decides to move on. “On to new conquests, Funky Flashman!! You winner, you!!!

Back at the former Mockingbird Estate, Big Barda, Mister Miracle and Oberon have successfully saved the butler, Houseroy and observed the cowardly retreat of Funky Flashman. Scott Free vows that it’s time to take on the forces of Apokolips head on and Barda reluctantly agrees, setting up next issue’s “The Apokolips Trap!

Frankly, after 24 pages, I’m still a bit confused. Granted, this is the first issue of Mister Miracle, at least the original run, that I’d ever read, so I’m not fully acquainted with these characters or where they’re going or what they’re doing, but of course the storyline played second fiddle to Jack Kirby’s send-up of his old boss, Stan Lee and Roy Thomas. It’s obvious Jack had some axes to grind and chose this as one of his outlets. I’d heard about Funky Flashman and Houseroy, but now I’ve actually seen it.

Me? I’ve got no dog in this fight. As I’ve probably commented before, Stan and I swapped a few e-mails and I ran across him at the 2015 San Diego Con, but other than that, I’ve not interacted with The Man much at all. I know many held him as a beloved figure while others never missed an opportunity to vilify him as a credit-grubbing company man.

For my money, the synergy between Stan and the artistic talent, be it Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Buscema, Wally Wood, John Romita, Don Heck, Gene Colan, etc. is where the old Marvel magic came into play. This issue of Mister Miracle is a pretty decent example of how Jack wasn’t much of a scripter. Meanwhile, after the artists listed, especially Jack, left for other publishers, suddenly the fabled House of Ideas ran out of ideas, so to me it’s pretty obvious that neither Stan nor his stable of artists was as good on their own as they were together.

After all is said and done, the mark Stan Lee made on the comics is undeniable and indelible. There will never be another Stan Lee…or Jack Kirby, or Steve Ditko, or…

This effort was a little out of the ordinary, but never fear. We’ll be back with something a little more recognizable on December 1st as the silver mining continues. You could even be part of it. Got an idea for a future review or just a comment or question? Let me know. I’m always available at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Until next time…

Long live the Silver Age!

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