When Wonder Woman steps off the boat and takes in the grimy sights of a turn-of-the-century London for the first time in her eponymous film, there’s an interesting bit of background action that might otherwise go unnoticed. Amidst the traffic, she approaches an escape artist who is shackled on first view, then in the second it takes her to walk past him, obscuring him from view, he’s remarkably and noticeably unshackled.
This might mean nothing, but it might also be one of the film’s most interesting DC-universe Easter eggs.
DC Comics has a famous escape artist superhero named Mister Miracle, who has a direct tie to the DC universe’s “Fourth World” characters, like Darkseid, Steppenwolf and the parademons that they’re going to introduce in November’s Justice League film. The Fourth World was the unofficial name for a series of DC books created by Marvel legend Jack Kirby, who jumped ship from working with Stan Lee at the very birth of the Marvel universe to join DC Comics in the early 1970s. Books like The New Gods, The Forever People and Mister Miracle introduced all-new DC characters with the kind of cosmic mythology Kirby made famous at Marvel.
If you know your DC characters, you might be thinking that the escape artist in Wonder Woman looked like an older gent, not remotely resembling the superhero Mister Miracle, but the character that comic fans know had a mentor with the same name. The first Mister Miracle was Thaddeus Brown, an aged escape artist and mere mortal, who passed on his mantle to Scott Free, the superhero DC fans recognize as the definitive Mister Miracle.
Free was part of an unusual gamble in which two infants were traded by intergalactic “New Gods” to prove a point. The New God Darkseid’s son Orion was raised by the kindly Highfather on Highfather’s paradise planet of New Genesis, while Highfather’s son Scott Free was raised by Darkseid’s cruel hand on the hellhole world known as Apokolips. Orion grows up to be a hero who constantly struggles against his darkest tendencies; Scott Free also grows into heroism, escaping his adopted home world to travel to Earth and using tech from the New Gods to help humanity (he was even a member of the Justice League for a time).
Some of the elements of that origin (Apokolips, the concept of the “New Gods”) will reveal themselves more clearly to movie fans when Justice League opens, so don’t feel left behind by comic book minutiae. All you need to know is that Scott Free met the elder Thaddeus Brown and they so inspired each other that Brown let Scott use the “Mister Miracle” legacy to forge his own superheroic path under the same costume. Brown’s escape artistry was a natural skill, honed like Houdini, and while Scott had some natural talent, he often relied on his otherworldly tech to provide last-minute solutions to death-defying traps.
It’s clearly not Scott Free in Wonder Woman, but it might be Thaddeus Brown. We like to think it is, anyway, and now, every time you watch Wonder Woman, maybe you will too. Until someone tells us otherwise, we’re calling this one a cameo.