After I heard that Marvel had acquired the rights to the Marvelman/Miracleman franchise, it sent me scrambling to find my back issues published by Eclipse. I had read the Alan Moore run in TPB form shortly after its U.S. publication and most of the Neil Gaiman/Mark Buckingham issues as they were published. (I originally wrote “monthly issues,” but this book was rarely on schedule —Marvelman might be an eternally cursed property.)

I gave up reading comics in late 1993, roughly the same time that Eclipse went bankrupt and the Gaiman-Buckingham run was suspended. They were about halfway through the second of three six-issue arcs. When I returned to comics this decade, I became aware of the legal wrangling to gain control of Miracleman and the resulting lawsuit between Gaiman and Todd McFarlane. I also learned that many of today’s comics fans had not read Moore’s run, one of his classic works, or even the Gaiman issues because the series had been out of print since Eclipse folded. I never suspected that Miracleman would become the rarest, and probably most valuable, piece in my comics collection.

In this thread, my goal is go through the Moore and Gaiman issues, a chapter or two at a time, with story summaries and comments. There will be spoilers, undoubtedly, so that may keep away some people who wish to wait for republication. But, the series is on my mind now, so I’m starting this thread just the same.

Ready? We’ll begin in the morning!

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I’m getting queasy [sic*] thinking about the next chapter…

I think I put off finishing 'Olympus' for a while because of exactly that reason. My anticipation of it was worse than actually reading it though. Probably thanks to all the Geoff Johns I've been exposed to since reading this the last time.

* Sincere apologies for using this unloved and unlovely expression. I just couldn't resist in this one case... barf
There are lots of memorable scenes in part four (issue #14): Liz leaving (mirrored by Winter leaving), Johnny’s tormentors getting their comeuppance, Kid Miracleman and the nurse, and perhaps most poignant, Mike Moran’s memorial service to himself: burying an empty suit of clothes, symbolic of all that Mike Moran now is.

This weekend I re-read Miracleman: Apocrypha and the bits of Total Eclipse relevant to this discussion. I had what I planned to say about these series drafted out in my head for weeks now, but now that I’ve re-read them I’ll need to rethink what I was going to say (as well as that recommendation I alluded to last week). I encouraged my wife to read Miracleman over the weekend, too. She read Books 1-3 in a single sitting, but to my disappointment didn’t really care for them and has no interest in reading Book 4.
I finished Book Four over the weekend. Even if Tracy didn't like the first three, she might like it. It's basically Neil Gaiman short stories set in Miracleman's new world -- not like Moore's run at all.

I picked up Apocrypha yesterday and flipped through it. I saw little point in re-reading it. There's a lot of "adult" material in it that works fine in the main title, when it's in the hands of Moore or Gaiman, but comes across as gratuitous in these imaginary stories. I really didn't need to see more rape scenes or full frontal nudity. It's just more of people missing the point of Moore's work and picking up on what they thought made it different: more explicit, more graphic.

On the flip side, because it is an anthology, some of the stuff wasn't awful, and I liked seeing again the early Alex Ross artwork. Had forgotten about that.
Alas! My copies of Apocryphia are all miles away, so I can't really contribute. I would like to have gone itno it a bit though.

Was the framing sequence written by Gaiman? Where does it fit into the chronology?

Whereas the stories themselves are for the most part throwaway, the framing sequence does give us more of a glimpse of how Miracleman's Utopia is shaping up.

I think part of the reason for the flashback format of Olympus is that showing a working utopia, although fascinating, isn't that dramatic, so the utopia is the backdrop for the reminisces about the eventful years '82 - 87 in Miracleman's world.

Even then, in book 3 we only really get glimpses of how such a Utopia might operate. Notice how we don't see the 'nitty gritty' of how Miracleman is going to make the world work without money. We just get Miracleman's very valid point that it is like Tinkerbell in Peter Pan, only existing if we clap our hands and really believe in it!

Money as something fictional that has such a force in the world is an idea that ties in with other ideas of Moore's that fiction and Magic are identical in his philosophy. Money might be our most powerful fiction.

I hope we do discuss this utopia a bit when we get to the end of Book 3. There aren't many like it in fiction.
I think Apocrypha was published between Books Four and Five, or concurrently with Book Four. Gaiman wrote the framing sequence.

Some of your thoughts on Moore's Utopia are line line with mine. We're almost there ...

CONTINUING BOOK THREE: OLYMPUS

CHAPTER FIVE

SUMMARY: Miracleman likes to keep busy, doing such activities as reintroducing tame mastodons on Earth. That’s because during the quiet times his thoughts drift, remembering images of the skins of humans hung on clotheslines, of bodies pierced through the hands of the Big Ben tower clock, of severed hands and feet raining on terrified people in the streets below — of what Bates did. “Omnipotent, I can thus turn to no one, cannot share my guilt or shame.” In the past, Bates was first noticed on the Earth hologram behind the Moon. Miracleman, Miraclewoman, Huey Moon and the Warpsmiths teleport to London to confront him, but only after he had been loose for hours, “killing time.” Aza Chorn strikes first, teleporting the Bank of England and dropping it on Bates’ head. When that doesn’t work, he teleports the Marble Arch into his path. That doesn’t slow Bates, either. Miraclewoman fails, too, in a direct confrontation. Next, Huey Moon ruptures a gas main underneath Bates and sets him ablaze, but it’s a ploy to buy Aza Chorn time as he travels to a distant galaxy for means to purchase additional power. He’s back in three seconds. We learn that the exact nature of this power is shrouded in mystery in the present, and Miracleman prefers leaving the mystery intact. But with Bates finally weakened, Miracleman attempts a direct confrontation, pushing Bates underground and into a subway tunnel. Bates punches him back to the surface, where they continue their fight among vehicles fleeing London. Miracleman picks up the closest car and hurls it at Bates. To his shame, he later admits it was occupied. Bates retaliates by throwing an occupied gas tanker at Miracleman, which explodes upon contact. Observing their fight has given Aza Chorn an idea. The Miracleman Family’s force field, their “tinker bell” effect, has made them immune to external attack. So, he picks up a small piece of concrete debris and, instead of throwing it at Bates or dropping it on him, teleports it inside his skull. Bates screams out in pain and strikes out blindly at Aza Chorn, sheering away his right arm. But Aza Chorn has enough time before he dies to locate an I-beam and teleport it through Bates’ heart. Gasping and screaming in agony, Bates spits out his change word, and suddenly a pantsless Johnny takes his place. Johnny cries at having let Kid Miracleman out again, not even possibly realizing the full extent of the damage done. Miracleman finds Johnny and consoles him with news that he has discovered a way to keep Kid Miracleman from returning. Johnny leans against him and gives a tearful thank you. Then, with a single punch, Miracleman crushes Johnny’s skull. He sits there, holding Johnny’s headless corpse and weeping for hours as London continues to burn. Near him, bodies are hung from light poles by barbed wire, and a mother, her eyes gouged out and her arms ripped off at the elbows, hobbles down the street with her two young children at her side. “I thought about the firemen and the dumbstruck ambulance crews,” Miracleman thinks. “The world in which they tried to sleep that night would be a different world to that in which they had begun their day. Different forever.” In the present, Miracleman revisits the site. It has not been cleaned up; the skulls, bones and wreckage remain. He will not let the world forget, nor himself.

COMMENTS: Miracleman probably would have been a comics classic without this chapter, but because of it, it elevates the story to a plane all its own. Since Book Three began and we saw the world radically different, we were left wondering what happened, why it changed. Moore set the bar almost unreachably high, but he delivered with a climatic payoff far beyond our expectations. The atrocities in this chapter astound me, yet Moore dared to present them, and Totleben made them real. The quality of his artwork matches the quality of Moore’s writing. This is the true power of the collaborative nature of comics at work. But I don’t know how Totleben was able to sleep after drawing this issue. This is an incredibly hard story to read, but it really does show what could happen if someone with the power of, say, a Magneto were left unchecked. This chapter might be Moore’s most powerful statement against the superhero archetype.

Even if Tracy didn't like the first three, she might like [Book 4]. It's basically Neil Gaiman short stories set in Miracleman's new world -- not like Moore's run at all.

I know, I know… but if I insist she read it she’ll just resent it.

REGARDING APOCRYPHA:

I picked up Apocrypha yesterday and flipped through it. I saw little point in re-reading it.

So did I… until I actually re-read it. What I was going to say is that this is what I was afraid Neil Gaiman’s (i.e., anyone other than Alan Moore’s) Miracleman would be like, but upon reading it a second time (the first in a single sitting), I think it does have a place in canon (paradoxically, perhaps, because the stories by definition are non-canonical). Look for my thoughts tomorrow.

Alas! My copies of Apocryphia are all miles away, so I can't really contribute.

I wouldn’t concern myself over it. Whereas I think the Apocrypha has (or is it “have”?) a place in continuity, I don’t think it’s essential.

I would like to have gone into it a bit though.

I will a bit.

Was the framing sequence written by Gaiman? Where does it fit into the chronology?

B-dog has already answered these questions, but because they are “imaginary stories” I really don’t think it matters. I chose to deal with them between Books 3 and 4 because that’s where the change in writers and shift in tone occurs. The mini-series was released later, though, and probably reads better after The Golden Age.

I hope we do discuss this utopia a bit when we get to the end of Book 3.
Some of your thoughts on Moore's Utopia are line with mine.


I have some thoughts on that, too… some of them sprining from the Apocrypha.

REGARDING CHAPTER 5 (ISSUE #15):

Is this the most violent comic book ever or what? Personally I tend to doubt it (most of the actual violence having occurred off-panel between chapters), but I do think it’s among the most horrific. From the same interview I quoted earlier in this discussion, cat yronwode had this to say about the carnage of issue #15 in comparison to the birth in issue #9: “No one ever complains about violence in the United States of America. They love violence…” but she’s forgetting the letters page debate which ran through subsequent issues (perhaps because she was no longer the title’s editor at the time). Now would be a good time to mention that Miracleman had one of the best and most thoughtful LOC pages in comics.

It is this issue/chapter, BTW, which introduces the very concept of an apocrypha into the Miracleman mythos: “The battle, far too big to be contained by simple facts, has spawned so many different legends, each with its own adherents; as valid if not more so, than the truth. Apocrypha. Imaginary tales: the library at Olympus has a thousand such upon its shelves.” I don’t know for sure, but I’ll betcha somebody on the Eclipse payroll took that germ of an idea and ran with it. Also, the narration concerning Miracleman “in 1982, upon Earth’s Moon, in conflict with myself after my glorious resurrection” is a reference to an Alan Davis-drawn unpublished-in-the-U.S. story, “The Yesterday Gambit” from Warrior #4, which (according to Kimota! The Miracleman Companion) "introduced the Warpsmith and was a pause in the strip’s regular continuity, alluding to events that would not be revealed until Miracleman #15, six years later!”

Regarding your comments about Chapter 5, b-dog, I absolutely agree with your assessment that “This is the true power of the collaborative nature of comics at work.”
We can take a few days to discuss Apocrypha if you wish. My plan is to conclude my summaries of "Olympus" tomorrow, but not start "The Golden Age" until next Tuesday, after the Labor Day holiday in the U.S. As everyone has indicated, there's already a lot to talk about with the conclusion of "Olympus." This should give us time for both.

Thank you, Jeff, for mentioning "Yesterday's Gambit." I haven't read it, but I've heard about it and knew that Moore used this story to fold it into continuity.

CONCLUDING BOOK THREE: OLYMPUS

CHAPTER SIX

SUMMARY: In the present, at his home, Olympus, Miracleman prepares for a celebration honoring the sixth anniversary of his rebirth. In the past, he sums up the damage Bates caused: 40,000 dead and half of London destroyed. Several countries had considered nuking England but ultimately didn’t because they didn’t know if it would have stopped the threat. Before revealing themselves to the public, the pantheon makes its plans and also mourns Aza Chorn. His five spouses (two other men, three women) perform a Warpsmith mating ritual as the others are asked to watch. Miracleman and Miraclewoman exchange a glance during it. One of the Warpsmiths, Kana Blur, remains behind as Aza Chorn’s replacement. Next, they set about remaking the world. The members of the pantheon meet with world leaders to lay out their plans. All nuclear weapons are teleported by the Warpsmiths into the sun; fresh topsoil covers the Sahara; drugs are legalized; criminals are rehabilitated by correcting chemical imbalances in their brains using alien herbs, and money is eradicated. “From August, everything is free,” Miracleman says in a television address. “Each soul shall have free clothing, food and shelter, entertainment, education, all requirements for a worthwhile life.” The changes leave the power-hungry without hope. Some join therapy groups. Pockets of resistance remain, especially among the religious. Fundamental Christians and Muslims forge an alliance, discovering a mutual distrust for the new order. Upon the completion of Olympus, Miracleman and Miraclewoman consummate their relationship in public, flying over London as they have foreplay, copulating high in the sky and climaxing with a starburst before collapsing into the Thames and resting there in each other’s arms. Later, a Qys named Mors joins the pantheon. He uses Qys technology to pick up on the faint vibrations the dead leave behind and builds android bodies to house them. But the dead must remain in the underworld in Olympus’ basement. Big Ben and Miracledog, rechristened Fenris, are rehabilitated and added to the pantheon. Then Winter returns. Now 4, she takes charge of the “super babies” as they are born. The pantheon has gone about sharing its power. It also allows the public to undergo a version of Gargunza’s body-cloning process. Miracleman has one person in mind for the procedure. It’s Liz. But when he visits her, she’s unimpressed. “Perhaps I could take the baby for a fly around the park while you [and Miraclewoman] were screwing in Fleet Street?” She tosses him out. So, Miracleman doesn’t get all that we wanted in the new world. “And yet,” he thinks, “these faults do not diminish our achievement […] Is this perfection? I think so.” In the present, Miracleman attends his celebration, then afterward seeks solitude on a high balcony, and he thinks, not without some pensiveness, about the world he has created.

COMMENTS: And so we conclude Moore’s statement, and arguably his condemnation, of the superhero. If one were to exist, he says, he would eventually take over the world. As we have seen, when you strip superhero stories of their cartoon violence and substitute real violence, it becomes clear that the only way one could keep the peace is by taking control. It’s a controversial statement, and as we have discussed on this thread, it’s really not the only statement. Moore has shown in other stories, such as Supreme and Tom Strong, that it doesn’t have to be this way. Sadly, much of Moore’s work has been misconstrued by those trying to ape its popularity. But instead of an intelligent statement about the comic-book superhero from the imitators, we got grim and gritty. Violence was played up, grand adventures played down. Yet what Moore said he said with great eloquence, using superb plotting and memorable, believable characters. This work truly is a classic.

Back to specifics about this chapter, I do love the ambiguity of the ending. Was the world perfect? No, it was just radically different. In many ways, I don’t know how Miracleman’s world could function. With no money, what’s the incentive to work. What natural reward is there to clean public toilets, to properly dispose of hazardous waste or to build and maintain roads? Utopias cannot exist; this one included. I’m so glad we have Liz in this story. In a way, she represents us (OK, maybe just me). I don’t understand how sex in public is acceptable, and she’s perhaps the only person who can call Miracleman out on it. All he does is stammer. I love that image of the power Liz still holds over Miracleman. He’s more human than he thinks, and there’s something to society’s mores that, in his godhood, he is turning a blind eye, too.

TOTAL ECLIPSE: Total Eclipse was Eclipse Comics’ 1988 five-issue companywide crossover event, written by Marv Wolfman and penciled by Bo Hampton (and others) with covers by Bill Sienkiewicz. Miracleman appears in issues #2-5, including a six-page story which kicks off his involvement in the story good and proper in issue #3. In addition, issue #4 contains 10-page Jason Oakey story by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham. The main story is fairly standard superhero fare and not at all essential to the Miracleman story, but the Jason Oakey story is pretty good. In fact I was going to recommend it before I realized that all 10 pages were lifted verbatim from “The Golden Age”!

APOCRYPHA: These stories do not exist in continuity except as stories. Because they’re not in continuity and because they’re written by writers other than Alan Moore I decided to deal with them between Books 3 and 4 but they probably read better after “The Golden Age”. This series didn’t really impress me back in 1991 the first and only other time I read it, but reading all three issues in a single sitting, I enjoyed the series much more the second time through. Creators include James Robinson, Kelley Jones, Norm Breyfogle, Matt Wagner, Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross to name but a few, but the highlight of this series is the Neil Gaiman/Mark Buckingham sequences which frame each issue and allow Miracleman to comment on the stories within. Again, like Total Eclipse, the series is not essential, but Apocrypha is a better complement to the mythos.

ISSUE #16/CHAPTER SIX: Those “Marvelman” scenes playing out within the globes on page two are from the reprinted prologue story from issue #1 (which was left out of the collections), so this issue brings the story full circle. My favorite scene from chapter six is the one with Margaret Thatcher Figs alluded to last week: “Allow?”

Speaking of someone being the victim of this story, I’m not sure if Liz is the victim or the hero after all. Alan Moore certainly seems to be casting Miracleman’s “utopia” in a less-than-favorable light in the story’s final narration: “Sometimes I think of Liz. Sometimes I wonder why she turned my offer down; wonder why anyone should not wish to be perfect in a perfect world. Sometimes I wonder why that bothers me, and sometimes… sometimes I just wonder.”

This story raises questions that I don’t think are easy to answer, which is part of its lasting appeal to me. The surface elements are easy enough for other writers to copy, but the result is too often “grim ‘n’ gritty” with no substance. This story has substance and bears multiple re-readings.

Regarding your rhetorical question, “With no money, what’s the incentive to work?” that point is addressed on one of the stories in Apocrypha (which I wish I had with me today). Essential some people want and need to work to be happy, and those people are allowed to do so, just as others are allowed to go into seclusion or worship Johnny Bates or do whatever they want to do… all of which leads to the question is this utopia is so many people are dissatisfied?

ON UTOPIA: I think Alan Moore’s point may be that a human utopia is an impossibility given the nature of the beast. In other words, no matter how good things get, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Well, that's all I've got to say... on Book Three, Apocrypha, utopia, all of it. If you don't plan to start "The Golden Age" until Tuesday that's all right with me; I haven't re-read it yet, but plan too over the weekend. BTW, over lunch today I traded in my Terry & the Pirates color Sunday hardcovers, and the first thing I claimed in trade was Marvel's Captain Britain Omnibus. I know it's very different from Miracleman (more mainstream), but it is similar in that its Alan Moore and Alan Davis's (omong others) take on an (albietly wholly different) British superhero.
So, the Oakey story in "The Golden Age" trade is just lifted from Total Eclipse?

I have some of "The Golden Age" issues, but not the one where the Oakey story fell in the trade paperback. I also had noticed this week that the Oakey story wasn't mentioned in the letters columns. I'm glad they included it in the trade, as the final chapter would have made less sense without it.

I remember reading "Jasper's Warp" for a discussion we had on the old board. You might want to check it out once you're done reading the Captain Britain Omnibus. (Ah, I now see that you posted in that thread.)

And I know that Moore (and other writers) covered how society could function without money, I just don't they covered it very well. No, Miracleman's Utopia would not succeed if it's goal were to make everyone happy. We see that at the end of "Olympus," and we see it more in "The Golden Age."
B_dog said Was the world perfect? No, it was just radically different.

Perfect? No. Different? Yes. But I’d still say it was a much better world.

In Miracleman’s world you don’t have the vast majority of the human race going to bed hungry and miserable each night. That’s worth a lot in my book.

Moore has anticipated the argument that things are better left untouched with his depiction of the ‘Earth-Firsters’, who, when you play around with their name a bit you get ‘First-Worlder’s’. The lucky 10% of our current lottery of life.

B_dog said In many ways, I don’t know how Miracleman’s world could function. With no money, what’s the incentive to work. What natural reward is there to clean public toilets, to properly dispose of hazardous waste or to build and maintain roads? Utopias cannot exist; this one included.

Nicely put. He does mention along the way that those who do any of the work will have more luxuries than the others. But I concede that Miracleman and his alien friends would have to have found incredible non-terrestrial solutions to the myriad of problems just like you mention for this Utopia to exist. Moore wisely skips over the mechanics of it all. Comicbook readers are used to filling the gaps between the panels...

My own reading of Book 3 begs some similar questions though. If you look at panel 3 page 19 there are some ghastly fellows at a bus-stop making repugnant gestures at a woman walking home at night. What would be done with them and their like? Re-education camps? If Miracleman’s programme to pick new superhumans is worth anything, they’d be passed over. Who would they take their frustrations out on then? If they threatened anyone he knew in any way, Miracleman himself would snuff them out in an ultra-violent instant. Would the new superhumans all quickly become like our hero, losing any link with our morality and setting themselves up as judge, jury and executioner? Those oiks at the bus-stop have mothers too...

Moore himself has strong feelings about the guilt and shame associated with sex in our society. Also in that the only acceptable way to show sex (or romance) is somehow in conjunction with violence. Virtually every summer popcorn action movie ties the two together along the way. I personally see what he was trying to do with the big super love-in in the sky with Miraclewoman, but your understandable misgivings about it highlight again that not everyone in Miracleman’s brave new world would be at all happy there. Maybe there are re-education camps for social conservatives too?

I’m not being flippant, but just saying that he’d need to change more than the trappings of society to change the world. Moore asks us to believe that the people in Miracleman’s world have somehow changed their entire psychological make-up and values in only 5 years. Not all of them, but seemingly most of them.

But then we are shown this new world (only?) through Miracleman’s monologue. Highly overblown poetic prose at that... No wonder that the first thing Gaiman wanted to do was to show it from the plebs point of view.

The put-down of Maggie Thatcher was a fantastic moment looked at in the context of 80s politics in the UK. She was in power for a whole decade and seemed to be there to stay. She alienated a whole generation and made the Conservatives unelectable for nearly 2 decades. Just as ‘Thatcher’s Children’ grew up and turned away from what she stood for, I guess Miracleman’s world would also quickly pass into the hands of those coming up. The swiftness of change would strengthen their hand.

B_dog's summary of Miracleman's relationship with modern superhero fare is spot on. Today they want to use the ultra-violence, but no-one is affected by it long-term. Even baddies killed to show how serious it all is will be there in the next supervillain crowd scene, as fit and well as could be.

It makes for comics that are impossible to take seriously on any level. But all that is a discussion for another time...

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