On Jan. 22, Marvel Comics shipped Miracleman #1 to comics shops across America. Miracleman isn’t a very well-known character, but he is one with a rich history, one whose book has boasted some of the finest talent in the biz and one who has attracted a bajillion lawyers.

“A bajillion is a great many lawyers,” you may say. “I doubt very much that statement is accurate in an objectively determined manner.” I understand your skepticism, so let me relate The True Story of Miracleman (And Why You Should Care).

The tale of Miracleman begins, as do most comic-book histories in one way or another, with the debut of Superman in 1938. That premiere, in Action Comics #1, sold so many comic books and made so much money that it single-handedly transformed comic books from a fad into an industry. Every nickel-and-dime publisher in New York City decided to publish their own “mystery man” – they weren’t called “superheroes” yet – using Superman as a template.

Naturally, National Publications – the publisher of Action Comics, now known as DC Comics – took exception to action heroes that were too similar to the Man of Steel. For example, they quickly sued out of existence a red-suited hero named Wonder Man in 1939.

And when Fawcett Publications fielded their own red-suited superhero in 1940, National’s lawyers swung into action again. They charged that Fawcett’s Captain Marvel, a boy who changed into an adult superhero by saying the magic word “Shazam,” was a copyright infringement of Superman, an alien from another planet who had super-powers due to pseudo-scientific reasons.

Unlike the owners of the unfortunate Wonder Man, though, Fawcett fought back. And that lawsuit dragged on in court until 1953, by which time Captain Marvel wasn’t making very much money any more, so Fawcett threw in the towel. As part of a settlement, Fawcett agreed to get out of the funnybook business.

That left a UK publisher named L. Miller & Son in a bind. They had been reprinting Captain Marvel material in the UK, and those books were big sellers. So they turned to the preposterously named Mick Anglo to write and draw new Captain Marvel stories, but with a variety of changes to avoid National’s lawyers. Captain Marvel, for example, became Marvelman, Captain Marvel Jr. became Young Marvelman, Mary Marvel became Kid Marvelman, and so forth.

Miller & Son continued publishing Marvelman adventures until 1966 – but Anglo left in 1960, claiming he owned the character. Anglo even published a couple issues of Marvelman with the name changed to “Captain Miracle” – foreshadowing trouble to come.

Which is complicated. Try to follow me here.

In 1982, editor Dez Skinn of UK publisher Quality Communications decided to update the Marvelman concept for an adult audience in Warrior magazine. He brought in a kid named Alan Moore – now one of the most celebrated writers in all comic-dom – and superstar artist Gary Leach to do the job, splitting the rights four ways (including Quality). Later those rights were further split with Leach’s replacement, another superstar artist named Alan Davis.

But evidently Skinn had never gotten the rights in the first place, at least not the ones disputed by Anglo. Further, the lawyers for Marvel Comics, who objected to the word “Marvel” in any title, started making snarly noises. The five putative owners of Marvelman couldn’t come to an agreement on how to proceed, and Marvelman ended with Warrior #21.

Meanwhile, U.S. publisher Eclipse Comics bought some kind of rights from Skinn, and began publishing the Marvelman stories in America, with the word “Miracle” substituting for “Marvel” everywhere, to avoid those snarly Marvel lawyers. When the UK material ran out (with Miracleman #6), Eclipse hired Moore to continue the story. When Moore finished his story (with issue #16), he passed the baton – and whatever rights he possessed – to a kid named Neil Gaiman, another guy who went on to amazing success and acclaim.

Gaiman planned three six-issue “books,” to be titled Golden Age, Silver Age and Dark Age, whereupon the Miracleman story would be finished. But with issue #24, only two issues into the Silver Age “book,” Eclipse went bankrupt. The rights to all its properties, including Miracleman, were bought at auction by Todd “Spawn” McFarlane, another pretty famous guy.

Gaiman started writing for McFarlane’s comics, but maintained that he retained the rights to Miracleman. McFarlane asserted that he owned the rights instead. Guess what happened?

That’s right, another lawsuit! McFarlane and Gaiman went to court in 2001, and that’s where Miracleman has been ever since.

Well, until 2009, when Marvel Comics (them again!) announced they had bought the rights to Marvelman/Miracleman from Mick Anglo (him again!). And in 2013, Marvel announced that it had further buttressed their claim (they didn’t say how), and would begin reprinting Miracleman until the original material ran out, whereupon Gaiman (him again!) would finish the story. Moore (him again!) says he no longer owns any rights, and has insisted his name be left out of the credits (which now refer to him, weirdly, as “The Original Writer”).

Now you may be saying “Is any comic book worth this kind of agita?” And the short answer is “Yes.” I first read Eclipse Miracleman comics in the 1980s, and have never forgotten them. In fact, a number of industry talking heads maintain that no creator ever forgot them, because the amazing creativity, sophisticated suspense, astounding plot twists and stark brutality of the series changed how comics were written. I won’t go that far – I consider the bulk of 1990s comics to be unreadable – but Miracleman was pretty spectacular.

In this story, instead of child radio reporter Billy Batson saying “Shazam” and becoming Captain Marvel, adult newspaper reporter Micky Moran shouts “Kimota” (“atomic” backwards, sorta) to become a superhero on par with Superman. The first issue begins with Moran, who has amnesia about being a superhero that nobody else remembers, suffering from recurring dreams about flying, and an elusive word he can’t remember. When he does re-discover “Kimota,” it sends him on a journey to find out the hows and whys of his transformation, and why nobody remembers Miracleman, which results in one heckuva exciting story, far more than you’d expect from the silly froth Mick Anglo wrote for children.

Moreover, Moran discovers Kid Miracleman had never forgotten his transformational word – and had retained super-powers in secret as he grew up, becoming a murderous sociopath in the process. Only one person has a ghost of a chance of stopping him: Captain Marvel. I mean, Marvelman. I mean, Miracleman!

Or maybe some lawyers. Because, as we’ve seen, the only thing that can reliably stop a superhero is a bajillion lawyers. OK, maybe not a bajillion. But a lot!

Contact Captain Comics at capncomics@aol.com.

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...Steve related to Alan ?

  Just want to know the score :-) .

http://comicsbeat.com/everyhting-you-always-wanted-to-know-miraclem...

If you go to the The Beat link above way down in the comments section (at 1-18-2014) Dave Elliott says the original story by Mick Angelo was rescripted by Steve Moore for the Quality Marvelman Special and when it was going to be used in  Miracleman #1 Alan Moore did  some more tweaking.



Emerkeith Davyjack said:

...Steve related to Alan ?

  Just want to know the score :-) .

No they aren't related. Steve was Alan 's mentor and he helped Alan get into comics writing and they had been good friends till Steve died a couple weeks ago.  If you are really interested Alan Moore's Unearthing book published by Top Shelf is all about Steve. There is still some sort of book about magic that both Alan and Steve were working on that's supposed to be published someday  (The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic.)

Steve Moore has passed away?  That's very sad.  Alan Moore and he were very close.  Part of Alan's problem with DC down through the years is how they tried to use Steve Moore's need for work from them as a bargaining chip in getting Alan to come onside.

I read the original essay of Unearthing while in London over a year ago, which is pertinent because it is one of the many 'psychogeographic' explorations of that ancient many-layered ghost-haunted city.

Moore seemed to weave a spell in the essay that made some very outlandish ideas start to seem real and possible.

Part of it was to do with Steve Moore's fanciful idea in Unearthing, that he had a romantic relationship with the Moon.  The story really unsettled me, and I woke up in the middle of the night to hear one of my kids crying in the guest bedroom.  When I went in, she wasn't in her bed, and the moon was shining through the window.  I was really freaked as I'd been having weird dreams about it all up to that, and had been semi-consciously processing all that weird pagan stuff in my sleep.  I could still hear her crying, but it took me a moment to figure out that she was in a dark corner of the room.  The other thing that unsettled my sleep and dream befuddled (not to mention Wizard-befuddled) brain was trying to deal with was how come her sister in the same room hadn't woken up with all the noise.  So I had to check that she hadn't been stolen by the Moon either!

Head-wrecking stuff!  The essay was in Iain Sinclair's London: City of Disappearances.  Well worth a read!

...Thank you , Pat . (I was being " proper " , and spelling the " P " conventionally .)

I've just encountered an evident allusion to the Miracleman/Captain Marvel lawsuit in a surprising place.  The Beano is a weekly British comic that publishes humour strips that are at most one or two pages long, and are frequently shorter.  It features a wide range of regular characters, including the British version of Dennis the Menace. The target demographic is, I'd estimate, children aged about 7 or 8 years.

Another regular character is the super-hero Bananaman.  His secret identity, little Eric, turns into his heroic alter-ego whenever he eats a banana.  In a recent two-part story (four whole pages in length!), Bananaman meets another super-hero, Miracle Banana.  MB's alter-ego, also called Eric, gains his powers by reciting the magic word "ananab" ("banana" backwards)!  The two banana-based heroes argue as to who is the original, and eventually agree to settle the matter by arm-wrestling.  Bananaman has just defeated Miracle Banana (by saying "ananab", and turning MB back into his powerless alter-ego), when a third hero appears. This is Captain Banana, who claims that he is the original, as his comic first appeared in 1941.  End of Part One!

In Part Two, a week later, Captain Banana (backed by a legion of lawyers) threatens to take the other two to court for, essentially, trademark infringement.  A free-for-all battle ensues, involving a lot of name-calling.  During this, one hero calls another "cosplayer", and then has to explain what that means.  The explanation gives Bananaman an idea.  He goes to the Beanotown Comics Convention - yes, pretty much all the characters appearing in The Beano live in Beanotown.  There, he asks various attendees whether they've ever heard of Captain Banana.  None of them have, leading him to deduce that CB is a fraud.

Bananaman attacks Captain Banana, ripping off the whole-head mask he was wearing.  Underneath, CB is revealed to be a spotty teenager.  He is a terrible would-be comics artist, who wants to muscle in on Bananaman's lucrative TV cartoon series.  His real name is Farr MacToddle.

Goodness knows what the average reader of The Beano would make of all this!

Wow!  That's quite elaborate and clever.

Go Bananaman!

Incidently, the Beano and the Dandy are something of a 'key' to those early Marvelman comics that were reprinted recently.  When viewed as superhero comics they are somewhat odd and off-putting to US superhero fans, but I found them a surprising blend of those two-page joke strips you mention (which are the staple of the Beano and the Dandy, and which I read avidly as a kid) and US superhero comics.  They work as a curious hybrid of the two.

Much like the Bananaman strip itself, come to think of it now...

...Geez !!!!!!!!!!!

  In my EXTREMELY LIMITED knowledge of THE BEANO (So that's the one still in business ??? I had read that of The Beano and The Dandy , one ended/went Internet only ~ Wouldn't it've been kore in the U.K. comics tradition for them to merge , becoming " The Beano And Dandy " or similar ???????) - really , that's extremely interesting !!!!!!!!!

  Thank you !!!!!

  Considering that this title has NO U.S market , really ~  If you have the ability to , could you post those strips , please ? Plus any covers/contents/etc. bearing upon them ?

Bwah-ha-ha!

Peter Wrexham said:

I've just encountered an evident allusion to the Miracleman/Captain Marvel lawsuit in a surprising place.  The Beano is a weekly British comic that publishes humour strips that are at most one or two pages long, and are frequently shorter.  It features a wide range of regular characters, including the British version of Dennis the Menace. The target demographic is, I'd estimate, children aged about 7 or 8 years.

Another regular character is the super-hero Bananaman.  His secret identity, little Eric, turns into his heroic alter-ego whenever he eats a banana.  In a recent two-part story (four whole pages in length!), Bananaman meets another super-hero, Miracle Banana.  MB's alter-ego, also called Eric, gains his powers by reciting the magic word "ananab" ("banana" backwards)!  The two banana-based heroes argue as to who is the original, and eventually agree to settle the matter by arm-wrestling.  Bananaman has just defeated Miracle Banana (by saying "ananab", and turning MB back into his powerless alter-ego), when a third hero appears. This is Captain Banana, who claims that he is the original, as his comic first appeared in 1941.  End of Part One!

In Part Two, a week later, Captain Banana (backed by a legion of lawyers) threatens to take the other two to court for, essentially, trademark infringement.  A free-for-all battle ensues, involving a lot of name-calling.  During this, one hero calls another "cosplayer", and then has to explain what that means.  The explanation gives Bananaman an idea.  He goes to the Beanotown Comics Convention - yes, pretty much all the characters appearing in The Beano live in Beanotown.  There, he asks various attendees whether they've ever heard of Captain Banana.  None of them have, leading him to deduce that CB is a fraud.

Bananaman attacks Captain Banana, ripping off the whole-head mask he was wearing.  Underneath, CB is revealed to be a spotty teenager.  He is a terrible would-be comics artist, who wants to muscle in on Bananaman's lucrative TV cartoon series.  His real name is Farr MacToddle.

Goodness knows what the average reader of The Beano would make of all this!

Emerkeith Davyjack said:

So that's the one still in business ??? I had read that of The Beano and The Dandy , one ended/went Internet only

Yup, the Beano is still about in paper form, the Dandy is internet/subscription only. And you're right that frequently, when a British comic ceased publication, it would merge contents and title with another one.  As a child, I was a regular reader of Boy's World, then Eagle and Boy's World, then Lion and Eagle.  At that point, when the comic that I'd originally started reading had disappeared from the masthead, I gave up.

Considering that this title has NO U.S market , really ~  If you have the ability to , could you post those strips , please ? Plus any covers/contents/etc. bearing upon them ?

Sorry, I can't help there.  I read the two comics last weekend (issues 3725 and 3726, cover-dated 12th and 19th March), but I don't have them in my possession.  The covers are on display on the Beano's website for the moment at least, but, as you'll see if you follow the links, the Bananaman story doesn't get a cover mention.

Incidentally, note the issue numbers.  And American comics think it's a big thing when they reach issue 500! photo sorry.gif

 

I know that I read a couple of Beanos (at least I think they were!) when I was younger. I do recall "your" Dennis.

But I recall two strips about a soccer football team and a plane crash involving a blind girl.

And Judge Dredd and a man-size ant-eater! Go figure!

...A long while ago , here , when I lived in San Francisco (And isn't it funny about state senators from there !!!!!!!!! Ahemp .) , I wrote about a 1981 or '2 BEANO annual that I had found and bought - but was unable to keep - in the SF Main Library's little second-hand bookstore .

  Figs thought he may have read it as a wee figlet , but didn't , absolutely,  recall it .

There's a page on digital purchase of The Beano at the comic's website. It might be possible for Americans to read them that way. It's offered in a couple of different formats and I can't tell how long issues stay available.

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