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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FROM MOORE TO GAIMAN

Like me, perhaps you read “Olympus” wondering what it would be like to live in Miracleman’s world. If so, we weren’t alone. Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite authors and a huge Alan Moore fan, must have wondered, too. That became the premise of “The Golden Age.” It’s a series of short stories exploring life in Miracleman’s world. As Gaiman did in Sandman, when Morpheus sometimes exited the action, we rarely see Miracleman in these stories. After three books with him on nearly every page, he probably appears on fewer than 20 of the 155 pages of Book Four. The stories are a little different, too. It’s less about a continuing narrative and more about the experiences of the characters. Less text, more subtext, I guess you could say. Because this is Gaiman cherry-picking from Moore’s work, with each chapter I will include a line from an earlier story that I think might have been its inspiration.

We’ll begin in the morning!

 

BEGINNING BOOK FOUR: THE GOLDEN AGE

By Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham

INTRODUCTION AND CHAPTER ONE        

“Sometimes, toy citizens clamber up here asking favors […] They wear helmets for the thin air […] funny little bubble-heads.” — Olympus, Chapter One

SUMMARY: We open with a six-page introduction, in which we learn “It was the best of times […] God was in his heaven … all was right with the world.” Then we are introduced to four people (one of whom is our unnamed narrator) who plan to climb Olympus to petition Miracleman. The journey takes several days, so many that the narrator loses count. “Perhaps in some way our ordeal was purifying us,” he wonders. Hundreds of stories up, one of the four loses his mind and jumps from to his death. He was there to pray for an illness that had struck his village. The remaining three finally make it to Aza Chorn’s memorial garden, where they find Miracleman. "What have you come to me for?” On seeing him, one man spits out a single work, “death,” then he pulls out a pistol and fires at Miracleman’s head at point-blank range. When the bullet ricochets off, the man turns the gun on himself. “And are your prayers also this abrupt?” Miracleman asks. A woman, Gwen, asks if she can become an artist. The reply is yes. Next is our narrator, who lost his wife in Bates’ attack. Their only daughter, Hope, was wounded, too, and is being kept alive by life support. He asks Miracleman to heal her. He says no and flies away. The man is left aghast, but his appeals are not heard. The couple start to plan their descent. It’s a long way down.

COMMENTS: In response to our narrator’s unanswered prayer, Gwen says, “What’s important changes from where you’re looking,” and that’s a theme to this book. It’s about the struggles everyday people still face in this supposedly perfect world. There are illnesses, people injured beyond medicine’s ability to heal them, people who are mentally unstable, and people who are unkind to others. For this book, we’re going to leave Olympus for a while and meet some of them.

 

Well-written intro, b-dog!

I read “The Golden Age” in its entirety yesterday, for the first time in one sitting and, to the best of my recollection, the second time ever. I thought I was going to say all I had to say about Book 4 on the first day, but I’m really glad I decided to re-read it for this discussion because I got a lot more from it the second time. I didn’t really remember much about it and I had certainly forgotten how all the characters come together (more or less) during Carnival in the final chapter. New thoughts and points of discussion occurred to me throughout the book. (Now if I can only hold them in my Swiss cheese memory until we get to those chapters.)

I won’t be sharing any of my wife’s thoughts, BTW; it didn’t really appeal to her. About half way through she said, “Boring,” and when she finished she said, “Boring and depressing.” She has no interest in reading the first two chapters of “The Silver Age” at all.

It’s telling that Gaiman begins with a well-known but partial quote from Dickens: “It was the best of times.” PERIOD. In place of “…it was the worst of times,” he substitutes, “And what was miraculous was this: everybody knew it.” I think you’re assumption that Gaiman chose a single line from Book 3 as a springboard for this story is spot-on.

Regarding the theme you’ve identified (“What’s important changes from where you’re looking”), I agree with you but I don’t understand why Miracleman chose to grant the healthy woman’s desire to become an artist, yet denied the man’s request to cure his daughter. “It’s just a question of relative values, I suppose,” suggests Gwen. My wife thinks his decision was completely arbitrary. I disagree, but nor can I rationalize it. Any thoughts on that?
Can he see the future? Maybe he knew the artist's work would inspire millions, and the little sick girl would grow up to be the next Hitler.
No, I don't think that's it. If he can predict future events, it's never been revealed to the best of my knowledge.

Oh, and for those of you reading a collected edition of "The Golden Age," issue #17 presents part one of the wordless "Retrieval" story. In the first installment, Miracleman holds a small device to his lips, kisses it, and drops it through the gateway which leads to Underspace, where it begins to make it's way among many strange shapes on an as-yet-unknown mission.
I think "The Golden Age" shows that Miracleman looks at society, not at individuals. Remember, his response to Gwen is that all people should have the ability to articulate their artistic side, not just her. He turned her prayer into one that could benefit others. (Without looking back, I recall in "Olympus" that Miracleman said he answered prayers that required this river needing moving, that disease needing curing.) By comparison, Hope's father's prayer was only for his benefit.

And I don't know whether Miracleman can actually see into the future, but later in this book, he is shown consulting an oracle (depending on how you read the scene), so I doubt it.

I am reading from the collected edition but am supplementing from the few actual issues I have. I wasn't planning on summarizing "Retrieval," but it's all setup for "The Silver Age." Shows how far Gaiman plots ahead.
The question is, when is Little Sick Girl Gets Better and Becomes the Next Hitler Comics coming out?
I think the copyright is in dispute. :P
Jeff of Earth-J said:
I think the copyright is in dispute. :P

:)
the_original_b_dog said:
I think "The Golden Age" shows that Miracleman looks at society, not at individuals.

Okay, I'll but that. I don't necessarily agree with the sentiment, but I'll buy that explanation. Just to play devil's advocate, should the little girl have the right everyone else has to live a productive life? It also could be argued that the man's wish was not for himself but for his daughter. "It's just a question of relative values, I suppose," but his values are so different from those of ordinary men.
Speaking of rights issues, last week it was suggested that perhaps the only thing Todd McFarlane owns of Miracleman is the Eclipse logo. If that's true, would that also include the chest emblem as it appears within the comics themselves in addition to the cover logo?
Miracleman's values are different. He shows more concern about quality of life than about about life itself. Perhaps he feels he can have a say in how people live their lives, but not in the fact that they'll die anyway. He's all powerful, but he's not that all-powerful.

Yes, I've wondered too about the logo issue. McFarlane may yet give up his claim or it may be determined to be worthless; I don't know. I do know that several times in "The Golden Age" that the logo was missing. Apparently, it was added later in the production process. Replacing it might not be all that hard.

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