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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Jeff but we’re clearly in horserace territory.

Very much agreed. Just seeing if anyone fancied the same horses as me! Thanks for letting me vent anyway.

Also, the children aren’t going to take control of this world (again, based on interviews I have read), but let’s not get ahead of ourselves

Well then, they are making a point of highlighting a lot of things that won't play out. Marvelman is respected by everyone as the initiator of this brave new world, but he's far from the strongest of the new 'race', and much more compromised than he thinks he is.

Miracleman wasn’t Gaiman’s very first published comics work, BTW.

OK - I should have looked it up. But he was unpublished when Moore asked him to take over Miracleman according to his note at the front.

B_dog That might be my fault. I don't think so. Your quotes have been spot on so far. I think the spy story is the one that steps furthest from Moore's 'notes' on the Utopia. It does seem to draw from the shadowy world Archer and Cream moved in, but their world had the feeling of real about it. Cream quickly upped the ante beyond any spy story when he used the child as a shield in front of Marvelman.

It struck me just now I could have used the title of Book One to go with the final chapter of "The Golden Age"!

Bingo! I hadn't thought of that. That the last scene of The Golden Age, the long lingering look at what Moore had created, should reflect the title of Moore's very first chapter is great structuring. The dream has become a reality for everyone.

As I said that is a very beautiful last scene. That we can leave off the burdens we carry and float off into a bright new future. That's powerful stuff. Kudos to Gaiman.

Look for the slip of paper he gives Hope’s father. I'll have to look that up as I don't have the book with me now. Sounds like another sharp observation.

Just some questions. Is the black girl that climbed Mt Olympus in the first chapter Jason Oakeys girlfriend later in the book?

What artistic gift does she develop? Does Marvelman draw inspiration from his friends the Andys Warhols and teach her screen printing of T-shirts?

Ida puts on a bit of weight between the 6th and the last story. At first I thought it was a change of artist - a forgivabIe notion when you look at how much Buckingham can change his style. I know food's not scarce in Marvelmans world, but hey...

At least Gaiman tries to imagine how things might work if money was abolished. People 'barter' gifts, little treasures and things they've made themselves, like food. It's cute. I use 'barter' because there isn't any bargaining or obligations. They are just gifts exchanged.

Just some questions. Is the black girl that climbed Mt Olympus in the first chapter Jason Oakey's girlfriend later in the book?
What artistic gift does she develop? Does Marvelman draw inspiration from his friends the Andy Warhols and teach her screen printing of T-shirts?

Ida puts on a bit of weight between the 6th and the last story.

You may be right about the girl. Jason's girlfriend isn't named (that I can find), but it looks like Gwen and they have similar hair. On the other hand, Jason's girlfriend seems impressed that he got to meet Miracleman. Gwen did, too.

I took the Gargunza T-shirt designs to mean that Miracleman authorized their use outside of the underworld.

Now that I look again, I see you're point about Ida. Chapter Five was set in Oct. 1993 and Chapter Seven in Aug. 1994. I assume Chapter Six is in between; not really enough time to explain a weight difference like that. But, Ida is obscured in her first appearance by a narrative caption.

 

BEGINNING BOOK FIVE: THE SILVER AGE

By Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham

CHAPTER ONE

SUMMARY: Super-powered teens are playing games in the New York of 2003. These games invariably consist of punching one another through empty skyscrapers while changing into different, comic-book inspired bodies. Mist, now appearing as a teenager too, interrupts the fun with news of a teen from the past: Young Miracleman, who is about to be resurrected. They return to a house among the clouds, where a girl picks up on a psychic transmission from Olympus, and we listen in. Young Miracleman awakes in a bedroom that appears appropriate for someone with memories of the ’50s. But from a window, all he can see are clouds, and then he remembers the exploding airship. Miracleman comes in and starts to fill in the missing details, about how the bomb killed him and that Bates is dead, too. Young Miracleman understands little, and his untempered youthful optimism shows that he still views the world through Gargunza’s make-believe filter. “I may have a lot to learn, but, well, you’ve probably got knowledge pills here in the future — take two before bedtime and in the morning I’ll know all there is to know about wristwatch wirelesses and flying motor cars.” Then, Winter unexpectedly intrudes. With her floating, naked 20-year-old daughter (who still appears to be about 5) already in the room, Miracleman decides there’s no point delaying further and takes Young Miracleman outside to meet the rest of the Olympus pantheon. A brief introduction is all he needs to want to retreat back in the bedroom. There, Miracleman tells Young how Gargunza kidnapped them and programmed their memories. Gargunza also led Young Miracleman to believe that his father was a World War II hero, when in fact he killed himself after finding his wife and best friend in bed together and slaying them. And Miracleman lets Young know who now rules the world — him. Young Miracleman asks for time to digest all he has heard, and once he is finally alone, he changes to Dicky Dauntless and begins to sob. The psychic transmission ends, and the teens of 2003 plan resume their games.

COMMENTS: This is a story of culture shock, punctuated by the contrast of the teenage Young Miracleman with the teen “superheroes” of 2003, and aggravated by Miracleman’s relentless divulging of the truth. I’m not sure who is looking out for Young Miracleman’s interests in this future; everyone seems to regard him as Gargunza regarded his “beasts.” Similar to the last chapter of “The Golden Age,” I find myself scouring for the line that tells me where this story is headed. Gaiman is notorious for dropping into Chapter One what will happen by the end. For example, look at the quote I lifted for my summary of the final chapter of “The Golden Age.” Sandman is replete with these, too. It’s bound to be in here somewhere, but I can’t find it. (I certainly hope it’s not “Neither of you would have been a match for Kingsor the Galaxatron,” or “I wish I could pick up heavy things, and fly unaided, as you do. But let us rather celebrate diversity” — perhaps the most forced line in the entire series.) But at the same time, a lot of this chapter is designed to catch up new readers; we’re retracing our steps as much as we’re moving forward.

Oh! I was going to look up what Gaiman had to say about “Spy Story” but I forgot. (I remember Buckingham said it was the easiest for him because he used so many photographs.)

Figs: Well then, they are making a point of highlighting a lot of things that won't play out.

Not necessarily. Just because the children don’t take control of the world doesn’t mean the situation won’t play out. [SPOILER]From what I have read of what Gaiman had intended for “The Dark Age”, the children will, in fact, abandon Earth. [END SPOILER]

Figs: But he was unpublished when Moore asked him to take over Miracleman according to his note at the front.

That could be. As I understand it, Karen Berger knew Alan Moore and it was he who introduced her to Neil Gaiman. I think Gaiman had a small amount of work published in England at the time, and it was on the basis of that (and Moore’s recommendation) that Berger offered Gaiman the opportunity to do Black Orchid and (shortly thereafter) Sandman.

I’ve really fallen down concerning my intention to relate the (mostly) wordless installments of “Retrieval” which serve as the prologue to “The Silver Age”. Basically, Miracleman sends a remote drone into Underspace to retrienve the remains of Dickey Dauntless. Then, using the Qys’ process, he clones new Dickey and Youngmiracleman bodies.

Barry Windsor Smith’s cover of issue #23 (which b-dog posted back on page 13) is a favorite of mine. BWS would have done all of “The Silver Age” covers. #23-24 were published, and #25-26 can be seen in OPUS II, the second of his two-volume career retrospective. He spoke extensively about this cover in a interview, but in a nutshell what he was trying to achieve was “the symmetry and poise of Greek statuary without Classic or Romantic affectations.” I learned about the controversy surrounding the birth scene from issue #9 only after the fact, but do recall the tempest-in-a-teapot which raged in “Oh, So?” (the letters page of Comics Buyers’ Guide) regarding the fact that BWS had drawn Miracleman with a, um… “package.”

CONTINUING (AND, FOR US, CONCLUDING) BOOK FIVE: THE SILVER AGE

CHAPTER TWO

Summary: Young Miracleman has been alive again for a week. He has attended celebrations around the globe where he is feted, but he is still suffering from culture shock. On this day, he is to attend a parade in his honor in New York. A servant named Jordan accompanies him, as does Winter in a Jiminy Cricket role, allowing only Young Miracleman to perceive her. In New York, he meets the teens from Chapter One. He also encounters a spaceman, who delivers a cryptic message. Back at Olympus, Miracleman and Miraclewoman watch the moment on television. “Crimes of Light?” Miracleman says. “I wonder what he meant by that.” Miraclewoman replies, “It was Dicky’s message. Not yours. He’ll find out in time.” The conversation shifting, Miraclewoman pushes Miracleman to confront Young about his homosexuality — during their first encounter in the ’60s, she sensed an unrequited love in Young Miracleman for his namesake. That night, Miracleman visits Young and finds he is in good spirits. “Isn’t this great, MM? A midnight snack and a jolly old natter? We’re chums together again. Special chums, aren’t we?” But he also admits to dreaming about Bates and being concerned about being as potentially destructive as he was. Miracleman changes the topic. “Dickie?* How do you feel about me.” […] “MM? What are you talking about?” “This.” Miracleman leans forward and kisses Young on the lips. Taken aback, Young Miracleman responds by punching Miracleman through an outside wall and into the upper atmosphere. Young Miracleman then flies off into the night admonishing Miracleman not to follow him.

COMMENTS: First of all, I do not have a copy of this issue nor have I read it personally in its entirety. My summary is pieced together a little from Web sources, but mostly from Jeff of Earth-J, who offered me his thoughts. (A tip of Ben Grimm’s cap to you.) Ever since “Olympus” (and arguably earlier), Moore and Gaiman have taken Miracleman into morally ambiguous areas in regards to sex, and it culminates with this incredibly inappropriate moment. Miracleman, for his own good, needs to get knocked out of the clouds because, incredibly advanced or not, he has become delusional in his personal relationships.

So, here we are at the end. Eclipse went bankrupt shortly after Miracleman 24 was published, and the characters have been in copyright limbo ever since. Marvel now says it owns the rights. When will this story finally continue? I have no idea, but I can’t wait to see!

* — Another example of Eclipse’s fine editing. Young Miracleman’s name is spelled Dicky and Dickie over two chapters.

The gap between the end of book four and the beginning of book five was ten months (!), but after #23 was released, #24 followed two months later.

ISSUE #24, CHAPTER TWO: "WHEN TITANS CLASH!"

I didn’t quite pick up on the pattern after only two issues, but chapter one was titled “The Secret Origin of Young Miracleman” and chapter two “When Titans Clash!” If it had been published, chapter three would have been “Trapped… In A World He Never Made!” Clearly, Gaiman intention was to evoke comic books of the Silver Age while writing his “Silver Age.” After the somewhat experimental “Golden Age” (which served as a clear transition between Moore’s Miracleman and his own), with “The Silver Age” Gaiman began a phase of much more traditional storytelling; it’s a shame he hasn’t yet had the opportunity to finish it.

ISSUE #25, CHAPTER THREE: “TRAPPED...IN A WORLD HE NEVER MADE!”

KIMOTA! The Miracleman Companion published the first five pages of what would have been Miracleman #25 by Neil Gaiman & Mark Buckingham, art only, no narration or dialogue.

PAGE 1: Three horizontal panels, zooming increasingly closer on Young Miracleman (wearing the same robe and pajamas from issue #24) lying unconscious in a snow crater.

PAGE 2: MM, unshaven and with a pack on his back, arrives at the scene apparently on foot. YM is now inexplicably wearing his courier uniform. Wakes up, sees MM.

PAGE 3 (splash page): MM has helped Dickey to his feet; their hands remain clasped. [Title]

PAGES 4-5: Apparently dreaming, YM dreams of MM, KM and the adult Johnny in a series of panels which look like oddly-cropped photographs. “Bad Johnny” puts an arm around Dickey’s desiccated corpse and points at the dreamer. Dickey starts awake inside a bed which looks like an iron lung. MM appears in the doorway looking in.

MIRACLEMAN: TRIUMPHANT!:

Miracleman Triumphant would have been a companion series similar to Apocrypha. When asked if he remembered it Gaiman replied, “Very, very vaguely. They decided that they needed more Miracleman material and Fred Burke and Mike Deodato drew one or two or maybe even three issues, which was set between The Golden Age and The Silver Age. I was never actually sent anything to read. From what I know Deodato was never paid for it, which is why he stopped doing it.” When asked if he had been supervising plots for it, Gaiman replied, “I’d say that’s a no.”

Cat Yronwode remembers it somewhat differently: “Even now there’s a six-issue mini-series called Miracleman Trriumphant for which the first issue has been mostly drawn but never published. It’s sitting in my office right now. It is written by Fred Burke and drawn by Mike Deodato, Jr. It was plotted with the help of Neil Gaiman, who edited it.” When it was pointed out to her that Gaiman said he did not work on the title she replied, “That’s very interesting. As far as the Fred Burke material that Neil says he doesn’t remember, that’s a little disturbing to me. Neil was certainly involved in it. The story was to take place in a ten-year interval between The Golden Age and The Silver Age.”

When asked about Mike Deodato not being paid, she said, “That’s funny, because in talking to Larry Marder recently about Miracleman Triumphant, I also found cancelled checks in with the artwork!” All of the interviews I have quoted or mentioned were conducted by George Khoury and appear in KIMOTA! (which I highly recommend to both b-dog and Figs). One page of Mike Deodato’s pencils from the unpublished Miracleman: Triumphant! title also appears in that publication.

THE DARK AGE:

“The Dark Age” was to have been set in the far distant future and would have been (will be?) the climax to the series. According to Mark Buckingham, “The Golden Age was basically people on the ground, the man on the street and how they were coping with this world Miracleman had created. The Silver Age was dealing more on a personal level with Miracleman and his relation with people who were close to him.” He goes on to say, “The Dark Age was another level again. I rather not discuss anything about The Dark Age for the simple reason that deep down I hope one day we’ll actually do it. [laughs] I wouldn’t want to have ten years earlier told everybody what was going to be in the series.”

NEXT ISSUE:

The next issue blurb in issue #24 said: “COMING SOON: Miracleman #25. We swear.”
Thanks B_Dog for the typically excellent summary and commentary of the last two published episodes of Miracleman. I was very happy to pick each of these comics up years after I'd read The Golden Age. I couldn't believe that I was able to get my hands on these never reprinted rarities. I think both of them were from the bargain bin.

Alas they are stored away in my parents house in the still-sleeping half of the world, hopefully nestled against my issues of 'Apocrypha' in their longboxes. I would have liked to get another look at them with the much more critical eye for Marvelman's agenda that I've developed this time around.

Hypocrisy is another charge I would put at Marvelman's clay feet. He can't bring the departed relatives of common folk back to life, but the rules don't apply to him it seems. I could see his point about keeping Death sacrosanct, but it's harder to admire his stance if he makes exceptions for himself.

We saw in The Golden Age that Marvelman seems to be drifting away from his humanity, but his treatment of Young Miracleman is very ham-fisted indeed and actually callous.

The first time I read this I was shocked that Marvelman brought YM back. It just seemed such a backward step in a series which was all about moving forward into the future. Marvelman doesn't admit to weakness or failings, but its hard to read his resurrection of Young Marvelman as anything other than loneliness, regret and nostalgia for an innocence he has lost. Marvelman is trying to turn back the clock.

I didn't realise that Gaiman was nodding towards the comicbook Silver Age with his titles. Its a great idea, but maybe a little bit meta too. With Moore the words worked with the pictures to bring us the story directly, whereas with Gaiman, the words sometimes comment archly on the pictures and the story being told, distancing us from the story, as he's guardedly admitted himself, perhaps.

Comic fans (or the vocal subsection of them anyway), haven't moved on much since Miracleman's 'package' was debated. Do you remember the furore over that Alex Ross JSA cover a few years back? Was the heroes name Steel? Moore set himself a big task trying to bring superheroes and their audiences to maturity!

This has been an extraordinarily influential series. I think the fact that it has been out of print so long has meant that writers were more blatant about 'acknowledging the debt'/stealing.

The destructive super-teenagers playing at being superheroes we see at the start of The Silver Age was the main set-up for Kingdom Come. That series also 'lifted' the idea of Captain Marvel not changing into Billy Bates for decades from Marvelman. (It didn't work as well there because Billy Bates turned into an adult anyway).

The initial idea of the glum human wandering around trying to remember the magic word that would change him into a superbeing was re-used by Grant Morrison in Final Crisis, and was developed about as much as the other ideas he presented in that hyper-compressed series. (I like Grant though, so we'll call it 'acknowledging his influences').

Superboy Prime's 180 degree change of personality in Infinite Crisis was soooo Johnny Bates!

Its probably not very useful or illuminating to list all these, but it's a game I like to play. (You may have noticed!) It does beg the question as to how different the last twenty years of superhero comics would have been if this series hadn't been published.

It's been fascinating reading about the bits and pieces of Miracleman that I've never read (hardly heard of, in fact!) The early Warpsmith episode, 'Retrieval', and Miracleman's participation in a company-wide crossover. That one sounds really strange, and I'd love to get a look at it sometime, even though I don't really see how it could work.

And so we leave it, halfway through Gaiman's three-book arc. Of course one of the main things that sets Miracleman apart is that his story has a beginning middle and end. We just haven't seen the end yet, but we know there is one, and time affects him. (Another significance of the word 'Chronus' as the first chapter title of Olympus.) Unlike the other superheroes we love, who have to keep battling on forever in a seemingly eternal status quo.

Just to round out our look at the rest of the series, Tim Callahan provides some more info on how the series was supposed to have ended, again quoting from Kimota!. Its in the very last paragraph or two. There's some spoilerage there IF Gaiman gets to finish this story AND follows his original plan!

Tim Callahan points out that the introductory sequence to "The Silver Age" was a nod to the Stan Lee-Jack Kirby Marvel Comics of the Silver Age: superheroes punching each other through skyscrapers in New York. Seems pretty obvious when you think about it -- though I have to admit, not reading the whole story makes it much harder to pick up on the meaning of individual scenes. For his part, Callahan didn't mention the titles as another throwback.

It does beg the question as to how different the last twenty years of superhero comics would have been if this series hadn't been published.

So well put.

As I've already mentioned, this series means a lot to me. On a personal level, Marvelman has many associations: of reading a very grown-up comic in the local newsagent as a 10-year-old, swapping copies of Warrior with my cousin as a teenager, reading the graphic novels on my first working holiday in London while at university, and reading The Golden Age in Dublin when I’d just started my working life.

Even the setting of most of the story - London - is a city that means a lot to me. For one thing I proposed to my wife near one of the bridges you can see from Olympus in the panoramic view of London in the first few pages of The Golden Age.

I guess I'll be adding the two months I reread it, settling down in Australia in 2009 to that list of associations. I’ve enjoyed this readthrough a lot. Some sharp observations from B_Dog and good research. It seems that pears and pomegranates aren’t always just fruit! Great contextual stuff from Jeff.

Maybe we’ll dig this thread up again on the happy day Miracleman #25 comes out?

Alan Moore's online interview concludes here. Overall, he comes across as very humorous yet very down on today's industry and his legacy.

Here's a snippet relating to Miracleman:

Marvelman was amongst my very first continuing strips. I think that a lot of the things that were original about Marvelman have probably since been done to death by other people. I suppose I’d only ask the readers to just bear that in mind—that some of these ideas don’t look very new and fresh now. Indeed, I am probably one of the people who has done some of those ideas to death. If the reader could perhaps try to imagination, charitably, what it was like back in 1981 when these things were brand new. That was nearly 30 years ago. I haven’t read them for a long time, but I think that they probably still hold up—or at least most of the episodes.

Oh, as this thread seems to be drawing to a close, my thanks to everyone who read along or otherwise took part. It was perhaps most amusing to see how the futuristic descriptions of a worldwide computer network have come true, even without the Warpsmiths help.
the_original_b_dog said:
Oh, as this thread seems to be drawing to a close, my thanks to everyone who read along or otherwise took part. It was perhaps most amusing to see how the futuristic descriptions of a worldwide computer network have come true, even without the Warpsmiths help.
Are you sure they didn't help?

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