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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AAAArgh!

It looks like my 4 Miracleman GNs are missing for the moment. After my stuff arrived in Australia, I organised all my comics and had a special box for the Moore and Morrison books. I presumed I had put them in there, but I can't find them. I'll have to search all the boxes when I get time.

In lieu of saying anything worthwhile based on my decade old memories of the comics, Tim Callahan has some worthwhile commentary over on his When Words Collide site: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=22381

"Had "Marvelman" ended after that single [first] eight-page installment, it still might have had the a great impact on the future of superhero comics. The style and tone and savage irony of that opening story might have been enough to change everything forever."
I doubt I would have appreciated the "savage irony," not having read the originals from the '50s. Like many American readers, I had no firsthand understanding of the Marvelman/Miracleman history -- only articles I had read about Moore's revival. I really wasn't too familiar with Captain Marvel, either. Not a lot was happening with him in the '80s that I recall. But being able to approach the story totally fresh, I still was completely taken by it and by Moore's approach to a character rediscovering who he was -- and who he wasn't.

At this point, I think the next chapter summary will wait for tomorrow ...
Practically no-one reading the first chapter of Marvelman in 'Warrior' would have known anything about his 50s incarnation. It's 20 years since Warrior was started, but 20 years before that was a waaaay longer time to the mainly teenage audience then.

Is Tim Callahan English? He is comparing the early chapters of Marvelman to American superhero comics generally, and they are a huge change of tone, but the 2000Ad strips up to then, which most of the readership would have 'graduated' from, specialised in irony of the most savage kind, so Marvelman's irony was compared to US superhero comics rather than British comics of that time. Marvelman was more sophisticated though. Few 2000AD stories concentrated for whole chapters on the mundanities of married life, or their financial struggles, for instance, or quoted Neitze...
Callahan lives in Massachusetts, according to his blog. I'm not surprised I misinterrupted "savage irony." I usually get lost when literary terms are thrown about, partly because I often think they're being misused -- or otherwise I'm not getting the comparison. Not sure which is the case here.

Despite Callahan's description, Miracleman did not kill any of the terrorists with his "thunderclap" in Chapter 1. We learn that from Cream's narration in Chapter 6. "Only the terrorists and the pressmen were in the station when it happened. And all the terrorists are either in hospital or police custody now." But he is right that Moore followed the thunderclap with a narrative captain, "And then there is silence ... deathly silence." I wonder if Moore changed his mind here? There's no question, though, that MM was shown killing several times, usually without mercy or remorse.

Of course, Callahan's argument that the first chapter of Miracleman indoctrinated the Modern Age of Comics goes against discussions we have had here in the Comics Cave. In general, I buy the argument that a new age has to be launched by something that is a commercial and critical success and highly influential. In this case, that means Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, though Miracleman is certainly a progenitor.
I think 'savage irony' is probably over-egging it on his part. It is a completely different tone of voice and approach to superhero comics up to then. As I say - not such a shift from the 8-page B&W, bleak-as-hell stories serialised in 2000AD. The 2000AD stories were leavened with black humour and were often comically over the top, whereas Moore played Marvelman as serious and tragic, which is quite a move from "The Galaxy's Greatest Comic". Marvelman is just as interesting in how it developed the language of British comics as how it forwarded the language of US superhero comics.

I just picked that paragraph at random from his piece. I always enjoy Callahan's stuff - he's into the same kind of comics as myself. I'm very easily persuaded sometimes but I'd accept that if Warrior had gone out of print after issue 1, then that first chapter could have been seen and appreciated, maybe only by comics writers, and have had an effect. Just speculation in any case.

Callahan's point is that it is a complete change of gears from what had gone before. These marking points of different ages are arbitarily assigned anyway. And a lot of the approach that makes books like Watchmen and DKR stand out as defining moments were there in Marvelman. The questioning of the concept of the superhero, rather than the assumption that they would be benevolent, for one. An exploration of how real-world governments would react to them for another. The whole tone, generally.

CONTINUING BOOK ONE: A DREAM OF FLYING

CHAPTERS 4 AND 5

SUMMARY: This is a two-part fight between Miracleman and Kid Miracleman. After being pushed over the edge (of the balcony), Bates immediately shows his depravation by painfully slaying his assistant. “Her name is Stephanie. She likes Adam and the Ants. Her boyfriend’s name is Brian. She collects wedgewood. Her insides have turned to water. She is only human.” Mike turns into Miracleman and retaliates, but with his inexperience, he’s out of his depth. Bates hurls Miracleman into the sky, then slams him from that height into the ground. Miracleman regains his posture and a slugfest ensues, but again he is no match. Bates pounds Miracleman relentlessly then gloats over his victory: “He thought he was bloody great and I beat him to a whimpering pulp!! And now I’m going to finish him off! Me! His adoring junior protégé! Me, Kid Miracleman…” By speaking his name, Bates has accidentally spoken his trigger word, and he reverts to Johnny Bates, a helpless 13-year-old. Johnny calls Miracleman by name twice, but without changing back. Realizing Bates is now powerless, a thoroughly wounded Miracleman collects Liz and heads for home. But their very public fight has attracted the attention of certain British government agents who seem to know more about the Miracleman family than they do.

COMMENTS: With Bates, you get Very … Graphic … Violence — perhaps the most awful that I have ever read or seen in comics. Besides slaying Stephanie, he hurls a young boy at a building (Miracleman catches him) and lets Liz drive her speeding car right into him. It’s very unnerving.

In Chapter 5, we see Miracleman’s hamartia, his tragic flaw. By abandoning Bates, he sets up their next confrontation, where he is even more brutal and far more horrific. Looking at the pages now, I wonder why he just left Bates, his junior partner for years, without a care as to what would happen to him. ("We can't do anything for him, Liz. Not now. We'll have to leave him ... just leave him.") My best answer: Because if he hadn’t, there wouldn’t have been a story. Although I don’t grasp what he was thinking, it’s certainly not the last time we see Miracleman abandon someone close to him.

For those of you who think this is graphic, wait until b-dog gets to issue #15!

I remember the (seeming) inconsistency of Johnny's use of the name "Miracleman" being discussed on the letters page, but I don't recall Alan Moore's intention/explanation.

You said you were reading these from trade collections, yes? Are your editions supplemented by any editorial material?
Johnny being able to say "Miracleman" probably relates to a temporary burnout of his powers from not having switched bodies in over a decade. This is just my no-prize explanation, but it jives with what MM speculates: "He just said my name and didn't change back. [...] It's as if the power build-up behind that thunderflash has ... burned him out somehow."

My copy of "A Dream of Flying" is the Eclipse first-edition reprint, dated Oct. 1988. There are no "extras," just the stories, plus an introduction and end credits. My other reprints are pretty similar. I don't start having actual issues until "Golden Age," but I also have the collection and plan to read from it. (Translation: I found the TPB and don't feel like rummaging for the issues!)
but didn't kid miracleman say marvelman's name at the end of chapter 2? wouldn't that have made him stay as Johnny Bates?

No, he didn't. You're probably remembering a thought balloon. In it, Bates thinks, "Miracleman! He's back!" Then he says out loud, "Back to spoil everything!" as he smashes his desk.

Moore usually stayed away from thought balloons, but he used them several times in Miracleman, especially in these early issues.

the_original_b_dog said:

No, he didn't. You're probably remembering a thought balloon. In it, Bates thinks, "Miracleman! He's back!" Then he says out loud, "Back to spoil everything!" as he smashes his desk.

Moore usually stayed away from thought balloons, but he used them several times in Miracleman, especially in these early issues.


... Cause actually saying it would have wrecked his plotting. Thanks for clearing that up. I was starting to think that perhaps Alan isn't the greatest comics writer in the world ever after all.

I really have to dig out those books don't I? I'm a bit annoyed, because like yourself, they are probably the only 'collectible' halfway valuable books I own.

CONTINUING BOOK ONE: A DREAM OF FLYING

CHAPTERS 6 AND 7

SUMMARY: Two months after the fight with Kid Miracleman, Mike and Liz head to an isolated spot in the country where they can investigate Miracleman’s powers. (Or, if you wish, deconstruct them.) Meanwhile, government agent Evelyn Cream closes in on Miracleman’s secret identity. Many of the records from a project called Zarathustra vanished years ago with its creator, and the official who knows the most about it, Sir Dennis Archer, just wishes the superheroes had stayed vanished, too. Mike comes to realize that he and Miracleman have separate minds, even though they share certain memories. “He thinks so different to me. His thoughts are like poetry or something. And his emotions … are so pure.” Mike goes off by himself to deal with this and also absorb the revelation that Liz’s single tryst with Miracleman has left her pregnant. Then, Cream shows up and fires two shots at him.

COMMENTS: These are transitional stories, but they have many great moments. In Chapter 6, Liz reveals that she has consulted comic books in researching Miracleman’s powers. “Some of this stuff’s better than you’d expect, but most of it’s crap.” I love that line. Not that it necessarily applies to comics — although it certainly does — but I also think of it for television shows, books and movies, too. Liz revealing she’s pregnant reminds me a lot of Dan and Laurie on the Owlship in Watchmen, when Dan suggests springing Rorschach from prison. Laurie’s response is like Mike’s; it’s Moore evoking himself. In Chapter 7, I love how cramped the Morans’ kitchen looks in comparison with Miracleman soaring through the sky on the pages before. It’s skillfully done. (I think at this point, we had Alan Davis penciling with Garry Leach doing the inking for a unifying look to the earlier stories.)

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