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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By Alan Moore and John Totleben


SUMMARY: Time has passed, and things have changed — radically. It’s now 1987, and Miracleman looks out from an unbelievably high window at London. He calls it “the toy city” and thinks of its “toy citizens.” Then he walks to a throne underneath two giant statues and begins composing. “I have legends to write; tales of how it feels to live in a mythology.” We return to where we left off the story. Johnny Bates, in a boys home, is being relentlessly teased, but he refuses to release Kid Miracleman. Meanwhile, Mike leaves Liz and Winter at their apartment so he can clear his head with a walk. In a park, he encounters the Mysterious Couple. Cornered, he turns into Miracleman. The Couple speak a word in an alien language, and suddenly they, too, have new bodies. Miracleman attacks, but he is knocked back. The two speak a different word, change bodies again and attempt to trample Miracleman. In defeat, he thinks of his wife and daughter. The attack stops. “They read minds,” Miracleman thinks, “and hadn’t known my child existed until I’d told them.” One of them leaves. At their apartment, Liz is bothered by two knocks at the door. The first time, it appears no one is there. The second time, the alien breaks in and goes after Winter. Just then, hands reach around from behind the alien and crush its larynx. Without the ability to speak, the alien cannot change bodies and is incapacitated. The person responsible: a female version of Miracleman. In the present, Miracleman takes a break from writing. He looks down from his high place upon the people. “Each evening, I walk the airless battlements … and scatter to the night’s cold vectors the ashes of their unopened prayers.” It’s a very different world.

COMMENTS: There have been notable instances of a writer coming onto a book and changing things radically in his first issue, such as Jack Kirby moving Jimmy Olsen into the Fourth World line at DC, or Walt Simonson slyly allowing someone else to pick up Thor’s hammer at Marvel. Less frequent is a writer doing it in the middle of his own run, but that’s what Moore has done here.* As in the final chapters of “A Dream of Flying,” Moore abandons linear storytelling and decides to use flashbacks the rest of the way. The world is different in the new “present,” but we don’t yet know how different or even why it’s different. Also clouding things is Miracleman’s narration. As Mike noted In Book One, Miracleman has thoughts like poetry, and I think he leaves no metaphorical stone unturned! Still, for a first chapter, it’s an incredible hook.

* — OK, I can think of Peter David shifting the action in The Incredible Hulk to Las Vegas in the middle of his run, so others have done it.

You guys! That corpse wearing the courier uniform in Underspace is Dickey Dauntless!

I didn’t read much other than Marvel and DC when I was in high school. I didn’t really become interested in Eclipse and First until I got to college. I was 23 years old when I first discovered Miracleman as a backissue series and it had a profound effect on me. With Book Three Moore begins to chart new (comic book) territory (for me, anyway), in terms of inventing alien cultures that were truly alien, not just with the words he used to describe, but also the words he invented, and John Totleben was the perfect artist to realize Moore’s vision on the printed page. I was going to quote a particularly descriptive passage here to illustrate my point, but there are just too many! Instead I chose this issue’s most memorable line written in “common” speech: “You see, there are some situations you just can’t talk your way out of.”
If that's Dauntless, what happened to him? And why would he have been wearing a uniform with a hat?

But ... I suppose it makes some sense ...
the_original_b_dog said:
If that's Dauntless, what happened to him? And why would he have been wearing a uniform with a hat?

But ... I suppose it makes some sense ...

Because in the day, Dicky Dauntless was a postal courier. As to what happened to him, well it was established in the very first part that Young Marvelman tried to change back when the bomb exploded...
Exactly! We'll see Dickey again in "The Silver Age" and the "Retrieval" back-up series leading into it.
I didn't know that about Dauntless' history. Thanks, guys. I've forgotten exactly what comes up in "The Golden Age" and "The Silver Age," but I think I assumed that Young Miracleman's body was retrieved from Underspace, meaning he was in there, not Dauntless. My spotty memory is emerging.

Returning to "Olympus," Moore has some very dense plotting going on. We see that from the start. There are several main threads at work here, some more obvious than others. Jeff pointed out one above, his depiction of aliens that are truly alien. Second, Moore is also showing how the pantheon at Olympus came to be put together. That's a running thread, even though it doesn't take center stage until the final chapter or two. Then, of course, there's the main story told from Miracleman's perspective and the Bates subplot. I say this because my summaries will start to get longer for upcoming chapters, and I think there are elements I'm barely touching on.

But that's one of the things that makes this story a classic.
IIRC, Miracleman had to retrieve Dickey’s remains from Underspace in order to use his DNA to create a new Young Miracleman body, but we’ll get there eventually. The other thing I wanted to comment on was how the delay between the old UK stories and the new US stories might have affected the overall direction of the series. I think we’re seeing it play out in Book Three in that what we’re reading about now in flashback would probably have played out in real time had the publication not been interrupted.



SUMMARY: In the present, Miracleman visits the part of his massive home used by his female counterpart. We learn that the building is so tall that airplanes fly beside it, not above it. (How many stories is it? Miracleman is somewhere in the high 700s!) His counterpart has dedicated herself to changing how the world views love and sex. “She operates a worldwide cable system” and offers “visitations to the chosen, to the faithful.” Miracleman’s thoughts drift to when they met. Back in the past, with one alien incapacitated, the other calls a truce as he requests medical help. Miracleman almost continues the fight, but then he sees her. “Wait. Wait a minute. You’re … you’re Miraclewoman. […] That was a dream, wasn’t it? One of Gargunza’s illusions … and anyway, you died.” They sit, and Miraclewoman fills him in on the missing details. She’s Avril Lear, a former teen orphan who was kidnapped by Gargunza like Moran and the others. Only she wasn’t part of Zarathustra. Gargunza took her and another teen, Terrence Rebbeck, and used diverted funds to construct a place where he could conduct further experiments. Without Archer to curtail him, Gargunza’s sadistic side emerged. He raped the sleeping Miraclewoman repeatedly and videotaped himself as he did so. In her dream scenarios, she was often bound and gagged, much like early comics heroines. He created her in hopes she might breed with one of the males and produce the child he needed to achieve immortality. Rebbeck became Young Nastyman, allowing Gargunza to explore his own depravity through the adventures of a comic-book villain. Eventually, Rebbeck’s mind snapped. He awoke and fled into the world, not knowing it was any different from his dreams. Trying to keep his failure under wraps, Gargunza released the Miracleman family to find him under the guise of a test mission. He released Miraclewoman, too, hoping he could achieve both his ends at once. The four Miracles met, but ultimately didn’t team up. Miraclewoman backtracked Rebbeck’s trail to Gargunza’s secret bunker. There, she found out her origin and how Gargunza had mistreated her.* Instead of crushing her, she found herself freed from whatever symbolic bondage Gargunza may have held over her. “Besotted by my liberty, I swore I’d keep it.” She located Rebbeck and attempted to free his mind, too, but he was beyond redemption. Their fight led to a volcano, where Reddeck was killed in an eruption. She was thought dead, but she survived (yes, the erupting volcano birthed a future love goddess). Meanwhile, Gargunza fled Zarathustra to South America, and Archer redirected the Miracleman family onto their final mission. Miraclewoman reverted to her human self and lived a normal life for years. On occasion, she changed bodies just for the experience but otherwise kept her secret. Her tale finished, the alien hurriedly collects Miracleman and Miraclewoman. To get his partner to safety in time, he has called in the enemy of his people. Two other aliens appear, called Warpsmiths, then all of them vanish, leaving Liz and Winter alone in the apartment. Back in the present, Miracleman floats past a statue of him and Miraclewoman in a naked embrace. “In her compassion, she has shown the ugly, brilliant, dull and beautiful alike a love they understand, making them whole.”

COMMENTS: Moore has accelerated the narrative greatly. Heads that were spinning after Chapter One must resemble a toy top by now. Miraclewoman’s back story fills in gaps we didn’t even know existed, yet it’s perfectly plausible given what we know of Gargunza. Like many readers, I’m sure, Miraclewoman’s view of sexuality left me uncomfortable. In a way, she seems to have installed herself as the ultimate porn star, but under the guise of socially acceptable porn. Is this Moore imposing his views of sex onto the book? Maybe, but Moore is building a pantheon here, and any pantheon needs a goddess of love. Moore is showing what one does, much like Neil Gaiman did with Astarte in Sandman. And, in an attempt to psychoanalyze Miraclewoman, remember that she watched herself being raped repeatedly by Gargunza, yet she claimed to suffer no ill effects from it. Could her hypersexuality be a response?

* — Count the flashbacks: In 1987, Miracleman is remembering the time in 1982 that Miraclewoman told a story about the time in the early 1960s when she watched video of herself from the 1950s!

Hey, have you guys seen Marvel's new Marvelman poster by Joe Quesada? It's the first thing listed in the new Previews catalog for November-shipping items. [It's still too soon for the Marvelman Masterworks (or whatever they're going to call them) listings.] It's definitely the 1950's Marvelman (with the side-by-side "M-M" logo rather than top-and-bottom). It a fairly static pose of Marvelman standing/flaoting in space against a field of stars. He's looking down out of the poster with one hand on his hip and the other extended as if he were offering to help someone get up off the ground. He is surrounded by a golden "glow" effect.

I'm more interested in the reprints than I am the poster, but if you like Marvel/Miracleman and you like Quesada's artwork and you like posters... well, there ya go.
Here it is!

Perhaps the '50s logo represents the fact that Marvel struck a deal with Marvelman creator Mick Anglo, so it has clear rights to that version of the character -- not necessarily the Alan Moore version (Gaiman has aligned himself with Marvel on this fight for years). Also, I seem to remember that in the many court filings, the only claim Todd McFarlane could produce to prove he had any rights to the property was an Eclipse Miracleman logo -- perhaps the two M's stacked on top of each other. Marvel might be avoiding it for now and sticking solely to what it knows it has rights to.
One picture is worth a thousand words (or 70 or so in this case)!

Thanks, b-dog!

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