Miracleman (originally Marvelman) refers to two separate, yet related, creations, the second based on the first, with one of the comics industry's more complicated legal histories.
The Strange History of Miracleman
Version OneA 1950s homegrown British Captain Ersatz of superhero Captain Marvel (himself an Expy of Superman), created by Mick Anglo, published by L. Miller and Son, Ltd.Michael Moran, Johnny Bates and Dicky Dauntless were three young boys who on saying a particular "magic word" became Marvelman, Kid Marvelman and Young Marvelman respectively. Like Captain Marvel, they had a series of adventures with often fantastic and absurd settings with Dr. Gargunza being their arch-enemy (Gargunza is an Expy of Dr. Sivana, Captain Marvel's recurring arch-enemy).Version Two
OriginsThe origin of Marvelman is convoluted. In the early fifties, the perceived similarities between Superman and Captain Marvel led to a famous legal battle between Fawcett Comics and DC Comics. L. Miller held the rights to reprint the American Comic Book Captain Marvel in the UK but the legal hurdles in America meant the end of material for them to reprint and distribute to the local market. Since the comics were highly popular, they decided to commission a Captain Ersatz of Captain Marvel. Mick Anglo developed Marvelman, his supporting cast and villains in the course of his adventures, which lasted 350 weekly issues, between 1954 to 1963. Marvelman became popular as young men's reading material and its bright colour adventures were considered refreshing in England during The Fifties.A young Alan Moore was one of the readers of the original Mick Anglo run and in one of his first interviews, he stated a desire to write the long-discontinued title, hoping to do a fresh spin for modern audiences. Word of Moore's intentions reached Dez Skinn, publisher of Warrior magazine. Skinn had gained the rights to Marvelman and had entertained ideas to bring it back into print. Moore's deconstructionist story made the books his Breakthrough Hit (particularly in the US once DC Comics noticed him) and Miracleman started selling well. Sadly, Warrior stopped publication about one-third through his run; the series would have remained lost and unfinished if not for Eclipse Comics, who offered to buy the US rights to the property and let Moore finish the series. Marvel Comics was not exactly thrilled with Moore and the fact that his character was called Marvelman, though. As Moore pointed out, the original Marvelman (and its inspiration Captain Marvel) dated before Timely Comics started calling itself Marvel and became a major brand. Despite this, Eclipse Comics' lack of legal muscle led to the character's rename as Miracleman. Miracleman debuted in 1984 to rave reviews, though there would be many problems to come in the course of its publication history: Eclipse Comics had its corporate headquarters destroyed in a flood and Alan Davis (the original artist for the series) left over the fact that Moore's antagonistic relationship with Marvel Comics threatened to get Davis blacklisted from working stateside.Several artists were called in to draw the rest of Moore's run (along with an issue that reprinted classic Miracleman stories, something that the book's editor replied was only being done because of the aforementioned flood), among them Steve Bissette and Rick Veitch of Swamp Thing fame and Chuck Austen (yes, THAT Chuck Austen, back when he was Chuck Beckum). Alan Moore's run ended with Olympus which was regarded by many as a Fully Absorbed Finale to the series and an epic conclusion. It was followed by Neil Gaiman, who sought to write a trilogy of story arcs beginning with The Golden Age continuing on with The Silver Age and ending with The Dark Age. Though The Golden Age arc was concluded, the book was cancelled again shortly after the commencement of The Silver Age with the collapse of Eclipse Comics. Gaiman's story is currently unfinished but, well, read on.With the collapse of Eclipse Comics, the rights to the series fell into legal limbo, made worse with Todd McFarlane buying up ownership of Eclipse Comics assets when the company went down. McFarlane drew much controversy in his desire to incorporate Miracleman into the Spawn universe and holding usage of the character and the chance to finish his story as blackmail material to force Neil Gaiman (who, thanks to Alan Moore, had partial legal ownership claim to the character) to give up his long-standing legal fight over ownership of popular Spawn character Angela, along with claims to royalties that were being withheld by Todd. This remained the tenuous status quo for a few years, until it was revealed that the real rights were still held by Mick Anglo, who, due to the vagaries of the British copyright system, had never really signed away his rights to the characters at all - thus the deal with Alan Moore for usage of the character for Warrior and Eclipse Comics had been invalid all along. This allowed, ironically, Marvel Comics to cut a deal to buy the rights to the entire franchise from Anglo (as well as the scripts to the 80s comic series, as the artwork has to be renegotiated since Gaiman still owned the rights to the Miracleman scripts).As part of their deal and as a means to help out Anglo (who never saw a penny for his character in the years after Moore revitalized him and was terminally ill), Marvel republished several trade paperbacks of the original 1950s Miracleman series (now Marvelman again) in hardcover and mini-series format. This in turn brought back into the spotlight many characters that Anglo created that were abandoned by Moore in his revival, most notably Nastyman and Young Nastyman, a pair of Black Adam Expies. Thanks to the myriad copyright controversies, physical copies of Marvelman/Miracleman were for many years extremely hard to find. An online archive of all the Moore/Gaiman stories, however, can be found here.It was revealed at NYCC in October, 2013 that Marvel had fully acquired the rights to Miracleman and, beginning in January 2014, Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman's issues began to be reprinted and reissued, with extras including Moore and Garry Leach's Warpsmiths stories, a variety of production material and even some previously unpublished stories including one by a young Grant Morrison. In addition, Gaiman is finally getting to complete the story left unfinished twenty-five years ago.
"Behold... I teach you the superman: He is this lightning... He is this madness!"The Alan Moore version, from the 1980s, later continued by Neil Gaiman.
— Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra
- Alan Moore Run:
- Book One: A Dream of Flying — It was with Miracleman that Moore started what became part of his Signature Style. Take a previously unknown character, Retcon its origins and submit its premise to a Genre Deconstruction. His work with Marvelman attracted a great deal of attention and this later led to work with DC on titles like Swamp Thing which also radically changed the character from the ground-up. The first arc is largely an "origin" story dealing with a grown-up, Happily Married Michael Moran who works as a reporter and has dreams of life as a "superhero" but has forgotten his magic word. He rediscovers it ("Kimota") at an atomic power plant and becomes a superhero in the grim 80s of Thatcher's Britain. The Driving Question of the first story is the circumstances of Michael Moran's existence, the tension in his marriage caused by having two different identities in a single body and his reunion with childhood acquaintances, Johnny Bates("Kid Miracleman") as well Dr. Emil Gargunza. Because of Executive Meddling and a host of factors, the series was interuppted one-third of the way, and Rick Veitch and Stephen Bissette had to finish the run at which time Eclipse Comics had acquired the rights.
- Book Two: The Red King Syndrome — The second arc dealt with him meeting Miraclewoman, a Distaff Counterpart and takes the series into a cosmic direction as Miracleman goes to outer space and meets aliens with similar powers and abilities as him. This was printed by Eclipse Comics and the series was rebranded as Miracleman for the first time.
- Book Three: Olympus — The third part of the series, drawn by John Totleben, and the most famous. This celebrated story arc led the series to undertake a Genre Shift into Cosmic Horror and science fiction as Moore started to explore Miracleman's drift from humanity. He ended his run with the memorable final two issues of 15 and 16, memorable for the hitherto unseen levels of violence depicted in superhero comics.
- Neil Gaiman run
- Book One: The Golden Age — A series of vignettes and One Shot dealing with Muggles in the Miracleman world (including a famous Mind Screw issue that features Andy Warhol)
- Book Two: The Silver Age — This story was interrupted midway by the rights issues. It featured a Time Skip and reintroduced Young Miracleman (Dicky Dauntless) back into the lives of a very changed Miracle Family, before being Cut Short.
- Book Three: The Dark Age — The last book of Gaiman's run will finally see print in the reissued Marvel volumes.
- Alan Smithee: The current Marvel reprint series credits Alan Moore as "The Original Writer", stemming from the contracts he signed some years ago, when he signed away his creative rights to Gaiman, and his share of the money to Mick Anglo, who he considers to have been cheated out of his rightful profit from the character.
- All Just a Dream: In just the first few issues of the Alan Moore run it's revealed that the entire 1950's-60's run of Miracleman was just an elaborate dream induced simulation created by Miracleman's government handlers. Invoked in-story, too, by Gargunza in order to cleverly stop the Miracleman family from waking up in the real world.
- Anti-Villain: Evelyn Cream.
- Applied Phlebotinum: Originally, Marvelman transformed by saying a formula for the "key harmonic of the universe," whatever that might mean, that just happened to be "atomic" spelled backwards and with a K.
- Because You Were Nice to Me: Subverted horribly by Kid Miracleman. Upon his escape from the hospital, he spares the only nurse who was kind to him during his stay. He then returns and obliterates her head while she is still smiling in relief at being spared. He actually seems a bit regretful about it, but considers it necessary lest anybody get the idea that he went soft for a moment.
- Benevolent Alien Invasion: The warpsmiths entrance into Earth society and politics initiates a Golden Age ruled by Miracleman at the price of all free will and the urge to dissent removed.
- Beware the Superman
- Black and Gray Morality: Though self-evidently much more "good" than his antagonist, Miracleman neither acts according to merely human ethics or morality nor gives lip services to it.
- Bus Full of Innocents: Quite literally, but subverted in that Miracleman himself throws it.
- Canon Discontinuity: The earlier Marvelman adventures happened only in a kind of Lotus-Eater Machine.
- City of Spies: Features in a short story later in the series.
- Completely Missing the Point: As Miracleman disconnects from humanity more and more, he starts to do this in regards to people's reactions.
- Continuity Reboot: Moore's version of Miracleman shows that Moran's previous adventures were all part of an elaborate attempt by Dr. Gargunza to control him.
- Creepy Child: Winter. She mentions that she participated in an orgy with the Qys (and she's four years old), laughing off her father's shock, then casually asks if he "decided to leave the sky that color."
- Curb-Stomp Battle: The final fight between Kid Miracleman and the rest of the superhumans starts off as this. They throw everything they have at him and accomplish absolutely nothing as he trashes them left and right. Finally Aza Chorn gets creative.
- Darker and Edgier: Moore's interpretation.
- Deconstruction: Moore developed a lot of the themes of Watchmen first in his run of Miracleman and indeed the former was described by him as the last word in his interest in superhero deconstructions, which properly began with this series. In Miracleman he tackles the conflict between boring civilian identity and the superhero identity, the wider social effect superheroes can have on the world and the Ascended Fridge Horror of a superhero-supervillain dust-up, likewise the Blue and Orange Morality that develops from the mere fact of having superpowers.
- Draco in Leather Pants: Invoked in canon during Neil Gaiman's issues, with the introduction of the "Bateses", a subculture who idolise the psychotic, sadistic mass murderer Johnny Bates because they think Miracleman's utopia is too much of a Sugar Bowl.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Magnificently lampshaded after Dr. Gargunza's death. "I threw him at a planet."
- Enemy Mine: The threat of Miracleman overseeing the planet as a "god" is enough that both Christian and Muslim fundamentalists join together in its wake. However, there's not really much they can do about it.
- Establishing Character Moment: When Michael recognizes that Johnny Bates has been still super all along, Bates incinerates his secretary's head with his Eye Beams just to show that he can.
- Expy: Big Ben is a superpowered version of John Steed from The Avengers. Lampshaded within the story, when a Greek Chorus type "little man" character points out the resemblance.
- All the Miracleman characters are intentional Expy of Captain Marvel and his Family, though in Moore's version, Mike Moran/Miracleman is closer to Clark Kent/Superman while Kid Miracleman is closer to the original Billy Batson/Captain Marvel. Liz Moran likewise is based on Lois Lane and Miraclewoman is a combination of Mary Marvel and Supergirl.
- Eye Beams: Johnny Bates has this ability, while Miracleman and others like him do not. Something which is not explained but is suspected to stem from the fact that Bates was in his super body the longest and has had more time to learn the extent of its power.
- Face-Heel Turn: Arguably a Trope Codifier in superhero comics. Between the Anglo and Moore periods, Kid Miracleman turns from a Kid Sidekick to a colossal psychopathic murderer who massacres/mutilates half of London.
- Flying Brick: Miracleman, Young Miracleman, Kid Miracleman, etc., in both versions.
- Gender Flip: If Miracleman is Captain Marvel and Kid Miracleman is Captain Marvel Jr., that means Young Miracleman must be based on Mary Marvel.
- Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Miracleman's body is the product of genetic engineering, and the U.K. is mentioned as having developed the technology as a counter to the larger powers' nuclear weapons.
- Genre Deconstruction: With Alan Moore, it's par for the course. Among the issues he tackles are how Miracleman's existence wreaks havoc on Michael Moran's personal life and sense of self; what sort of collateral damage would occur in a realistic superhero battle; and what the impact on society would be if Miracleman took over the world as a benevolent dictator.
- Kid Miracleman is also a deconstruction of the Dark Phoenix Fallen Hero story, where in the X-Men original, the noble Cyclops is not able to make the choice to kill the equally genocidal Dark Phoenix because of the decent alter-ego Jean Grey, here Miracleman very gently comforts poor Johnny Bates before snapping his neck.
- Gorn. Behold◊.
- Grand Theft Me: Gargunza's true objective is to achieve immortality by transferring his mind into the body of Miracleman's newborn child.
- Imported Alien Phlebotinum: Responsible for the creation of the super-humans in the modern version (but not the original).
- Ironic Nursery Tune: An extremely dark example: "Star Light, Star Bright" is recited as Miracleman pitches Dr. Gargunza's body from the stratosphere back down to Earth, and the air resistance burns the good doctor into nothing but a charred skull resembling a shooting star.
- Mad Scientist: Dr. Gargunza, in both the '50s comics and the Alan Moore version.
- Mistaken for Granite: The doors to the room housing the kingqueen of the Qys is guarded by two guards whom Miracleman/Marvelman mistakes for statues, due to their immobility and size.
- Mood Whiplash: Perhaps the most notable is the issue where Liz gives birth to Winter, when Miracleman's sense of awe at the baby being born takes a sharp left turn into Surreal Horror in the last panel when the newborn speaks.
- New Super Power: Kid Miracleman is able to develop powers he didn't originally have over the course of his life, and Miracleman alters his uniform while still in Gargunza's Lotus-Eater Machine. His child, Winter, has inherited her father's ability to fly and has a forcefield, but also can read and influence minds.
- Orphanage of Fear: Poor Johnny Bates is abandoned to one after Miracleman exposes and defeats his sociopathic alter-ego, until... well, just look under the spoiler tags.
- Otherworldly and Sexually Ambiguous: The alien Warpsmiths are multi-dimensional, and ultimately genderless beings, who have sex in ways that defy anything resembling biology on Earth.
- Override Command: Gargunza has an override word ("Abraxis") which forces Miracleman to change back to Mike for one hour. Miracleman does not allow Gargunza to say it a second time.
- Psychopathic Manchild: Kid Miracleman and Young Nastyman.
- Reed Richards Is Useless: Both played straight and later inverted as much as possible. On the one hand, Gargunza, Miracleman's creator, strangely, never capitalizes on his biotechnological brilliance. After Kid Miracleman destroys London, however, Miracleman and his friends "go public," which changes every human society on every level.
- Refusing Paradise: Liz Moran in her final meeting with Miracleman does this. She refuses Miracleman's "everyone's-a-super" offer of acquiring powers and chooses to simply be herself.
- Re Vision: The modern version.
- Scary Black Man: Evelyn Cream starts out as this, complete with unflappable personality, Scary Shiny Glasses, and a perpetual Slasher Smile (inlaid with sapphire-plated teeth, no less). Deconstructed as the story goes along, and chapters told from his perspective reveal him to be, in his own way, as scared of Miracleman as everyone else is.
- Scenery Gorn: Kid Miracleman's attack on London, along with just plain Gorn.
- Serial Escalation: One suspects that Kid Miracleman has the power to make up superpowers as he goes along like the Silver Age Superman, except instead of super-ventriloquism and super-knitting he invents things like super-murder or super-genocide. Example of just how hard he went: while not fully shown or detailed how he accomplished this somehow Kid Miracleman manages (once his darker alter-ego is fully unleashed) to elaborately mutilate, torture, rape, kill and arrange into morbidly artistic ornaments half the population of London in one or two hours.
- The Singularity: The Final Issue of Moore's Run, Issue 16, displays a post-Singularity world and its implications on humanity. Neil Gaiman's run explores the new, altered, world and the place of humanity within it.
- The Sociopath: Kid Miracleman.
- Stable Time Loop: In one of the original Warrior comics, and hinted at in issue #15, Miracleman and a Warpsmith travel back in time twice to battle his earlier self in order to steal kinetic force from their blows. After each battle, the Warpsmith erases his earlier double's memory.
- Stronger with Age: Johnny Bates A.K.A Kid Miracle Man. Of all of the superhumans, he has spent the most time in his superhuman body and thus has had more time to develope his strengths and learn new abilities. It shows as he can single-handedly defeat all of the other superhumans and superaliens combined with almost no harm done to himself.
- Super Family Team
- Superhero Speciation: The super-humans created by Gargunza have the same Flying Brick power set.
- Apparently, they all have Psychic Powers, that's just how they manifested.
- Also, the Warpsmiths are all teleporters, and Firedrakes are pyrokinetic.
- Take That: After Miracleman effectively takes over the world, there is no power structure anymore. All the former tyrants of the world meet in group therapy to deal with the reversal. One of the members is a gray-haired white guy who tells the rest he got aroused from a dream where he ordered soldiers to kill rabbits and give him money. The group's therapist then thanks "George" for his trust. It's pretty obvious it's George H.W. Bush, who became President the year the issue came out.
- Similarly, when Miracleman announces that the old ways are over, and the world will be remade, Margaret Thatcher insists the world's leaders will not allow it. Miracleman looks at her nonchalantly and responds, "'Allow?'"
- Tele-Frag: How Kid Miracleman is ultimately defeated.
- Those Wacky Nazis: A more subdued version. Emil Gargunza is an Brazilian street-kid whose scientific skills take him out of Brazil to Germany where he worked for the Nazis, but he never built superweapons for Hitler, rather he reverse engineered the fallen Warpsmith technology and created the superheroes after the war.
- Twisted Echo Cut: As is typical of Moore's works, stuffed to the brim with these.
- ‹bermensch: The quote from Friedrich Nietzche that serves as an epigraph for the booknote sets this up as a central theme, the desire for man to be more than human and its disturbing implications. In an introduction, Alan Moore noted that Marvelman/Miracleman is unique for actually resembling the Nazi ideal of the blonde, blue-eyed Aryan more closely than Superman and Captain Marvel themselves and he deliberately sought to explore the fascist connections with his character.
- What Measure Is a Non-Super?: A persistent theme in the books, is what is the worth of Michael Moran in comparison to his superhero alter ego. Moore gives the unfashionable answer of "not much at all" and Moran's identity is totally erased and Miracleman takes over for good.
- The final issue asks this of humanity as a whole. In a world where everyone's either a super or has the choice and capacity to be one, and all human problems and vices are solved overnight, what value does everyday humanity have or why would some people choose to remain human even when they have the choice of being gods?
- Whole Plot Reference:
- The conflict between Miracleman and Kid Miracleman is a Darker and Edgier take of Harvey Kurtzman's more humorous Superduperman (which Moore always stated was his all time favorite comic) which pointed out how pathetic the secret identities of superheroes actually are as a concept, and likewise showed, in greater detail than comics at the time, a conflict between two super-powered beings in a populated city area. Likewise the antagonist in the Kurtzman comic actually has a civillian front as a businessman much like Johnny Bates in the earlier issues.
- Kid Miracleman's Fallen Hero story, the drastic contrast between the innocent Johnny alter-ego and the Superpowered Evil Side as well as the scale of devastation he could unleash also recalls The Dark Phoenix Saga where Jean Grey/Phoenix threatened the whole universe after shattering a star system populated by billions of lives. That story went into Executive Meddling and subject to later retcons but Moore and Totleben take it to the absolute logical conclusion.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Young Nastyman and the human alter ego of Kid Miracleman.
- "World of Cardboard" Speech: At one point Miracleman refers to the world as "paper" in comparison with his vast power, but it's Subverted in that he's not talking about how he has to hold back; rather, he's realizing that his power means he no longer has to care all that much about what's in his way, foreshadowing his growing Blue and Orange Morality.
- You Are Already Dead: The final fate of Evelyn Cream.
- Your Cheating Heart: After being estranged from Liz, Miracleman gradually engages in a very public affair with Miraclewoman.