Thursday, 30 December 2010

Alan Moore's Miracleman - I want it!!!

Recently I was fortunate enough to be lent a disc containing the entire '80s run of Alan Moore's Miracleman.  I don't usually like to read pirated digital copies.  After all, no matter how much you dress it up, it's stealing. But for years the rights to this character have been famously wrapped up in a gigantic legal mess involving Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane.  The original comics and trade paperbacks are out of print and incredibly rare and valuable.  I had to grab the chance to read it.  I hope you'll forgive me.

Art by Garry Leach

Miracleman was originally Marvelman, a 1950s British knock-off of Captain Marvel.  Captain Marvel's comics had been cancelled in the States but the British reprints were selling really well.  As a result a writer/artist named Mick Anglo was hired to create a character who was close enough to Captain Marvel to retain his readership in Britain.  Cap became Marvelman, Captain Marvel Jr. became Young Marvelman and Mary Marvel became Kid Marvelman.  Their adventures continued until 1963, but in 1981 Alan Moore brought them back.  It wasn't long before Marvel Comics objected to the rather familiar sounding name, and so Marvelman became Miracleman and the rest is history.

The series is truly ground-breaking.  Before Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Dark Knight Returns and Squadron Supreme were to deconstruct the superhero myth, Moore had done it first with Miracleman.    As with Watchmen, Moore places a superhero with god-like powers in a 'real world' context and over the course of 16 issues, follows that scenario to a logical, and terrifying, conclusion.   And it's brilliant. Really, really brilliant.  The series has been hyped so much over the years and it's themes duplicated and expanded upon so much that you'd be forgiven for thinking that it's lost it's impact.  Not a chance.  It really is one of the most powerful and affecting series I've ever read.  I hate reading comics on a computer screen but I could not tear my eyes away from the screen.   I read it a few days ago and scenes and dialogue from the series are still clinging to me.  I'm not going to go into detail on any of these scenes, partly because they've been discussed in so many other places on the internet but mainly because if you haven't read it you deserve the chance to go in as fresh as possible.  All I'll say is, issue #15 is the most expensive individual issue of the series on Ebay and is probably the most discussed issue of the series too.  This is not without good reason.  It's probably one of the most disturbing, affecting and powerful comics I've ever read.

After #16 Neil Gaiman took over until issue #24 when the series was cancelled half way through his story arc.  Gaiman's issues are a very interesting read.  There's plenty of evidence of the amazing imagination that made Sandman so great and they're undoubtedly very well written stories.  But they're ultimately a bit pointless.  Moore gave the series such a definite ending with issue #16 that there's nothing else to really say and Gaiman's just sort of playing around in Moore's sandbox, albeit in an intriguing way.

Marvel Comics have recently won the rights to the character and have been reprinting the old Mick Anglo strips.  As for the status of the Moore/Gaiman stuff, I have no idea.  All I know is, the second this series is reprinted in a new form that won't require hours of Ebay hunting and hundreds of pounds of my much needed cash, then I'll be there to buy it.  And I urge you to buy it as soon as it's possible to do so.  It really is as good as you've heard!

2 comments:

  1. I read this - also all online; there was a website that posted all the issues some years back - a few years ago. And it was incredible. Even if it was the first, I still think it was probably the most graphic. CHILDBIRTH, dude, CHILDBIRTH!

    The one criticism I have of it is the same I have of all of Moore's works. Have you ever noticed that it's never the titular character who saves the day or that, if he does, it's a little anticlimactic? Superman has to be saved by Robin, V DIES, the villain in Watchmen WINS...

    I know it's all narratively structured specifically to gain maximum impact, but I feel that some of the raw awesomeness is lost.

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  2. There still has never been anything quite like the childbirth issue.

    I know what you mean about raw awesomeness. Meta-textuality, social commentary and pushing forward the boundaries of the medium are all very well but sometimes there's no substitute for the hero arriving in the nick of time and punching the bad guy in the kisser.

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