Today is a historic day in modern comics history, so it’s also a big day for Pledgeonaut Patrons of Crushing Krisis! That’s because one of the longest-dangling plot threads in comics has been tied up neatly with one of today’s new releases. The more I thought about it and got curious about it, the more I realized that no one else on the internet would approach explaining it quite like I would. And that is how I wound up spending my week creating a Guide to Miracleman!
Today’s historic event is the release of Miracleman by Gaiman & Buckingham: The Silver Age (2022) #7. Aside from being a mouthful, today’s issue is the final installment of the middle “book” of Gaiman & Buckingham’s planned trilogy of Miracleman arcs. Why all the fuss about a middle chapter? Because they started that middle chapter in June 1992, and for nearly two decades it seemed like they would never have the chance to finish it.
One of my 2023 goals in comics reading was to start reading Miracleman. I knew that this historic day was on the horizon, plus I wanted to understand how incredibly formative Miracleman was to modern superhero comics.
If Watchmen is Alan Moore examining the hubris of a superhero team in a grounded and bleak real world they helped to create, Miracleman is his exploration of the inclination of a superhero to try to create something better than the cynical world that birthed him. That theme is present both within the continuity of the story for Miracleman and outside of the story as Moore repurposes earlier childish stories to build something more meaningful without taking away any of their original innocent joy.
The challenge in reading Miracleman is both the density of the material from Moore and Gaiman as well as in understanding the extracurriculars of its publishing history (if you’re like me and care DEEPLY about that sort of thing).
In short: Miracleman was created by Mick Anglo in 1954 as Marvelman, a bootleg UK version of Captain Marvel (who later became Shazam) to replace a lost reprint license. Marvelman was massively popular but quickly declined when the US Silver Age of comics invaded British shores. He fell into disuse after 1963, which in the early 80s led a UK publisher called Quality Communications to assume he might be in the public domain and ripe for relaunch by Alan Moore.
Moore did just that in 1982 with Garry Leach (and, later, Alan Davis!), but in 1984 when the book got too hot stateside Marvel’s lawyers took umbrage with the Marvelman name. Quality went under (for unrelated reasons) and in 1985 Moore came back with the same story retroactively retitled to Miracleman (and now in FULL COLOR) for Eclipse Comics… but then gave up on superheroes entirely (but briefly) and handed it off to Neil Gaiman in 1990, who quickly ran up against Eclipse going under while he and Mark Buckingham were actively writing issues for their planned second arc.
Oh, and then Todd McFarlane thought he purchased the rights to the character, but he only had bought the rights to Eclipse’s assets (and endured a long legal battle with Gaiman on related rights topics) only for it to be revealed in 2009 that Mick Anglo held the rights all along… which meant that Moore and Gaiman had kinda been doing creator-owned work the whole time and could each license it back to Marvel (which made the Toddfather very angry).
And that’s the SHORT version. Check out the intro to the guide for a more-detailed story!
What gets slightly obscured by all the publishing shenanigans is that Marvel’s reprinting of Miracleman that began in 2014 was actually the third time this material has been printed in single issues, and the second time it was re-ordered and re-colored – although the actual text and line-art has never been significantly altered.
That’s what was on my mind as I started my 2023 reading project. Was Marvel’s order the best? Why was it different? Did they catch everything? Why did they break up the chapters of the story the way they did? And, why did Moore write it the way that he did in the first place?
A year later, this guide answers all of those questions and more. It looks at the origin of every Miracleman story and how it has been recollected from 1982 to present. It explains exactly what appears in every issue of Warrior (1982), Miracleman (1985), and Marvel’s Miracleman so that you can follow whatever order you’d like with whatever version you have access to.
As it turns out, Marvel’s order really is the best order (even if their colors are not the best colors). But, more than that, deeply understanding the strange history of the many lives of Miracleman creates a tranfixing feedback loop of metatextual commentary with the story itself, as Moore reconstructs the idea of a superhero rather than deconstructs it, only for Gaiman & Buckingham to then elegantly dissect what Moore bombastically built in a story that comments on each era of comics storytelling that Miracleman has survived.
It’s an ouroboros of storytelling. And, now that I have my own guide to it, I have to finish that Miracleman read!
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Indie & Licensed Comics (3): Miracleman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – IDW Continuity, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Mirage Studios Continuity