This is D.C.. The good Gods at my job have given me some real downtime to give you another throwdown on something that had intrigued me as a child, yet it took me nearly 20 years to grab:
Miracleman, originally called Marvelman, debuted from the United Kingdom in the early 1950s as a stereotypical superhero of that era. You know that era, with hokey word phrases (“Holy Macaroni!”) and kooky villains and such.
By uttering a magic word (“Kimota,” backwards for “atomik”…or “atomic,” heh), Michael Moran transformed into a superpowered form with superhuman strength, durability, and flight. Assisting Marvelman on his adventures were two similarly powered youths, Young Marvelman and Kid Marvelman, all of whom were given their powers by some foreign being.
He sounds a bit similar to another marvel who transforms with a magic word, eh?
In the 1980s, Eclipse Comics decided to bring back Marvelman as Miracleman in real time (didn’t want Marvel Comics pissing down their necks). The 80s brought about a truly disturbing turn to Miracleman’s universe, from the Miracleman Family’s individual and shared origins, down to the very definition of a superhero and his efforts to build a better world.
I decided to read Miracleman, because…well, frankly, I’ve read about Miracleman in Wizard (anyone remember that magazine) and Wikipedia entries on the character, and was very drawn to learning more about him.
Like any good book, Marvelman is a litany of literary beauty.
Book One, A Dream of Flying, begins as aptly named–with a dream of flying, that becomes a nightmarish foreshadowing of events past and future. The first book covers Michael Moran as a sad, weak man who is unhappy with his role in life, especially in comparison with his wife, Liz. When he rediscovers his identity as Miracleman, all well, as if Mike’s passion were restored.
But that discovery quickly turns dark as we learn the true depths of the Miracleman family’s history, their abilities (particularly when compared with those between Miracleman and an adult Kid Miracleman), but also what a hero does when faced with the revelations of his life.
Alan Moore did a fantastic job foreshadowing and relating the recurring dream Mickey Moran has with what it means for his true origins. I was perplexed by the dream Moran suffered for much of his adult life. But I was enthralled by the script, not just in Book One, but throughout the entire revival. The truth of it was so sinister.
As soon as Miracleman discovers his origins, the book hits the ground running. We see Miracleman’s former sidekick, Kid Miracleman, and how he chooses his own murderous path in life, and how he takes Miracleman’s return.
The striking differences between the two men’s powers shows that Miracleman himself has abilities he has yet to tap. The disappointing part is that, by the end of Book Three, Miracleman doesn’t seem to explore those powers past his initial skill set.
We also see who actually created the Miracleman, and how the technology used to make him affects the world.
The most disturbing part of Miracleman was, once he discovered his true origins, a line is quickly drawn between Miracleman and Mike Moran. Moran gradually begins to withdraw from himself and life in general, while Miracleman no longer sees himself as even human. Throughout Book Two and Book Three, he continuously calls himself and others like him a god. Miracleman and his group eventually take over the world, even going so far as to support a eugenics program by Miraclewoman as her own form of “love” to make the humans “special.”
You can see where that goes.
Book Three is chop full of mythological imagery–Roman mythology–which is written so beautifully. From there, we see how Miracleman eventually sets himself away from his humanity, but suffers a great deal as a result. His wife leaves him; his daughter leaves him (for a time). It’s sad, because Miracleman seems more lonely than ever by the end, even with his Pantheon of superhumans and aliens by his side.
He’s simply left wanting at the end, though it’s apparent that by then, he’s forgotten his core being.
My most favorite aspect of Marvelman was that it read like a book. A book without pictures. The art served its purposes well, but even without most of the art, the words paint a sufficient picture. Observe:
I find it surprising that I haven’t seen writing like that in a comic in ages. A book so lush with similes, metaphors, and other skills that give life to a book beyond that of the pictures. The words help you feel what is happening, not just reading what IS happening. More often than not, I feel that’s a skill not utilized enough among many writers today.
The art and writing are all things. They are beautiful, such as when Liz and Miracleman have sex (not necessarily Miracleman’s scrawny body, haha, but I digress).
They are ugly, such as the very graphic depiction of Liz’s going through labor.
They are disturbing, when Miraclewoman describes her own sordid background to the Morans.
They are heinous, such as when we see Kid Miracleman’s razing of London.
It is sad, when we see how much more pathetic Michael Moran becomes, even to his suicide.
Did I spoil that? Not exactly. It’s simple, and powerful, and still doesn’t result in Miracleman’s death. How? You’d have to read and see how that happens.
I highly recommend this series for anyone interested in a truly disturbing and captivating journey through a hero’s life that pushes the artistic and literary limits.