Exploding out of Comic-Con International: San Diego today, the news that Marvel Comics has acquired the rights to super-hero Marvelman from creator Mick Anglo and his representatives, making the world-renowned character a big part of the House of Ideas.
“It is an honor to work with Mick Anglo to bring his creation to a larger audience than ever before,” said Dan Buckley, CEO & Publisher, Print, Animation & Digital Media, Marvel Entertainment Inc. “Fans are in for something special as they discover just what makes Marvelman such an important character in comic book history.”
Originally created in 1954 by Mick Anglo and appearing in some of the most celebrated comic stories of all time, MarvelMan is Micky Moran, a young reporter gifted with the power to save the world by simply uttering the word “kimota”!
“I did not think it would ever happen,” said Mick Anglo. “It’s a wonderful thing to see my creation finally back.”
Marvel has indicated more big Marvelman news will follow after the San Diego Comic Con (SDCC). I loved this series when Alan Moore put his spin on this character. Below is some quick background info on this character.
Marvelman (in Warrior)
In March 1982, a new British monthly black-and-white anthology comic was launched called Warrior. Until issue #21 (August 1984), it featured a new, darker version of Marvelman, written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Garry Leach and Alan Davis, and lettered by Annie Parkhouse. Warrior also published a Marvelman Special collecting Mick Anglo stories within a frame story by Moore. The “Marvel” trademark was now owned by Marvel Comics, who objected to its use it the series’ title. Warrior’s legal troubles led to the character being licensed to an American publisher: first to Pacific Comics, and after Pacific’s collapse, to Eclipse Comics. They would reprint the series as Miracleman and then continue it.
Moore had been fascinated by the notion of a grown-up Michael Moran and this was the Moran presented in the first issue: married, plagued by migraines, having dreams of flying, and unable to remember the word that had such significance in his dreams. In his initial run of Marvelman stories, Moore touches on many themes of his later work, including the superhero as a source of terror, the sympathetic villain, and exploring the mythology of an established fictional character.
Moran is working as a freelance reporter when he gets caught up in a terrorist raid on a newly built atomic power plant. Fortuitously seeing the word “atomic” backwards when being carried past a door with the word written on glass, he remembers the word “Kimota”, Marvelman is reborn and saves the day. As Marvelman, Moran remembers his early life as a superhero, but comic books are the only evidence, and his wife Liz finds his recollections of the adventures ridiculous. Moran later discovers that Johnny Bates (Kid Marvelman), not only also survived, but lived on with his superpowers intact. Bates, however, was corrupted by his power and is now a sociopath. After a brutal confrontation, Kid Marvelman says his magic word (“Marvelman”) by mistake and reverts to his alter-ego, the 13-year-old Johnny Bates. The boy, innocent but aware of the evil he committed as Kid Marvelman, mentally recoils in shock and reverts into a catatonic state.
With the aid of renegade British Secret Service agent Evelyn Cream, and after a short fight with a new British superhero called Big Ben, Marvelman makes his way to a top secret military bunker. There he discovers remains of an alien spacecraft, and two non-human skeletons fused together. Marvelman views a file that reveals his entire experience as a superhero was a simulation as part of a military research project, codename “Project Zarathustra”, attempting to enhance the human body using the alien technology. Moran and the other subjects had been kept unconscious, their minds fed with stories and villains plucked from comic books by the researchers, for fear of what they could do if they awoke. As their enhanced minds fought the enforced dreaming, those administrating the project grew fearful of what would happen if they awoke. As a result, it was decided that the project was to be terminated, and so were Marvelman and his two companions: in a final, real adventure they were sent into a trap where a nuclear device was meant to annihilate them. Moran survived, his memory erased, and Young Miracleman died. In the meantime, it is revealed that Liz has conceived a child with Marvelman, which has the potential of being the first naturally-born superhuman on Earth.
The series stopped (incomplete) in issue #21 of Warrior, just after Moran meets his dream-world arch-nemesis Dr. Gargunza (loosely based on Dr. Sivana). In “reality” Gargunza was the scientific genius behind the experiment that created Marvelman. Gargunza, after working as a geneticist for the Nazis, had been recruited by the British after World War II. Unable to keep pace with the U.S. and Soviet nuclear arms race, the British had backed Gargunza to use genetics to develop a new superweapon. By coincidence, an alien spacecraft crashed in the U.K. in 1947 and Gargunza was able to reverse-engineer enough technology to create the first Marvelmen. The alien technology, and thus the Marvelman project, consisted of giving someone a second body, which was stored in an extradimensional pocket of space when not in use; when a special word was spoken the two bodies switched place in space and the mind was transferred as well. After the cancellation of the project, Gargunza escaped to South America where he developed bio-technology weapons such as “Marveldog”. It is revealed that Gargunza has a deeper purpose: after the death of his mother, he has a mortality complex, and intends that the child of Marvelman will act as the host of his own consciousness.
Name Change to Miracleman
In August 1985, Eclipse began reprinting the Marvelman stories from Warrior, colorized, re-sized, and published under their own title. However, they were renamed and re-lettered throughout as Miracleman, due to pressure from Marvel Comics. Issues 1-6 reprinted all the Warrior content, after which Eclipse began publishing all-new Miracleman stories from Moore and new artist Chuck Beckum (aka Chuck Austen), soon replaced by Rick Veitch and then John Totleben.
Moore wrote the series through Issue 16.
The new Miracleman material widened the story’s scope and continued to build in intensity. Moran’s daughter was born in issue 9 (which became somewhat controversial due to a highly graphic birth scene, based on medical illustrations of the process); two races of aliens, one called Warpsmiths, the other called Qys (who were behind the original body-swapping technology) came to Earth; Miraclewoman emerged; and certain native super-humans were revealed to already be living on Earth, such as Firedrake.
It was with the return of Kid Miracleman in issue 15 (“Nemesis”) that Moore wrote at his darkest. Now out of his catatonia, the small, spindly boy has been repeatedly beaten by several older bullies at his group home. When one of them goes so far as to rape him, Johnny’s desperation leads him to transform into Kid Miracleman. Slaughtering his attackers, Bates unleashes a murderous vengeful holocaust on London while Miracleman, Miraclewoman, and their allies are in outer space.
The gory excess of Kid Miracleman’s rampage and that of the battle which followed when Miracleman and his allies return to discover the carnage is highly disturbing, featuring a degree of violence not previously seen in superhero battles. John Totleben’s detailed apocalyptic renderings are still acclaimed today (by the few who possess a copy of the book). Depicted are people running from a rain of severed hands and feet, skins hung up on clothes lines, corpses impaled on the hands of Big Ben, the Tower Bridge in ruin, mounds of severed heads, heads on pikes, cars full of people plummeting to earth, mutilated children wandering screaming through the streets, and countless dead bodies.
When the Miracles discover what is happening, they and their alien allies collectively challenge Bates. Bates, however, has had many years more experience using his powers than any except Miraclewoman, and is unrestrained by reason or compassion in his use of them. The battle goes poorly, with none of them able to stop Bates. It is only when one of the Warpsmiths, Aza Chorn, realizes that they cannot go through Bates’ personal force field, and instead teleports some wreckage inside the force field — *into* the body of Kid Miracleman, that he is forced by pain to transform back to his mortal form. His rampage is stopped, but Bates kills Aza Chorn as his last act. Unwilling to risk another chance for repeating this horror, Miracleman quietly kills Johnny Bates, knowing that it is the only way to be certain it will never happen again. The heart of London, however, has been destroyed, 40,000 people are dead, the Warpsmith Aza Chorn lies dead, and the world now knows that gods walk among them.
Moore’s last issue, number 16 (“Olympus”) ends with an unsettling depiction of Miracleman’s apotheosis, as he and his superhuman allies bring the entire planet under their totalitarian control. Miracleman and his companions, explicitly compared to gods, now rule the planet as they see fit, though they are ineffectively opposed by groups such as an alliance of Christian and Islamic fundamentalists. The “age of miracles” is ostensibly benevolent, but in scenes such as the final conversation between Miracleman and Liz, Moore suggests that Miracleman has lost his humanity and that his utopia is ultimately harmful to humankind. This ending contrasts with that of the simultaneously conceived serial V for Vendetta, in which the “hero” destroys a dystopian society. Lance Parkin’s book on Moore argues that the two endings, read together, demonstrate the writer’s refusal of “easy” Utopian/dystopian answers (the ending also contrasts with the conclusion of Moore’s Promethea, in which an “apocalypse” of expanded human consciousness heals rather than destroys the world).
The notion of bringing superhero fiction into the real world—having immensely powerful characters use their power to make drastic changes to global politics—has become an extremely popular theme in recent “mature” superhero fiction, such as Rising Stars, Squadron Supreme, The Authority, Kingdom Come and Moore’s own Watchmen.
A glimpse of how Moore originally meant the story to continue is presented in Warrior issue 4 (also called the Warrior Summer Special), which features Marvelman and Aza Chorn gathering energy for the final battle with Kid Marvelman. This story has never been reprinted in any shape or form since then, so it remains an obscure yet highly discussed piece of comic history.
Miracleman: The Neil Gaiman years
Writer Neil Gaiman picked up the series at #17, and developed it further in the 1990s, working with artist Mark Buckingham. He planned three books, consisting of six issues each; they would be titled “The Golden Age”, “The Silver Age” and “The Dark Age”.
The first part, “The Golden Age”, showed the world some years later: a utopia gradually being transformed by alien technologies, and benignly ruled by Miracleman and other parahumans, though he has nagging doubts about whether he has done the right thing by taking power. Gaiman’s focus in “The Golden Age” is less the heroes themselves than the people who live in this new world, including a lonely man who becomes one of Miraclewoman’s lovers; a former spy (whose tale recalls J.G. Ballard’s short story War Fever); and a robot duplicate of Andy Warhol.
Eclipse followed up “The Golden Age” by publishing the standalone, three-issue mini-series Miracleman: Apocrypha, written and illustrated by a variety of other creators, with framing pages by Gaiman and Buckingham. These stories did not form part of the main narrative, but instead further fleshed out the world of “The Golden Age”.
Two issues of “The Silver Age” appeared, but issue #24 was the last to see print. Issue 25 was completed (apart from colouring) but due to the collapse of Eclipse it has never seen light. #23 and #24 saw the resurrection of Young Miracleman and would describe the beginnings of trouble in Miracleman’s idyllic world, and #25 would have reintroduced Kid Miracleman. A few pages of issue #25 can be read at various sites online, and in George Khoury’s book Kimota! The Miracleman Companion. “The Dark Age” would have seen the full return of the character of Kid Miracleman and completed the story once and for all.
During this period, Miracleman was a featured character in the mini-series Total Eclipse, written by Marv Wolfman and penciled by Bo Hampton, with pencil assists by James Ritchey III and Mark Pacella (among others), and inks by Rick Bryant.
A short story by Gaiman and Mark Buckingham (entitled “Screaming”) appeared in Total Eclipse #4, where it technically comprised Gaiman’s first published Miracleman story. This story was reprinted in issue #21 and in “The Golden Age” trade paperback.
Because of all the legal wranglings….there are very few toys based on this great character. We do have this action figure at http://www.cmdstore.com: