Miracles and Marvels

Of all the announcements made at last months’s Comic-Con in San Diego, perhaps nothing shocked the show floor harder than when Marvel blew the roof off of the convention center and revealed their complete acquisition to the full publishing rights of Marvelman. A character whose legal history rivals blog-xraymiraclethe most intense dramatics on display in even the most well written comics. To anyone unfamiliar, this may seem like a head scratcher. Just who is this “Marvelman” and why should I care? Well, I can answer that question with a name: Alan Moore.

Years before Moore made the jump across the pond to American comics and began his complete alteration of the comic book landscape with his work on titles like Swamp Thing and a little known 12 issue series called Watchmen, there was a British magazine called Warrior .  An anthology comic publication comprised of several serialized strips where the bearded one began to cut his teeth at redefining what the medium was capable of. Marvelman was one of the main features of the book which also included V for Vendetta. While the character himself dates back to the fifties as essentially a rip off of Captain Marvel, family and all (A secret word turns an ordinary person into a super hero with powers beyond those of mortal men, blah, blah, blah), it wouldn’t be until Moore wrapped his hands around the title before the book would truly take flight and become something incredibly unique and beyond compelling.

Warrior eventually went under and the rights to Marvelman were picked up by Eclipse comics (switching the name to Miracleman to avoid any entanglements with the house of ideas) who collected the initial strips into a more “proper” comic book format while allowing Moore to finish his story with the help of a laundry list of high profile artistic collaborators including Rick Veitch, Alan Davis, and John Totleben. After finishing 16 issues of completely deconstructing the basic concept of a super-hero, the writing reigns were handed over to some guy named Neil Gaiman who penned several issues before the book fell casualty to Eclipse going under.

In the wake of bankruptcy, famous comic artist Todd Mcfarlane stepped in and snatched up Eclipse’s publishing rights to the character with the intent of introducing Miracleman into the Image universe – even going so far as to actually have Mike Moran (MM’s alter-ego) make an appearance in Hellspawn as well as releasing a limited edition statue and an action figure (now bearing a re-designed costume). This despite the fact that Gaiman along with several others were still co-owners of the rights to the character. The resulting legal battle would continue for years with seemingly no end in sight. All of which makes Marvel’s announcement even more impressive and shocking.

Finally, after nearly 30 years, this book will be reprinted allowing all of those readers who have been left out this entire time to decide for themselves whether or not the book is actually worth the fuss.

Having spent a lot of time (and money) to get my hands on the Eclipse issues years ago, I can say with complete confidence that anyone interested is in for a serious treat. While overall it may lack the polish and fully realized structure of his later works, Alan Moore’s run on Miracle/Marvelman is, in my opinion, his most passionate, dark and dangerous work to date- and is not only my favorite, but arguably
the best comic book ever written.

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