I recently realized that, while I greatly respect Alan Moore as a writer, I haven’t read much of his work. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is one of my favorite things ever and Tom Strong definitely did something cool to my brain, but what about all that other work?
My main source of comic book news and inspiration growing up was Wizard. Say what you will about the publication I would eventually go on to intern and then work for, but in the 90s, in addition to bestowing the virtues of all things Image and awesome, the monthly also told a generation of readers about Alan Moore’s work beyond the ever-present Watchmen, specifically and most memorably Miracleman.
Originally published as Marvelman in England, the character actually goes back to the 1950s, but eventually came under the creative guidance of Moore (and later Neil Gaiman!). Mick Anglo’s creation was your basic 50s hero with a wild, alien-based origin, a stable of sidekicks and even more menaces to face. By the time Moore, Garry Leach and later Alan Davis worked on the character in the pages of Warrior, though, he turned into a dark mirror by which to examine not just the early days of this character, but the entire history of comics.
This story collected in Miracleman Book One: A Dream Of Flying features a regular guy named Michael Moran who comes to realize that he shares a body with the long-forgotten hero Miracleman. This, understandably, leads to a variety of challenges for him and his wife, but also puts him in on a collision course with his former sidekick and the government agency that actually created him, tearing away at the somewhat silly history he’d taken as truth. In addition to blowing through comic book tropes, this book also features some intense scenes that can be difficult to read in the same way that Hellblazer or Swamp Thing can kick you in the gut with the grimier details and scenes, but that’s all part of the idea of dragging comics into the world of adults, something that would reach a peak and become the basis of parody itself in the not too distant future.
Entire books have been written about Miracleman and I don’t think I’m going to blow anyone away by my opinions on this one. It’s great and difficult, but most importantly, it’s easy to get now! In those Wizard issues, it was made clear that, since the publishing rights were all tangled up, these issues could easily cost an arm and a leg to get your hands on. Even at the Wizard offices, these issues and the collections were tough to set hands on, usually “going missing” not long after those of us in the research department acquired them either by digging through the always-messy library or tracking them down online. I honestly never thought I’d get the chance to read these historically important comic book issues without turning to the dark side of piracy (I’d probably never drop any kind of significant coin on such exploits because I’m cheap).
And then in 2009, Marvel blew me away by announcing that they scored the rights to Miracleman! It might have taken longer than I hoped for the collections to start coming out, but if this first one is any indicator, these reworked reprints seem to do the original material justice and look fantastic. It might have taken me longer than expected to get around to getting this book from the library, but I’m now looking forward to picking up everything available when/if they start coming out in softcover.