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So basically I just went ahead and did Marvel’s job for them, trying to at least try
to get new readers to give this Miracleman
release a shot, by offering the ridiculously-priced $5.99
debut issue at a significant discount at our shop. We’re not going to sell future issues if we can’t get people to at least pick up this first one, so it’s in our interest to get customers looking at this book any way we can. I’ve written before
about how a six-freaking-dollar first issue is a hurdle too high for casual readers who might have a slight interest in this 25-year-old comic book story they’d heard about, starring a character they don’t know. As it was, even with
the discounting, it’s been a bit of an uphill battle to move copies.
It’s only been a day or so since it’s come out, so I suppose it’s really too soon to judge for sure, but sales out of the gate have been…okay, not great, with some purchases of the book only coming after extended discussions attempting to explain the history and significance of the comics. And emphasizing the discounted price!
…And, of course, mentioning the writers. “The Original Writer” sobriquet that replaces Alan Moore’s credit in the advertising and the solicitation information does appear in the book, on the inside front cover, despite my initial impression it wasn’t there at all, that Marvel just eschewed creator credits altogether. But nope, there it is, white on black, right there next to “ARTIST: GARRY LEACH.” Yeah, it looks dumb, but what can you do. I suppose “WRITER: A.M.” or “MR. M.” or “JILL DE RAY” were out of the question.
Anyway, I had to handsell the books using Alan Moore’s name on my own, since Marvel wasn’t permitted to identify him properly, though most folks at the shop already seemed to realize that Moore was involved with this particular project. Not so well known, apparently, was the fact that Neil Gaiman stories would eventually appear in the series, culminating in never-before-published new installments by Gaiman and artist Mark Buckingham. That particular tidbit appeared to tip over a number of people to the side of forking over a few dollars to try out this oddball comic.
I’ve also been hearing here and there that some digital editions of this comic feature some mild editing: a fairly innocuous bare bottom is covered up, Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking-style. All I can tell you is that when the “birth” story comes around, those digital funnybook sellers are going to have to blank out whole panels on several pages. Good luck with that! (The print comic, at least this first issue, is not similarly censored. The butts run free!)
As to the comic itself: the remastering of the original pages was done quite nicely, I have to admit. The coloring is very bright and clear, certainly better than the somewhat murky reproduction in the Eclipse Comics editions. (The glossy white pages help!) The new lettering is well done, too, and I haven’t noticed any egregious typos just yet, which frequently has been a problem in other reprint projects requiring relettering. I hope the quality in that particular area stays high, because nothing really takes me out of the reading experience like a misused “it’s.”
There’s an enormous amount of padding, filling out the book from what should have been a more reasonable $3.99 32-page experience to a $5.99 64-pager containing material that you may or may not have any interest in, and could have easily been spaced out as back-ups in subsequent issues. All the first issue really needed was that history of Marvelman textpiece, and, okay, maybe the pullquotes from that interview with MM creator Mick Anglo, only squeezed down to a couple of pages.
The black and white reprints of three “classic” MM stories from the 1950s are excessive, given that we already have the redialogued “Invaders from the Future” story from about the same time period serving as the contrasting prologue for Moore ‘n’ Leach’s Miracleman story. The original MM stories presented here are…well, rough going for modern readers, to put it kindly, and eating up pages with these adventures isn’t exactly adding to the book’s perceived value. There are some good — well, at least good-ish — classic MM stories, but boy, these three aren’t it.
Future issues appear to contain more Miracleman content and less other stuff, and at the slightly cheaper but still not-great price of $4.99, so hopefully the price/content ratio will be more favorable to sales. Assuming, of course, enough people give the first issue a try.
Again, to repeat a point I’ve made on this site, I want this project to be a success. Not just out of the selfish desire to finally read the conclusion to this story I’ve been anticipating for decades — well, okay, mostly that — but because it is a great comic and one of the recent seemingly-lost treasures of the industry. It’s a comic series that deserves to be available and in print, even if the eventual collected editions are in the hands of the ever-mercurial Marvel graphic novel department. At the very least we’ll get a new run of trades reprinting Miracleman that, once they fall out of print, may go for slightly less on eBay versus the sometimes-crazypants prices the Eclipse volumes command. But perhaps I’m being cynical.
• • •
Slightly related: Employee Aaron brought in a V for Vendetta action figure, still in the package, that he said he purchased at our shop years ago. I absolutely cannot, for the life of me, remember selling these figures. I may learn a lesson from that, should I mistakenly think about it too closely.
And lo, there were solicits for the Miracleman revival:
MIRACLEMAN #1 & 2
THE ORIGINAL WRITER & MICK ANGLO (W)
GARRY LEACH, ALAN DAVIS, PAUL NEARY, STEVE DILLON & MICK ANGLO (A)
ISSUE #1 – COVER BY JOE QUESADA
Variant COVER BY JOHN CASSADAY
Variant COVER BY MARK BUCKINGHAM
Variant COVER BY JEROME OPENA
Variant COVER BY LEINIL FRANCIS YU
Sketch VARIANT BY JOE QUESADA
YOUNG VARIANT BY SKOTTIE YOUNG
CLASSIC VARIANT BY GARRY LEACH
ISSUE #2 – COVER BY ALAN DAVIS
Variant COVER BY ARTHUR ADAMS
Variant COVER BY MIKE PERKINS
Variant COVER BY MIKE MCKONE
Sketch VARIANT BY ALAN DAVIS
• KIMOTA! With one magic word, a long-forgotten legend lives again!
• Freelance reporter Michael Moran always knew he was meant for something more — now, a strange series of events leads him to reclaim his destiny!
• Relive the ground-breaking eighties adventures that captured lightning in a bottle — or experience them for the first time — in these digitally restored, fully relettered editions!
• Issue 1 includes material originally presented in WARRIOR #1 and MIRACLEMAN #1, plus the MARVELMAN PRIMER. Issue #2 includes material originally presented in WARRIOR #1-5, plus bonus material.
ISSUE #1 – 64 PGS./Parental Advisory…$5.99
ISSUE #2 – 48 PGS./Parental Advisory…$4.99
First off…holy crow, that’s a lotta variants.
Second, since Steve Dillon is mentioned as one of the included contributors, I think that means we are getting that previously-unreprinted story from Warrior #4.
Third, “The Original Writer” is what they’ll be calling Alan Moore on this, since Marvel is following Moore’s wishes not to associate his name with the work, I guess. There goes a major selling point to the uninitiated (though I imagine any comic fans with interest in this material pretty much already know).
Fourth…well, it looks like Marvel is depending on the reputation of the material to sell the books, what with a $5.99 debut issue that, if I’m interpreting things correctly, includes the redialogued classic Marvelman story that began the Eclipse Comics MM #1, the initial 8-page installment of Moore and Leach’s revival from Warrior, and your second chance to not read all that stuff from the Miracleman Primer you didn’t read in the first place. So, like, 18 pages of comics, and 46 pages of other stuff if, again, I’m understanding correctly. And I’m guessing the “material from Warrior #1″ business in issue #2 is a typo, since there ain’t that much MM stuff in Warrior #1 to begin with, unless they’re splitting an 8-page story across two issues of reprints.
At a $5.99 price point, that’s basically telling the reader who may have a casual interest to not bother. Modern comic fans aren’t necessarily going to dive into this long-unavailable comic simply because the names Moore and Gaiman are attached. (Well, not attached, in Moore’s case, but no media coverage of this comic is not going to mention him.) No matter how special and in how high of regard old fanboys like me who originally bought these comics way back when hold them, it’s still reprints of decades-old comics starring a superhero nobody’s heard of and featuring storytelling tropes that everyone’s seen by now and really why should I, a young, hip comic book reader who follows all two dozen Avengers titles done in the cool modern styles of today, bother to read this old thing just because Grandpa read it and liked it?
I exaggerate, but only a bit. I’ve already seen people expressing disinterest, folks who once enjoyed Moore’s and Gaiman’s work, now no longer so enthused about their output for whatever reasons. And I’ve seen people who might have tried out the comic decide to pass at the proffered price points, particularly since it seems these will be coming out at a more-than-monthly pace given the dual solicitation in a single month’s catalog. I would have loved to see an introductory issue at the promotional $1.00 price point — just comics, with maybe a minimal historical text piece, all killer, no filler — that could have grabbed a much larger base readership. A base that, having been exposed to the material, may be far more willing to follow along with the series at $3.99 per subsequent installment.
But instead we have $5.99 on #1, effectively capping the potential audience. There are the completists who’ll buy it regardless. There are the people who have genuine desire to finally own this material after hearing about it all these years. And there may even be some people who, despite Marvel’s best efforts to dissuade them, will pick up the first issue anyway out of curiosity. And those initial sales numbers will dwindle as the series progresses, until finally bumping up again as the new material finally appears in the series and all the original old Miracleman fans return to the book after previously having given up on rebuying comics they already owned.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope they do sell well. I love the old Eclipse Miracleman comics. I reread them every once in a while and they’re still as entertaining and fascinating to me now as they were when I first experienced them. And I’m really, genuinely happy that Miracleman will soon be available again for everyone to read. I’m simply hoping the strength and beauty, the joy and wonder, of the material can overcome the initial hobbling of its presentation.
Anyway, I’m sure these will eventually make a nice series of hardcovers. Assuming they don’t blow this “relettering” they keep ballyhooing.
As I briefly mentioned the other day, and I’m sure you’ve already had your fill of news about, Miracleman
is finally returning to print next year, eventually culminating in unpublished and new work by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham, who are going to continue from where they left off. The initial reports were a bit vague on what exactly was going to be reprinted, resulting in some necessary clarification
: they are
going to start the reprints with Alan Moore and Garry Leach’s initial revival of the character from the early issues of Warrior
, as reprinted by Eclipse in the 1980s.
That of course means those of us who’ve been waiting…hold on, let me look it up…oh Good Lord, since mid-1993 for a follow-up to that bit of a cliffhanger Neil ‘n’ Mark left us on in #24 are going to have to wait a little while longer to see how that all plays out.
Despite my wishful thinking on the Twitterers:
…it looks like we’re getting these Miracleman
comics doled out to us on a periodical basis, each issue containing some kind of new content so sad old MM completists like me will probably buy them all despite already having the originals because we’re suckers. And hopefully it’ll sell well enough from the get-go to eventually make it to the promised new material, as I suspect there may be some cases of newcomers to the work going “pfffft
THIS is what all the excitement’s about?” because they’ve been reading ripoffs and retreads of these stories for the last twenty years and now it’s all old hat to them.
On the other hand, maybe it won’t take that long to get through all the old stuff to reach the new stuff since, as I noted at the end of this post, Marvel ain’t shy about turning the faucets open all the way and flooding the shelves as quickly as they’re able with successive issues of any given series. So, 24 reprint issues before getting new Miracleman? Eh, ten, eleven months, tops.
Okay, technically 23 issues, since Eclipse’s #8 was a reprint issue, though with some new pin-ups and a brief framing sequence drawn by Chuck Austen (AKA Chuck Beckum). But then again, they could speed up the process by printing more stories per issue…the first seven issues of the Miracleman series featured stories told in 6 to 8 page chapters, mostly reprinted from the UK magazine Warrior (though some of the later chapters were drawn new from scripts that never made it into that magazine). And some of the follow-up “full-length” installments were only 16 pages long. I don’t know how economically feasible it is to put out a regular series of 48-pagers in order to squeeze in more material, nor do I think readers are going to want to pay the inevitable $4.99 to $6.99 per issue in order to subsidize the printing costs simply because I, your pal Mike, wants to get his filthy, filthy mitts on new Miracleman comics right this very second. I’ve seen it mentioned that the first issue includes material from Alan Davis, who didn’t start on the feature ’til its sixth chapter (which was reprinted in Eclipse MM #2) so maybe we are getting more miraclebang per buck in each issue. We’ll see.
Most likely Marvel will stretch things out best as they’re able, and there are a handful of shorter Miracleman-related stories to round out any 32-page format comics containing just one 16-page main story. Maybe we’ll even get that bit of business from Warrior #4 that never made it to the States. And of course there’s that “new material” and interviews and such that Marvel noted in their press releases that will probably fill up any shortfall in any given issue. They also mention “the stories are being completely relettered to meet today’s standards,” which gives me the twitchy eyeball, as I recall certain other publishers relettering some high-profile reprint projects and introducing a whole new world of lovely typos and spelling errors into some classic material. Here’s hoping there’s no editing-by-spellcheck goin’ on this time.
I do like the idea that they’re keeping the “Miracleman” name for this particular story started by Moore and (presumably) to be ended by Gaiman. I had assumed that the name change (originally necessitated by a U.S. publisher that wasn’t Marvel Comics reprinting the material) would be reversed now that Marvel does have the work under its banner, but it looks like they’re keeping the Miracleman name for this project, and “Marvelman” for when he’s in the actual Marvel Universe and joins the Thunderbolts or whatever. And I think that’s fine. It was pretty well known at the time that Eclipse had to change the character’s name to keep Marvel happy, but I came to know the feature as Miracleman, and it would feel strange to pick up the story again with his name changed back. Just one of those funny fanboy quirks, I know. Hey, I’m allowed one or two of those.
Of course, the Miracleman name could be a problem, too, if the publisher of this comic ever turns up with some ceasing-and-desisting.
image from Warrior #9 (January 1983) by Alan Moore and Alan Davis
images from Abbott & Costello #3 (1968) & Miracleman #1 (1985)
This black and white British magazine fits early into Alan Moore’s Marvelman/Miracleman continuity, after the events in “Zarathustra” (from Warrior
#11, reprinted in Miracleman
#3). A four page wraparound story, by Moore and Alan Davis, shows a two-man clean-up crew moving in to tidy up a secret government installation devastated by some Marvelman-created mayhem, and discovering a library of videotapes:
We then get a handful of original 1950s Marvelman stories from Mick Anglo’s studio, including “Invaders from the Future,” a rescripted version of which was used in Eclipse Comics’ Miracleman
#1 (providing an innocent contrast to the grim ‘n’ gritty revamp that followed, as well as simply introducing the character to an audience that may not have been familiar with it). In the context of the Moore’s modernization of the character, these are some of the falsified adventures used as “programming” for Marvelman and his superpowered compatriots.
Rounding out the mag is a story starring the more-lighthearted Big Ben character, which is also presented as a video being watched by the cleaning crew.
Eclipse Comics did reprint this special (sans the Big Ben story) as the Miracleman 3-D Special in 1985.
I acquired this particular magazine shortly after the launch of Eclipse’s Miracleman comic, as it had been sitting on the shelf at the comic store for several months and, being quite taken with the comic and character, finally decided I needed to have it. It’s been 25 years, so I don’t remember the exact timing, but I think I may have bought and read the magazine before the Eclipse reprints reached that point in continuity. It must have been a tantalizing glimpse of events yet to come, if in fact that was when I bought it. I do remember that owning this magazine is the reason I never bought the Miracleman 3-D Special, since, hey, I already had it, and didn’t need to wear the special glasses to read it.
Speaking of glimpses of things yet to come:
#4 contains the story “The Yesterday Gambit,” which is unique in that it’s the only Alan Moore Marvelman
story not (yet?) reprinted in the U.S. Also, it takes place much
later in Marvelman continuity, hinting at events that wouldn’t arrive in the Marvelman storyline for a few years to come. In fact, the original Marvelman
run in Warrior
would never reach that point…it wouldn’t until Eclipse Comics finished reprinting UK-published material and started running first run work created by Moore and his collaborators. Specifically, “The Yesterday Gambit” takes place during the events of issue #15, published in 1988. However, instead of reprinting the original story, Moore and artist John Totleben take a handful of panels to essentially retell that adventure’s events.
The story itself is about Marvelman and a Warpsmith (a teleporting alien) traveling through time and trying to find sufficient energy and power for their final battle against a reawakened and totally evil Kid Marvelman. This is where the “tantalizing glimpse” aspect of the story comes in, because if I’ve figured the timing right, this story basically interrupted the adventure in progress from previous issues of Warrior…which just happened to be Marvelman’s first clash with the corrupt Kid Marvelman.
In essence, Marvelman clashes with past versions of himself, which allows the Warpsmith to gather the energy from those battles to bring back with them to the Kid Marvelman battle in the future. You know, writing it all out like this sounds completely convoluted and just a little nuts, but it all works in context, I swear. Anyhoo, one battle is drawn by Paul Neary, the other by Alan Davis (his initial work on the character), and the framing sequence for the whole thing is by Steve Dillon. Here’s a panel from the end of the story by Dillon, where Marvelman and the Warpsmith have returned to their own time to resume the Kid Marvelman battle:
And the story ends right after that, leaving the fans hanging for six years. And you folks who read Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk
thought you had it bad
. Well, you did
, but not for reasons of delay. Er, anyway.
I didn’t buy Warrior #4 in the shop…I wasn’t even aware* that there was an unreprinted Moore Marvelman story until relatively recently, so I had to depend on the eBay to bring it to me. And I’m not bothering with the usual Amazon links on this, since I didn’t find Warrior after spending, oh, a whole 30 seconds looking for it, and the Special is under a handful of different names at prices ranging from $35 to (egads) $90. I paid $2 for mine, which is probably about right. And if you have to have the story, the U.S. 3D version should be relatively inexpensive. Oh, and I paid around $9, including shipping, for the Warrior mag, in case you’re wondering. And I know you are!
* Or perhaps forgotten, because now that I think about it, it may have come up in the letters page at some point, and I’d just forgotten about it as the years passed and Miracleman remained a defunct title out of sight, out of mind.
Just thinking about that for some reason.
So, anyway, some bits of business from San Diego:
- As you’ve probably heard, Marvel Comics has acquired the publishing rights to Marvelman, which is kind of a big deal considering the convoluted ownership history of the character. Steve Bissette has a great run-down of just how much of a mess that history is. As Steve says, and as Alan Doane noted in that post of his I linked yesterday, this deal may not necessarily guarantee the release of what everyone actually wants: the Marvelman revival material from the ’80s (released as Miracleman by Eclipse Comics). Mark Buckingham, the series’ last artist, seems pretty upbeat about it, so we’ll see. I’m presuming Marvel didn’t go through the trouble just to have more 1950s material to put into expensive hardcover editions. Now wouldn’t that be a bit of ironic repeating of history? It would be like what happened with Miracleman #8 (where we waited what seemed like forever for the next chapter of the story, and got reprints instead), writ large.
Anyway, what I wanted to mention was some of the online reaction to the news, a lot of which was along the lines of “so what?” “Who cares?” Or my favorite, “Yawn.” I don’t know, I think the possibility of the return to print of early comics work by Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman is kind of a big deal. Particularly a work as influential and as highly-regarded as Marvelman (which, I swear to God, I still keep calling Miracleman when I talk about this news at the shop, and keep wanting to type that name here as well). And, as Mr. Bissette mentioned, that John Totleben’s artistic tour-de-force that accompanied Moore’s final storyline is out of print is a damned shame.
Should also note that Marvel wasted no time, in that they’re already selling the “MM” t-shirts in their online store, and soliciting orders for a Joe Quesada-drawn poster.
- DC Comics has apparently nailed down the publishing rights to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, which had its own ownership rights issues throughout the ’80s, when it seemed like a half-dozen different companies all tried to claim the property. Kind of curious how the current audience will respond to these characters. Marvelman, at least the ’80s version, features Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, which would help sell those comics to a modern audience. The appeal of the original T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is that they were of outstanding quality, with work by many an amazing artist (Wally Wood, Russ Heath, Steve Ditko, many more). And it didn’t hurt that there weren’t too many ofthem, so they were relatively easy to collect. For most fans today (unless they’re old enough to have nostalgia for the originals, or they’ve picked up on the characters via back issue collecting, or they encountered them during the various ’80s revivals), introducing these characters outside of the context of those original comics would just mean “hey, look, more guys in costumes.”
I suspect DC already realizes that (given that they plan to reintroduce the characters in other DC Universe books) but I’m still curious how it’ll play out.
- The biggest news from the convention, however, is Fantagraphics announcing the Complete Bushmiller NANCY reprint project. Judging by the number of people who’ve left comments about it on my site, e-mailed me, or even linked to me in their own announcements about the project, folks are assuming that I would be happy about this turn of events.
My response was pretty much exactly like that, only I was wearing a shorter skirt.
- A couple more collections of Flickr pics from San Diego: Kevin Church brings the black and white, and pal Dana is cosplay ahoy! in her photos: here she is totally ready to exterminate you.
- So enough about the San Diego convention…it’s now all about Bully Con 2009!
In more commercial news, that new Green Lantern: First Flight
animated DVD is out today, and if you plan on buying it, how ’bout using one of these links:
Green Lantern: First Flight (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Green Lantern: First Flight (+ Digital Copy) [Blu-ray]
Green Lantern: First Flight (Single-Disc Edition)
…and help a pal out? I’ll get a smidgen of coinage from each purchase via those links, and every little bit helps. Thanks! (I should be viewing a copy soon, so hopefully I’ll have some kind of review up eventually.)