The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Nineteen.

§ August 23rd, 2023 § Filed under final countdown, miraclemarvelman § 23 Comments

So next up on the ol’ Final ’80s Countdown, the following three-vote getter:

Miracleman (Eclipse Comics 1985-1993)

Hoo boy, where do I even start? Well, technically, I’ve started already, as I’ve got a whole category on this very site talking about Miracleman and its long history and hiatus and revival and hiatus again and revival again. Well, talking, and whatever this is.

Anyway, let me give you a very brief rundown. A British publisher, L. Miller and Son, had rights to publish Captain Marvel (the Shazam! one) stories in the UK, until Fawcett Comics stopped publishing them in the 1950s. However, L. Miller and presumably also the Son were having good sales on these comics, and had Mick Anglo rework the Shazam! Family of characters into the hopefully-lawsuit-avoiding-but-similar Marvelman Family. This revamped series ran though the early 1960s.

In 1982, the character was revived for the British comics anthology magazine Warrior in its first issue. The creative team, Alan Moore and Garry Leach, took an “adult” and “realistic” approach to Marvelman, addressing the clichés and tropes of the superhero genre in a form familiar to anyone who’s read Watchmen and pretty much anything else that was inspired by Marvelman.

Did I say brief? I’m trying, honest. So in 1985 Eclipse Comics got the rights to reprint the Marvelman stories in the U.S., with the minor problem of a little company named Marvel Comics possibly not being amused by another publishr using “Marvel” in a comics title. Hence, the change to “Miracleman,” the name by which the character has been known ’round the colonies ever since. (With a few exceptions, I’ll tell you in a moment.)

That run from Eclipse was 24 issues, which reprinted nearly all from Warrior magazine (save for one short story) by Leach and Alan Davis. That was followed with new material, illustrated by Chuck Austen, Rick Veitch, and John Totleben. Moore departs with #16, and the remainder of the run is by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham.

And then Eclipse went out of business and Miracleman went into limbo and there all sorts of questions of who owned what (with Todd McFarlane believing he owned the character at one point, and attempted to integrate the character into his Spawn comics as well as releasing some limited merchandise).

Eventually things get as straightened oout as they’ll ever be, and Marvel, ironically enough I suppose, now owns the rights to the character. They kicked off their reign with reprints of original Marvelman material from the ’50s, before launching into reprints of the Eclipse run. The promise was that after the reprints concluded, Gaiman and Buckingham would be back to continue the story. Well, technically they did, I suppose, though the reprints ended in 2016 and the new Miracleman stories would not appear until very late in 2022.

Now don’t shout at me if I missed anything…I’m sure I left a bit out of the character’s compliated publishing path. The Wikipedia entry gives a more complete overview (though it notes complaints about the “birth issue” were mainly in fanzines, without noting a particular distributor was certainly not pleased about it).

There was also a mini-series Eclipse released called Miracleman Family, reprinting ’50s material, as well as Miracleman: Apocrypha, a three-issue mini featuring new short stories by various creators. Eclipse also released the Miracleman 3D one-shot, reprinting the UK Marvelman Special, which was a new Moore/Davis framing sequence around more ’50s Marvelman reprints.

Marvel also had some extra material outside the main story, once it got its mitts on the property, with a couple of annuals, Apocrypha-style, with new stories by other creators.

And one should also probably note, once Gaiman and Buckingham were back doing new issues, Buckingham went back and redrew the previous two issues with parts one and two of “The Silver Age” before moving on to the never-before seen story in #3.

Granted, it’s been a little bit since the latest issue of the new Miracleman comics (last one released early May), but at least something has come out after such a long drought. I mean, how many comic book series have had a hiatus of nearly three decades and come back with the same creative team? Not a whole lot, I’m guessing.

Now, what’s the best way to read all this mess? With the Eclipse comics, I’d say…the original comics is the best way, if you can get your hands on them. Or the trade paperbacks released by Eclipse, which I believe reprint through issue #22. There is an Apocrypha trade as well. The problem with any of these options is that they can be a bit on the pricy side. Even Apocrypha is slowly getting up there, after years of being a cheapie (and not yet having been reprinted by Marvel, near as I can tell).

Best bet for an “affordable” version…Marvel had individual collections for the material, which in typical Marvel form are all out of print (save for a volume reprinting all of “The Golden Age” segment, Gaiman and Buckingham’s opening chapters, plus a back-up from Total Eclipse). There is a Miracleman Omnibus with all the material prior to that, including a “Warpsmith” story from the A1 anthology.

If you’re going to read the comic book versions of Marvel’s reprints, keep in mind that Miracleman #14 (2005) had a drastic printing error that Marvel never bothered to fix in the periodical format, but hopefully got right in its trades.

For sampling the earlier material released in England, try the Marvel Tales: Miracleman which includes stuff from Warrior, among other sources.

Okay, I talked a lot about where you can read it and how it came out, but is it all worth it? I would say…yes, yes indeed. It was going the superhero “deconstruction” thing back when it was still a fresh idea, and it’s filled with wonderful and bizarre concepts and new takes on an old genre. (It should be noted that it’s been said that the novel Superfolks has had a strong influence on this series, and other works of Moore’s.) It blew my mind as a young Mikester, and it definitely helped steer where things were going in the comics industry at the time.

I shouldn’t let pass the fact that Marvel, despite being, you know, in charge of the Marvel brand (well, okay, Disney actually is, but go with me here), still kept the name “Miracleman” on the revived series. I suspect very much it’s to keep the very not-Marvel-House-Style-y version of the character as its own separate thing, leaving the company free to introduce its own separate version of the character into the Marvel Universe proper with the less-burdened moniker of “Marvelman.” This feels like what’s going on with the DC Rebirth one-shot-esque revelation at the end of this State of the Marvel Universe special Timeless that M(something)man is going to pop up eventually.

Now I’ve joked that this particular revelation could point at the fact that, following “The Golden Age” and “The Silver Age” Miracleman chapters, we could get from Gaiman and Buckingham “The Marvel Age,” with MM fighting Galactus or Stilt-Man or whoever. If this were the case, I would find myself in the very peculiar state of being simultaneously extremely pissed off and supremely delighted.

But no, I’m guessing we’re getting a Marvelman event in the Marvel Universe entirely aside from the Miraclman thing. Which leaves us with the question of which name will they use for the eventual Marvel movie that will underperform?

I’m getting off-track here. Miracleman was a great comic that I think holds up even today. It’s very early Alan Moore, with some clunky writing at times, but still exciting and compelling. And Gaiman and Buckingham’s follow-up material, picking up from a very definitive conclusion by Moore and Totleben, remains wondrous and fascinating. If you were turned off from reading the series because of Marvel’s initial terrible handling of the material (with overpriced comics stuffed with unwanted material padding out the few pages of interest), give the collected books a go.

(And I didn’t mention it, but you guys probably will if I dont, but Moore had his name removed from Marvel’s reprints, and it was replaced with “The Original Writer.” And lo, there was much frivolity when this was revealed. Look, Moore’s not a big man of Marvel, he could have said “no” to having his stuff reprinted at all, so I’m just glad the material’s available in the first place.)

23 Responses to “The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Nineteen.”

  • Tom W says:

    Have to admit that Miracleman didn’t even occur to me as an independent comic, familiar as I am with it from the British end. I don’t blame Marvel for not changing the name back – nobody remembers the original Marvelman comics, not even in Britain, and even in the new incarnation it’s been Miracleman far longer than it’s been Marvelman – but I can’t forgive them for how they’ve handled the reprints. I have most of the series in Eclipse comics but the first book-and-a-half only in the original B&W Warriors, so I’d absolutely buy an omnibus of the Original Writer’s run if it were reasonably priced. But instead Marvel, as they did with the hardbacks reprinting the first three books, stuffed them with reprints of the art pages in black and white just to inflate the page count enough to justify charging a premium.

    All the Alan Moore stuff, including Warpsmith and the other offcuts, would fit easily into one hardback. It would sell, perhaps even to the audience that buys Watchmen and V. But instead it’s the short-term cash grab again and again.

    (Wrote a bunch about Miracleman when I used to have a blog, here:

  • Oliver says:

    This character’s convoluted legal and copyright history could fill quite a tome! Suffice to say his name is ‘Marvelman’ whatever the lawyers say, and I was left with no desire to continue once Moore and Totleben — the only artist able to rival Leach’s version — left.

  • Chris Gumprich says:

    Good old Marvelman. Has any character been involved with as many lawsuits?

    I picked up the first ten issues of the Eclipse run from the quarter bins in the mid-nineties. By that time the “grim and gritty” era was in full swing, but these stories still read like something different.

  • Cassandra Miller says:

    I had a point where I was having trouble getting comics around the Spring this year…did the last issue of The Silver Age ever actually come out? Did I miss it?

  • Thom H. says:

    So many thoughts…

    @Cassandra: You haven’t missed anything. In fact, they’ve extended the Silver Age to 7 issues. Number 6 is currently scheduled to publish at the end of Sept and #7 at the end of Oct. They’ve been drifting on the publishing schedule for a while, though, so I assume that’s just an estimate.

    “with overpriced comics stuffed with unwanted material padding out the few pages of interest”

    This is still happening, just with reprints of old MM family adventures instead of pages and pages of pencils and sketches. I mean, $5 for 16 pages of new Gaiman/Buckingham material seems a little steep to me.

    AND YET, I’m super excited that they’re completing their run, partly because we’ve waited so long and I’m a die-hard collector, partly because Buckingham’s redrawn issues are absolutely beautiful, and partly because the story is going some very interesting places. So maybe it’s worth it after all? I guess I do keep buying each individual issue as it’s released…

    Here’s hoping we get the rest of the Silver Age and the entire Dark Age sometime before…2030, maybe? I don’t care what they do with the character beyond that, but it would be so lovely to have the original plan for MM completed at some point.

  • Remco says:

    And to make the story even more confusing: Miracle Man was originally Mick Anglo’s rip-off of his own Marvelman, made for the Spanish market, then repurposed for the UK again..

  • Daniel T says:

    There is a paperback of the original material coming out in a month–$50 retail without all the extraneous matter in the omnibus. I would have bought this instead of the omni.

  • Joe Gualtieri says:

    There is a book on the whole Marvelman saga, written by Pádraig Ó Méalóid. It collects columns he wrote over a number of years. It was available on Amazon, but now looks like it’s just print on demand.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “another publishr”

    Dang publishrs!

    “Todd McFarlane believing he owned the character at one point”

    i imagine he believes all kinds of silly things.

    “They kicked off their reign with reprints of original Marvelman material from the ’50s”

    Was there any REAL dmand for THAT material? What little I’ve seen of the old stuff looked pretty DATED.

    ” Marvel’s initial terrible handling of the material (with overpriced comics stuffed with unwanted material padding out the few pages of interest),”

    That nonsense kept me from even CONSIDERING buying it.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @ Snark Shark

    I totally agree!

    I would like to track down all of the Alan Moore run that Eclipse Comics published again. I had most of them back in the day. That and “V” for Vendetta…

    How does Gaiman’s run compare to Moore’s?

  • Tom W says:

    Daniel T: That paperback is great news, I shall be buying it. Finally all Miracleman in one place without the bullshit. Which apparently took up about 336 pages…

    Anyone asking how the Gaiman run holds up, The Golden Age is fantastic. It’s almost like a writing exercise to see how many individual issues you can spin out of a single sentence in MM #16, but each one is so brilliantly done, each with its own unique style by Buckingham, all sounding the same background note of disquiet. The Silver Age is less successful so far, but I’ve waited more than half my life, I’m not going to give up now.

  • Thom H. says:

    The Gaiman run so far has been much quieter than the Moore run. Gaiman is more interested in exploring the consequences of utopia, less in combat and horror.


    I’d say the Silver Age has built really successfully on the Golden Age. All of the problems that were “out there” among the general populace in the GA are now coming home to roost.

    The GA might have more “wow” moments in terms of technique (both writing and art), but the SA is slowly bringing the thematic concerns to a boil, which is exciting.

  • ScienceGiant says:

    I forget where I read it, but a commentator offered a great insight on the failing of SA. As written, it’s a conversation between 1993 and 1963. And why that’s wrong is that it needs to be a conversation between 2023 and 1993.

  • Brad Walker says:

    Probably no one here remembers the parody book “7 Guys of Justice.” Their last issue, #13, was pretty much the history of Marvelman done satirically.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @ Tom W and Thom H

    Thanks for sone insight into the Gaiman run as compared to the Moore run.

    Here’s a link for Cartoonist Kayfabe episode from today about professionally bound copies of Miracleman…pretty neat!

  • Thom H. says:

    @Sean: That book is beautiful! Now the insane collector in me is making a list of series to commission bespoke bindings of.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @Thom H.

    I’m curious to know what would be your top 5 series you would want Bespoke Bindings to bind?

  • Thom H. says:

    Since you asked…

    1. New Mutants #1-21 + graphic novel (Claremont/McLeod/Buscema/Sienkiewicz)

    2. Silver Age Superman/Lois Lane/Jimmy Olsen/LoSH: all stories and covers drawn by Curt Swan and Otto Binder

    3. From Hell: B&W version (Moore/Campbell)

    4. Mister Miracle/Strange Adventures flipbook (King/Gerads/Shaner)

    5. Silver Age Doom Patrol (Drake/Premiani)

    I picked longer runs to justify the binding of a large book. And I tried not to be repetitive, but I could definitely stick Uncanny X-Men and Alpha Flight on that list.

    How about you?

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @Thom H.

    That was an interesting and eclectic list!

    I’ve been trying to pick up as many Silver Age Doom Patrol issues as I can when the price is right, so I could also see wanting a bound version of those, including their My Greatest Adventure stories.

    I’ve also always been a fan of the Silver and early Bronze Age Nick Cardy Teen Titans, so I’d probably go for that…maybe including the first Robin, Aqualad,and Kid Flash team up from Brave and the Bold, and the two Teen Titans stories from Showcase and Brave and the Bold. Possibly I’d even throw in the late ’70s revival issues.

    I loved the Micronauts, especially the first 12 issues by Mantlo and Golden…so, probably the complete Micronauts, the first series.

    Probably the complete Roger McKenzie and Frank Miller and Klaus Janson Daredevil run.

    I think a bound Jim Starlin book of his ’70s Marvel work would be cool … Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Adam Warlock, plus the Marvel Two-in-One Annual and Avengers Annual, etc.

    And I love Jim Aparo’s Brave and the Bold art, so, probably all the Aparo B & B starring Batman and company.

  • Thom H. says:

    @Sean: Those are some good choices. I love that comics — and even superhero comics — is a big enough playing field that we all share knowledge about it but have completely different “go to” series. I’ve read very little of what you listed, but now I want to.

    Thanks for the prompt — it was a fun exercise!

  • Snark Shark says:

    “1. New Mutants #1-21 + graphic novel”

    But those 2 were different formats! *brain explodes*

    “I think a bound Jim Starlin book of his ’70s Marvel”

    There are a couple TPBs w/ Starlin stuff published by Marvel, several years ago. You might be able to still find them.

  • MixMat says:

    I might be the only one here who prefers SA(current version, didn’t have enough to judge/much of a concrete opinion back in the day on just 2 issues of then-SA) to GA. The regurgitation/getting into the weeds of the minutae of the original writer’s details of the post-Muracle world left me feeling it was disjointed from Olympus’ heights(pun unintended, but I’ll own it).

    The unrelated until the last of 6 issues of GS just wasn’t it for me, while SA (at least this time around, I don’t think I had the same opinion first time around) felt more of a continuation-since Dicky, Mike(or Miracleman) and Avril(or Miraclewoman) are at least featured characters in SA, instead of just cameos.

    Maybe I just didn’t know how to appreciate Gaiman’s writing back then. I didn’t pick up Sandman or Black Orchid or Books of Magic back then either(though I did borrow <quite against the owner's wishes if he had known I'd done so at the time,I got quite a look from him when he realised I'd borrowed them when I returned the comics to him-it was only 3 issues as I remember: the interstitial ones between game of you and brief lifes[or last issues of game & 2 of convergence{?}. Anyway it led me to buying Sandman until 75 and the dreaming for at least a few issues later on.i went for every signing G did I could get to in S.E.A. in the '00s that he did(until he became a real world superstar with his novels/Nevertheless and he hasn't made an appearance hereabouts AFAICT.)

    TLDR: I didn't appreciate Gaiman and Bucky's MM then or since(at least not GA) I love SA(current version) for forwarding the Miracleworld story (and it's focus on the purported title-related characters, hey its Young Miracleman-so I'm counting it ok; the GA focus on ancillary characters just wasn't it, at least for me-not after the highs of Olympus <I kind of understand it literarily {now at least, or subconsciously back then} but I still don't have the right appreciation for GA. I loved Apocrypha though-that's where non-MM focused stories belonged, I feel.

  • Thom H. says:

    @MixMat: I agree. I think the growing dissatisfaction with the new utopia had to be set up in Golden Age with non-marquee characters for us to really appreciate the scope of the problem. But it’s really satisfying to see the flaws in the system reach Olympus. I assume the Dark Age is going to push things even further and we’ll see a full-on crisis befall the Miracleman family.