Marvelman, also known as Miracleman, is a fictional superhero appearing in comic books first published by L. Miller & Son, Ltd. Marvelman was created in 1954 by writer-artist Mick Anglo for publisher L. Miller & Son originally as a United Kingdom home-grown substitute for the American character Captain Marvel. The original series ran until 1963. It was revived in 1982 in a dark, post-modern reboot by writer Alan Moore, with later contributions by Neil Gaiman.
The Mick Anglo yearsIn 1953, the American company Fawcett Comics, which was the U.S. publisher of Captain Marvel, discontinued the title because of a lawsuit from DC Comics. Len Miller and his company L. Miller & Son, Ltd. had been publishing black and white reprints of the series, along with other Fawcett titles, in the UK. Rather than stopping, he turned to comic packager Mick Anglo for help continuing or replacing the comic. They transformed Captain Marvel into Marvelman while Miller continued his other Fawcett reprint titles and used logos and trademarks that looked significantly like Fawcett's. This added to the appearance that the Fawcett line was continuing, and that Marvelman was still Captain Marvel, in order to retain the audience.
Marvelman was similar to Captain Marvel: a young reporter named Micky Moran encounters an astrophysicist, instead of a wizard, who gives him superpowers based on atomic energy instead of magic. To transform into Marvelman, he speaks the word "Kimota", which is phonetically "atomic" backwards, rather than "Shazam". Instead of Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel, Marvelman was joined by Dicky Dauntless, a teenage messenger boy who became Young Marvelman, and young Johnny Bates, who became Kid Marvelman; both of their magic words were "Marvelman".
Captain Marvel #19 and Captain Marvel, Jr. #19 announced the forthcoming replacement of these heroes, and with issue number 25 of each title, both cover-dated 3 February 1954, they were retitled as Marvelman and Young Marvelman. Marvelman Family was added to the lineup two years later. Among the studio artists Anglo assembled to produce the comics were Denis Gifford and Don Lawrence. Marvelman and Young Marvelman each had 346 issues, published weekly, except for the final 36 issues, which were monthly, reprinting old stories. Marvelman Family was a monthly that usually featured Marvelman, Young Marvelman and Kid Marvelman together, from October 1956 to November 1959. A variety of Marvelman and Young Marvelman albums were printed annually from 1954 to 1963.
Mick Anglo's association with Len Miller ended in 1960. A disgruntled Anglo then recycled some of his Marvelman stories as Captain Miracle, published under his Anglo Comics imprint, which folded in 1961. Anglo always claimed ownership of Marvelman and although creator's rights were almost unheard of in the British comics industry of the 1950s and 1960s, at least some of Anglo's Marvelman stories do have a tiny "© Mick Anglo" in the margins, lending a measure of credibility to Anglo's claim.
At the height of their success, the British "Marvels" saw a series of Italian reprints. Gordon and Gotch, one of Australia's largest comics publishers, also published reprint editions. In Brazil, British Marvelman stories were reprinted in the same titles as Fawcett's original Captain Marvel. However, in Brazil, Marvelman became Jack Marvel.
Though the Marvelman titles were successful for a considerable time, this changed abruptly in 1959 when changes in British law allowed comics to be imported from the United States. The black-and-white Marvelman books were unable to compete with the full color imports, forcing Miller to cancel Marvelman Family, downgrade the other two titles to monthly status, and use reprinted adventures for their content. The two series survived until 1963, when Miller ceased publication and filed for bankruptcy.
The Alan Moore years
Marvelman (in ''Warrior'')In March 1982, a new British monthly black-and-white anthology comic was launched, called Warrior. Editor/publisher Dez Skinn had decided from the beginning to revive Marvelman as one of these features, explaining, "It was always going to be Marvelman. I knew the character’s history: I’d had a few Annuals as a kid and those cheap and nasty little comics. Wasn’t particularly thrilled with them, outside of occasional stunning art, but I’d always had a soft spot for Mick Anglo... So, given the difference between a brand-new character who would sell no more copies, or a somewhat forgotten character who might sell about a dozen more, I opted to follow the similar relaunch I’d done with Captain Britain—tease at first, then, as a bonus, surprise those who actually cared. If it failed, it was only six pages out of 52—the beauty of the anthology approach." Skinn's first two choices to write Marvelman were Steve Parkhouse and Steve Moore. Both expressed a lack of interest, and when Moore told Skinn that his friend Alan Moore would "give his eye teeth" to write Marvelman, Skinn agreed to let him submit a pitch for the series. Skinn's first picks for artist were Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland, but again both declined, leaving Skinn to reluctantly give the assignment to Garry Leach, the one artist he could find with interest in the project. Leach used actor Paul Newman as the model for his rendition of Marvelman.
Warrior featured a new, darker version of Marvelman, written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Garry Leach, and lettered by Annie Parkhouse. In the first issue of Warrior, Michael Moran is presented as married, plagued by migraines, having dreams of flying, and unable to remember a 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.
Warrior published a Marvelman Special collecting Mick Anglo stories within a frame story by Moore. The former Atlas Comics, renamed Marvel Comics shortly before the original Marvelman was cancelled, objected to the use of the word Marvel in the series title. This was used as the publisher's official explanation for why Marvelman ended on a cliffhanger with Warrior #21 while the anthology itself went on for another five issues, but the actual reason was a series of bitter financial arguments between Skinn and Moore. With the series discontinued, Skinn licensed the material to American publishers, first to Pacific Comics, and after Pacific's collapse, to Eclipse Comics.
Name change to MiraclemanIn August 1985, Eclipse began reprinting the Marvelman stories from Warrior, coloured, and re-sized. They were renamed and re-lettered throughout as Miracleman to avoid further problems with Marvel Comics. Issues 1–6 reprinted all the Warrior content, after which Eclipse began publishing new Miracleman stories from Moore and new artist Chuck Beckum, soon replaced by Rick Veitch and then John Totleben. Eclipse split the rights to the character, with 2/3 going to Eclipse and 1/3 split between the current writer and artist of the series. Moore wrote the series until issue 16.
A glimpse of how Moore originally meant the story to continue is presented in Warrior issue 4, which features Marvelman and Aza Chorn gathering energy for the final battle with Kid Marvelman.
Miracleman: The Neil Gaiman yearsMiracleman was a featured character in the mini-series Total Eclipse. A short story by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham appeared in Total Eclipse #4, making it Gaiman's first published Miracleman story. This story was reprinted in issue #21 and in "The Golden Age" trade paperback.
Gaiman and Buckingham picked up the series at #17, which was published in June 1990. Three volumes were planned, consisting of six issues each: "The Golden Age," "The Silver Age" and "The Dark Age."
"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, and several duplicates 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 Eclipse went bankrupt in 1994, ceasing publication of Miracleman with issue #24. Issue #25 was completed, but never published. Gaiman had approved a spin-off series called Miracleman: Triumphant which was written by Fred Burke, penciled by Mike Deodato Jr and inked by Jason Temujin Minor. Most of the first issue of Miracleman: Triumphant was complete and ready for printing, and the second was scripted, but like Miracleman #25 the two issues remained in publishing limbo after Eclipse collapsed. #23 and #24 saw the resurrection of Young Miracleman and described the beginnings of trouble in Miracleman's idyllic world. A few pages of issue #25 were leaked to various websites, and appeared in George Khoury's book Kimota! The Miracleman Companion. "The Dark Age" would have seen the full return of Kid Miracleman and completed the story.
Ownership battleIn 1996, Todd McFarlane purchased Eclipse's creative assets, including the purported Miracleman rights, for a total of $25,000.
In 2001, McFarlane said that he owned all rights related to Miracleman, dismissing Neil Gaiman's claims of co-ownership, and announced that the character would appear in Hellspawn. McFarlane introduced Mike Moran in Hellspawn #6, with the alleged intention of returning Miracleman himself in Hellspawn #13. McFarlane included Miracleman in his section of what was then the long-delayed Image 10th Anniversary Book. He released a Miracleman cold-cast statue as well as a scale action figure that was partnered with Spawn in a San Diego Comicon exclusive two-pack. It had been McFarlane's intention to use the character in his core title. Since the Hardcover story became a direct tie-in to the events of Spawn #150 and beyond, Miracleman was changed into a mysterious new character known as the Man of Miracles. His appearance as Miracleman is explained by Man of Miracles' ability to shape-shift and the fact that people see him as they wish.
In 2001, Gaiman formed Marvels and Miracles LLC, a company whose goal was to clear up the ownership of Miracleman long-term. In 2002 Gaiman sued McFarlane over his unauthorised use of Miracleman and the characters he had created for Spawn. According to Gaiman, the evidence presented in the course of the lawsuit revealed that the rights for Miracleman were not included in McFarlane's purchase of Eclipse Comics assets. Also in 2002, Gaiman wrote the 1602 series for Marvel. Gaiman's profits from this series went to Marvels and Miracles LLC to aid his legal fight over Miracleman. Gaiman's dedication in the collected editions of 1602 reads, in part, "To Todd, for making it necessary".
It emerged in 2009 that original creator Mick Anglo had retained the rights to Marvelman from the beginning, meaning that the purchase of those rights by Quality Communications, Eclipse and McFarlane was illegitimate.
At the San Diego Comic Con in 2009, Marvel Comics announced they had purchased the rights to Marvelman, "one of the most important comic book characters in decades", from Mick Anglo. In June 2010, a "Marvelman Classic Primer" one-shot was published, featuring new art and interviews with Mick Anglo and others involved in Marvelman's history. In July 2010, a new ongoing series called Marvelman Family’s Finest launched reprinting "Marvelman’s greatest adventures." A hardcover reprint edition, Marvelman Classic Vol. 1, was released in August 2010. These reprints contain only early material. Alan Moore has stated that he would donate some of his royalties from any Marvel reprints of his Marvelman stories to Mick Anglo.
Marvel ComicsAt New York Comic Con 2013, Marvel announced that they had solidified their rights to Miracleman and that Neil Gaiman would finish the story he had started 25 years earlier. The series adopted a giant-sized format, with each issue containing a reprint of the corresponding issue of the Eclipse Comics series, reprints of select Mick Anglo Marvelman stories, and non-fiction material such as essays, photos and Marvelman design sketches. The first issue, reprinting the recolored and relettered stories from Warrior #1 & 2/Miracleman #1, was released on January 15, 2014.
The reprints continued, collecting remastered and recolored work of the original run, with hardcover collections following. In September 2014 the first new Miracleman material under the Marvel Comics banner was announced. Featuring a 'lost' story by Grant Morrison that he wrote in the 1980s, and drawn by Joe Quesada, it was joined by a brand new story by Peter Milligan and Mike Allred.
The reprints proceeded through #16 when the series was retitled Miracleman: The Golden Age which reprinted issues 17–22. Miracleman by Gaiman & Buckingham: The Silver Age issues 1 to 3 were announced for release in 2017 but those solicitations were cancelled shortly thereafter. At the 2018 San Diego Comic Con at a retailer only event Marvel announced legal hurdles causing the cancellation had been resolved and the new series was supposed to begin publication in 2019 with the previously announced creative team of Gaiman and Buckingham on board. As of February 2020, however, the new series had not yet appeared nor have any issues of it been solicited.
Fictional character biography
Alan Moore versionMichael Moran is working as a freelance reporter when he gets caught up in a terrorist raid on a new atomic power plant. Seeing the word "atomic" backwards while he was 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, and explains to his wife Liz that he lost his memories when all of the Marvelman family were caught in an atomic explosion. Marvelman's reappearance catches the attention of Johnny Bates, who not only survived, but lived on with his memories and superpowers intact. Bates, however, was corrupted by his power and became a sociopath. After a brutal confrontation, Kid Marvelman says his magic word 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 falls 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 the 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 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's revealed that Liz had conceived a child with Marvelman, which has the potential of being the first naturally-born superhuman on Earth.
In issue #21 of Warrior, Moran meets his dream-world nemesis Dr. Gargunza. 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 UK around 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 is transferred as well. After the project's cancellation, Gargunza escaped to South America where he developed bio-technology weapons such as "Marveldog". It's 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 host his own consciousness.
Moran's daughter is born in Miracleman #9 ; two races of aliens, one called Warpsmiths, the other called Qys come to Earth; Miraclewoman emerges; and certain native super-humans are revealed to already be living on Earth, such as Firedrake.
Now out of his catatonia, the small and spindly Johnny Bates is repeatedly beaten by older bullies at his group home. When one of them goes so far as to try to rape him, Johnny transforms into Kid Miracleman and unleashes a murderous holocaust on London. When the Miracles discover what is happening, they and their alien allies collectively challenge Bates. One of the Warpsmiths, Aza Chorn, realizes that they cannot go through Bates' personal force field, and instead teleports some wreckage into his body, forcing him to transform into his mortal form to escape the horrific pain. His rampage is stopped, but Bates kills Aza Chorn as his last act. Unwilling to risk another chance for repeating this horror and out of mercy for his former charge, 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, Aza Chorn lies dead, and the world now knows that gods walk among them.
Moore's last issue, number 16 ends with a 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 will ultimately be harmful to mankind. The issue ends with Miracleman sitting in Aza Chorn Memorial Park, thinking about everything that has happened in his life up to this point and wondering if he has done the right thing.
Neil Gaiman's run begins with issue #17.
Alternative versionsAn alternative version of Marvelman is seen in the British comic The Daredevils #7 in the Captain Britain story. Actually called Miracleman, he is killed by the Fury. His junior partner, named 'Rick' and never explicitly identified as Young Miracleman, is married to that world's Captain Britain. Rick is seen to be killed by the Fury, but is rescued by Roma.
The A1 Sketchbook, released in late 2004 by Atomeka Press, included four Miracleman-related pin-ups by original Miracleman artist Garry Leach. A variant of the sketchbook was also produced, with a "Miracleman" front cover and "Kid Miracleman" back cover by Leach.
Collected editionsAs of August 2010, Marvel has started reprinting the original Mick Anglo Marvelman stories, beginning with the character's first appearance in issue #25.
- Marvelman Classic Hardcover Vol. 1, by Mick Anglo. Collects Marvelman issues 25, 27–34.
- *Hardcover: Marvel Comics, 2010..
- Miracleman Book One: A Dream of Flying, by Alan Moore, Garry Leach, Alan Davis. Collects Miracleman issues 1–3,.
- *Paperback: Eclipse Books, 1990..
- *Hardcover: Eclipse Books, 1990..
- Miracleman Book Two: The Red King Syndrome, by Alan Moore, Alan Davis, John Ridgeway, Chuck Beckum, Rick Veitch. Collects Miracleman issues 4–6, and Miracleman issues 7, 9, and 10. .
- *Paperback: Eclipse Books, 1990..
- *Hardcover: Eclipse Books, 1991..
- Miracleman Book Three: Olympus, by Alan Moore and John Totleben. Collects issues 11–16.
- *Paperback: Eclipse Books, 1991..
- *Hardcover: Eclipse Books, 1991..
- Miracleman Book Four: The Golden Age, by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham. Collects issues 17–22, but does not contain the "Retrieval" storyline published in those issues.
- *Paperback: Eclipse Books, 1992..
- *Paperback: HarperCollins, 1993..
- Miracleman: Apocrypha, by various.
- *Paperback: Eclipse Books, 1992..
- Miracleman Book One: A Dream of Flying, by Alan Moore, Mick Anglo, Garry Leach, Alan Davis, Steve Dillon. Collects Miracleman issues 1–4.
- * Hardcover: Marvel Comics, 2014..
- Miracleman Book Two: The Red King Syndrome, by Alan Moore, Chuck Austen, Rick Veitch, John Totleben. Collects Miracleman issues 5–10.
- * Hardcover: Marvel Comics, 2014..
- Miracleman Book Three: Olympus, by Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Peter Milligan, John Totleben, Joe Quesada, Mike Allred. Collects Miracleman issues 11–16, Miracleman Annual #1.
- * Hardcover: Marvel Comics, 2015..