Alan Moore is a great and certainly seminal, hugely transformative comic book writer who has proven to be capable of a great many styles of storytelling within the medium. However, when he was starting out in the eighties, he seemed to have one trick- catch up with characters that had fallen into disuse and deconstruct their DNA, telling stories of characters that were once figures of fun that would effectively ruin them for all ages enjoyment after that, seemingly forever. Granted, he was very good at those stories and they were particularly brilliant for the time, but no comic fan is really the same after they read Watchmen. Considering that those characters were all expys of the Charlton Comics characters that DC had recently acquired but editorially blocked Moore from using reveals a lot about where Moore’s head was in those days.
He was basically looking to go bigger budget with what he had just done in England with Marvelman. Back in the fifties when the British company that had been reprinting Captain Marvel Adventures ran out of material and/or copyright, they simply tapped a guy who went by Mick Angelo create Marvelman, a cheap knockoff to fill the void. Billy Batson became Mike Moran and “Shazam” became “Kimota!,” so Great Britain’s first superhero was born- or perhaps it’s more appropriate to say he was cloned.
Alan Moore would revive and redefine the character for Dez Skinn’s Warrior comic. In the storyline, the boy would say the word and become the hero had somehow forgotten his magical ability and grown to become a regular adult, until he was reminded and said his word again, to find his life was now a post modern existentialist hell-scape, and then…well, that’s all I really know.
The reason that I, a lifelong devoted student of sequential art, don’t know more about this major work is that I have just a handful of Miracleman comics. Oh, did I say Miracleman instead of Marvelman? Not a typo. The stories coming out of Britain lit up the world of comic connoisseurs everywhere, so they had to make it outside the UK. Problem was, between the last time Marvelman saw print and that fateful issue of Warrior, Marvel comics had emerged and become a behemoth. Dez Skinn, kind of a malevolent anti-Stan Lee, didn’t want to attract the attention of Marvel’s lawyers. So he changed the international title, switching a miracle for a marvel. Alan Moore, never so subtle in his real life as his storytelling, took it personally. He vowed never to work for Marvel again or to allow them to reprint his work for them, the peerless Captain Britain run, which is criminally underrated and obscure as a result. Miracleman eked out in the United States from the small Eclipse Comics, hard to find and elusive. I have a few- not many. What I’ve seen I can attest to the quality of.
Who owned the characters and the rights to reprint their stories? Decades ticked by and many lawyers were locked in combat over the duration of their careers. Eventually, Marvel won. This was years ago, but Alan Moore reprints were not soon to follow. Instead, reprints of the unremarkable fifties series warmed the comic shop shelves, and fandom collectively shrugged their shoulders. In a comical twist, it turned out that Dez Skinn never bothered to get the rights to Marvelman in the first place, so it was completely unclear who owns those stories, printed illegally but nobody who might’ve owned Marvelman knew or cared. Moore crowed, claiming that the end result was because he had placed a Witch Doctor curse on the publisher. Marvel dare not attempt to reprint them…
…until now. Today, saying to hell with ramifications legal as well as mystical, Marvel’s Miracleman issue number one hits the shelves, with very little fanfare and even less indication that Alan Moore wrote the story inside. Just the latest step on a long, unusual journey. I can’t wait to see where this goes next.