Comics, FYI

By Graeme McMillan

A Miraculous Return



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Comics, FYI
A Miraculous Return
By Graeme McMillan • Issue #48 • View online
For the second time, Marvel is promising that fans will get to read the end of Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham’s Miracleman.

It’s finally happened: Marvel has returned Miracleman by Gaiman & Buckingham: The Silver Age to the schedule, with the first issue now set for an October release. Originally announced for a January 2017 ship date, the reprint of Miracleman #23 – because, yes, it’s a reprint – will now hit shelves almost exactly three decades after it first saw the light of day. 
That delay is referenced in Marvel’s announcement which quotes Mark Buckingham as saying “after thirty years away it is both thrilling and terrifying” to return to the series. This is, after all, the six-issue mini that will finally continue the abandoned middle arc of Gaiman and Buckingham’s run on the character, something that Marvel is describing as “the story the comic book industry has waited decades for” and also a “historic moment.”
That’s perhaps overselling things – after all, the poor sales for Marvel’s earlier reprints of the Alan Moore-written run, and the first arc of Gaiman/Buckingham’s run, might suggest that there’s only a relatively small portion of the comic book industry that’s been waiting for this, something that’s been arguably only exacerbated by Marvel’s treatment of Miracleman as a property in the decade-plus since it purchased the character*. 
Of course, it’s worth noting that fans who have been waiting for these stories have every right to be cautious about this announcement, considering that they’ve seen it before; the idea that audiences would finally get the ending of a story promised in 1993 was the selling point of Marvel’s first attempt to publish The Silver Age five years ago, which got as far as having issues solicited before being pulled at the last moment. After two separate cancellations by two separate companies, it’s completely understandable if some people won’t believe this is actually real until issues are in their hands.
Of course, the context surrounding Miracleman is very different in 2022 than it was even back in 2017. At that point, Gaiman and Buckingham’s Miracleman was an unfinished piece of comic book history that looked, finally, to be completed as its creators intended, with the possibility for the third piece of their projected trilogy – rumored to be “The Dark Age,” following “The Golden Age” and “The Silver Age” – also potentially on the cards. Now, their run is likely to be published parallel to the character’s introduction into the mainstream Marvel Universe, as teased in last December’s Timeless one-shot; given the heavy publication schedule of Marvel’s primary publishing line, it’s very possible that the number of comics featuring a Marvel Universe Miracleman could outstrip the Moore/Gaiman version of the character within a couple of years, if not earlier. What happens when Miracleman is just another Marvel hero, touched by multiple creative teams across relatively brief time periods?
We’re already seeing a glimpse of that now, of course. Last week saw an announcement of 25 different Miracleman-themed variant covers across the company’s publishing line in September, featuring artists including Mark Bagley, Terry Dodson, and Salvador Larocca**, and earlier this week, the company unveiled Miracleman #0, an over-sized one-shot released to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Moore revival of the character, featuring what’s described as an “exciting prelude to [the] upcoming new chapter of Miracleman” by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham alongside additional new stories from creators including Jason Aaron, Ryan Stegman, Mike Carey, and Ty Templeton. 
Putting aside the fact that the October release date of the issue means that Marvel is both stepping on the toes of the first issue of the rescheduled Silver Age launch, and also actually celebrating the 40th anniversary of Warrior #8, I guess, featuring the seventh installment*** of the Alan Moore revival of the character, back when he was still called Marvelman, the combination of the zero issue and the variant covers is a reminder of Marvel’s ability – intentionally or otherwise – to simultaneously treat Miracleman as a sacrosanct piece of comic book history to be admired and treated with kid gloves, while also being something to mine for every potential cent available. 
The timing of the variants and the zero issue – and, for some reason, the presence of Jason Aaron, who feels like the closest thing Marvel has right now to a Brian Michael Bendis or Jonathan Hickman universe-wide showrunner – make me even more convinced that Miracleman’s arrival in the Marvel Universe will somehow be related to the end of the Avengers/X-Men/Eternals: Judgment Day event, which also wraps up in October, and that the zero issue will serve as notice to fans that moving forward, they’ll have two different versions of the character to enjoy: Gaiman and Buckingham’s “original” version, and the new Marvel Universe version, soon to show up in countless other titles available at a comic store near you. 
On the one hand, Judgment Day writer Kieron Gillen is one of a handful of Marvel writers I’d be interested in reading a Miracleman from, so if that’s the case, I’d be happy to see it. On the other, is it truly too purist and gatekeep-y to wish that Marvel had the good grace and patience to at least wait until Gaiman and Buckingham had finished their story before starting the next one?
Nonetheless, by year-end, those fans who have been more-than-patiently waiting for new Miracleman – beyond the Miracleman Annual of a few years ago, or the Marvel Comics #1000 of a couple of years back – will have their needs met, and how; barring schedule delays, the first non-reprint Buckingham and Gaiman issue should be out in December, and it’s more than likely the character will be having fun with Spider-Man and the Avengers, as well. Now, if only someone could convince Marvel that Axel Pressbutton is another Warrior character that needs this kind of treatment…
* Let’s not forget that, after announcing that it had purchased all rights to the character in 2009, it would take five years for the company to get around to reprinting the stories that audiences actually wanted to read – which is to say, the Alan Moore/Garry Leach/Alan Davis/John Totleben revival/reboot. (The delay was, I believe, caused by legal complications over what exactly Marvel had purchased and not purchased, thanks to British copyright laws.) In the interim, it released multiple reprints of the original Marvelman comics from the 1950s that likely convinced people unfamiliar with the history of the character that they weren’t really that interested. 
** Instead of getting upset about the sight of Miracleman alongside the likes of Ghost Rider or Venom – it’s just like Alan Moore and Garry Leach dreamed, all those years ago! – what upset me about those variant covers was the discovery that, bluntly, so many artists just can’t draw Miracleman. As designed by Leach, and continued by Alan Davis, John Totleben, and Mark Buckingham, Miracleman is… maybe not skinny, but certainly not bulky or overly muscular, unlike the majority of superheroes; he’s also meant to be particularly beautiful, as opposed to ruggedly handsome (or even, I suspect, particularly masculine, although that may be projection onto the text on my part). The Miracleman that appears on a lot of those covers is neither of those things, but instead just a generic grimacing muscleman. It doesn’t bode particularly well for whatever Marvel is planning to do with the character, to my eyes. 
*** Although Moore and Leach’s revival had started with the first issue of Warrior, which had been released in March 1982 – you’d think Marvel might have wanted to celebrate the 40th anniversary a few months ago, with that in mind – Warrior #4 had taken a break from the regular revival for a one-off story outside of the regular continuity, drawn by Steve Dillon, Paul Neary, and Alan Davis.
A brief correction to Wednesday’s newsletter: I suggested that, because I couldn’t find a panel of the Miles Morales Thor character that had been much shared on social media in the digital edition of What If… Miles Morales #4, it was possible that Marvel had edited the issue. It turns out that the image actually came from a preview of the next issue, and had become mixed into discussion of that issue via the scrum of online discourse. So, because it needs stating outright: Marvel has not, to the best of my knowledge, edited the digital version of What If… Miles Morales #4. (Marvel has also not responded to my request for comment, but such is life.)
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Graeme McMillan

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