A Hesitant Hero or the Pause Before the Precipice: Alan Moore’s Miracleman and Virgil’s Aeneid

I always find it amazing when you set out to write one simple thing and then not only does it become more complex than you thought it was going to be, but the implications of what it might say can be very difficult to gauge as well.

When I first started reading Alan Moore’s run of Miracleman a while ago, I made a whole lot of notes on the margins of a piece of paper as strange literary parallels occurred to me. One of these, a comparison between the Moore Miracleman’s world, the Platonic World of Being and Aristophanes’ myth of love, made it into an article.

My comparison of the character of Miracleman to the protagonist of Virgil’s Aeneid did not.

Aeneas is depicted by the Roman writer Virgil as not only a demi-god and a high-ranking survivor of Troy after its Sacking by the Achaians, but also as the founder of another greater Empire: Rome. He has a son named Ascanius from his wife who dies during the end of the Trojan War, and has a few adventures dealing with the gods plans for him. In fact, he leads his son and the survivors of Troy to a new life: carrying his father Anchises with him out of the lost city. His father is also notable for having been a mortal man who had been chosen by and ultimately impregnated the goddess Venus (or Aphrodite): who is also the mother of Aeneas himself.

File:Aeneas' Flight from Troy by Federico Barocci.jpg

Later, Anchises dies but due to his intimate association with divine leaves him a whole other legacy: so in a way it is more than fitting that the hero carries his father on his back and ultimately later lays him to rest.

But while he is ultimately loyal to the gods–to their plan to make him the creator of a new Empire–he has his doubts: about himself and about how successful he will be. From what I remember, he mourns his old life and some of the decisions that his destiny forces him to make: such as leaving Queen Dido of Carthage whom he had fallen in love and had a relationship. Much later, he marries Lavinia of the Latins in what will one day become the city-state of Rome while his son becomes his heir.

But before this, Aeneas descends into the Underworld to see the future of the Empire that the gods decreed that he would help build: learning about the future of his people and descendants in immense detail from the spirit of his now deceased father Anchises. This is obviously a transformative experience for him–making him see that reality is far different than he had always known–but what strikes me is that the doubt never really leaves him in Virgil’s depiction. I will go more into that later.

Miracleman, or Marvelman–also known as Mike Moran–is depicted by Alan Moore as a genetically altered human being that survives the destruction of his super-hero team with few of his memories intact. He was engineered with advanced alien organic matter and technology to fulfill a purpose that was ultimately taken away from him when the authorities that made him and his Marvel or Miracle Family believed them to be too dangerous: and sought to destroy them. Despite this, Miracleman and his Family were created by Project Zarathustra to help “save” the world: or at least the status quo version of it at the time.

Miracleman has a wife named Liz while he still believes he is a human being and eventually reawakens his power and many of his lost memories. At first he believes he is a superhero, but after a trip to the Spook Show bunker that created him and his Family, he realizes that he is the result of a physical and psychological weapons experiment: his first trip to the “Underworld,” if you will. Eventually, he meets his creator–and nemesis–Dr. Gargunza who reveals more about his true nature before trying to kill him.

Gargunza himself is a mortal human man that has also–in a way–delved into the divine by adapting crashed alien technology to create Miracleman and his Family. Miracleman also carries him: though in a somewhat different fashion than Aeneas and Anchises.


He both honours his nemesis creator and sends him directly into the Underworld where, at least in Neil Gaiman’s run of the comic, he remains in another Underworld … in a sense. 😉

The hero ends up having a child named Winter with Liz, who eventually leaves him when she can no longer relate to either him or his superhuman and intellectually advanced child. He also gains a new lover in the form of Miraclewoman. In the end after a time in his original base of operations–the Silence–to mourn his old life, he, the remainder of his Family, and other heroes he has assembled take it upon themselves to create a utopia on Earth: whether ordinary humans like it or not. This also ushers in the creation of a new race of humans created from his DNA: of which Winter is the first. At the same time, even though he discovers what he truly is and that he seemingly made his own destiny upon the world, Miracleman never loses his sense of doubt in his own motivations or what he has wrought.

So we have two demi-gods that survived the destruction of their way of life, losing loved ones and finding new ones, creating heirs to the Empires that they leave behind, finding knowledge and terrible enlightenment in the Underworld, and reshaping the status quo while always questioning their motivations in doing so. These are the superficial similarities and differences between the two figures, and you can definitely see some eerie parallels at work. I’m not saying that Alan Moore attempted to copy Virgil, or was even consciously inspired by this epic. In fact, I’d venture to say that it is more the case of the hero archetype that functions similarly in both an ancient novel and an early 1980s comics form.

But the implications, for me at least, go deeper than that.

I’m mainly thinking about how both stories end: especially how they end.

Aeneas is told that there are are two kinds of dreams that leave the Underworld from two different gates: prophecies from the Gate of Horn, and false dreams from the Gate of Ivory. After being shown Rome’s future history, Aeneas is shown the way out of the Elysian Fields and the Underworld: specifically through the Gate of Ivory. This act says a lot of things right off the bat and perhaps foreshadows the very end of The Aeneid itself.

It is a strange ending: almost a very abrupt one. Aeneas confronts Turnus, the King of the Rituli and former suitor of Lavinia, on the battlefield. The latter instigates a war with the Trojan survivors with his own subjects after he loses the hand of Lavinia to Aeneas. At the very end of their personal duel, Aeneas gains the upper-hand and Turnus begs for his life. Aeneas actually pauses for a few moments, and as a reader I can almost picture him looking right at the reader somehow, before he lets anger consume him and strike his enemy down. The last obstacle to Aeneas’ destiny over the Latin people and Rome is removed: but it is a troublesome and problematic ending in that Aeneas, despite fulfilling the will of the gods and having seen the future of his actions–or because he saw the future before he left through the Gate of Ivory–hesitated for that one moment of possible doubt.

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That is one possible reading of The Aeneid in any case. I mean, what could it possibly mean if you saw a glorious future and legacy before leaving it through a Gate of false dreams: of lies?

Then we have the way Alan Moore ended his run of Miracleman. Miracleman’s entire existence, despite his extraordinary powers and advantages, has been a layer of dreams and lies. People have constantly manipulated him in some way or form with either maliciousness, expectations, or even good intentions. Finally, he makes his own decisions: not merely for himself but for the species of fallible beings that created him.

He does this after killing his former friend, Family member, sidekick and now nemesis and mass-murderer Kid Miracleman–or Bates–having him return to his child form, promising to save him, and snapping his neck.


The beginning of a new utopia in Miracleman’s version of a 1980s world starts with him cradling the half naked brutalized child alter-ego of a friend that he failed to save and who he himself kills for the “greater good.” And even after he eliminates capitalism, ends world hunger, encourages the advancement of medical science, creates an Earth alliance with advanced aliens, as well as creating a process of giving normal human beings powers like his own, where he and his heroes have essentially taken rulership of the Earth for themselves in a benevolent dictatorship– they have become the embodiment of the human need to have gods to aspire to and worship–that he stares from a balcony at the very end of the story … and he ponders again, in his garden of horrors and wonders, if he actually did right.

This is the main reason why I see Miracleman as an Aeneas figure within Alan Moore’s and–to some extent–Neil Gaiman’s run of the comic. I was also willing to end it at this point as well: to merely show the parallel between these two heroes with problematic issues to the destinies they’ve taken on themselves. But there is something else that I find interesting.

In one of my courses at University, when I first read The Aeneid, there was this implication presented to us that Virgil may have had some other motivations when he wrote his book. Virgil was around during the time when the princeps Augustus of Rome reigned. Before Augustus, Rome had been a Republic with two consuls in governance, and sometimes a triumvirate after periods of civil unrest. There were many accusations that Augustus had, once becoming ruler of Rome, made it into a monarchy again or controlled it as a tyrant. Some scholars have seen Virgil’s act of writing the glory of Rome and Augustus through the Gate of Ivory and Aeneas’ supposed doubts of the future as a subversive criticism of Augustus’ regime and the way that Rome was heading. It may have been coincidence or premature death that left The Aeneid unfinished after the death of Turnus at the hands of Aeneas, or it may not have.

So what does any of this have to do with Miracleman? Aside from creating a narrative that uses a superhero to criticize and end the late-Cold War politics and social orders of the early 80s? Or Moore himself being an integral force in re-innovating the medium of comics? Well, this is where the theme of prescience–of seeing the future–becomes ironic. I’ve read somewhere that Alan Moore believed that the comics medium–at least that sponsored by the industry–has become stagnant and that it uses techniques and themes that were created about twenty-five or so years ago. He especially goes into this when he talks about DC’s decision to create the Watchmen prequel series: another work of his from the 1980s era. I think about this. Then I think about Miracleman. It was one of the earliest 1980s revisions of the superhero genre, and the comics medium, that Alan Moore ever undertook.

And then I wonder if the iconic Miracleman–Moore’s Aeneas–looked out over the balcony surveying the dark and yet promising structure his writer created around and before him … and found himself afraid.

Building a Character to Make a World: Our Project Continues

About a month ago, I said that Angela O’Hara and I would working on a comics collaboration together. So here is an update on our Project thus far.

I gave Angela a whole list of comics artists to research in order to get the right aesthetic for our world. The following inspirations were Jonathan Lethem’s Omega the Unknown, Chris Ware’s “The Super-Man” stories, Saint-Exupery’s Le Petit Prince, the rugged elementalism of the anime Gurren Lagann, Sarah Howell, and Neil Gaiman’s run of Miracleman.

At the time, Angela was not completely sure how to go about this: which was fair given the fact that all I had seen of this world I’d envisioned were a few scenes and figures inside of my own head. It’s amazing how something in your mind cannot always be so easily translated into real life.

After a summer of proposing this Project, I was galvanized into action when Angela said she was going to be pursuing her drawing career full-time now: which is excellent because she is a gifted illustrator and a comics-creator. This was when I realized I needed to give her what I had and, once I did, I realized I gave her more than enough to work with at that point.

In the end, I created a fairly detailed back-story (or at least something far more detailed than what I thought it would be), some character outlines and descriptions, and even some notes on the minions that I’m keen on including in this strange new world of ours. So armed with artistic inspirations as well as character descriptions, names, a background story, and a rough idea of the main plot Angela began drawing.

It was when she sent me these first pictures that the challenge really began. As you can see, they are all excellent illustrations of the main female protagonist. Usually, I could have just selected a few and suggested some details here and there, but her features were not as distinct in my mind as I would have liked. Then I started to think about what the world would be like: specifically what we wanted our aesthetic to be.

For two days, I thought about this and luckily Angela and I managed to talk about it. She told me that she wasn’t completely sure what aesthetic–of the inspirations I chose–that she was supposed to use so she decided to draw different pictures of our character in various styles. I felt really torn: because I wanted to see this world as an elemental place of basic shapes but some very realistic elements, but Angela drew all of these really good illustrations. It made me question the fundamental substance of what I wanted our world to look like.

But Angela has a good way of asking the right questions. Not only did I manage to answer some of her questions, but I started to add some details of my own. Another question that really got me was how old our protagonist was going to be and what she would be wearing before she got her costume. These were definitely questions that I needed to answer and in the end we decided on her being twelve or so, with rudimentary clothing that she had been forced to create herself.

Angela was also curious about what costume our character was going to have. She experimented a bit and showed me this:

This is what prompted me to tell her the idea I had with regards to the main character’s costume: and how that was going to fit into the plot. Let’s just say: it’s less than she chooses the costume, but rather that it chooses her … and in unexpected way.

Finally, Angela had an “Aha!” moment and after I chose a few of the profiles that she created and made some suggestions, she managed to mix together something of Saint-Exupery, and something very reminiscent of Mark Buckingham’s drawing style in the illustrated story section of Miracleman #20: Winter’s Tale. As you can see, our protagonist looks like she is painted and has very bright colours. And yes, you’ve seen it right: she is red. 🙂 As of right now, this is the closest working illustration and aesthetic that we have and Angela is still working on it: along with drawing out a few more of our characters. It is just so beautiful, lush, and artful.

Another excellent advantage to having this working model of our whole aesthetic is that I have inspiration. There is nothing more buoying than seeing something you envisioned becoming as close to a tangible image as can be made possible to really encourage you to keep creating. The added bonus of this feeling is that with our last Project, Thebes was supposed to be based off of our re-interpretation of mythology: of stories and characters that already existed. With this Project, we are making something relatively new: something that didn’t exist before quite the way we see it.

I mean, I know: I understand that all superheroes are archetypes and variations of Superman or older mythical figures, but the characters in this story have their personalities and I try to look at the basics of what they can do as much as possible … of which I am now figuring out. It is also very helpful that, right now, Angela and I are on a very similar wavelength in figuring these details out.

In fact, all of this is a process of figuring things out: as though Angela and I are spying on another world and trying to translate it into ours as much as possible. When we’ve done more work on this–and I create at least a rough outline of the booklet–I will start calling the characters and our Project by name. Until then, both will be as silent and as wordless as our comics work itself.

A Collaboration Project in Progress

So a little while ago, I mentioned I was starting a new project. I know that for some people who know me, that really doesn’t narrow it down a lot. I’m always thinking about short stories still in the queue of my head, the graphic novel script that’s been languishing in my binder, and a few other things as well.

This one is different. A few years ago my friend Angela Jordan, now Angela O’Hara, wanted to do a comics collaboration. At the time, I really wasn’t that skilled with creating comics scripts and–even now–they take more effort to create than a play or film script, or even a short story. Our original idea was very ambitious and I eventually created a very elementary and simple first story that I hoped Angela and I could flesh out into a comic. I had no knowledge of panels then and even now I still have issues with figuring out anything other than some of the basics in my head of how a page layout is supposed to look like.

We went our separate ways for a while: Angela taught in Japan and eventually got married, while I moved out to York residence and started my Humanities Grad Program. Years later we got back in touch and I decided that there was a way we could side-step some of the difficulties we were facing before.

Superhero comics have been done so often that people often see it as the comics medium itself as opposed to a genre. It’s interesting because comics didn’t start out with superheroes–if you look at old slapstick comic strips and political cartoons as examples–but they did gain popularity for the medium.

Based on some of the work I’ve seen Chris Ware–a cartoonist who loves creating beings (including superhero figures) of basic geometrical shapes on vast, empty and existentially lonely backgrounds, the strangely small and greater world of Saint-Exupery’s Le Petit Prince and Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman’s Miracleman along with a great many other superhero comics I’ve looked at in my life something started to come together in my head. It wasn’t really until I looked at Sarah Howell’s silent comic pamphlet–reminding me of their power–that I found the form for this thing I wanted to make with Angela.

Yet a lot of the above is stuff that happened after the fact. Actually, the idea for the entire thing–still in development now–was brought on by a video game song. It’s amazing how music can help you visualize certain scenes in your head.

So right now, I am in the process of creating the story for this “silent superhero comic.” I’ve given Angela some sample art to look at as foundations or influences for the work’s potential style while telling her about the scene I made in my head. But right now I need to do more. I’m now developing a bit of the world and the main characters. I think I will have to crudely sketch out what I want them to look like. One thing I’ve learned through making a few “ordinary” comics scripts, is that drawing out a rough look at what the page should look like does wonders to help you and someone else know what it is you want to write about.

The difference this time is that we plan to make this a small pamphlet of sixteen or seventeen pages–possibly double-sided–for each part. I originally wanted this to be a one-shot thing to allow us to brush up on our skills again before doing anything else, but at the same time I can see the potential in some of this.

It’s funny. I once thought I’d grown past superhero comics but I’ve been researching and talking about concepts behind them a lot this summer. They have certain rules and conventions that can be followed, bent or broken. But I’ve learned that going back to the essentials or “the basics” can be very important no matter what else you might do and all the more so for superhero archetypes that are really extensions of the stories of heroes and gods. When you also think of cartoons and children’s illustrations as archetypes as well, you can see where a lot of my influences want to come in. So you can probably see why I’ve had a bit of a superhero obsession lately. Lately. Okay, somewhat.

Basically, I want to post updates of this as of officially unnamed silent comic project or, as Angela put it even more eloquently, this “superhero fairytale” whenever I possibly can. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything besides stuff on the creative process, reviews and articles: but finally I get to begin to play around with some world-building and alongside a really talented artist.

You can find Angela’s work in two of her Deviant Accounts: her Angela Jordan one, her Angela O’Hara account, and her professional artist’s website. Here is one sample of an image she created from our previous collaboration: one I always look at even to this very day.

As for me, I need to keep working and also keep my creative side fresh. As someone might have said, if it isn’t in writing it doesn’t exist. Well, now it is in writing and now, I hope to to do my part to make it happen.

Lost in Books


I am at a loss. I wander down long stretches of bookcase winding into shadow, eternity, and dust. I’ve lost all concept of time. The spine of Alan Moore’s Minutemen with its vintage essential 1930s-style artwork next to his Watchmen does not help me: though it would be interesting to read …

I keep moving. The Twilight of the Superheroes–more Alan Moore–sits there in an alcove but promises no solace. I go deeper. There is a manga section on the other side of me. Tezuka Osamu’s Phoenix: Earth stares at me mockingly whole: completing an incomplete saga and a lifetime’s work. I shake my head and keep going. I keep going past the rest of Moore’s Big Numbers, all twelve issues of them, long since past the time to remember how many steps I have given away to be here in this place.

It gets worse. I find myself at a complete run of Marvelman and it’s hard–so hard–to turn away. It’s as though I’ve come to a dead-end, like the middle of a maze in my mind, like the conclusion of Gwendolyn MacEwen’s Black Tunnel Wall right in front of me.

I begin to run.

David Eddings’ Zedar: The Apostate sits on a shelf in loneliness. Myst: The Book of Marrim makes my heart-ache. There are so many Tolkiens. So many Tezukas. So much Alan Moore. Moore. Moore. More. More. More …

It is in the history section of this labyrinth of the literary bibliophiliac where I stop at Maus III: My Mother Breathes Silence–Art Spiegleman’s graphic novel based off the fragments of his mother Anja’s surviving journals from asylums and concentration camps–that I finally understand.

This place doesn’t exist. This is the place where I want to be.

I’m clutching my head in the darkness as the full implications of all this begin to sink in. Then I see something: something else in the dark. I walk past The Continued Works of Keats and The Will to Power that Nietzsche wrote himself to find a gap in the comics section. It is a small gap and I can barely make out the label on the shelf. When I read enough of it, I smile.

I can’t help it. In the Neil Gaiman section, the story of Morpheus before Preludes and Nocturnes is no longer here. It is somewhere else now. I’m smiling: hoping that the Marvelman section and its remaining additional issues will also disappear from this place sooner rather than later. It is is a small hope.

A transvestite Joker seems to laugh at me from a cover of Morrison’s Arkham Asylum as I slump down exhausted in a place more demented than Batman’s Rogues Gallery and more sad than a watch without a watchmaker: a library without librarians.

It is here, huddled in this dark corner, that I wish for a world that makes sense: a place where Homer existed, Shakespeare wrote his plays, Sappho wrote more poetry, and I–finally–know just who it is I am.

Film Review: The Batman Rises Once Again

I guess it’s about time to pay attention to the Bat Signal. It’s been pretty damned insistent. Cue in the dramatic musical score and …

So a few weeks ago I saw The Dark Knight Rises. What can I tell you. Well, first of all I’m going to make a Spoiler Alert. Then I’m going to say that I liked it. I really liked what Chris Nolan did and what he tried to do. In Batman Begins, we see Bruce Wayne becoming his “true self” after his tragedy and his training with Rais al Ghul and the League of Shadows: which I always thought was a really interesting and new approach to just how disciplined the man had become. In the second film, Dark Knight, we see Batman move away from dealing with fear and the Social Darwinist sense of justice that al Ghul attempted to unleash on Gotham in order to battle the forces of chaos and chance incarnate in the Joker and Harvey Dent-turned Two-Face.

By the third film, we see a very different Bruce Wayne. He’s become a reclusive and something of a broken man. Somehow, he has even sustained a permanent injury from his exploits eight years before. Batman has been blamed for the death of Harvey Dent: to make sure that the latter remains the symbol of justice that he rejected after his accident and has disappeared from the public eye.

Of course, Gotham is never safe ever. Someone always wants to either destroy its corruption or just watch it burn to the ground out of a sense of amusement. Bane seems to want both. Bane is a character from the Batman comics Knightfall story-arc that methodically and brutally breaks the Batman. Of course, everything is not as it seems and as Batman returns to save his city, he realizes that he must unlearn what he has learned: about having no fear.

This was a very intricate film. I really appreciated the details not only in the villains’ plot and the character of Batman himself, but also in the little things. The minor characters actually get a lot more expansion and you see that even as heroes can falter, not everyone has a happy ending and everyone receives a reckoning of some kind. Nolan tries to make everything in this third–and I think final–film come full circle: which is very hard to do considering the show-stealing manic power of Heath Ledger’s Joker from the previous film.

It was fun to figure out who some of the characters were before they were named or revealed. I also liked some of the social commentary that was going on in the film itself. Essentially, Bane creates the ultimate Social Darwinist experiment turned horrible joke where he tells everyone he has a fusion bomb with a counter in the city. Someone in the populace has the trigger and a way to turn it off. He keeps outside aid from coming into Gotham and uses his thugs with stolen Wayne Enterprises technology to help the common people–I guess the 99%–dispense “justice” to the 1% … and anyone else they don’t like. Of course, the joke is that Bane plans to detonate the bomb anyway, but he seems to enjoy watching the ad hoc show-trials–reminiscent of the French Revolutionary tribunals–condemning people to walk on thin ice anyway. Even Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle–who is blatantly hostile to the upper-class and steals from them constantly–begins to see just how sick Bane’s sense of “social justice” truly is.

You could read the social narrative under this movie in a variety of ways, but there was a lot of overall depth to the film’s plot and the way that Bane totally uses Commissioner Gordon’s own speech–a document of truth–to damage Gotham’s self-esteem further was genius. I don’t know if I quite agree on how the characters of Bane and Talia al Ghul were used–Talia in the comics would have respected Batman for being able to defeat her father multiple times and she carried his child as well–but for the movie they served their purpose well. Alfred and Lucius Fox were still in character too and I enjoyed seeing them again.

I did have a few other issues with the film. They might seem minor and hard to define, but I will try my best. The plot, while very intricate, seemed very spread out and if you didn’t pay attention to certain details you might have missed a lot. At times, it even seemed to drag on … a lot. Also, I admit that in the dialogue between Batman’s rough voice and Bane’s metallic one, sometimes I’d only get every other word.

Batman: *Rasp*Rasp*Justice. *Rasp*League of Shadows.*Rasp**Rasp*

Bane:*Rumble*Gotham*Rumble*You will be broken.*Rumble*

Maybe it was the theatre I was in or how the sound effects behind them in their fight might have interfered with acoustics, but I really wish I could have gotten everything that those two intelligent “bad asses” were saying.

In some ways, I feel like for all the depth and such that the film had, it fell short as the concluding movie. I find myself wondering sometimes just what might have happened if Heath Ledger hadn’t died. I mean, the Joker wasn’t killed off in Dark Knight–when Nolan could have easily had him terminated–and if all had gone well, he could have made a comeback. Would The Dark Knight Rises have been different if that happened? It would have been really interesting to see the remnant of the League of Shadows deal with the Joker. The thing about the League is that they are trained to deal with logical or sensible enemy psychologies. Even Batman is just another form of idealist to them: just as they are. All of them deal with an understanding of basic human corruption.

But how would they have dealt with the Joker: an almost shamanic madman who cares nothing for money, or power, or even has a steady personality profile. He is literally a wild card that can read his enemies well while always shifting psychologies. Essentially, the Joker’s purpose is pure chaos. He would die just to make chaos. How would the League of Shadows deal with something so unpredictable. Would they see him as a psychological reaction to global corruption? Or as chaos incarnate itself? As an ally or enemy he would dangerous at best. It could have also been a nice dichotomy between villains: between an inhuman need for justice and a sense of pure madness. I guess we will never know that now, if there was ever such a plan or if this film was the thing Nolan was going to make no matter what.

I will give this film a four out of five. It is worth seeing and it ends the trilogy fairly well. Until next time Bat-fans.

Full Beings and Perfect Forms: Aristophanes and Plato in Miracleman

Before I begin, I would really like to point out that I’m aware of the fact that I’m talking about a comics series that few people have had the opportunity to read: though perhaps there are more readers of Miracleman out there than I assume. In addition, there will be some spoilers in this article, so for those still interested in reading the comics and can get access to them, read them first before reading this article. And for those who have no idea what I’m talking about, I talk enough about superheroes here and the philosophy of them to probably be followed. It’s up to you whether you want to read the comics.

Like I say every time I make this disclaimers, you have been warned.

Well before Alan Moore revised or deconstructed the figure of the superhero, people always assumed that even though superheroes have their official crime-fighting identities and their civilian alter-egos they are still ultimately the same person. The same was the said for Marvelman (later named Miracleman and possibly Marvelman again depending on whether or not Marvel Comics releases Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman’s runs) and his Family: that even though they spoke a magic word to change from human to superhero and back again, they always had the same personality.

Alan Moore challenges that assumption with his revisionism. We see a vast difference between Kid Miracleman and Johnny Bates: the child that he came from. Of course, that has a lot to do with the fact that Johnny switched into his Kid Miracleman persona as a child and let it grow up separately from his human child form. This, along with the event that forced him to hide and the circumstances of how he got his powers, might have warped his mind into two distinct personalities: though both have access to the same memories which is something to consider.

Moore even makes you begin to question if Miracleman and his alter-ego Mike Moran (though they both share the same initials) are in fact the same person. While both begin with a similar morality and are genuinely good people–and they share memories–key differences begin to occur to differentiate them. It’s probably even further complicated by the fact that Miracleman had been dormant for years after a traumatic event, while Mike Moran himself continued to age and live his own life until another traumatic event forced him to remember the key-word to bring his superhero persona back.

Then there is Young Miracleman–or Dick Dauntless–who died and was brought back to life. From Neil Gaiman’s run, or from what exists of it so far, there is no difference between Young Miracleman and his alter-ego at all. Finally, Miraclewoman seems to be the most balanced of the entire Miracle (or Marvel) Family in that as the doctor Avril Lear and Miraclewoman she also seems to be the same person and has learned a lot about her dual nature by exploring both.

As I read the entire series as it was, I began to notice certain elements that Alan Moore and to some extent Neil Gaiman incorporated into their work. In a lot of ways and I have Alan Moore in particular in mind, they brought the idea of the superhero back to its roots: to the mythologies that created it as they took it apart. The secret British government program that was created to make these super-beings is called Project Zarathustra: based off of Nietzsche’s idea of the ubermensch or the superman. The superman is supposed to be a being that has transcended all conventional morality and chooses to create their own code to live by: possessing the power to do so through sheer will. I talked about this a little bit with my Whoever Hates the Man of Tomorrow? article, but this is a theme that definitely plays out with Miracleman.

There are other mythological references in Miracleman: such as the heroes’ home base being called Olympus, the body-switching Qys as the supposedly unwitting genetic prototypes of the Miracle Family being referred to as the Titans or the Primordials that existed before the “superhero pantheon of gods,” and even the battle with the twisted Kid Miracleman supposedly mirroring Ragnarok or the “twilight of the gods.” Moore even creates a nice mythological analogy between superheroes and supervillains: the former being Heroes and the latter being known as Dragons or monsters to be vanquished. We see a lot of Nordic and Greek mythology being drawn on to create this version of Miracleman. But there is more.

As I continued reading Miracleman, I saw another parallel developing. It began when I saw the twisted fused twin skeletons inside of the British government’s secret Spookshow warehouse: where Miracleman and his kind were created. Originally, I was led to believe that these fused skeletons were the remains of Young Miracleman from his own death, but in reality they were the dual remnants of Young Nastyman: another experiment that went insane and died through mid-transformation within a volcano … or so Miraclewoman says.

That grotesque fusion of two skeletons reminded me of Aristophanes’ myth of love. I know how disturbing that may sound, but I didn’t actually start thinking of it that way until Miracleman himself began to explore his own identity and the line between himself and Mike Moran. According to Plato in his Symposium, Aristophanes explained why love existed by telling a story in which once upon a time mortals were larger beings with two-heads, two sets of genitals, and two sets of limbs. They were powerful and they defied the gods so much that Zeus split them into two. This myth was supposed to explain that love is that need for each person to look for the other person split from them or, as we hear it in our own popular culture, each person looks for “their other half.”

That was the resonance I got when Alan Moore really came to the finer details of how the switch between mortal and divine works with the Miracle Family. It’s almost as though Project Zarathustra, in analyzing the bodies and the technology of the Qys–of fluidly intersexual Titan progenitors–tapped into a place of mythical proportions to recreate that “lost existence” that Aristophanes goes on about. One very interesting thing to note about Aristophanes’ myth is that when human beings were once unified, greater beings it was implied that they could defy and potentially challenge the gods themselves: which was one reason why Zeus and Apollo divided and changed them. Therefore, it can also be implied that Project Zarathustra allowed mere mortals to tap into the divine, to a place beyond the divine, to become a lot more than what they already were and challenge the established order around them.

Aristophanes’ myth that was meant to examine the origins of love and humanity’s potential to divine power is argued by scholars to be a comedic or lampoonish idea to reflect its comedian creator. Yet I find nothing particularly hilarious about this, though it is interesting that it was considered a “comic” idea: one that has translated itself so well throughout the ages. There is also another saying in popular cultural with regards to love as reunion: that just as people are looking for their “other half,” there is also in a relationship reference to one’s “better half.”

This is where I begin to wonder, like a few scholars before me, if the myth of Aristophanes wasn’t created by Plato himself to add a nice neat argument to his Symposium. We can argue whether or not Socrates created his own philosophy too until the cows come home, but that’s not the point here. Plato himself had his own theories about reality and the subjects that exist in reality. He believed that there are two worlds: the World of Forms or Being and the World of Becoming. The World of Being is a plane of perfection. You can find the originals or the perfect forms of anything that has ever existed. You can find the ideal object–such as a chair–or subject–such as a man or a woman as well as thoughts, feelings and knowledge–here.

Then you have the World of Becoming, a gradation of said perfect forms into more worn and degraded shapes. They deviate or change from the ideal and ethereal prototypes that they come from. The idea is that we live in the World of Becoming and that we seek the World of Being. You can see here, and I’m sure my high school philosophy teacher would be proud of me at this moment, how this Platonic thought influenced the Western idea of Heaven and Earth, or Heaven and Hell.

When I read Miracleman, I saw an interesting parallel with this Platonic conception. Miracleman and his kind are the perfect forms. When they are not used, the forms are kept in a place of pure energy known as Under-Space: a nice analog to the World of Forms itself. They rarely ever age, they cannot be destroyed through conventional means, they have extraordinary clarity of thought, devastating power, and even their costumes are engineered from an alien material that cannot be destroyed and reflects the moods of their wearers. Their powers and natures are explained as being the result of a psychic field or harmonic around them that they can control. In other words, the Miracle Family practices mind over matter.

My reading of this is that human scientists–degraded imperfect people like the rest of us from the World of Becoming or matter–used a link to the World of Being or the spirit to reverse engineer near perfect forms that mortals can have access to. Even Miracleman explains that he has the same thoughts that Mike Moran does, but he can see them and perceive his world with far more clarity and insight. We can get even more Platonic or Gnostic and say that through science, the Miracle Family gained a greater link to their spiritual, real, celestial selves. It is also no coincidence that Alan Moore, their revisionist, began to embrace further mythological and spiritual elements in his later works and even in his own life.

So it seems clear cut that Miracleman and his Family are their own essential selves having been unified. Of course, it is not nearly so simple as that. Mike Moran, Johnny Bates, Dick Dauntless, Avril Lear and Young Nastyman (or Terrence Rebbeck) did not seek this enlightenment. They were kidnapped, kept in medically induced comas, experimented on, had essentialized clone bodies made for them, had said bodies transferred into Under-Space where their minds would be trained to switch back and forth to by a word command, and were brainwashed to believe they were superheroes in a comic book-like virtual world before being abandoned as too powerful and too dangerous and marked for a termination order which, inevitably, failed.

It all sounds so banal when I summarize their origins like that. In a lot of ways, the Miracle Family are more like the uncanny Freudian doubles or doppelgangers of the mortals which they are linked to. They have great powers and insight, but they do not always relate well to the World of Becoming around them. Some of them are malicious because of this and even the best-intentioned among them have the potential to cause immense and traumatic change to the world.

I personally think that they are all of these things and more. I think that Moore portrayed them as humanity’s need to reach for and become the divine: or to remember its divinity. What happens after the creation of said beings, their own realizations of what they are,  and how the affect and what to share their perspective with the world around and the people who made them is–in mythological retrospect–an inevitable conclusion.

ETA: After writing this article, I’ve realized that you can examine the Miracle Family with a particular focus on identity. Much in the way that Neil Gaiman’s A Game of You really plays with identity, gender and the fluidity and change of self-identity, his and Alan Moore’s Miracleman can also be examined in a similar light. Maybe one day someone will do that … when the damned thing is republished.

Abraxas, legal issues, Abraxas …

Whoever Hates the Man of Tomorrow?

Alan Moore attempts to answer a question originally of his own making when he created Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? years ago. This question has been asked a variety of times since the end of the superhero’s Silver Age and has garnered a variety of creative answers.

But why Superman? Why is Superman still so important? I admit: I have friends who simply don’t see the point to the Man of Steel’s continued existence or, indeed, his creation to begin with. One main criticism that people have with regards to Superman is how unrelatable he is to the reader. I mean, come on now, none of us can generate heat rays out of our eyes, fly, possess X-Ray vision, make freeze-breath, or be invulnerable. Certainly, no one has Superman’s “boy scout” morality without any other very human flaws and failings to match it: if that.

I can understand why Batman is more relatable. He is a human being who has used material resources and pushed all of his human skills to their limits by sheer obsession and utter will. If anyone should be the Man of Tomorrow, gender connotations notwithstanding, you’d think it would be Batman. Certainly, many people have a great love of the vigilante: of the person that goes beyond the law, becoming extra-constitutional, going beyond the polis–the city-state–to become a god or a monster to see that proper justice or vengeance is done. And there are heroes being venerated today–perhaps throwbacks to the ancient literary heroes–who are far more brutal and even more morally ambiguous than Batman.

And Superman? He is a “goody-goody.” He is so much a goody-goody he is too good to be true. Whereas Batman operates beyond the law or within its blind-eye, Superman obeys the law in as much as he can save innocents and capture criminals. Perhaps there is little difference, save that the law seems to like Superman a lot more or accept that he is beyond them: that he is using his powers to uphold the law and safety to a fault. Indeed, you could say that Superman has more a lovable personality: or is more personable and wins all popularity contests through his sheer good nature while Batman fights with fear as his weapon. Fear does not make you popular or loved: but it gets the job done.

But is that the only thing Superman has over Batman and others? That he is more lovable and makes a show of following rules? That he is superhuman and chooses not to obliterate the world? That he ignores or reshapes the reality of the world? Or worse: does he continue to patronize his friends, his allies, his enemies, and the human race by presuming to always save and stop them? Is his alter-ego of Clark Kent, according to Bill in Kill Bill Vol. II, simply a grotesque critique of what he thinks a human being really is?

The truth is, when you look at Superman, you see an incredibly powerful being that could rule and destroy the world. He could rip us apart like insects. Yes, Kryptonite can hurt and kill him but he has enough knowledge to protect himself against it. In fact, the knowledge and intelligence he possesses from the Fortress of Solitude that is his Kryptonian birthright and from his own experiments is enough to dominate and destroy all human kind. There are many people who–if they had his knowledge and power–would do exactly that and have very little qualms about doing so. Some people in the DC Universe already have.

It is already clear that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster based him off of Friedrich Nietzsche’s idea of the ubermensch: a being that has grown beyond the constraints of morality and limitation to choose their own path, yet they injected “good old morality” into this alien superman and made all of his achievements naturally-born and inherited from the dead.

So why is Superman special? Why do I think he is special? I might have written some of my answers already but–if I had to sum it up–I would have you consider the following.

Imagine finding out that you have the power to crush steel with a punch or even just the touch of a hand. If you wanted, nothing could ever touch you. You can move as fast as or beyond the speed of light. If you jump, you will jump extremely high and eventually be able to fly: but you need to somehow know how to control where to go or how to move given that you still have a humanoid form and it is not built with the instincts for flight.

Now take all of that–never mind the fact that you have to learn how to control your temper, your passions and hold your parents or your lovers carefully so that you don’t crush or hurt them–and then add an alien birthright whose most modest lore could detonate the world many times over and again: possibly taking you and everyone you love with it.

Your merest touch could kill a person and your slightest knowledge could destroy them. It makes for a lonely existence doesn’t it? And yet, somehow deep inside of you, you not only find the will to master all of these powers but you actually want to use what you have to help other people. At the same time, you just want to be like other people: even though deep down you know you never truly will ever be. You don’t want to be thanked, you just want to help and out of all those things you could do, you choose to do so.

In Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come, a horrible calamity happens and Superman gives up on being Clark Kent. We see a person who lived among humans, who loved them, who had friends among them and wasn’t alone become an out of touch and distant Superman who only responds to the dead name of Kal-El from an equally dead and distant world. It is a Superman who still wants to do good and still feels bad over the loss of life, but he can no longer relate to anyone that he wants to save and people cannot relate to a person who looks upon them as so … lesser than he is.

He becomes the genius that cannot relate to anyone and garners misunderstanding and even contempt: because if a superhero, like a genius, cannot relate to those they save or even us readers then they have failed in a very fundamental way.

Unlike Bruce Wayne whose civilian identity is a mask for Batman, Superman is Clark Kent. He was born as Clark Kent and even though he isn’t human, being Clark Kent has taught him control and about life. As Grant Morrison demonstrates with a bright and essential freshness in his Superman All-Star, the power has not mastered Superman as it has so many others.

Superman has mastered the power and like the ubermensch he chooses his morality: which is to help people. At the same time, he is like Thomas Mann’s Tonio Kroger: who can see the dance of humanity around him and even replicate it artistically but is never really a part of it. It is his strength and his sadness and yet he finds the joy in helping others find joy. Very few others in fiction or the real world could ever be like that.

I write a lot of dark and conflicted characters yet once–long ago–Superman was one of my earliest childhood heroes. And in some ways, he still is. I’m glad the idea of him exists. I’m glad he exists.

Thus concludes another episode of Matthew Kirshenblatt writing about superheroes. Up, up and away my friends.

Comics Review: Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum

The first time I’d ever heard of this game was in reference to the video game that exists out there. But I’m not talking about that. No, I am talking about this.


I’m specifically talking about Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth the 15th Anniversary Edition. Considering that it has existed since 1989, the book has no doubt had many reviews at this point, but I feel that I have a few things to say about it: things that have been on my mind since I last read it.

What I find very unique about this comic is not what it is about, but who. You might think to yourself it is obviously about Batman, but while he is obviously a main protagonist in this work and it deals with him facing his own fears and psychological issues the story is not purely about him. The story is not about the villains that he has incarcerated there either: though they have lured him into the asylum to face said fears and the torments that they have waiting for him. It isn’t even about Amadeus Arkham: the tragic founder of the mental hospital that was supposed to save and repair criminally insane minds.

No, Arkham Asylum‘s main character is Arkham Asylum. Character as place is not a new idea. Certainly, I had to face something similar when I was writing part of my Master’s Thesis on Alan Moore’s Voice of the Fire: where the protagonist of that work was actually Moore’s hometown of Northampton. But unlike Northampton that has many layers of different gritty and earthy human activity, Arkham Asylum is many nuances of madness.

Morrison doesn’t pull his punches here. He draws on Jungian psychology and archetypes, the Tarot and mysticism, and poetry and crazy itself as he depicts Batman’s essential descent into the underworld or the demented collective unconscious that Arkham has become. He also has an Alice and Wonderland reference or two. Morrison seemed to really like using those, just like Alan Moore in his Miracleman comics. Then there is the name Arkham itself to consider. From what I understand, it is derived from H.P. Lovecraft’s creation of the fictional city of Arkham, Massachusetts: the seat of the strange and eldritch Miskatonic University. It has been used as a name for various fictional places, but it really has a nice and eerie parallel with Gotham’s most terrifying asylum.

The fact that it was once a house–a very Jungian archetype for the makeup of an individual’s consciousness–and the person who once lived in it failed to turn it into a place of healing and ended being locked away inside of it speaks some major volumes right there. The atmosphere of this comic is distorted and schizophrenic to the point of making even Batman seem disturbing and this is in no small part thanks to Dave McKean’s drawing style and painting.


Do not misunderstand though. The piece has its weaknesses and, ironically enough, those weaknesses are can also be construed as its strengths. For instance, I really like the broken mirror-reality that Dave McKean has depicted with his twisted nightmarish images and the different kinds of dialogue font, but at the same time they are very distracting and it is hard to make out key details that may have actually made all the difference in understanding the plot. The reason I like the 15th Anniversary version of this book is because of the detailed comic book script at the end of it.

You know, in some ways I liked the script a lot more than I liked the comic that came from it. If Arkham Asylum is of any indication of how Morrison writes comics scripts, it represents something easy to follow and enjoyable to read. In the script the mythological and archetypal references and many more uncanny details are much more apparent. It is also an added bonus to be able to understand what it is going on and what the characters are saying. At the same time, I will be honest: I respect his interpretation for Batman in this story, but I don’t agree with it.

The fact has less to do with Morrison’s choices and more to do with the popular idea that Batman is as mentally-imbalanced as his enemies. Do I think he was influenced by a trauma into a cycle of behaviour? Obviously. Do I think he saves people’s lives just out of a compulsion? Not completely. Perhaps each time he does do it to save himself or to save the lost innocence of the child he once was. I also think he saves peoples’ lives and doesn’t use a gun because he has principles and he has a certain sense of honour influenced by his own experiences like anyone else.

But there definitely were a lot of things I liked about this book: about reading the story of Arkham Asylum and the progression of the horrifying ritual and gathering of insanity over the decades that made it into the nexus of insanity that we all know and love. I also like how it makes you look at what precisely madness is and just where that fine line may–or may not–be. It was a psychological horror story and I loved it.

I do wish that I could have gotten more out of it without having to read the script, and I could be very mean and say that there is something wrong when you like a script more than the comic it is supposed to help create: but I do love McKean’s work here and the script is a nice complement with some scenes that didn’t make it into the finished artistic product. I’d definitely give this work a five out of five.

And that is it for now. Tune in next time, my friends. Same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel.

ETA: It would be interesting to see someone compare and contrast Alan Moore and Grant Morrison’s use of Alice imagery as well as how they use the ideas of “reason” and “madness or intuition” or the “Dragon” and “the hero” in Miracleman, From Hell, Arkham Asylum and Red King Rising respectively.

In the Superheroes’ Playground: ItsJustSomeRandomGuy’s “I’m a Marvel, I’m a DC”

I don’t remember how exactly it was I found ItsJustSomeRandomGuy. It must have been me looking for material on YouTube with regards to Watchmen or some comics related thing. You know: when I was either researching for my paper or indulging in one of my favourite past-times.

You all probably know and remember the old “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” commercials. Well, RandomGuy did a spoof of that: with superheroes. He created “I’m a Marvel, I’m a DC”: where he animated action figures of heroes from different franchises comparing and contrasting themselves as well as bantering and even sometimes finding common ground.

The sample below is the very first skit that I came across:

What I like the most about these skits–which are highly satirical pieces that often break the fourth wall–is how JustSomeRandomGuy captures the personalities, and the voices of the superheroes that he represents through his collection of action figures. ItsJustSomeRandomGuy himself is a voice actor and teacher and it shows. Yet it is more than that. The fact of the matter is that he is also extremely well-versed in DC and Marvel story-lines, the comics franchises, and the medium itself. He also brings an incredible wit and creativity all of his own to what he has made.

As he goes on, ItsJustSomeRandomGuy actually begins to build story-lines of his own from the simple skits he began with. The arc begins with After-Hours, followed by Happy Hour and then the Zero Hour that’s still in progress. It is really fascinating to watch this evolution happen: from the usual two figure-skits–partially stop-motioned or edited–to full on interactions between figures from the Marvel and DC Universes.

It’s what a lot of us geeks did when we were children. I mean, let’s face it, a lot of us played with our doll–action figures, making voices and then new story lines for them. But JustSomeRandomGuy takes this–this same love for the superhero and villain toy-box–and does something really wonderful with it that I’d not seen too much of. He essentially, like I said earlier, creates a satire of superheroes with these figures. Yet at the same time, he keeps them in character–with a few humourous exceptions that somehow mesh well anyway–and captures their essences.

Watching these characters interact reminds me of all the Saturday morning cartoons and comic books and actually makes me feel good about myself just by watching them. They are my old friends from childhood–on my cards, in my cartoons, movies, and comics–but at the same time they have kept up with the times and have their own changes. Yet they are for the most part still fundamentally the same: while being very aware that they are actually comic book characters. I like this kind of meta-fiction and the fact that, yeah, if anyone would be intelligent and experienced enough to know that they are characters it would be these guys. Just how many universes and realities have they already been in themselves within their own stories?

ItsJustSomeRandomGuy gives back the Saturday morning and afternoon wonder, but also it also let the heroes and villains grow up with us: the slapstick accompanied by a certain degree of seriousness and the meta-fiction and fourth-wall breaking always placed under Marvel’s much lauded sense of, “Continuity! Issue #Etc.”

ItsJustSomeRandom Guy recreates and creates a golden magic that I am glad I came across. It’s nostalgia without the bitter part of the sweet. It continues to evolve with more hilarious parodies and touching messages.

The fact is, in my opinion, ItsJustSomeRandomGuy is a genius. Through the posing of these toys, he manages to cover issues from inter-character relations, different universes, the nature of and the issues surrounding comics, the effectiveness of the films around the comics, and a whole lot of popular cultural references while never making these self-reflexive heroes anything other than what they are in a series that knows exactly what it is.

If I had, say, two requests of ItsJustSomeRandomGuy–if it is in his power at all–and if you are reading this ItsJustSomeRandomGuy I’d say this. I would love to see an episode with the figurine of Animal Man in the Grant Morrison understanding of the character.

And I would love to see an exchange between Miracle/Marvelman and the rest of the Family–or even Shazam, Captain Marvel, and Superman–talking about the series that has not been published in forever. I would love to see your take on that if you have the figurines (of which I know the Miracle/Marvel Family are rare now and expensive and I do not know the legal elements involved, so I hesitate in asking this). But as a fan of yours, I simply can’t resist asking.

(And there is a custom-made action figure of Miracleman. I think only the Todd McFarlane statues were made, which is a pity)

For those of you who have never watched any of these YouTube videos and just want to surf through them, here is ItsJustSomeRandomGuy’s channel. They are worth every moment.

So to properly conclude this, I would just like to thank ItsJustSomeRandomGuy for his work, and leave you with this message.

So remember kids: the moral of today’s story is that continuity is important. Thank you, and Excelsior!

Comics Review: Miracleman: The Making of and the Human in a Superhero Utopia

There have been a lot of articles and discussion on this matter. J.C. Maçek III gives a very in-depth background into the history of the creative and legal controversies behind Marvel/Miracleman and his comics, while Julian Darius talks about why Miracleman Matters and how it is a prime example of the Comics Revisionism happening in the 80s. I kid neither myself nor you in that there is a lot more out there: more than the actual comic itself.

I find it amazing how much one superhero and his comic can complicate things. I personally think it is ridiculous and a crime against humanity that the Miracleman series has not been published in ages. In fact, it is patently ridiculous that it still isn’t out yet and it’s been this way for decades. The only way you can even get hard-copies nowadays is to find the single issues at certain comic book stories, or ebay, and be prepared to spend a lot of your hard-earned money: anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. I really wish I was making this up. It is a bloody crime and I hope that any legal bullshit that still exists is rectified at least in my lifetime.

But I’m not here to rant about creative legalities. Rather, I want to talk about this series because I read it and I have a few thoughts on the matter that I really want to get out there. They will probably not be as detailed as those in the above links, but I will do my best as always.

Essentially, without giving much away, Miracleman is about a superhero that finds out–after years of forgetfulness caused by trauma–that he is a lot more than he appears to be: and I don’t mean that he realizes he is a superhero. That last is the least of it. Alan Moore revised this character from the hero’s comics Golden Age days when he was Marvelman and part of the Marvel Family: the latter of which he also revised too.

What can I really say without spoiling it on the off-chance that you might read it one day: or at least not spoiling it too much? Alan Moore takes the archetypal building blocks of this super-hero and to say he revises him and his world is an understatement. It is more like Moore rips into the spine and gives us a “behind the scenes” look at a two-dimensional plane to reveal a gritty, grandiose third-dimensional reality that blows your mind. The comics of Marvelman become a mask for a much larger world.

It is a story about a man who finds himself and does not realize what he has found. It is about a relationship that changes. It is about how a human being would really deal with super-heroism and what that is. It is about a former ally becoming your worst enemy, and showing the world just how horrifying a madman with super-powers truly is. It is about finding out that your old arch-nemesis is your creator and needing to surpass that. It is about Project Zarathustra, the Spookshow, comic books as mythology, and saving people’s lives for “their own good,” and the potential consequences thereof.

To say that Miracleman is a critique of the superhero is another awful understatement. All I can say is imagine Watchmen and what it does to the masked hero and his or her superhero successor, and then imagine a series that is somewhat “broken” (in the sense of it sometimes having gaps but also being insanely powerful) and goes an entirely different route from apocalypse and dystopia.

I was first re-introduced to Miracleman through an article I found in my own Master’s researches into mythic world-building called “What if the Apocalypse Never Happens: Evolutionary Narratives in Contemporary Comics” by Abraham Kawa in a volume entitled Comics and Culture: Analytical and Theoretical Approaches to Comics. Aside from it also talking about Alan Moore’s proposed “Twilight of the Heroes” which is a very fascinating concept in itself, it deals with how humanity would handle the world being saved after becoming so reconciled to its ending.

That is the challenge that Alan Moore leaves Neil Gaiman as he finished his run of the Miracleman series. Some people apparently this was really cruel of Moore. I mean: where do you go from such a seemingly close-ended conclusion? Where do you go from up? How does humanity deal with a utopia on Earth crafted with the best of intentions? Just how does humanity survive perceived perfection?

And that was Neil’s creative challenge to answer. Darius, along with a few others, says that Neil Gaiman’s writing and concepts in his Miracleman run were not on par with Alan Moore’s. However, I disagree. I think that Neil was given an incredible challenge, but one that his mind worked with. Think about it: Alan Moore created a background and a world. He crafted and borrowed and mythologically re-adapted the main players. He set certain events in motion.

But what I think Neil did was that then he looked at the other half of the equation as it were. In his Miracleman: Golden Age run, Neil looks at how ordinary people like you or I would interact with this utopia that Moore left in his wake. They are still human beings and still have their strengths, their weaknesses, and their differences. It is still a physical world. Yet Neil also taps into that great mythological well and he plays with the form of the comic to an awesome degree. Miracleman # 20 was by far one of my favourite stories: reminiscent of Stardust and yet so different. It crafted to look like a children’s story, but it is a children’s story about a very different kind of child and a very different reality where the stars are dangerous but also wonderful. He tells a grown-up and a child’s story. I think it was one of his best works and it is a damned shame that it is not accessible. As far as I am considered, that comic alone demonstrated what great mastery truly is.

Also, Issue 22–with the Carnival celebrating life and death, and the balloons in the sky– actually made me cry because it was that fucking beautiful, and I use my profanity here for tremendous emphasis. Some of the earlier issues were a little awkward, but they definitely hit their stride and there is a lot of innovation but always that human element. Even Darius mentions in the above article that there is some considerable nuance in Neil’s Miracleman stories. Alan Moore can obviously utilize the human element, but he tends to be more grandiose and ideological I find: while Neil always finds the mystery and the human and he shows you that the story never ends where you think it will.

And he could have ended Miracleman after The Golden Age, but he went on to a Silver Age that … never ended because it was unfortunately never continued. Miracleman is almost a lost, and incomplete masterpiece made by two mythopoeic genii. It makes me sad to think about it, but I’m glad I did manage to read this and I feel so much better as a reader and writer for it.

I would give Miracleman five out of five. It may be broken. It may have its issues and some plot gaps, and some copyright issues by having visual references to both Marvel and DC in it, but it was well worth reading and its worth as a story far outweighs its legend as the unfinished, ligated product that people still talk about and wait for. As for me, I earnestly look forward to the day when I can link to it here, and when I can buy copies for myself to hold in my own two hands.

Kimota, ladies and gentlemen.