Monday, 22 December 2014

Miracleman: Book 1 - A Dream Of Flying (#1-4) PART TWO

"Out of the dark he is coming..." - Narration

The story so far:  It's the early 80's, shabby middle aged bloke Mike Moran has been haunted by dreams of flying towards a grey shape that explodes and consumes him in fire.  After being taken hostage by terrorists while covering a protest at a nuclear plant he sees the word "Atomic" backwards through a window.  He says the word "Kimota" and turns into the superhuman Miracleman.  He returns to his/Mikes wife Liz and after filling her in on his rather silly history they sleep together. Next day he is called up by Johnny Bates who was Kid Miracleman, now the owner of a large multinational company. Back as Mike, he and Liz go to meet Johnny.  Turns out Johnny hasn't lost his powers and is also completely corrupted and evil.  He and Miracleman fight, but Johnny is stronger, before he can finish Miracleman off, he accidentally says Miracleman's name, which is the magic word that triggers his transformation.  He turns back into sixteen year old Johnny Bates and seems to have lost his power to return back into his superpowered self.  Miracleman and Liz leave him virtually catatonic, while elsehwere in London, the authorities have unleashed the ultimate sanction to deal with Miracleman, a black man with sapphires for teeth called Evelyn Cream.  And now, back to the story.

We next find Mike and Liz out on an excursion to the moors to do some tests on his powers.  It seems Liz initiated this idea making her an early example of one of Moore's proactive females.  Mike seems a little uncertain about all this but changes into Miracleman nontheless. It seems two months have passed since his battle with Kid Miracleman, his face is still burned but has healed substantionally. Liz grabs some comics from the car boot.

Miracleman: "Comics?"

Liz: "Mmm, Amercian comics.  I thought if we wer going to investigate your power, I'd better do some research work."
She lists off some of the powers she's compiled.  Flight, super-strength and near invulnerability get an affirmative.  When she starts listing things like superbreath though, Miracleman looks adorably confused.
Kid Miracleman trapped in Johnny's head
Back with Johnny Bates, he's in some sort of fugue state being examined by doctors and inside his head he's being yelled at by Kid Miracleman, who swears revenge on Miracleman.

Kid Miracleman: "He just better hope I never get out of here.  He better hope I stay in here forever."

Liz and Miracleman are still on the moors. Miracleman picks up  huge boulder and lets it smash down onto his head.  Liz posits the idea that he has a forcefield that stops him being driven into the ground by the weight.  She thinks his power might be all in his mind.

We then move onto Evelyn Cream and I am not going to lie, I do find him a somewhat worrying character.  Not because he is black, but because he is black and so comprehensively "othered" by his sapphire teeth, white suit and dark glasses.  It feels like making him black as well was to increase his "exoticism" and that makes me uncomfortable.  But also, he is kind of a bad ass character too.  He's charming, intelligent and fiercely cultured, he quickly discovers Mike is Miracleman.  He has him at his mercy but decides to betray his governmental masters to help Miracleman find out the secrets of his past.  So he's a fascinating character even as he is also an contradictory one.
Evelyn Cream
Anyway, he's already narrowed down the list of possible Miracleman suspects to pressmen at the Larksmere terrorist incident.  He visits the hospital where one of the terrorists is being treated after mulling over the fact that the transformation might be accompanied by extreme heat and light.  So as only one of the terrorists had burns, he's the one to go and interview.  Once inside the hospital he shows fake ID and goes to see him.

Back with Mike and Liz, Liz thinks Mike and Miracleman are two different people.  The switch takes place when the magic word is said, which is why Miracleman didn't age and Kid Miracleman did.  Mike isn't sure as they share the same mind, although Miracleman is cleverer than him.  As they drive off, Liz drops a bombshell.
Mike's inferiority complex on display
Liz: "I've missed my last two periods and I'm going to have a baby and it isn't yours, it's Miracleman's."

Mike: ".............what did you just say?"

Poor Mike, this really starts the beginning of his disillusionment with how his "normal" self can't measure up to Miracleman's perfection.  Miracleman being so potent he got Liz pregnant after one night together, when he's never been able to give Liz kids.

Back with Cream, he is in with Steve, who is still deafened so Cream interviews him via written questions on a pad.  Steve describes Mike and Cream marks him on his list of possible suspects then he shows Steve the following message:

Cream's Pad: "Oh.. and remember how I promised not to kill you?"

Steve: "Yeah?"

Cream's Pad: "I was lying Steve."

It's an Arnie quip, before Arnie quipped it!  Anyway, Cream suffocates Steve and then leaves.
Alas poor Steve...
We return to the Moran's house over breakfast after Miracleman has been out enjoying the freedom of flight.  Mike is sulky and uncommunicative and has been since Liz told him about the baby two months ago (which does beg the question what Cream has been up to in the four months he was called in as the "ultimate sanction"). He apologises saying Miracleman is just so much better than he is.

Mike: "His emotions are so pure. When he loves you it's so gigantic. His love is so strong and direct and clean."

He apologises to Liz saying he'll sort it out then heads to the paper he works freelance for to try and hustle up some work.  His editor is complaining that the government has slapped a "D-Notice" (a gagging order) on stories about the battle between Miracleman and Johnny back in february. The editor then says he has no work for Mike and a somewhat sad Mike leaves the office.

In the lift he gets in is a woman with a baby and Cream hid behind a newspaper.  The woman hands Mike her baby while she gets something out of her bag, then Cream whispers in his ear:

Cream: "How are you going to change to Miracleman without roasting that innocent little baby the way you roasted that terrorist."

His trap sprung, Cream shoots Mike at point blank range and everything for Mike goes dark.
Cream takes down Mike with ease.
The next chapter has an interesting structure.  Each page has a strip running across the middle in with silhouetted figures talking about current events, this being the government "Spookshow" behind Miracleman's creation. The chapter begins with Miracleman transformed and being attacked ineffectively by soldiers, then flashes back to Mike and Cream. So I'll discuss that bit first.

Cream has Mike tied up and gagged.  He only shot him with tranquiliser bullets.  Cream then lays some facts upon him.  First that he was created in 1954 as part of a project  called Zarathustra, carried out by the Spookshow.  In 1963 they decided to terminate the experminent with an A-bomb and they have also hired Cream to kill him.  Mike thinks it can't be true about his origins, but doubt starts to creep into his mind.  Cream says they should work together so that Mike can find the truth and Cream can gain some valuable information.  He unties Mike and removes his gag.  Mike transforms and Cream can only say "remarkable."
Keeps his cool in the presence of an angel.
The Spookshow realise that Cream has sold them out, "he must know what the Zarathustra secret is worth".  One man wonders why the Zarathustra bunker is still operational.  Dennis Archer admits he kept the project open, hoping to recoup some of the massive cost. He also  admits that the last line of defence protecting the bunker is another super-powered individual.

Finally the chapter shows Miracleman walking slowly and deliberately towards the bunker's front door, swatting away every attempt to stop him like you would swat a fly.  He finally makes it to the entrance only to be confronted with a muscular man in a tight suit and tie, wearing a bowler hat and wielding an umbrella.  He calls Miracleman "a bolshevik blighter" and in voice over Sir Dennis Archer says his name is "Big Ben".
The somewhat lame, Big Ben
The next chapter starts with Evelyn Cream talking to himself, he has a lot to say so here is a truncated quote that gives you a flavour of what he's driving at:

Cream: "Educated at Rugby, trained at Sandhurst.  You read the untranslated novels of Colette and own an original Hockney. Good God sir you are practically white.... and yet you follow this white Loa.  This Miracleman who leaves a trail of dead and fish-eyed fellows in his wake. Can it be that you have gone native Cream? Mr. Cream do you at last believe in Ju-ju? Great Grandfather, pass me down the gris-gris and the pointing bone, for I have at this late stage opted to become another crazy n*****"

Now I can tell you that final word was not censored in the original comics, and while I understand Marvel's reasons for doing so it's still a shame.  Miracleman is so heavenly and Godlike that even a man as cultured as Cream feels primitive by comparison.  His self lacerating monologue speaks to a man who fears that under the surface of his "practically white" identity lurks a confused idea of a tribal past that Miracleman is forcing him to confront by his very perfection.  The use of the word "nigger" at the end is like a verbal gunshot, pulling us up short and making realise just how disconcerting being around Miracleman can be if it can reduce a proud black man to someone who'll use racial epithets about himself.

Back to Big Ben, and I do believe he was another Warrior character whose use in Miracleman was forced on Moore by the editor.  Which probably explains why he is so laughable and pathetic.  To Moore's credit he ties him into Project Zarathustra seamlessly so you'd never know he was an unwanted element.  He attacks Miracleman over and over, under the mental impression Miracleman is a Russian agent, while Miracleman just stands there.

Miracleman: "I wish I knew who he was.  I wish he'd stop hitting me."
"Foolish human."
Finally Miracleman gets bored and with a contemptous slap sends Big Ben crashing through the trees into the ground.  Evelyn Cream then puts some dynamite on the door to blow it open, but, in a gorgeously drawn panel, Miracleman looks at him with a mixture of amusement and pity and rips the door right off with one hand.  They enter the bunker.

The penultimate chapter - "Zarathustra" - is absolutely jammed packed with text so some serious summarising is going on here.  In another interesting structural move, this chapter is mostly narrated after the fact by Sir Dennis Archer.  He found the carnage outside the bunker "horrifying" and that Big Ben was still alive though somewhat frozen up.

Digital recorders showed that Miracleman and Cream entered the bunker and looked around, where they would have noticed the skeletons of the "superhuman" (it's two skeletons fused together, obviously Young Miracleman) and the "visitor" which is a non-human skeleton, as well as part of the Visitor's ship.  They then started studying the tapes and spent forty-five minutes watching them until at 03:56 Miraclemen went suddenly berserk.
Miracleman SMASH!
The tapes show doctors using information gleaned from the Visitor's ship to create a superhuman from a single cell.  Two identical "infra-spatial" trigger devices are implanted so that when the "replicate" is displaced into "infra-space" it remains connected to the human subject.  When the trigger is activated the human and the replicate switch places, the trigger being a keyword.

The tape goes onto say that the superhumans were the UK's attempt to make nuclear bombs obsolete and it shows Kid Miracleman performing some feats of power and speed. The three test subjects were chosen because they were children of deceased airforce personel.  Dennis then reports that they overwound the tape and came onto the creation of Big Ben. He was not as powerful as the Miraclemen as Project Zarathustra's originator had disappeared taking his findings with him, so they were working with incomplete data.  Hence Big Ben's instability which came about due to their limited understanding of the para-reality programming.
The Miraclemen's REAL origins.
Miracleman and Cream then rewound the tape to the section all about para-reality programming. The Miraclemen were fed their Silver Age adventures via a virtual reality style computer set-up.

Tape: "...and the creatures have lain dreaming for the past eight years.  Their entire existence a computer designed fantasy.  In order to explain the finer details of this all-important mind programming, here is the controller and originator of the Zarathustra Project Doctor Emil Gargunza."

Gargunza: "... we have completely programmed the minds of these near-divine creatures. Providing them in the process with an utterly manufactured identity which is ours to manipulate at will. To whit:  the identity of a children's comic book character."
This revelation does not go down well.
It was at this point that Miracleman went berserk, Gargunza being his repeated nemesis in the the adventures he had that he thought were for real. It seems Cream managed to calm him down and they both left, leaving a clean-up crew to move in.  This includes to psychiatrists who gently take away Big Ben who has had a complete breakdown and is lost in his fantasy world. The story ends with the same lines it started with about some trucks being empty and some not.

There is a short epilogue chapter which shows two working class men cleaning up in the bunker.  I believe there has been some censorship here as well, when they put a tape on originally it showed an insulting Chinese "Fu Manchu" sterotype, but has been changed to show Steed of the Avengers and the word balloon altered accordingly.  Again I understand why it was done, it's just I believe work that was of it's time should be presented warts and all.  There is also a short story which shows Miracleman in the future working with Warpsmith an alien who was given a couple of stories in Warrior also included in this book but never caught on by himself.  He goes on to play a much bigger role in Book 3 though.  I assume "The Yesterday Gambit" as it's called is non-canon now as I think it contradicts the later Miracleman strips, but I could be wrong.
Warpsmith and Miracleman.
The main event of this book though are the ten chapters from the first - "A Dream Of Flying" to the last "Zarathustra".  It's no exaggeration to say they went off in the comic culture like a bomb.  Warrior had a pretty small circulation, I believe roughly twenty-thousand copies on average were sold per issue, with a quarter of that in the USA.  In the same way that it was said only one hundred people saw The Velvet Underground live but they all went on to form bands, so too did it seem Marvelman as it was then known had an influence that far outstripped the low sales of the comic it was in.  Realistic treatments of "silly" superheroes became fashionable, and in a more direct sense, Marvelman led to Swamp Thing which led to Watchmen which of course was even more influential. Book One ends with the character and his history revamped and totally deconstructed.  What was now interesting would be how Moore would go about reconstructing the character he'd so lovingly pulled apart...


  1. this went up quick lol! evelyn cream is one cooool mother...

  2. I wanted to get Miracleman done and dusted before Xmas. I'm probably being overly PC in my concerns about Cream, because he does play an important role driving the narrative in this half of the book. I am curious to know what will happen to him next.

  3. Hey, Big Ben is a British classic!

    I totally agree with your explanation about the use of the n-word in this comic.

  4. I do feel very sorry for poor old Big Ben at the end of Book 1, he's fun!

    About the n-word, as I say that's only my opinion, but in context it seems to fit. But I can understand why it was censored. I haven't read MM bk2 yet, but flicking through I see Cream is still about, be interesting to see how he develops.