In 1982, some 32 years ago I bought a copy of Warrior #1 from a newsagent in Queen Street Station in Glasgow. I was 15 at the time and that comic was massively influential upon me as it had genuinely adult strips in it from a writer called Alan Moore who I was vaguely aware of thanks to his work elsewhere. Moore had two strips; V for Vendetta, a dark and very adult story featuring things I wasn’t used to seeing in comics at 15, and the other was Marvelman. This is the strip that almost singlehandedly changed the face of superhero comics, not to mention was the start of the entire industry being woken up, and up til now has only been reprinted once by Eclipse Comics in 1985.
Since then the character has been in a horribly mess, the history of which is superbly documented by Pádraig Ó Méalóid in his Poisoned Chalice series which is possibly the most comprehensive history of Marvelman and the messy legal issues around the character and the events, which meant most people who thought these stories being reprinted would never happen, and the story which Moore passed onto Neil Gaiman actually being completed, can finally reach it’s conclusion.
So 32 years later, I’m now on the cusp of my 47th birthday and Marvel Comics have released their first edition of their Miracleman reprints which will reprint all the Warrior/Eclipse material and allow Neil Gaiman and artist, Mark Buckingham to complete the story.
It’s an interesting package, more so as Alan Moore isn’t to be mentioned once in the book after washing his hands of Marvelman, which is again detailed in length in this interview with Moore’s royalties going to Marvelman creator Mick Anglo, and his family. Moore is instead listed as ‘The Original Writer’ which is a rather funny way to describe things as most people will know this is an Alan Moore work.
Anyhow, from the very first panel of the recoloured strip, it’s evident that Steve Oliff’s work is phenomenal.
In it’s original black and white form this panel is nice, but the colours here add so much. The sky is brilliant and that little hint of dawn adds to the storytelling. Any worries this would be Stevie Wonder being let loose on the comic with a set of crayons like the Eclipse reprints were, is gone from the off, and in fact Garry Leach’s already stunning art is only complimented by the colour which is something I though would never, ever happen.
As for the story as it’s some of Moore’s early work, it’s easy to spot how traditional some of it feels. The use of thought balloons for example is nearly at Chris Claremont proportions in places…
Considering the vogue now is for characters in superhero comics to have internal monologues without thought bubbles is a technique Moore himself started to use during his Marvelman run, and this was then copied by writers right up to the present day, it’ll be interesting to see a generation’s reaction who are not used to thought bubbles. This aside, I’d forgotten how fast paced the first episode is so that there’s a genuine excitement built up by the time we get to the point when the main character, Mike Moran remembers his magic word I’m 15 again and I’m dying to see what happens…
After a brief fight where Moran has become Marvelman, Garry Leach unleashes one of the finest panels in any comic ever.
I once saw the original of this. It’s an extraordinary piece of art but to see it fresh again like this is wonderful, and it reminds me how perfect an introduction to Marvelman it was for me, but it’s the next episode that Moore starts to show what he’s made off as it’s a conversation between Moran and his wife Liz shortly afterwards. This is Moran/Marvelman telling Liz of his life he’s now remembered and it’s a crucial episode, but for it to be mainly character based was somewhat of a revelation in 1982, and in 2014 it still feels real, or at least as real as superhero comics can get.
The chapter ends after we’re introduced to a shadowy and violent figure who’ll be unknown to new readers, but anyone else who’s read the story will know who this is and what’s to come..
I haven’t read these stories with fresh eyes since 1982 so it’s a joy to sort of relive the same rush of all those years ago, but as much as it hurts to admit, Marvel’s job in representing these stories is immaculate. Sadly, the rest of the issue is frankly, padding. Yes, the Garry Leach sketchbook is nice and seeing his amazingly detailed pencils is fascinating but lets be blunt, this is padding the package out.
There’s then a two-page history of Marvelman which I’m chuffed to see was written by Mike Conroy, a familiar name in British comics, but ends on this paragraph.
Which makes me assume that either it’ll continue next issue, or that Marvel are skimming over the messy history of the character but for the rest of the issue it’s pure filler with a Joe Quesada interview of Mick Anglo that’s interesting enough, but more reprints of Anglo’s original Marvelman strips fill up the rest of the issue and for $5.99 (or around £3-3.50) it’s a broadly uneven package that’s going to potentially put off casual readers who may not have read the Moore stories and want to see them for the first time. I do appreciate Marvel putting in the time to put Moore’s version in context for an American or a 21st century readership, but they overdo it.
I want them to get on with it, which is understandable, but I want them to do it because I’m excited in reading this story serialised in this way with colouring that complements the story. Now for #2 Marvel do seem to be saying there’s less pre-Warrior material, but we’ll see. Right now, I’m happy downloading these issue from the splendid Comixology site, before buying the hardcover collection Marvel will put out which will fill a large hole on my bookshelf that’s waiting for it.