Thoughts about #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 & #6. Finally Marvel reach the end of the Warrior Marvelman material and we hit the start of the Eclipse Comics Miracleman material. Before I talk about the Eclipse material let’s get through the last two Warrior episodes and explain a bit about the 18 month wait between the last Alan Moore/Alan Davis episode in August 1984 and the first Alan Moore/Chuck Beckum (who now goes under the name of Chuck Austen) episode in February 1986. The first of the last Warrior episodes finishes off the ‘origin’ of Dr. Gargunza as he explains what he found in the alien spaceship that crashed in Wiltshire in the 1950’s. Yet again Steve Oliff outdoes himself in the colouring of the original black and white art of Alan Davis. Gargunza reveals exactly how he took this technology, adapted it and created the superhumans but only after seeing a British Captain Marvel reprint does he get the idea to create superheroes, which is also how he managed to control them. This is also the first, and possibly only time you’ll get a blatant reference to C. C. Beck’s Captain Marvel in a Marvel comic. The episode ends with Gargunza telling Liz Moran of his plan to let one of his Miracle Family ‘breed’ so he could implant his mind upon the child’s brain (this this case, Liz and Miracleman’s unborn child) and therefore live forever. Moore has set up Gargunza to be the perfect comic book villain, but remember this is 1984 and Moore is doing things never done before in superhero comics, so he grounds Gargunza’s evil (if you can call it that as by his own admission he’s just trying to survive plus ‘good’ and ‘evil’ seem flexible concepts to him) in a real world situation, while at the same time making a sly dig at the childish nature of superhero comics. It’s still a fantastic concept but one that’s been ‘borrowed’ several times since. The final Warrior episode kicks off with Marvelman’s arrival at Gargunza’s hideout in South America and we the reader are expecting a heroic rescue except we see Marvelman causing general death and destruction as he plows through Gargunza’s men.
However Gargunza has a surprise for Marvelman who has come to kill him. Gargunza has changed Marvelman back into the very human Mike Moran and is about to turn his dog into something very, very nasty…
The episode ends with a very human Mike Moran standing in front of a very powerful ‘Miracledog’, with Gargunza holding all the advantages. It’s a cliffhanger and a half and in 1984 I couldn’t wait (along with anyone else reading Warrior) to see what happened next! Except we had to wait a very long time. 18 months in fact until Eclipse Comics finally brought out #6 of their reprints in 1986 and we finally could see not only what happened next, but what replacement for Alan Davis was like. Chuck Beckum was the man chosen to replace Davis (who had fallen out with Moore and had no intention of carrying on drawing the strip) but Beckum was an unknown. His samples I saw in the British fanzine Speakeasy, were promising. They were nice and crisp, if somewhat crude not to mention it fitted a certain house style Eclipse had for it’s superhero titles. Beckum’s work didn’t look like it was the worst in the world so anticipation was high. Then the issue came out and we saw it. Oh.
It wasn’t that Beckum’s work was awful. In places it’s actually quite good, but that his work was mainly quite amateurish,not to mention some of it seemed horribly rushed though I will say that recolouring the art has helped it, or that could be the old age kicking in.
Here’s an example of what I mean.
It’s a terrible panel. Liz looks like a child, Cream is stiff and awkward and Mike Moran just about looks like a middle aged man who’s ran out of milk, as opposed to facing certain death at the hands of a Miracledog.Some panels however showed Beckum to have something, though it wasn’t yet clear what that was.
It’s a pity because they are good scripts, and I can’t stress that Beckum’s work did look promising as these reprints of his preview work from 1985 shows. Fans were disappointed.We’d waited so long and got pretty substandard art after so long being spoiled by some of the best artists in the UK. This is like waking up on Christmas morning and not just finding out your dad is actually Father Christmas, but he’s breaking all the toys he’s putting under the tree for you. I’m glad to say that time is indeed a great healer, and now I look at Beckum’s work through older eyes. It’s still mainly quite poor, but this unpublished pinup suggests better things.
Marvel also print some of his pencils and they’re not bad. Compare that panel layout with the final published one above and it’s obvious the pencils are superior in every way. It does seem that Beckum was let down by the inking, though I’m sure he inked his own work, and if he didn’t then who exactly did because they don’t do themselves any favours. The rest of this issue is made up of a 1950’s Marvelman reprint that’s actually not too bad if you want to see Dr. Gargunza smack a teenaged Mike Moran in the face. All in all though this is a crucial part of Marvel’s reprints of Miracleman. The recolouring of the Eclipse work is splendid and Beckum’s art isn’t too bad with nearly 30 years between then and now. Next issue has the other two Chuck Beckum episodes, and then we’re getting close to the childbirth issue…. Again though buy the issue from a shop or download it as I did from Comixology.