Go get ‘Poisoned Chalice: The Extremely Long and Incredibly Complex Story of Marvelman (and Miracleman)’

Pádraig Ó Méalóid’s, Poisoned Chalice, his long history of the British comics character Marvelman, or Miracleman, has finally been printed and is available from your favourite non-taxpaying retailer Amazon.My copy is ordered and on it’s way so more when the Royal Mail eventually delivers it!

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What I thought of Miracleman by Gaiman and Buckingham #6

Thoughts about #1#2#3#4 and #5.

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This issue of Marvel#s Miracleman reprints sees the storyline get to the end of Gaiman and Buckingham’s first arc The Golden Age, and all the people and stories we’ve been shown over the previous five issues come back as these people are reintroduced during the celebrations for the day Miracleman stopped Kid Miracleman’s decimation of London.

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The issue is a series of snapshots as our characters we’ve met mingle in the crowds of London Day, and don’t just revel or be in awe of them but they take in the realities of the changed world they now live in thanks to Miracleman.

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There’s also a nice little cameo of an old Marvel character that Alan Moore wrote very early in his career…

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Having the story set in a more chaotic science fiction version of the Notting Hill/St . Paul’s Carnival where the sights and sounds are infinitely more outlandish than you’d see at a normal carnival.

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Carnival wraps up The Golden Age quite nicely as Gaiman gives either a nice resolution for the characters he’s used up til now or leaves them with a bittersweet end to our time with them. There’s also a nice uplifting ending and that’s it, The Golden Age is over. Next issue sees the start of The Silver Age and that means Marvel are getting very near to the end of the reprinted/unpublished Gaiman and Buckingham material from Eclipse Comics from the early 1990’s. So in a few months we’ll get the unpublished issue that’s sat around for 20 years thanks to Eclipse’s bankruptcy, and then our first serious new Miracleman material in the 21st century.

The Silver Age was the arc that was going down interesting roads when Eclipse’s bad management saw Miracleman go on the sort of hiatus that’s left people who were young and fresh at the time transform with age into graying middle age. I hope the new material isn’t too jarring in difference, and I hope Gaiman and Buckingham’s final arc, The Dark Age gives the entire story a suitable ending.  Indeed I remember being told a chunk of the plot for The Dark Age decades ago at a UKCAC but even today much of it  might be a tad hardcore for your average superhero comic fan.

I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

What I thought of Miracleman by Gaiman and Buckingham #5

Thoughts about #1#2#3 and #4.

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Neil Gaiman’s The Golden Age of Miracleman stories continues with a little story of paranoia which isn’t one of the finest stories in this run, but it does feature some truly exceptional art from Mark Buckingham.

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It’s an interesting Cold War fantasy that possibly read better (as said in previous reviews, I have little memory of the Gaiman stories) in 1991 when the Berlin Wall had only just fallen, the Soviet Union had just collapsed and the Cold War had fizzled out. In 2015 it reads as a product of its time.

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It’s odd to look at this sort of spy thriller as dated but in the very different geopolitical world of today it is, and it’s oddly quaint too. It seems civilised which of course it wasn’t but compared to today there’s an element that secret phrases and people dashing around in raincoats is terribly romantic.

The next story is Gaiman and Buckingham’s first Miracleman story that first appeared in Total Eclipse, a sort of Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover that Eclipse Comics published in 1988/89. It was overwhelmingly terrible but their little story of Jason (the boy Marvelman met in the forest during the Alan Moore run in Warrior) losing his virginity and recounting how he managed to avoid being murdered by Johnny Bates because his mum sent him away to stay with an aunt.

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These pages are lovely in their Pythonesque fun, but it darkens instantly when Jason discuss what Bates did in London.

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It’s a lovely little story of hope, humour and horror that promised big things from Gaiman and Buckingham, not to mention it dropped hints in regards the tone and direction they’d take once they replaced Alan Moore who had only just had his final issue published by Eclipse.

As usual, Marvel ensure a good reproduction of the original art, and the extras include Mark Buckingham’s piece from the GLASCAC 91 programme which was a nice wee surprise. All in all though this all feels like a lull before the storm, which of course it actually is…..

What I thought of Miracleman by Gaiman and Buckingham #4

Thoughts about #1#2 and #3.

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The early 1990’s was a much better time than most people think. Yes, there was a crushing recession, a Tory government, high unemployment and things were a bit crap if you were on the dole but there was a lot of good comics then. Sadly, I never really classed the continuation of Alan Moore’s Miracleman as a great comic at the time. Decent, but nothing outstanding.

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This is an example of a story I thought dull at the time, but through the joys of old age I appreciate more. I still don’t think it’s a great issue, but it’s more than just a good comic.

The story itself is centered round a woman Rachel, and her family, including her daughter Mist who happens to be a superhuman along the lines of Miracleman’s daughter Winter. Mist’s returned from her travels for Winter’s festival.

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The main part of this story is Rachel telling the story of Winter’s journey into space to visit the Qys, and it’s nicely told but it’s the ideas in the first half of the story of forgiveness, loss and celebration that are the interesting ones as we investigate this world of superheroes and a humanity getting to grips with the fact they’re no longer important as they once were.

It’s a nice story. It’s sweet in places, and it helps fill in the gaps in the story as well convey the fact that humans are struggling to cope with superhumans who in many cases they’ve given birth to as Rachel has with Mist.

As for the backup story, that creeps on with a body being grown but who is it? Of course if you’ve been reading you’ll know, but it’s still a nice tease.

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I love the Jack Kirby inspired circuitry Mark Buckingham has put in the panel above. It’s glorious.

The rest of the issue is as usual, made up of original art from the Eclipse Comics issue published back in the early 1990’s. Overall this is very much an issue that’s a step on the way to something larger, and overall it’s that story I’m more interested in getting on with.

What I thought of Miracleman by Gaiman and Buckingham #3

Thoughts about #1 and #2.

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I’ve mentioned previously I have little or no memory of reading these issues the first time round, but this is one I vaguely remember as it’s a splendid piece of work by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham that stands up proudly even today.

The main story tells of Mors, the alien ally of Miracleman who is able to bring back the dead, hence why when we first meet him in this issue he’s speaking to Andy Warhol (or in fact one of several duplicates of him) who he wishes to help Emil Gargunza to this new world.

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Obviously bringing back someone as exceptionally clever and dangerous as Gargunza is risky, but for now this is an evil scientific genius being paired up by an artistic genius, though Gargunza’s movements are severely restricted compared to the rest of the resurrected.

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Gargunza and Warhol discussions are fascinating as the scientist finds out how much his creation has evolved, while Warhol sees Gargunza as someone he’s got more in common with than the rest of the duplicates Mors has created. Over the course of the story the pair discuss the state of capitalism, or indeed, the lack of it now that Miracleman has gotten rid of money. There’s also a meeting with Winter, Miracleman’s child, and a discussion of death.Their own deaths in fact.

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At this point it’s probably time to discuss Marvel’s editing of the word ‘faggot’ from this panel that’s caused a wee bit of a controversy.

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This is a ridiculous bit of censorship as Gaiman clearly is using the word within the context of a particular character, and it’s aimed at Andy Warhol in the story so it can hurt him. Replacing ‘faggot’ with ‘fairy’ reduces the power of what Warhol sees as a friend insulting him.I appreciate the weight of the word, but this sort of censorious attitude in art isn’t helpful.

As for this story it’s Gaiman’s first real classic in his run. It’s no more than a series of conversations and observations but it’s so brilliantly put together that each page is electric as we get sucked into the strange afterlife Mors has created. It’s also setting up how dangerous Gargunza is after death which is something that may, or may not, pay off later in Gaiman’s run.

Marvel’s packaging of these reprints of the Eclipse Comics originals are generally excellent, but I wonder why the original covers aren’t included in the bonus material? Anyhow, at the pace these reprints are going we’ll be at the new material by the turn of the year….

What I thought of Miracleman by Gaiman and Buckingham #2

Thoughts about #1.

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The next part of Marvel’s reprints of Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham’s Miracleman takes up the story in summer 1990 which is possibly before a lot of people reading this for the first time were even born, but trust me kids, the summer of 1990 was bloody brilliant.

As for the story there’s one panel at the start which is a bit jarring, but in a ‘bloody hell, this is a bit prophetic‘ way.

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It seems the Miracleman Family govern this utopia by means of polls like the ones you see on Buzzfeed. It’s an odd little detail that’s going to click with the younger reader, but I remember at the time thinking how odd it was that Gaiman thought everyone would have a computer at home. I mean, even in this fantastical world that’s just ridiculous right???

This is the tale of one man that falls in love with Miraclewoman, has a brief fling with her, and then she moves on as after all, she’s a god and he’s a human.

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As I’ve said, I don’t really remember much of these stories as I only read them once at the time, and as mentioned, 1990 really was a fabulous year, but this is nice little story of a man being sexually obsessed with a god and that really is it in terms of plot.

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What makes this a nice, if somewhat short, story is the character of the man and the god. This is a man that fixes mills, spends time mainly by himself and hasn’t had sex in five years, which apart from the mills is pretty much describing your average fanboy in 1990. So this is Gaiman dropping the reader into the comic and having them fuck Miraclewoman, or at least, that’s how I see it looking back at 1990 from the year 2015.

It’s a lovely, if melancholic story but the second story I have utterly no memory of at all reading when it first appeared in the original Eclipse Comics. It’s a story of kids behind the bikesheds, one of which is a Bates, someone following the maniac Johnny Bates that murdered tens of thousands of Londoners.

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I love the mention of The Face, that’s so 80’s, early 90’s!

This though is the Miracleman universe version of the Bash Street Kids, and it’s positively brimming with not just handy exposition that fills in the world of the Golden Age, but drops a lot of foreshadowing too. It’s a fun little story with some cracking cartooning from Mark Buckingham.

The rest of the issue is made up of Gaiman’s script, some original art and it’s over for another issue as Marvel try to get to the new Gaiman and Buckingham material sooner rather than later. It’s odd thinking that at some point this story which started with Alan Moore’s revamp in Warrior #1 back in 1982 is going to be completed in the mid-20 teens.

What I thought of Miracleman by Gaiman and Buckingham #1

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Many, many, many years ago a young Neil Gaiman and an even younger Mark Buckingham had the task of following Alan Moore on Miracleman, published then by Eclipse Comics. Their run was never completed as Eclipse went bankrupt so the last issue of their run was #24, though #25 was completed (I saw photocopies of the pages back in the 90’s at a UKCAC) it never got published. So for 20 years or so the title has been in limbo and the story stuck at a crucial point which would lead to an firm and definite end, which I won’t reveal but for those of a certain age involved in British comics fandom who was told about it in a bar at a convention know that it’d be hard for anyone to follow what Gaiman intended back then.

Gaiman’s story picks up a couple of years (the issue is set in 1987) after Moore’s final issues and the final battle with Kid Miracleman. London is home to the Miracleman Family, and the world is living in a golden age, hence the title of this first arc, The Golden Age. In total there’s three arcs Gaiman had planned; The Golden Age, The Silver Age and The Dark Age. It was halfway through The Silver Age Eclipse went bust.

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I’ll make a confession here. I’ve only read these issues once when they came out at the time, and frankly, they never made much of an impression upon me. Sure, I liked the Barry Smith covers and Mark Buckingham’s art is lovely but I found the stories tedious and dull. I am now, sadly, 20-25 years older and what seemed tedious and dull in my 20’s now reads much better and I’m ashamed to say I should have gotten the stories Gaiman was trying to tell (The Golden Age is made up of short stories about the new world the Miracleman Family has created) about the world, which was then the world of the 1980’s.

The main story in this issue is that of a man and fellow acolytes climbing the stairs of Miracleman’s house/temple/palace to pray to him as they see him, rightfully, as a god.

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Each of the followers find their own prayers answered or indeed, not, but this is a story detailing Miracleman’s new world and how humanity is dealing with the realities of it as best they can. It’s a nice little story that doesn’t propel whatever Gaiman’s main story is going to be as at this stage Gaiman is really worldbuilding after having the baton passed to him by Moore. There are small hints something else is happening with one of the short stories but this is meant to be slow burning as we need to understand this Golden Age and what it means to us ordinary people.

As for Marvel’s reprinting of this it’s simply lovely. D’Israelli’s colours and lush and the additional material includes one of Buckingham’s UKCAC pieces and Gaiman’s script for this issue not to mention more original art. Overall it’s a nice package but in reality the main even is to come next year but I hope new readers come to this because it’s a piece of comics history most of us thought would never, ever be completed and here we are eight or nine months away from the first all-new issue.