Friday, January 17, 2014

Miracleman #1...a consumer's opinion

Both photos in this article swiped from the wonderful!

So, with the start of another school semester, I'm finding myself a little overwhelmed with the amount of literature being thrown at me, and so at least for a bit I'm going to slow down on More Moore. Depressing, since there were some months I was pretty slow before, but that's how it is, and I'll try to put up at least a post a month or so. In the meantime, Marvel has given us chapter one of Alan Moore's (and later Neil Gaiman's) seminal first major work, Miracleman! I ran out and picked up my copy on the 15th, the day it was released, and here I am, a couple days later.
So is it worth it? Tough call. 

Consider this a little consumer guidebook for the new Miracleman, just something for those on the fence. I don't regret my purchase (much) but there's no question that Marvel made some bizarre decisions regarding this issue, so be informed.

First off, let's address the big blue-spandex-wearing elephant in the room: the price. For reasons known but to God, Marvel decided on not just a premium, but a massive premium markup for this particular issue, and it sounds like a decent premium for each issue to come. The standard Miracleman #1 is going to set you back $5.99, and I've seen variant covers (like that Garry Leach beauty up there) run as high as ten bucks. This is a heart-stopping price, double what a normal comic costs these days, and if Marvel wants to snare new readers for this series, this is absolutely the worst possible way to do it, and hopefully it will sell just based on name recognition.

Except of course it won't, because there's no name to recognize. I know this isn't Marvel's fault, but due to Alan Moore's vicious contract hardball, there's no writer credit at all on this book; just a creditless cover and the still-hilarious "STORY - THE ORIGINAL WRITER" on the inside. As everyone's favorite comicmonger Mike Sterling so eloquently put it, apparently “WRITER: A.M.” or “MR. M.” or “JILL DE RAY” were out of the question.

So the price is okay to you, and you've known that Mr. Moore was involved for decades, right? And hey, it's 64 pages, who's going to complain? Well that brings us to big problem number three...
It's only got like 20 pages of actual comic inside! The rest is a monumental parade of filler, including sketches, interviews, essays, and a handful of Golden Age strips from Marvelman creator Mick Anglo. I had thought that there were supposed to be a couple Warpsmith stories, a spinoff story that ran concurrent to Marvelman and eventually crossed over in book II, but a scan of the solicitor's notes show I was mis-remembering. Keeping in mind that a normal, $2.99 comic is 24 pages, what Marvel is trying to do here almost feels insidious, and if for some bizarre reason a member of the uninitiated DOES pick up a copy, they will feel so gypped by its contents that I can't imagine any of them picking up chapter 2. Personally, I loved the Golden Age work, but I suspect that I'm in the minority among even '80s Alan Moore readers, let alone 2014's hip kids, and since I seem to recall the all-Golden Age Marvelman book that came out a few years ago sold about ten copies, I think I'm right in those assumptions.

So there's the negatives, and I don't blame you if they're too much to bear. Any positives? Absolutely. The work looks absolutely gorgeous, recolored and relettered and treated with the utmost care. I've heard a lot of people complain about the new colors, but I don't get it; it's perhaps a bit 'standard' compared to Swamp Thing or Watchmen or something, but the old Warrior and Eclipse coloring jobs were so bad that I can't imagine anyone wouldn't prefer the workmanlike Photoshop job we got. Everything is crisp and clear, the colors pop where they're supposed to, even a few details that were obscured in the original work are intact here. I have heard that the digital edition of the comic slaps some panties on the otherwise bare bottom of Liz Moran in one panel, which makes me wonder what exactly they're going to attempt when we get to the birth chapter, but the physical copy I got is in its uncensored glory.

And finally, there's the fact that this story is just really, really good, and that Marvel has brought us a story that's remained out of print for 25 years (and in Gaiman's case, unfinished). Reading it in print for the first time (I could never afford those Eclipse trades), I was struck by how, even though nearly every comic since then was influenced by Marvelman in some way, it still feels fresh and urgent and downright essential. And, minus some unfortunate Beckum artwork around the middle, it's only going to get better. Everybody that is interested in what comics have become since 1982 absolutely has to read Miracleman.

So there you have it: three reasons against buying the book, and two reasons for. Draw your own conclusions from it, I suppose, though part of me does think that the average Joe should just wait for the trade. As it is, I can't imagine what Marvel was thinking giving us a 25 page comic, adding 40 pages of filler, and charging us 6 bucks for it, unless they really thought that rabid Moore fans alone would boost sales enough to make it worthwhile. I'll say this though: I'll be buying issue two in a couple weeks. How can I not? It's Miracleman!

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