Thursday, October 24, 2013

What's In A Name?

In January, Marvel Comics will release Miracleman #'s 1 and 2, beginning a semi-monthly series reprinting the seminal early 80's stories by Alan Moore that are credited by many comics historians with giving birth to the so-called Modern Age of super-hero comics. At least I think these are the Alan Moore stories.  The solicitation credits "The Original Writer" and Mick Anglo, the man who created the character as a substitute for the original Captain Marvel back in the late 50's.  Apparently the plan is that once the reprints of the stories by TOW and his successor Neil Gaiman ("The Un-Original Writer"?) are exhausted, Gaiman will at last be given the chance to continue and conclude the story begun over two decades ago and interrupted by the demise of publisher Eclipse Comics and the long legal battle over the rights to the character.
There are a couple of interesting things about the solicitation for these books.  The first is that, as noted above, the name of Alan Moore, who is well known to have written these stories despite the solicit's coyness, does not appear in it.  By the way,  I am unable, nor do I actually feel the need, to  restrain myself from observing at this juncture that I find the reference to Alan Moore as "The Original Writer" somewhat ironic in light of the longstanding  suspicions/allegations/rumors concerning the actual originality, or lack thereof, of these comics and a couple of other of Moore's best known and well regarded works from the mid-1980's.
The omission of Moore's name in the solicitation is apparently in accordance with Moore's request that Marvel and DC no longer use his name in publicizing reprints of work he did for them back when he didn't think they were the source of all evil in the universe. Marvel, I would assume, was only to happy too comply with Mr. Moore's wishes if only to avoid the backlash of negative publicity that greeted DC's flagrant flaunting of the writer's preferences in publishing its series of prequels to Watchmen.  
This development is, as I said, interesting, although, given Moore's highly publicized contempt for the mainstream of the American comics industry and the reverence with which his every mood swing is regarded by comics fans, hardly surprising.
What I find somewhat more interesting, and slightly curious, is that Marvel Comics has chosen to re-present these stories under the title Miracleman.   That was, you may remember, the name under which the comic, originally presented in Britain as "Marvelman", appeared upon its first publication within the United States in order to head off any threat of legal action by the very same Marvel Comics in whose hands the rights to the character now reside.  One of the supposed advantages of Marvel's aquisition of those rights posited at the time of said aquisition was that the deal would at last allow the early stories to be presented in America under their original title.  I can, and shall proceed to, only speculate as to Marvel's reason for this decision.
It might be that since the comics were  originally published here under the Miracleman title Marvel may believe that most people know them by that name and might not recognize them if they were presented as Marvelman.  However, I find that unlikely, as the real world story behind these comics, including the name change and the years of litigation over the rights, are today perhaps more well known than the comics themselves, which have been out of print for over two decades.  This is certainly true in my case.  All I know about these stories comes from what I've read about them, not from reading the actual comics.
More likely to me is that Marvel chose to keep the Miracleman designation in order to avoid confusion with other similarly named characters appearing in the mainstream Marvel Universe, namely Captain Marvel and, in particular, Marvel Boy.
On the other hand, I find the most likely reason to be that, as Timothy Callahan observed in the third and final installment of his 2009 series of "When Words Collide" columns at Comic Book Resources tracing the origins and history of the Marvelman/Miracleman comics, by the time that Neil Gaiman took over as writer from Alan Moore, the series had been known as Miracleman for some time and Gaiman was very clearly writing about a character named Miracleman.  Callahan wonders whether "...the name "Marvelman" would even make sense for the character Gaiman writes..." and notes that "The word 'miracle' appears repeatedly, and the god-like status of the character makes him more than just a marvel." It is very likely then, that Gaiman will continue in this vein when the narrative resumes.
Regardless of what they are called or why they are called that, the return of Miracleman/Marvelman to print after so long a hiatus is to be celebrated.  As I said before, I have never read these comics, although I just might now, I recognize that, both for their value as stories and for their importance to the development and maturation of the comics art form, in particular the super-hero genre, these comics most definitely deserve to be in print and available to all.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed this is good news! I have scattered pieces of the Eclipse series written by Moore in random back issues and have read none of the stories by Gaiman. It will be good to finally get the chance to read the whole series without having to pay through the nose for each issue.

    I can only hope that the colors for the reprint aren't changed too drastically from their older counterparts. There are too many reprints where the colors are noticeably more drab than their brightly colored originals.