Last week’s Timeless #1 ended with a major teaser of things to come for the Marvel Universe: the return of Miracleman in new stories from the House of Ideas. Since acquiring the rights to Miracleman in 2009, Marvel has released exactly one issue and one page of new material featuring the character before this past week’s last-page reference.
Following Timeless #1’s release, Marvel issued one of their patented vague teasers, posing the question: “How will Miracleman affect the future of the Marvel Universe?”
It’s just one of many questions raised by the Timeless tease, and one I thought it might be fun to engage in some light speculation on.
Who is Miracleman?
Miracleman was originally Marvelman, and was created by Mick Anglo in the early ‘50s as a British replacement for the popular Fawcett Comics Captain Marvel comics, which were ceasing publication as the result of a legal battle with DC Comics. The original version of the character was nearly identical to Captain Marvel: whenever he said the word ‘Kimota!’, young Michael “Micky” Moran transformed into Marvelman, the mightiest man in the world. Marvelman was joined in his superhero adventures by the extended Marvelman Family, which included Dick Dauntless, aka Young Marvelman, and Johnny Bates, aka Kid Marvelman. The adventures of Marvelman and his family were published by Len Miller from 1954 until 1963.
In the early ‘80s, publisher Dez Skinn revived Marvelman in the pages of Warrior Magazine. Writer Alan Moore and artists Garry Leach and Alan Davis worked on the series, which was serialized in Warrior #1-21. Skinn licensed the stories to American publisher Eclipse, who renamed the strip Miracleman to avoid legal complications with Marvel. Eclipse reprinted the Warrior material in Miracleman #1-6 before publishing new stories by Moore and artists Chuck Austen, Rick Veitch, and John Totleben for issues 7-16 of the series.
Moore reimagined Marvelman/Miracleman with Moran, Dauntless, and Bates as the victims of government experiments with alien technology to graft one person’s consciousness to two separate bodies, with the bodies swapping places with the speaking of a trigger word (‘Kimota!’ for Moran, ‘Miracleman’ for Dauntless and Bates. The adult Mike Moran rediscovers his forgotten superhero identity (with a majority of his and the rest of the family’s original adventures having been the product of a simulation) and faces off against Kid Miracleman, who, having never reverted back to Johnny Bates, has grown to adulthood and turned into a sociopath.
The series’s most notable events include an issue featuring the birth of Miracleman and Liz Moran’s daughter, and the second confrontation between Miracleman and Kid Miracleman, which saw the latter destroy London and kill millions of people. The battle ended with Miracleman killing young Johnny Bates, and Moore and Totleben’s run on the series saw Miracleman taking over and remaking the world, with his daughter and the recently-discovered Miraclewoman at his side. The ensuing issues by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham told single-issue stories set in the new world, and feel a bit like a precursor to Gaiman’s Sandman series, with stories focused on one-off or side characters whose lives are touched by Miracleman in some way.
So what role might Miracleman play in the Marvel Universe? Depending on whether or not the Eclipse Comics stories are considered canon for the character, it could go in a number of different directions.
Miracleman as Hero
It’s easy to imagine a world in which, if they really are bringing Miracleman into the 616 Universe, Marvel ignores the Eclipse continuity and starts fresh with the character as a straightforward superhero. The addition of a new powerhouse hero to the universe could shake things up for a team like the Avengers, especially if he’s a hero who doesn’t agree with the way things are currently being done.
Marvel’s also recently explored their DC analogue characters with a focus on the Justice League-esque Squadron Supreme during the Heroes Reborn storyline. One major notable DC character missing a representative on the team, though, is Shazam, aka the original Captain Marvel, on whom Miracleman was directly based. Could a back-to-basics version of Miracleman join the Squadron Supreme?
Miracleman as Villain
On the other hand, if the Eclipse stories remain a part of Miracleman’s continuity, it’s hard to imagine the character joining the Marvel Universe as anything other than a villain, or at best an antihero. In the eyes of the heroes of the Marvel Universe, Miracleman would have subjugated an entire world, however benevolently he may have done it, and if he finds himself plucked from his world into the 616 timeline he may end up looking to do it again.
Another way they could take Miracleman, in a similar vein, would be to start fresh with him and position him as the ruler of a country, similar to how the Shazam villain Black Adam rules the DCU nation of Kahndaq. True, that would be similar to Doctor Doom’s ruling of Latveria, but it would keep in the tradition of basing Miracleman on a member of the Marvel family, albeit with a twist.
Miracleman as Cautionary Tale
Perhaps the cleanest way to bring Miracleman into the Marvel Universe would be temporarily bringing him over to the 616 timeline from his home timeline, or to bring the Avengers or Fantastic Four from the main Marvel U to Miracleman’s world. This would keep the Eclipse continuity – inarguably the most interesting part about Miracleman, and the main reason anyone still cares about him – both intact and separated from the Marvel Universe, and would offer an opportunity for comparison between the two worlds, which couldn’t be more different.
In the end, after whatever adventures are had and everyone is returned to their home timelines, the Avengers or the other heroes of the Marvel U would likely view Miracleman’s story as a cautionary tale. Something about power and responsibility, or absolute power corrupting absolutely, or something along those lines. I could also imagine a scenario where, after seeing how Miracleman took over his world, the non-mutant heroes of the Marvel U begin to worry – more than they already do – that the mutants of Krakoa are headed in a similar direction. They’ve already claimed dominion over the entire solar system, after all – why not the rest of Earth?
Whatever happens, and whatever role Miracleman plays in the Marvel Universe this year, it should be interesting to see play out. If Marvel does decide to start fresh with him in the 616, hopefully that wouldn’t rule out Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham finally concluding their stories with the character as part of a separate continuity. Regardless, if you’ve never read the Eclipse run of Miracleman, Marvel last week announced a new omnibus edition collecting the Alan Moore-written run of the series, due out in September. It’s well worth reading, and even decades later it’s easy to see why the series became so influential, if not a little bit infamous.