Superhero nerds and comics snobs, gather and rejoice! We’re proud to make an exclusive announcement: Marvel Comics is about to publish the first new Miracleman stories in 20 years. And what’s more, one of those stories will be the first-ever publication of a long-lost Miracleman script written nearly 30 years ago by psychedelic Scottish comics legend Grant Morrison.
On New Year’s Eve, you can head to your local comics shop (or online retailer, if you hate the smell of paper) and buy Miracleman Annual No. 1. It will feature the following delights: the aforementioned never-before-seen Grant Morrison story, which will be drawn by Marvel Entertainment’s chief creative officer (and veteran penciler) Joe Quesada; a brand-new Miracleman story written by Peter Milligan and drawn by Mike Allred; a cover by Italian illustrator Gabriele Dell’Otto; and a variant cover by Bone writer-artist Jeff Smith. For the comics world, this is a huge deal.
“People talk about comics like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, but Miracleman affected modern comics as much as them, if not more so,” Quesada told me. “This is going to be part of the historical tapestry of the character.”
Here’s some context for the perplexed (and you can find more information in this story we wrote about Miracleman a few months ago). In the 1950s, British writer-artist Mick Anglo created Marvelman, a comics series starring a blond Superman ripoff and his two young sidekicks. The series shut down in 1963, but was revived in 1982 as a dark, mind-expanding, industry-changing saga written by comics god Alan Moore. After a copyright battle, the series was renamed Miracleman and written by Neil Gaiman until its publisher went bankrupt in 1994. Over time, it became a sacred item: the best-known comics series that you could never purchase. In 2009, Marvel Comics announced they’d bought the rights to Miracleman and, this year, started republishing the original comics.
But no one saw this news coming. Fans have known about the lost Morrison story for years, but no one was holding out much hope that it would ever surface. It was mired in controversy: A young Morrison wrote it in the mid-’80s with the blessing of Marvelman’s publisher. But the deal fell apart, allegedly because of Moore. Here’s what Morrison said of the incident in an interview a few years ago:
I didn’t want to do it without Moore’s permission, and I wrote to him and said, “They’ve asked me to do this, but obviously I really respect you work, and I wouldn’t want to mess anything up. But I don’t want anyone else to do it and mess it up.” And he sent me back this really weird letter, and I remember the opening of it, it said, “I don’t want this to sound like the softly hissed tones of a mafia hitman, but back off.”
Whatever the personal details may have been, Morrison’s script faded into the mist. Flash-forward to a few years ago, when Quesada and some of his Marvel compatriots were working to secure the Miracleman rights. Quesada told me he stumbled across an interview in which Morrison mentioned the lost story.
“[In the interview,] Grant said something like, ‘I’m sure I have the script somewhere, maybe I’ll dig it up and just post it online for the fans, just for the fun of it,” Quesada recalled. “Several things came to mind. One was, Oh my God, this actually happened. Another was, Oh my God, he may have the actual script. Another was, Please don’t put it out for free yet!”
Morrison agreed to give Marvel the script, but under the condition that Quesada — who hasn’t drawn a full comics story in years — draw it himself. It’s a short, meditative tale about Miracleman sidekick turned nemesis Johnny Bates, set before the apocalyptic events of Miracleman No. 15.
As previously mentioned, the issue will also feature a story written by Peter Milligan, another boundary-pushing Brit who came out of the experimental ‘80s. It’ll be illustrated by frequent Milligan collaborator and pop-art phenom Mike Allred, best known for creating Madman and drawing titles like X-Statix and the current Silver Surfer series. But this story will hew more to the technicolor Marvelman of the ‘50s than the grim one of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
“We’re doing a story that, if you like, looks at the Mick Anglo years, what might be seen on the outside as the innocent, old-fashioned years,” Milligan told me. “There’s a scintilla of self-awareness, with Marvelman being — I don’t want to give too much away, but the story is not without some awareness that it’s all going to change very quickly. It’s an homage. All the guys are there, all the craziness.”
The notoriously hard-to-reach Morrison couldn’t be reached for comment. But we can infer his excitement based on the way he wrote about Miracleman in his truly bizarre 2011 quasi-autobiography, Supergods. “Moore’s command of his material brought the disciplines and structures of drama, literature, and music to superhero comics in a way that made the familiar suddenly fresh,” Morrison wrote (with remarkable diplomacy, for a guy who’d feuded so hard with Moore.) “His was a challenging and articulate voice in a complacent field.”
As you anxiously wait for the New Year’s Eve release date, you can still pick up Marvel’s reprintings of the Moore- and Gaiman-era Miracleman issues. And Marvel confirmed to me that they’re still moving ahead with their plans to get Gaiman to write the conclusion of the series, which abruptly stopped its original run at issue 24. No matter how good any of these new stories end up being (though they’re very likely to be delightful), all of this news is cause for celebration. Infighting in the comics world is usually a death sentence for good stories, but we’re witnessing a rare instance of rebirth.