This post starts what will hopefully become a new review collection featuring of some of the greatest comics out there. So what are the comics that have had the most impact on you, the ones that are simply the best?
These are the ones that have imprinted themselves in your conciousness, be it the art that stirred your soul, or the story that you can always recall with crystal clarity. The ones that you can talk about the nuances of for hours on end, if you meet a similarly smitten fan.
I can think of a few, so I’ll kick things off with… Miracleman
This was such a departure from any cape and tights book I had been reading at the time, and was at the beginning of comics telling incredibly dark tales which flourished, and continues to the present day.
As a brief history round up Miracleman started as Marvelman in Brit comic Warrior, and was the UK answer to Captain Marvel, magic word ‘Kimota!’ transforming Michael Moran into Marvelman, just as ‘Shazam!’ does for Billy Batson. Warrior had been reprinting Fawcett comics Captain Marvel until legal issues forced them to stop and Marvelman was born. Comic legends Alan Moore and Alan Davis created the characters adventures until cancellation. However in Warrior’s final issues the character became Miracleman, as Marvel Comics waved legal papers due the the now trademarked marvel name.
Settling at Eclipse Comics in 1985 Moore, with artists Chuck Beckum, Rick Veitch, and John Totleben, embarked on a ever darkening tale of superbeings and their impact on the world, a theme Moore would revisit time and again in later years.
It was Moore’s Eclipse run that took my breath away, carefree adventures became nightmares of epic proportions. The art, especially Totleben’s, was beyond stunning in its beauty and complexity, it bordered on magical. Even when it was scenes of gore and horror, as the citizens of London are slaughtered in panels that shock and awe to this day, the art was amazing and something you studied for every tiny detail.
Moore’s tale was also something I hadn’t experienced before, and showcases the choices that Superman has refused to take on moral grounds since his creation. Miracleman with all the power at his command, joined by others like him and some alien friends, form a dictatorship to bring order to the world. All the issues that plague mankind, hunger, energy, materialism, are removed, even superpowers are given out as people explore more existential matters than making ends meet. It was a world that made sense in a dramatic way, and I suppose helped you understand the restraint Superman must show every time he watches the news :-)
It was a book that moved me to seek ever more obscure and amazing work by what we now call indie creators, though I still collected the big name books on mass, which explains the thousands of books in my loft that has made numerous houses start to lean after a while.
Neil Gaiman and artist Mark Buckingham took over Miracleman after Moore finished his run with issue 16, and continued to weave fantastic stories, as Gaiman always does, in the utopia world Miracleman had created, but it was Moore’s tales that continue to amaze me when I re-read them, something that is overdue now.
Miracleman ended unfinished and became mired in legal battles between many people who claimed rights to part or the whole of the property, and Gaiman’s plans and tales for the character never reached the light of day, despite some being completed which was such a great shame. In 2009 Marvel claimed they now owned the character and would be creating a new comic and reprinting old adventures but still there was no movement. However now, thankfully, Marvel have got things on track and Gaiman will finish his run in 2014, with reprint collections available monthly, and new adventures are planned, which will be very interesting to see what direction they take!
Despite all the problems that the character has had outside of the pages of his book, it still stands as one of the finest comics I have ever read. It had a huge impact on how I saw comics and their potential as works of art, and a vitally important and thrilling medium for storytelling.