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Moore on fire – Warrior

October 1, 2011

It somehow escaped my notice that Alan Moore’s groundbreaking and career-making work on Marvelman and V for Vendetta ran concurrently in the defunct Warrior mag. I knew that both were first published there, but not that Moore (along with artist partners Alan Davis, Garry Leach and David Lloyd) was firing them off all at once. He was really scattin’ and beboppin’ back then, wasn’t he?

A note before I continue: I loathe the original Marvelman name for the Mick Anglo character. I realize it was barred from use on American shores by various (obvious) corporate reasons, but this is one instance where soulless conglomerate shenanigans actually produced something worthwhile. The Miracleman moniker is superior. It rolls better. It feels better. And it draws the character a little further away from the old pasty British ripoff of the Captain Marvel character — a crappy dilution of a (forgive me) crappy original. Therefore, Miracleman is what the Kimota-fueled Mr. Moran shall be called here.

On to business.

I recently bought a small cache of Warriors from its somewhat magical 26-issue run. I was a bit surprised to spot them. They’re not the most common things to find here in the colonies, and, like the U.K. Transformers mags, I despaired of ever laying hands on them. It was a pleasure to plunk down cold hard cash and scurry back to headquarters like a dog with a bone.  It also wasn’t so bad to see a couple of classic stories in their original oversized format.

Miracleman was a character whose Eclipse reprints awakened me to a new world, one where guys in tights could be something much, much more than cardboard cutouts mouthing lame banalities. I’ve touched before upon my long-time love for his (still unfinished) arc, but it deserves restating. It was like the first time a sports fan watches the NFL in high-definition. An eye-opener. The stories had a depth and pacing that I wasn’t accustomed to. They weren’t necessarily better than the standard fare, just on a different plane.

For example…

One satellite in the Miracleman system that sticks in the mind is that enigmatic assassin with the sapphire teeth, Evelyn Cream. In his later appearances he fell more into cliché territory, constantly harping on his blackness and the irony of serving and protecting an Aryan Zarathustra, a Hitlerian wet dream brought to life by the evil Dr. Gargunza. But those first impressions were stunning. He was a force of nature, a great white shark with the body of a fullback, odd orthodontia and eye-obscuring glasses. Here was our first clue to his — as Kevin Harlan would bark — “no regard for human life,” as he questioned the terrorist burned and struck deaf by Mike Moran’s first transformation (from #7):

So much for Steve. And I have to say, the teeth don’t work quite as well in the original black and white.

There was also this unquestionable high point of the early Miracleman saga, Cream’s crafty means of subduing a man who can become invulnerable at mere utterance of “Kimota,” from Warrior #8:

You know, I only had the first two of the Eclipse reprints as a lad, and they only got as far as those panels. I got a hold of the rest of the Miracleman series (delayed thanks to endless copyright garbage — thanks, McFarlane) a few years ago. So that messy baby and fade to black ending was the last chunk that I saw for a very, very long time. Quite a wait.

The Miracleman mythos was a snowball rolling downhill, picking up mass and speed as it thundered along.  Moore began another feature in the magazine about the Warpsmiths, who would later be woven in during the Eclipse issues, while other odd characters like Big Ben, “The Man with No Time for Crime,” were incorporated on the fly. Here they both are on the cover of #10:

En fuego, folks. En fuego.

Things got hung up in #21, but when they got rolling again over in the states — after that blissful Miracleman alteration — they only got crazier until Moore tagged in Neil Gaiman. Some day check out Kid Miracleman’s treatment of “the one person who was ever nice” to him. That’ll clear the sinuses.

Oh yeah. That little “Remember remember the fifth of November” guy. In the above issue, as Moore had Miracleman knocking Big Ben into next week and stumbling upon the underground bunker that birthed him, and had the Warpsmiths zipping along in their own feature, V was gently poisoning one of his torturers and showing her (but not the readers, damn him) his true face:

Man, with these you were really getting a whole lot of bang for your buck. Or quid. Or pence. (Also, not that anyone cares, but I’m 100% in lockstep with Moore on the movie adaptation of this work. Clumsy. Sledgehammer in lieu of scalpel. Lame. And that’s just Natalie Portman’s accent. The whole film is social commentary for simpletons, a drunken grope instead of a caress.)

Getting off track.

Looking back, there was a line in one of those early Miracleman chapters (in the Eclipse days, I think) that rung truer than any I’d ever heard before or since. A pissed Miracleman was flying to confront arch-foe Emil Gargunza, and wasn’t doing so in a roundabout fashion. Instead of going around various obstacles, whether trees, buildings, earth or people, he plowed right through them. They were all part of, as he phrased it in his mind, “this paper world.” That’s such a perfect phrase. The “what if heroes were real” trope has been done to death, but Moore, as with most things he’s touched, managed to scoop a degree of vérité from it, and do so in a way that was simple and natural. He put a growing detachment into Miracleman that was chilling, not so much a disdain for the fragile things that surrounded him, but something more akin to pity. Pity for us, the denizens of the paper world.

That Moore penned the anarchist derring-do of a Guy Fawkes-masked terrorist at the same time, well, that’s sublime. Apologies to those who worked on the other characters that filled out every Warrior issue (sorry, Pressbutton), but for me they’re like stars when the sun has risen. Invisible. Moore was young back then. I don’t think he was a full-fledged warlock at that point, wearing rings that would make a decked-out pimp whistle with admiration. Watchmen was still in the future, as was From Hell and oh so many other books. He was hungry. And his output was like a one-time-only jazz riff that miraculously gets preserved for all time.

From over the Atlantic and across the span of years, I doff my cap.

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