Miracleman Family #1-2
Following popular response (apparently) to some vintage Mick Anglo Studios reprints in Miracleman #13, Eclipse saw there was money to be made, and promptly commissioned this two-part reprint series. And the company ticks all its' usual boxes - other people's material which they aren't credited for (unless there really was a writer named Mick Anglo Studios...); those who were credited weren't apparently paid; there's a pretentious, pointless mini-essay (not quite as good as the one in the 'Golden Age' TPB), by super-nerd Dennis Gifford ; and substandard material haphazardly slapped between misleadingly accomplished covers. All it's missing is Stereoscopy and Cate Yronwoode writing herself into the strip...
Tampering extends to colouring the material and re-lettering it so 'Marvelman' reads 'Miracleman' (plus one editorial note explaining these are dreams given to the Family by Gargunza). While colourist Marcus David is hardly Gina Hart, it must be said that the 1950s material really does look so much better in colour - the scratchy, first-draft feel of the pencils is subdued somewhat by the brash primary colours, upgrading the art from dull to average.
The first story, "How Dicky Dauntless Became Young Miracleman", is - of course - the pre-Moore origin of Young Miracleman. It's mindlessly lightweight stuff on the whole, though it is nice to have a Miller story that has a point to it rather than the "thugs do something naughty, get beaten up by superhero, they all have lemonade" pattern most of them fall into. It's got some giant holes in the plot, too - Miracleman takes time out to sit down and talk to a kid, complaining about his lack of time, and sends Dicky to Hiriam Steele with a vital message when he could have flown there in seconds, and then manages to arrive there just in time to save the boy from being shot in the back anyway. What, did he decide to fly there all of a sudden just to rub in the pointlessness of Dauntless' errand? Of course, the momentous nature of the original work is undermined for Miracleman fans by this being simply an implanted dream, but then it's not that good anyway.
The second story, "Young Miracleman and the Plague", is even worse, being the usual flimsy Anglo work. It has to have two plots to support eight pages, and even that relies on YM being incredibly stupid (how does it take him so long to realise the plague doctors are a pair of bastards?). And the Medieval Italians are hilarious - speaking like English peasants, but saying "Sapristi!" every now and then. Very dull. The final story in the first issue is similarly flawed... Interest is raised a little by having vintage Marvelman's one slightly respectable villain, Gargunza, in it. He's pretty rubbish, to be honest, but at least he's better than the fittingly-named evil industrialists and petty racketeers that usually plagued the Family. Just. The story itself is more stupid camp nonsense, as one would expect.
Now, as you'll have noticed, there's a distinct lack of the Family in that one, Johnny being reduced to a face-pulling cover cameo. I'd guess this is because Young Marvelman issues are cheaper, and Eclipse didn't want to fork out too much. Being Eclipse, they managed a five-month gap before the second issue (I mean, it's a bloody reprint title), during which time they seem to have found a copy of Marvelman Family #4 somewhere for not much money, and this yields the two stories that bookend the second issue. The first, "...and the Shadow Stealers", is actually rather good fun - packing the strip with all three Miraclemen and two Gargunzas means there are less frames of people talking to themselves for one (bit of a shame Anglo didn't chuck Young Nastyman in as well, though), and while the plot itself is stupid, it does at least show some minor level of imagination, and almost justifies the gargantuan 10 pages. It doesn't quite, and there are still at least two total logic breakdowns (involving the Gargunzas' amazing car, which seems to be able to drive quicker than the Family can fly). Plus there's some quality Homo-eroticism on show - check Micky and Dicky in the alley on page 5. Looks like Moore didn't just make that up out of absolutely nothing after all (just out of nearly nothing...). And Gargunza does get to thwart them at one point by simply claiming not to be up to anything at the moment. Priceless.
The second Family offering, "...and the Hollow Planet", also uses a bit of imagination, even if it is again rather silly. Thankfully, there's an alien invasion going on - did they save up all the vaguely interesting plots for Family or something? It features some endearing Bad Science and some comedy aliens, and slips by nicely enough. The brace sandwich a Young Miracleman story, and it's a very surprising one, being actually not too bad. The artist, Leo Rawlings, not only managed to get a credit out of Eclipse (if the results Google is throwing up are about the same Leo Rawlings, it seems the chap was a renowned 1940s water-colour artist), but is really rather good - his attempt at a more realistic style really does look so much better than the simplicity that surrounds it. The plot, involving a group of Nazi conspirators, is hardly 'A Dream of Flying', but it's certainly one of the smarter L. Miller strips. It's not brilliant, but it's not insulting either.
The Miracleman Family mini, much like Miracleman #8, presents a cheap way of getting a fistful of vintage stories without having to fork out £10 a time. The stories aren't of a particular high quality unless you have nostalgia for the days when Marvelman was a poor clone of Captain Marvel. Eclipse's colouring job is adequate, to be fair. However, it's more one for completists, or those already converted. - there's a better taste for the 1950s material in the first issue of Miracleman itself.