Miracleman #8, art by Chuck Beckum

Miracleman #8
Eclipse Comics

Story: No proper credits beyond "Yeh, Mick Anglo", Eclipse editor Cat Yronwoode bigging herself up and Chuck "Austen" Beckum drawing himself drawing upcoming issues - ironically, his last published work on the title.

There was a time when people not only expected Miracleman to run on time, but Eclipse also bothered having excuses for it not appearing. So, when Eclipse's Guerneville offices flooded in Spring 1986, the Miracleman schedule (and the work done so far by Chuck Beckum on Book 2, Chapter 12) was destroyed. Quite why Eclipse needed to produce a Miracleman #8 ASAP, rather than waiting for the issue to be completed (as they would every other time the next issue dropped off the radar for months) is beyond me.

Therefore, we get a reprint issue (well, relettered and coloured reprints, anyway). Well, nearly. Sadly, it's worse than that - first we get a two-page framing sequence with comedy feminist Cat Yronwode stoking her ego and taking a pot shot at Marvel on her way to explaining why we're getting reprints. The more curious amongst you may be thinking "Hang on, why don't they just use the editorial column at the start of the damn issue?" Well, there's a really good reason why - firstly, this sequence takes up a vital two pages, meaning less space for stolen Mick Anglo reprints (the first Anglo knew of it, according to Dez Skinn, was seeing issues containing his material in a comic shop). Secondly, it means Cat gets to be in the comic and show what a whacky funster she is. As I'm sure you'll agree, this is a worthy use of pages.

It does serve the purpose of making the L. Miller & Sons reprints seem a lot more palatable. Because Marvelman isn't one of those things where you can claim the original was better. Or even all that good at all. I can see how Golden Age fans (or those who grew up with the title) would be engaged by the nostalgia, or by the low-stakes innocence and naivety of it all, but to anyone else it's pretty bad stuff. Here, we get two stories that represent the bulk of Marvelman's original adventures - a dodgy scientific story, and a historical story.

The first, "Miracleman Combats the Electric Terror", sees Micky Moran being dispatched to the town of Wattingham - the most highly electrified town in the world. Wattingham's a lucky place - it'd look pretty stupid if it always suffered power-cuts with a name like that. Another lucky appellation belongs to Oswald Ohms, the man behind the town's electric supply, who probably felt under enormous pressure to become an electrical wizard in order to live up to his surname. He has an opposite number - fellow electrical genius Austin Amps, no doubt turned to evil by the pressures of trying to become an electrical genius so his name doesn't look out of place when he ends up working in a shop. He has a blimp and is trying to scupper Ohms' plans for Wattingham by dropping lightning balls on the city. This capers on for a bit until Miracleman just corners Amps and thumps him. Beyond the absurdity of it all, it's very low on humour, though there is a po-faced, campy charm to it.

The second story is actually a little more fun, just because it's such a change from the 'rules' of more modern comics. Micky is given the job of researching an article on the Spanish Armada for the Daily Bugle, and instead of doing research, turns into Miracleman and flies back in time (seriously - they don't even bother with the explanation given in the Family strip at the start of 'A Dream of Flying'). There he saves the Captain of HMS Revenge from dying in a fight, quashes a mutiny and then warns England about the Spanish Armada. Good work, MM. There's also an amusing coda where Micky reads over Miracleman's story and dismisses it as unbelievable, hits the books and then has his piece dismissed as "too ordinary" by the Bugle's editor.

The cheap-and-cheerful art isn't without charm, while Eclipse's colouring job fits nicely, but this isn't any more than an affordable way of landing a brace of 1950s stories. Worth a look if you're curious about the character's origins but don't want to spend much yet.