Interlude: “The Yesterday Gambit”
Writer: Alan Moore. Artists: Steve Dillon, Paul Neary, Alan Davis. Originally appeared, in black and white, in Warrior #4 (Summer 1982) as “The Yesterday Gambit” (without any book or chapter designation). Above the page ran the text, “Complete in this special – a stunning glimpse into the Marvelman legend!” This was followed by an asterix, which led to this text, in small print on the bottom right of the page: “providing a dramatic pause in our regular serial, until next month.” Never reprinted or collected.
“The Yesterday Gambit” is a historic story, most famous for being the only Miracleman episode not reprinted by Eclipse and therefore never colorized. It has therefore become legendary, even among those who have read Eclipse’s reprints. Even in the internet’s early days, scans of the story were available online.
But there’s another reason why “The Yesterday Gambit” is so legendary: it provides insight into Alan Moore’s original vision for where the story would go. That’s because the episode is set in what was then the future. In fact, it takes place during the climax of Book Three, Moore’s final work with the character.
And it was published at a time when only the first three chapters of Book One had been published – before the story was even divided into books.
In fact, “The Yesterday Gambit” was a side story, an interlude. Moore would later write three more such stories, although those would be illustrated by John Ridgeway and set in the Miracleman Family’s past, prior to Moore’s first chapter. This first interlude, besides being set in the future, was illustrated by three separate artists: Steve Dillon, Paul Neary, and Alan Davis.
With three artists working on it, “The Yesterday Gambit” could also run longer than the usual episode. At 10 pages, it was the longest episode until Eclipse took over publication and the series began to take advantage of the American comic-book format. Because of its length, when this interlude was published, it represented a full third of the story so far, in terms of pages – which only made its departure from the present-day narrative feel all the more radical.
The story behind “The Yesterday Gambit” begins understanding artist Garry Leach was running late on the strip. Leach’s detailed artwork took a great deal of time, and he was also serving as the magazine’s art director. In the previous story, this led to compromises within the story itself, as repeated images of the exterior of Sunburst Cybernetics were apparently used to avoid creating new artwork. Leach needed time to get ahead.
At the same time, the young magazine decided to make its fourth issue a “summer special.” The issue number didn’t even appear on the cover, which featured the magazine’s characters together for the first and only time. This provided a justification for running an interlude story, since the issue could be considered a “summer special” and not a regular issue.
This didn’t mean that the interlude didn’t need to itself feel special, of course. The new magazine was already garnering acclaim, but it had run late, and its short, serialized episodes meant that readers had only seen the very beginning of much longer stories, for which their creators had ambitious plans. In particular, Warrior had always intended to establish that several of its strips, although co-owned largely by their creators, took place in a shared universe. Alan Moore helped map out that universe, including future events such as what became his ending to Miracleman Book Three. This interlude story seemed like the perfect place to offer readers a glimpse of these ambitious plans.
Besides giving readers a glimpse of the strip’s future, the interlude was the first to feature Warpsmith, who wouldn’t be introduced into Miracleman’s story until Book Three. Warpsmith wasn’t originally intended to be merely a character in Marvelman’s story but rather a feature in his own right. His strip hadn’t debuted yet, but the plan called for it to do so and for many of the magazine’s features to interconnect as time went on.
This is what made “The Yesterday Gambit” truly special. Yes, it provided a glimpse of Marvelman’s future. But it was intended to provide a glimpse of the future of another major character in his own right, who hadn’t yet debuted. And to tease, under a cover showing the Warrior characters together, a future for the magazine, in which its characters would interact.
On that cover, Warpsmith appears centrally in the image, despite having not yet debuted. While Marvelman is the most noticeable character, Big Ben, who would appear in Book One, also appears. In the bottom-left corner is the protagonist of V for Vendetta, marginal but present. Four other characters appear as well, including some that might never have been intended to connect.
Ultimately, of course, this future would never come to pass. Warpsmith got only a single two-episode story before Warrior folded. A single additional episode has appeared since, but Warpsmith has never become a starring character in his own right. In the second half of Warrior’s run, Big Ben appeared regularly in solo stories, but he bore little relationship to the character Moore had written. Plans to unite Warrior’s other characters didn’t materialize either, and the characters continued through different publishers. Today, it’s hard to imagine that V for Vendetta was originally set in a parallel universe relative to Miracleman, or that Warpsmith was once intended to stand alongside them in his own right.
Because of this, “The Yesterday Gambit” is remembered most as the Miracleman interlude set in the future that was never reprinted, rather than a glimpse into a shared Warrior universe that might have been.
But the way things worked out, “The Yesterday Gambit” is also remembered as Alan Davis’s debut on the series. Leach would only fully illustrate one more chapter, by which point he became convinced that he couldn’t continue as the strip’s regular artist. Davis, whose sequence from “The Yesterday Gambit” overlapped and continued Leach’s first chapter, would take over, with Leach inking Davis’s pencils for the following two chapters to smooth the visual transition. Davis could continue as the feature’s artist throughout its Warrior run, but it was the never-reprinted “The Yesterday Gambit” that marked Davis’s first contribution to the series and that demonstrated he was a good match for it.
Next time, we’ll address the story of “The Yesterday Gambit” itself.