Miracleman, Chapter 5:

“Fallen Angels, Forgotten Thunder”

Having introduced Miracleman and discussed its first, second, third, and fourth chapters, as well as the interlude “The Yesterday Gambit,” we now turn to chapter five of Alan Moore’s Miracleman, which concludes the hero’s first fight with Kid Miracleman.

Miracleman #2Chapter 5: “Fallen Angels, Forgotten Thunder” (7 pages)

Writer: Alan Moore. Pencils: Alan Davis. Inks: Garry Leach. Originally appeared, in black and white, in Warrior #6 (Oct 1982) as “Fallen Angels, Forgotten Thunder.” Reprinted in color in Miracleman #2 (Oct 1985) as “Book One Chapter 6: Fallen Angels, Forgotten Thunder.” Collected in Miracleman Book One: A Dream of Flying (Oct 1988) as “Chapter 5: Fallen Angels, Forgotten Thunder.” All versions of the title inexplicably have a period after “Thunder” (though this was ignored on the collected edition’s contents page).

Chapter five is a chapter of transition.

First, it concludes the threat of Kid Miracleman, who only seems like Book One’s arch-enemy, while setting up the story threads that will occupy the rest of Book One. If Book One had to be split in half, that split would occur at its midpoint, after chapter five.

Second, this chapter and the one following – coincidentally right at the middle of the book – mark the transition between Garry Leach and Alan Davis. Leach’s artwork was simply too detailed to allow him to continue, even at the pace of six pages per issue of Warrior, in addition to his other work (including as Warrior’s art director). We’ve already seen how his art for chapter three cut corners, reusing shots of the Sunburst Cybernetics tower, and how he took an issue (#4) off between that story and chapter four. Now, Leach had to admit that he couldn’t meet the schedule of a regular strip.

To replace him, Alan Moore and Warrior turned to Alan Davis, who had illustrated the (nearly) present-day sequence in Warrior #4. This demonstrated that Davis’s style, while not as detailed as Leach, fit the story well. Moore was currently working with Davis on Captain Britain for Marvel U.K., and the two enjoyed a good working relationship. This did mean that Davis had outstanding commitments, but he was prolific enough to be able to accommodate Miracleman’s demand of a few pages a month.

To ease this artistic shift, Davis would only pencil chapters four and five, with Leach inking over Davis’s pencils. The result would blend their two styles, offering a smooth transition from one artist to the other. This sophisticated solution acknowledged the importance of artistic styles and took that concern seriously – very different from the way mainstream comics often treats creative personnel as interchangeable.

One immediate effect of this change is that the length of the chapters increases. Chapter one runs eight pages, and the flash-forward interlude in Warrior #4 runs ten pages, but the previous three chapters, illustrated by Leach, each ran only six. This chapter runs seven. The remaining five chapters of Book One each run either seven or eight pages, never returning to the six-pagers that had become standard under Leach.

This would only be the first indication of a larger shift to the narrative’s pace. With Leach’s slow and detailed style, each page had to contain as much narrative as possible. With Davis, Moore – still a young writer learning his craft – would soon begin to let the chapters breathe a bit more. In fact, while this chapter could have been illustrated over six pages by Leach alone, the next two chapters have a leisurely pace virtually unimaginable during Leach’s tenure as solo artist – another way in which this chapter clearly marks the end of the first half of Book One.

As chapter five begins, Miracleman is presumed dead, and Kid Miracleman, unopposed, has turned his sights on the unprotected London.

The chapter begins with Liz Moran, whom Mike told to flee in the previous installment, prompting Kid Miracleman to promise to come for her “just as soon as I’ve finished killing your husband!”

Liz Moran is driving, fleeing in her car through the storm. The issue’s opening narration reads, “The sky cracks, shattering into a thousand black fragments. She drives, running the gauntlet of the lightning.” This last phrase is key, because lightning is closely tied to the Miracleman Family. In a very real way, it is the world, not merely Liz Moran, that is now “running the gauntlet of the lightning.”

This is underlined when a later caption informs us that she’s a “homo sapien. A species which until yesterday was thought to be the dominant life-form on Earth.” Lines like these communicate the way Moore’s Miracleman, even after it’s shifted to depicting super-human battle, refuses to resort to genre clichés. The mere presence of super-heroes requires a radical change in how we perceive humanity – which can no longer believe itself superior. The world is radically different now, and Moore refuses to allow the reader to forget it.

From Miracleman, chapter four, page 1 (Warrior version)But because the story is currently preoccupied with an amoral super-villain, this dethroning of humanity has profound ethical implications. Our ability to criticize Kid Miracleman’s behavior, while appalling, is limited by our ability to claim that we did better, while we believed ourselves to be in charge.

Because the super-human could easily point to human atrocities – and not only to obvious instances like genocide, but how relentlessly humans have pursued their own economic advantage over others – to dismiss human complaints about his behavior. Kid Miracleman, being an amoral villain, won’t bother to do this. But this dynamic will apply critically to the end of Moore’s Book Three.

The dethroned king cannot complain about his mistreatment, if he himself mistreated people similarly.

This might seem academic, limited to the super-hero genre. But Moore had already infused Miracleman with political sensitivity. He authored this story in a time in which Britain, having long since lost its empire and the claims to racial and national superiority that went with it, was behaving with profound arrogance and self-proclaimed moral superiority under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Yet it was by then perfectly obvious, to all but the most reactionary, that Britain’s world-dominating days were forever past. The position in which humanity finds itself in Miracleman – here represented by Liz Moran – is analogous to Britain’s. Logically, this should have been a time to take stock of British attitudes – to examine and apologize for past excesses, while treating its own population and the world with humility and compassion – if only in self-interested preparation to one day be able to criticize and influence the world’s new and rising powers. To fail to do so isn’t only immoral; it’s potentially suicidal, especially in a world of atomic warfare.

This observation is no more limited to Thatcher’s Britain than to the super-hero genre. After all, it is similar to the position the United States finds itself in, decades later: all too aware that, while it may currently dominate the world, the trend lines don’t look good for this continuing for too many decades. This would be an ideal time to adopt a humble and ethical approach, setting a standard by which the world’s future ruling powers might be judged. Instead, the United States has largely adopted an arrogant, reactionary, and authoritarian tone – one too often dismissive of the international law that, while restraining the U.S. today, would also retrain the world powers who will almost certainly someday replace her.

These are not mere academic or political observations. They are a demonstration of how ethics are often in one’s long-term self-interest, even when they appear to be in one’s short-term disinterest.

Because the only thing worse than facing an inconceivable powerful Kid Miracleman, who might kill you with impunity, is knowing that you don’t have an ethical leg to stand on to complain.

Put another way, the only thing worse than 9/11 would be to know that one can’t pretend it’s a moral outrage because one hasn’t set a higher standard.

There’s no denying the horror of such threats, nor to claim them ethical. But to claim them to be unethical – and to expect anyone to listen – requires having exhibited equivalent or superior ethics.

And this is part of why Kid Miracleman represents such a threat. He isn’t merely a super-powerful, amoral villain. He’s the embodiment of the most pessimistic, existential fears of Moore’s Britain – and of the West, more generally. Not simply that it might face a superior power, but a superior power that exhibits no more ethical restraint than it has at its worst.

Moore need not be conscious of this implication, despite Miracleman’s political consciousness, nor how he would eventually conclude his portion of the story. Moore understands the need to ground his stories, however cerebral, in character, and his focus here is very much on Liz Moran’s psychological state.

Specifically, Moore focuses on how rapidly and how radically Liz’s world has shifted: “Yesterday she learned that her husband of sixteen years was a superhuman. Today she met one of his old friends. Another superhuman. A bad one.”

Moore also tells us that she “knows, with the fatalism common to her species[,] that no matter how much distance she puts between herself and the stalking horror behind her… / …it will never be enough.”

Within the narrative, there’s no clear reason for Liz’s “fatalism” here. She has little experience with superhumans, and she could just as well be confident that her husband will prevail.

Her “fatalism” suggests that the extent of her fear. It also suggests that, despite her love for him, she doesn’t have much confidence in her husband – having known him mostly as the somewhat pitiful Mike Moran, instead of the super-human glory he’s become.

But on a deeper level, her “fatalism” suggests something deeper about Miracleman’s (and Moore’s) understanding of human nature. It is arguably the same fatalism that causes powerful but declining nations to embrace reactionary arrogance, confident their successors will behave as badly as they did.

It’s a fatalism soon proven correct, as Kid Miracleman appears, his body glowing even through the raging storm, directly in front of Liz’s car.

In the large panel that ends the first page, she collides with him, the car splintering, its headlights and windshield shattering, its left front tire shooting off from the force of the collision – yet that doesn’t even phase the standing, emotionless Kid Miracleman.

From Miracleman, chapter four, page 1 (Warrior version)As he tears into the driver’s seat, a dazed and upturned Liz Moran mutters, “M-Mike?” Thinking, in her confusion, that it might be Miracleman, come to save her.

“I’m afraid you’ve been a widow for the last five minutes, Mrs. Moran,” Kid Miracleman replies, his cold formality adding to the horror.

From Miracleman, chapter four, page 2 (Warrior version)As he holds his face to hers, he looks into her eyes – a position we’ve saw him take to obliterate his secretary in the previous chapter. And he explains that her husband’s death was “his own fault”: “I’d have been quite happy to achieve my ends the civilized way, steadily accumulating financial and political power.” Having seen Miracleman on the news, Kid Miracleman summoned him only to size him up. “But poor old Mike tipped my hand. So I killed him!” Kid Miracleman tells Mike’s wife.

Moore might here be focusing a bit too much on the characters. After all, as tragic as Mike’s or Liz’s death might be, the real threat (as readers familiar with the whole story of Miracleman know) is to the city around them. Moore gets there few panels later, but his concerns are still small in scope, appropriate to the beginning stages of his story.

But of course, Mike isn’t dead. The very next panel, from his point of view, shows him reaching out the wreckage seen at the end of the previous chapter. Moore’s caption describes this in mythological terms, saying “the dead man staggers out of the underworld,” a reference to the Hades of Greek mythology – which will be referenced several more times, not only by Moore but Gaiman. Miracleman is hurt, “his body[…] a symphony of shrieking nerve and muscle, each step a fugue of agony.”

Next, Kid Miracleman crumples Liz’s car into a ball while she cowers. It’s a standard demonstration of super-powers, one probably most associated with Superman. It slightly strains credulity (A super-human might have the power to do so, but how does he get his hands around the car?), and it’s not as imaginative as many uses of super-powers in the story.

While he does this, Kid Miracleman continues his monologue: “In a way I find it quite a relief now that everybody knows what I am. You’ve no idea how degrading I found it, pretending to be human…” It sounds like a typically villainous statement, until we remember that Miracleman, after returning in chapter one, complained of spending “eighteen years” “trapped in that old, tired body.”

The next panel, also from Miracleman’s point of view, depicts Miracleman staggering onto the scene – having tracked down Kid Miracleman, between panels, with unrealistic quickness. (The villain’s dialogue suggests it took him five minutes to track down Liz Moran, and the text doesn’t suggest any mystical connection between the two superhumans which might have allowed Miracleman to find his enemy faster.)

Moore’s caption here continues the mythological theme by including the sentence “The dead man has unfinished business with the living…”

As Kid Miracleman holds the crumpled car aloft, about to crush Liz Moran with it, Moore at last turns to the global implications of Kid Miracleman. “I’m going to do it,” the villain begins. After mocking Nietzsche as “a stunted syphilitic proclaiming the doctrine of the superman,” Kid Miracleman declares that “the real era of the Overman starts here.”

It’s not the most elegant panel, but it’s a haunting one, knowing where Miracleman is headed.

Liz Moran cowers, begging Kid Miracleman, “Oh God no, please…”

From Miracleman, chapter four, page 2 (Warrior version)Her arms are raised defensively, the way people instinctively try to block bullets, even knowing intellectually that the gesture will do no good.

We know Kid Miracleman will not listen to her prayers.

Behind him, a silhouetted Miracleman, his costume torn (dramatically but inexplicably), utters, “Bates…” And he punches the villain, in rather stereotypical super-hero fashion, sending Kid Miracleman flying – thus saving Liz Moran, at least for the time being.

Continued next time.

Tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

In 1996, while still an undergraduate, Dr. Julian Darius founded what would become Sequart Organization. After graduating magna cum laude from Lawrence University (Appleton, Wisconsin), he obtained his M.A. in English, authoring a thesis on John Milton and utopianism. In 2002, he moved to Waikiki, teaching college while obtaining an M.A. in French (high honors) and a Ph.D. in English. In 2011, he founded Martian Lit, which publishes creative work, including his comic book Martian Comics. He currently lives in Illinois.

See more, including free online content, on .

Also by Julian Darius:

This Lightning, This Madness: Understanding Alan Moore\'s Miracleman, Book One

author

producer

A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe

contributor

Classics on Infinite Earths: The Justice League and DC Crossover Canon

author

executive producer

New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics

contributor

producer

executive producer

When Manga Came to America: Super-Hero Revisionism in Mai, the Psychic Girl

author

a short documentary on Chris Claremont's historic run and its influence

executive producer

Warren Ellis: The Captured Ghosts Interviews

introduction

Voyage in Noise: Warren Ellis and the Demise of Western Civilization

co-author

Shot in the Face: A Savage Journey to the Heart of Transmetropolitan

contributor

The Weirdest Sci-Fi Comic Ever Made: Understanding Jack Kirby\'s 2001: A Space Odyssey

author

The Devil is in the Details: Examining Matt Murdock and Daredevil

contributor

Everything and a Mini-Series for the Kitchen Sink: Understanding Infinite Crisis

author

Revisionism, Radical Experimentation, and Dystopia in Keith Giffen\'s Legion of Super-Heroes

author

And the Universe so Big: Understanding Batman: The Killing Joke

author

a feature-length documentary film on celebrated comics writer Warren Ellis

executive producer

Keeping the World Strange: A Planetary Guide

contributor

Minutes to Midnight: Twelve Essays on Watchmen

contributor

a documentary on the life and work of celebrated comics writer Grant Morrison

executive producer

Improving the Foundations: Batman Begins from Comics to Screen

author

Teenagers from the Future: Essays on the Legion of Super-Heroes

contributor

The Cyberpunk Nexus: Exploring the Blade Runner Universe

contributor

Not pictured:

4 Comments

  1. Joel Godwin says:

    Loving the deep dive into Miracleman. One quick note, KM wasn’t mocking Nietzsche. He was mocking Hitler. (For some reason, shades of Godwin’s Law are now overwhelming me)

    Anyway, as stated, enjoying this and it was good that you did that interlude because that was material that I never got to read way back when….I collected the Eclipse releases as they came out in 88/89. What a great period that was…going monthly to pick up the latest MM and Sandman in their early stages (at least as far as America went)

    • Thank greatly for your comment, Joel! Yeah, it stinks that U.S. readers never got that future interlude. I remember when I first discovered it — it blew my mind to think, after tracking down all the issues and the collections, that I was still missing things! So I ended up getting all the Warrior issues too, and I’m glad for it. (The letter columns alone are worth it.)

      Also, thanks for liking that it’s a “deep dive.” I always worry people will hate this level of detail, but I’ve thought waaay too much about Miracleman over the years, and it matters very much to me.

      Okay, on to the correction, which I’m always quite grateful for! It is a service you’re performing, for the benefit of myself and other readers, and it’s received utterly in that light.

      Having said that, I’m not quite convinced, and let me explain my reasoning. I think the operative sentence in the above article began “After mocking Nietzsche as ‘a stunted syphilitic proclaiming the doctrine of the superman…’ That’s Nietzsche, at least in my mind. He did in fact suffer from syphilis and did “proclaim the doctrine of the superman” (arguably, he’s the source of the idea). KM calls him “that pathetic German clown” just before, and I see how that might superficially sound like Hitler, but Nietzsche was German.

      True, KM begins the following balloon (connected to the first) with “poor Adolph,” clearly a reference to Hitler. However, I don’t think this wraps up the proceeding balloon but indicates a shift of thought (a little odd, I know) from one balloon to the next. Also, KM says (earlier in the first balloon) “where all of them failed,” which I read as leading into Nietzsche before shifting to Hitler, rather than simply leading into Hitler.

      At least to my mind, Hitler doesn’t seem to fit the first description because (1) I’d guess KM would use the word Austrian rather than German, were he to describe Hitler, not only because he (and Moore) is fairly precise in his language but because he’s trying to minimize these humans who trumpeted the superman idea, and calling Hitler an “Austrian” would tend to evoke the failed painter rather than the German Chancellor. (2) While some historians have theorized that Hitler had syphilis, that’s not proven as far as I know, whereas Nietzsche is often painted as a stunted syphilis-ridden man wandering the mountain and writing random aphorisms down. (3) Hitler used the idea of the superman as part of his racial supremacy “argument,” and especially as part of his German eugenics program. But I’m not sure Hitler “proclaimed the doctrine of the superman.” He might have used that doctrine, having borrowed it from Nietzsche, or proclaimed the German superman, but I think the phrase as it stands points to Nietzsche and seems a bit odd applied to Hitler. (4) Nietzsche’s referenced elsewhere in Miracleman (including in the Eclipse-only prologue), so Moore certainly was aware of Nietzsche’s role in “proclaiming the doctrine of the superman.”

      So that’s my reasoning, somewhat exhaustively accounted for (hey, you said you liked the “deep dive!”). If you still think I’m wrong, please let me know. And at the very least, even if I persist in my reasoning, this matter might well be worth a note. And I do think one could argue that such confusion is a symptom of Moore still learning his craft, even when he’s succeeding poetically.

      In any case, thank you for reading, for your comment, and for your correction. All are much appreciated!

  2. Brian White says:

    Hi Julian,

    I agree with Joel on both counts. First, I think it plainly is Hitler that Bates is talking about — “an Austrian-born German politician,” as Wikipedia describes him. What does “I’m going to do it, you see, where all of them failed” refer to, after all? Whatever Nietzsche’s goals were, they presumably didn’t have to do with world domination.

    I think it could in fact be argued that Hitler really was the one who “proclaimed the doctrine of the superman,” in the sense that Bates is using the term here. What Nietzsche actually meant by the Uebermensch, and what place it had in his writing, isn’t all that clear-cut. Hitler’s use of the term, in contrast, was very literal — he was speaking of something he claimed existed. Although he claimed to have taken the idea from Nietzsche, Nietzsche would have been appalled by the racist way that Hitler used the term — how Hitler spoke of a master race and, corresponding to Uebermenschen, “Untermenschen,” fit only to be exterminated or enslaved. Bates is claiming that he belongs to a race of supermen which is superior to ordinary people and has the right to dominate them. That’s Hitler, not Nietzsche. (Hitler doesn’t seem to have read the bits where Nietzsche inveighed against anti-semitism and lampooned the idea of German racial superiority.)

    But second, thanks for what Joel calls a deep dive. It’s been a real pleasure. When I first encountered Miracleman, in, I suppose, 1989, I had just started reading comics again, as an adult — I was living in Sweden, and it was a good way to practice Swedish. Hellblazer was one of the things that got translated, along with Modesty Blaise, and it got me to check out what else was being published. I came across Miracleman, nearly got drunk on it, and reread it dozens of times. I hadn’t touched it since then, wanting to give it a rest, until reading your articles. So thanks for that, and, for example, your observations about Brixton, which were extremely useful.

    What struck me then, and strikes me now, is that the beginning wouldn’t have worked at all without Garry Leach and Alan Davis. Much of the point is that this is a real world, not a cartoon world, and you need someone as expressive and realistic as Leach to bring that out. But beyond that, Miracleman and the rest are meant to be Other. They’re not wish fulfillment characters who are essentially like us, but something uncanny. Leach is absolutely brilliant at expressing that. Davis does an excellent job of continuing the story, but the art immediately after Davis just isn’t up to it, and it’s painful to imagine what Miracleman would have been like if it had started off that way.

    • Brian, I think you and Joel are right that I was at least way too certain about the Nietzsche reference. Good points and well-argued. Thank you both very much.

      It’s great to hear that you’re also enjoying all this writing. And to hear your own memories of Miracleman. It really means a great deal to me.

      I think you’re completely right about the art, especially when it comes to Garry Leach — and how Miracleman is supposed to be Other, uncanny, beyond us in ways we can’t entirely grasp. Leach’s work here and on Warpsmith (also in Warrior) stands, I think, among some of the best, most successfully realistic comics art ever — and that’s saying quite a lot.

Leave a Reply