We’ve begun discussing chapter seven of Alan Moore’s Miracleman, illustrated by Alan Davis. Today, we continue our exploration of that chapter.
Page two concludes with Mike Moran walking down the stairs, dimly lit by an exposed and hanging lightbulb. He enters his apartment and greets his wife. He gives only terse responses when she asks how his flight went, then if he “feels alright.” Accenting his mood, his face is covered in shadow.
Liz follows up with another of the logical observations she made in the previous chapter: that despite Miracleman’s costume being “torn up” in his fight with Kid Miracleman, it was repaired when he became Miracleman again. This was simply an oversight in the previous chapter, which showed that Miracleman still bore facial scarring from that battle. Here, Liz catches the error, probably like Moore himself. She adds “my theory is that…” before Mike cuts her off.
He asks if they can “not talk about Miracleman.” He adds, “Let’s just have breakfast and be normal people.” And he holds the newspaper up between them, a classic illustration of emotional distance. Accenting this distance, Davis draws the panel with a thick black border and extra white space around the panel.
Liz goes right to the source of the problem: her pregnancy. “It’s been two months since I told you I was pregnant[,] and you’ve maybe said a dozen words to me since then.” She adds that they’ve “wanted kids for years.”
At first, Mike defensively pretends everything’s fine, but he can’t continue the façade. As Liz comforts him, he confesses what we already know: he’s troubled by the fact that the baby’s not his but Miracleman’s. “I couldn’t give you a baby,” he says, “but one night with him and… Oh, Christ, Liz. He’s just so much better than I am. At everything.” If Mike Moran felt emasculated in chapter one, he certainly feels more emasculated now that his wife’s pregnant by someone else.
Liz seems to retreat a little from her theories, as seen in the previous chapter, saying, “It’s your baby. I mean, you’re Miracleman, aren’t you?” Of course, it’s convenient that she do so for two reasons. From a story standpoint, it prompts Mike’s subsequent dialogue. From a psychological standpoint, however, we may well reason that, whatever her theories, Liz doesn’t want her husband thinking of the baby as someone else’s.
Mike’s response contains some of the best writing of the series. He begins hesitantly: “Yes. No. Oh hell, Liz… I don’t know anymore.” He then elaborates upon his confession, in the previous chapter, that he and Miracleman think differently. “His thoughts are like poetry or something,” Mike says, recalling how the captions on this chapter’s first page were from Miracleman’s point of view. Then Mike, in language straining to capture meaning for which it wasn’t made, ironically offers some poetry of his own, albeit in a very different style than Miracleman’s:
His emotions are so pure. When he loves you it’s gigantic. His love is so strong and direct and clean…
When I love you, it’s all tangled up with who’s not doing their share of washing up, and twisted, neurotic little things like that
It’s the first real indication, besides the sex between chapters two and three, that Miracleman has feelings for Liz. Mike’s language suggests that even Miracleman’s emotions have a kind of certainty (“strong and direct”) and fascistic precision (“clean”).
Human emotions, of course, are “tangled” and “twisted.” We think of eking out advantages, even over those we love, and intermix that love with myriad petty resentments. But Miracleman presumably doesn’t do the “washing up.” He’s above such trivial concerns. He leaves those things to Mike Moran. He may be superior in many ways, even less prone to neurosis, but he also has the privilege of avoiding the kinds of chores that can define the quotidian life he flies above. This too is part of the super-hero’s appeal; we rarely see them, or fictional heroes in general, cleaning or taking care of kids. At least part of the escape they offer is an escape from the daily grind.
We may be inclined to blame Mike Moran, who’s not a perfect man, for some of his feelings of inadequacy. For example, his feeling of emasculation in chapter one, based on the fact that Liz makes more money, may seem petty or even ungrateful. But it’s worth pointing out that at least part of his inferiority complex towards Miracleman, as he phrases it here, is based on the fact that Miracleman can love her better than he can.
That is, traditionally, the last refuge of the person who feels inferior to a rival in love. Sure, he may have more money. He may be smarter or stronger or more accomplished. She may be younger or more attractive. But no one will ever love the shared object of our affection like I love her or him.
This too is deprived Mike Moran, and there’s something deeply pathetic about that. To share a mind, at least in part, with one’s rival and know that he’s not only better in every way but even loves better – not only physically but emotionally. Mike Moran has little psychological refuge left.
He concludes, “Sometimes I want to be him all the time[,] and sometimes I wish he’d just vanish and leave us alone.” It’s remarkable to think that, seven brief chapters into a super-hero epic, the hero’s civilian alter ego is already wishing his other self away. Even this early on, Mike Moran seems to see, at least partially, that this situation will only resolve itself one of two ways.
But then he backs away – understandably, given that he doesn’t wish to see the implications of what he’s just said. He wants a peaceful resolution, and so he asks for some space from Liz, promising to “sort it out.” After all, he’d look like a jerk if he said he refused to become Miracleman ever again, or if he blamed Liz for infidelity. And so he hopes for some new status quo, in which he can come to terms with being both himself and Miracleman – and in which they can share Liz.
Even in the heyday of the love triangle between Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Superman, Clark never saw Lois swoon for Superman and in despair wished either he or Superman would go away. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have been logical for him to do so – especially if Clark and Superman were, like Billy Batson and Captain Marvel, two overlapping but separate people.
We’d never seen a super-hero story like this one before. People might remember the confrontation with Kid Miracleman, or the application of real-world physics and logic to super-hero powers. But the application of emotional realism to the Mike Moran story was just as trailblazing.
Mike then points out that he’s supposed to be “at the office” in an hour. He’s not even going to work, however, because as a freelance reporter, he’s simply looking to see if any stories are available. As he promises to “be alright,” the couple’s smiling wedding portrait sits in the foreground, an admittedly somewhat heavy-handed way of underscoring how they’ve lost their way. They hug goodbye, saying they love each other – and we believe them, though we don’t know if this love is strong enough.
As he leaves, Liz tells him to “take care,” and Mike responds, “No problem. I’m a superhero. Nothing can hurt me.” We can read this as a sarcastic, even snide parting comment. We can also read it as a sign of Mike’s depression or defeatism. But it’s also a statement about how far Miracleman is from the run-of-the-mill super-hero story, in which Mike’s statement might be true.
But of course, he’s lying. And transparently so, meaning he’s not lying to make her feel better – say, as we might be used to a super-hero doing to his girlfriend, before going into battle. Liz certainly isn’t fooled; the page ends with a silent panel, focused on her face, full of loving worry for Mike.
Because he’s not a super-hero. In fact, that’s the source of all of his problems.
And though he may play tough and promise to “sort through it,” he’s already hurting. Terribly. And understandably.
Continued next time.