Miracleman, Chapter 8:

The Flashback Pages

We’ve begun discussing chapter eight (parts onetwo, three, and four) of Alan Moore’s Miracleman, illustrated by Alan Davis. Today, we continue our exploration of that chapter.

(We’ve also previously introduced Miracleman and discussed chapters onetwothreefourfive, six, and seven, as well as the interlude “The Yesterday Gambit.”)

The first flashback page begins with the caption “Out of the dark, he is surfacing” – a reference to Mike Moran coming to consciousness. The first thing he sees is “a strange blue constellation” – actually the blue sapphire teeth of Evelyn Cream.

Cream identifies himself and reveals that he shot Moran, at the end of the previous chapter, with “tranquilizer bullets.” While this resolves that cliffhanger, it’s a resolution that’s vaguely reminiscent of old movie serials (in which a character could fall from a building, tumbling story after story, in a cliffhanger only to catch the first available ledge as the next chapter begins). At the end of chapter seven, Cream’s gun looks normal enough, causes blood loss, and tears through Moran’s clothes like bullets, without any indication of being tranquilizers, which are usually delivered through darts.

Cream has gagged Moran, in order to prevent him from saying his “magic word” (a term Cream uses here, in quotes no less). The assassin then recounts Miracleman’s history, clarifying a few details in the process. According to Cream, Miracleman was created in 1954 by Project Zarathustra (previously referenced in chapters five and six). Zarathustra was supervised by the Spookshow, which Cream describes as “a branch of airforce intelligence.” In 1963, it attempted to “terminate the experiment” by killing the Miracleman Family. Miracleman “resurfaced” in 1982, after which Cream was sent “to uncover your true identity and then kill you.”

Cream correctly states that Moran doesn’t know this, and captions at the bottom of the page describe Moran’s mental state. “The story cannot possibly be true,” one caption reads. The next begins, “The story must be true.” Tying into the “out of the darkness” refrain, Moore narrates that “The cold light of uncertainty begins to glimmer in his mind. From the shadows of doubt he advances towards it…”

In this page’s Spookshow panel, Sir Dennis reports that Cream has submitted the name of Miracleman’s alter ego: Phillip Webb. It’s a resonant choice for a false name, and perhaps a commentary by Cream about the “web” of lies the Spookshow has spun. Investigations have determined that this Webb “doesn’t exist,” and Sir Dennis speculates that Cream has betrayed them and “made a deal with the monster.”

Sir Dennis is right, although we won’t see Cream strike a deal with Miracleman until the following flashback page, two pages later.

That page begins with the caption, “Out of the dark, he is emerging,” following up on how Moran was “surfacing” two pages earlier. The second caption here explicitly ties the darkness motif to how Miracleman “has been kept in the dark.”

Immediately following, Cream proposes the alliance. His motivation, however, isn’t as clear as we might wish. He explains that he “suspect[s]” that knowing Miracleman’s origins “may prove valuable.” This seems to suggest that his motivation is purely mercenary, allowing Cream to accumulate power, if not money. However, Cream also states that the information he already possesses itself constitutes a “reason” for further investigation. This may only be a statement about how impressive Miracleman’s origins seem to be, thus suggesting that there’s profit, in one form or another, in discovering more. But the way Cream formulates this also suggests other motivations.

For one, Cream, although a freelance agent perfectly comfortable with assassinations, might not like the way the Spookshow has used him. We may surmise that he’s used to working for powerful men but has never seen anything like Miracleman. Being used to kill people is one thing, but being used as a pawn in a case that’s so potentially world-changing might highlight what a pawn Cream ultimately is – perhaps enough to spur his treason.

This further suggests another motivation: that Cream (perfectly reasonably) fears for his life, upon completion of his assignment. In an odd way, Cream is an outsider, not unlike Miracleman; both, while powerful, have been pawns of secretive people with even greater power.

Finally, there’s an aspect of pure curiosity to Cream’s rather vague explanation of his motivations. Perhaps he can’t resist finding out the truth. It’s dangerous to do so, because it means betraying his employers. But there’s risk either way. And while loyalty might mean accepting one’s position as a pawn in an unimaginably high-stakes covert game, the path of disloyalty presents unknown opportunities. Ultimately, perhaps it’s simple curiosity that is Cream’s deciding factor.

Of course, it’s especially hard to know Cream’s thoughts, at this crucial moment in his life. We only have his dialogue, spoken to Mike Moran. And his dialogue is characterized by an exceeding level of formality, which tends to mask one’s true intentions.

Cream then removes Mike Moran’s gag, knowing that this will permit him to transform into Miracleman. In his dialogue, Cream acknowledges that he understands the risk of this, even referring to it as “a greater risk” than “betraying my employers.” Implicit in this is the idea of the superman, as deadly as he is glorious. Miracleman has already invoked this idea several times, but it’s one that Cream seems to understand well, perhaps because of his encounters with other forms of power.

This is also a remarkable step for a kidnapper – not only to ally with his victim but to free him, even knowing that this victim could kill him effortlessly. We might well ask why Cream shoots Moran in the first place, if this was his plan. Of course, Moran probably would not have come along quietly. Instead, what Cream has done is to first put himself in a position of total power over Moran, only to then free his prisoner and place his own life in that prisoner’s hands. It’s a complete reversal, not unlike a gun-wielding kidnapper freeing his captive and giving that captive the gun. Both states are one of total power, although the person holding that power is different. Moreover, both states have been initiated by Cream – Moran has been completely passive in the equation.

It might seem odd, to accomplish one state of affairs only to put its complete opposite into effect. It certainly risks ill will, having captured Moran in this way and demonstrated one’s total power over him – a feeling that is, for the victim, itself traumatic. But by doing this and then freeing Moran, Cream demonstrates two things: first, his own capabilities, in effectively defeating Miracleman; and second, how much Moran / Miracleman owes him, for not killing Moran. Neither of these could be demonstrated by words alone. It’s a risky, even paradoxical maneuver on Cream’s part, but it’s also calculated and logical in its own way.

True, Cream is the man who shot Moran and held him captive and abjectly powerless. But this also demonstrates what a capable asset Cream is, once he’s spared Moran’s life and made him once again abjectly powerful.

It would be easy to complain that this turn of events is a mere narrative contrivance, not unlike the convenient revelation that Cream used “tranquilizer bullets.” But Cream’s release of Moran is redeemed by a wonderful paradoxical quality that communicates Cream’s character and speaks to the ironies of a super-hero operating in a realistic world.

Once Moran is freed and his gag removed, Moore and Davis nicely give us a silent panel, before Moran speaks his magic word. It feels like a recognition of the unreality and extremity of the situation, a small pause to communicate that Cream has in fact placed his own life in his former captor’s hands.

In the next panel, that magic word is spoken. The following Spookshow panel speaks to why Sir Dennis Archer hasn’t closed down “the Zararathustra bunker,” thus helping to set up this chapter’s conclusion. The page then ends as Cream marvels at a twinkling Miracleman.

It is the first time that Cream has seen the hero. And he is awed.

He speaks only a single word, in small lettering, suggesting that it is hushed: “Remarkable.”

One of the conventions of typical super-hero stories is that bystanders treat the super-hero as oddly normal. Yes, the super-hero typically goes public with many a mouth agape, but this reaction doesn’t last long. Soon enough, police and even civilians can be found, pointing their finger in Superman’s face, challenging this godlike being to advance the plot or provide a little drama.

We know that people clam up, in the presence of the President of the United States. How much greater would this reaction be, in the presence of a super-being?

Cream’s awed reaction here is a far more normal, more realistic one than super-hero stories typically afford. It is the reaction of being in the presence of a god.

This reaction means more, coming from Cream, because he has previously been so controlled, so emotionally reserved.

Of course, we may also speculate as to why Cream in particular has this reaction. He has pursued Miracleman for months, only to finally see his quarry here. He also worships power, through his experience in covert operations, and recognizes that Miracleman represents a power rather beyond anything he knows. Cream also lives in a world of stark reality, in which murder is simply another thing governments do, and Miracleman represents the fantastical, now made tangible before him. In the following chapter and in Book Two, we will see that Cream’s worshipful reaction to Miracleman also has racial overtones, with Miracleman representing the blonde, white-skinned, superior being – and those overtones are present here as well, although implicit rather than explicit.

To be concluded.

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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.

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