We’ve begun discussing chapter ten, the conclusion of Book One (parts one, two, three, and four), of Alan Moore’s Miracleman, illustrated by Alan Davis. Today, we continue our exploration of that chapter.
If page three concerns the Zarathustra process for making superhumans, page four elaborates upon the practical implications of Project Zarathustra’s superhumans. While this does help to thematically differentiate this page from the previous one, this page still feels a bit like the leftovers from the previous page, which was stuffed with information.
This page explicitly presents a new section of the video. Archer says that “the video tape was wound forward,” indicating that this section of video was made after the previous one. Thus, this page shows all three members of the Miracleman Family, whereas the previous page had Young Miracleman still being made.
It’s not clear precisely how such a video would be assembled so as to include documentary footage from several different time periods. It’s almost as if Zarathustra judiciously added sections to a single videotape, so that it could be viewed by someone like Miracleman or Cream. This might make more sense if these video sequences were digital files, which might be dumped into a single directory and be viewed in something like the manner shown here. But this is 1982, and the chapter’s unambiguous about the footage being on videotape, which must be wound forward and back. While this doesn’t make sense, we may perhaps pardon it as necessary, in order to make the chapter work without adding a page to explain such technicalities.
Archer’s report states that this video sequence was begun at 3:22am. While progressing chronologically from the previous page, this is still prior to the next time we’ve been given: 3:35am, when Big Ben revived.
On page four, the video begins with a discussion of the Miracleman Family in the context of atomic warfare. It claims that superhumans make atomic weaponry obsolete, which we’re told holds a special importance to Britain, since it has yet to develop an atomic bomb. The video also states that “Russia and China will shortly” have the bomb.
This is rather difficult to make sense of. Britain joined the atomic nations club in October 1952. The U.S.S.R., aided by spies going back to the Manhattan Project, detonated its first nuclear device on 29 August 1949, becoming just the second nation to do so. This would seem to suggest that this portion of the video is set prior to that date. China, however, didn’t successfully test an atomic bomb until 16 October 1964, by which point France had already done so (on 13 February 1960) – making China the fifth nuclear nation, not the third as the Zarathustra video would suggest. This may be an error, but we might potentially explained it away by saying that British intelligence, whenever this portion of the video is set, thought that China was on the verge of developing the bomb, although it really wasn’t. Still, there’s no way that Zarathustra wouldn’t know the British or the Soviets had the bomb, so we can determine that this sequence is set no later than 1949.
But we’ve already learned (in chapter eight) that Miracleman was created in 1954 – the same year that Marvelman debuted in our world. And in chapter two, Miracleman recounted his memories of gaining his powers in this same year. The top of the following page also sets the previous two pages’ videos as set in 1954 and 1955. So the description of the atomic situation here is simply in error.
There does, however, exist one other possibility: that this description of the nuclear nations in 1954 or 1955 establishes that Miracleman occurs within an alternate timeline. Perhaps, in the world in which Miracleman occurs, Britain and the Soviets really didn’t yet have the atomic bomb at this time, while China was much closer to developing one than it was in our world.
There’s not a lot of evidence for this, outside of the fact that later stories establish the Visitor’s earlier discovery, which might in time produce larger differences between our world and the one in Miracleman. For example, this might have led Britain to devote resources away from its atomic bomb project. But it couldn’t explain why the Soviet Union would have failed to develop its bomb, nor why China would have sped up.
The video continues, showing Kid Miracleman demonstrating his flight speed by outpacing “the fastest contemporary jet airplane.” Next, we see him smashing through what we’re told is “a bunker of solid titanium.” The video’s narrator is almost perversely giddy, saying, “Imagine the mega-death potential of such a creature in an international conflict.”
The video then shifts to the topic of where the Miracleman Family’s alter egos were taken from. This might seem like a shift from Zarathustra’s tactical concerns, but it’s justified by the project taking into account potential “public resistance.” To this end, the video explains that “the three subjects to date” were orphans with “no other surviving relatives.” All three were “the children of deceased Air Force personnel,” selected “simply because their names were available from Royal Air Force files,” to which Project Zarathustra has access.
Perhaps understandably, this seems to upset Miracleman more than the details of the Zarathustra process. This is much more of a classic revisionist moment, in that it recasts the past in a way that’s not only more realistic but also more logical, so that it actually explains the silly super-hero comics that preceded it better than those comics themselves did. For Miracleman, it’s a revelation.
He stutters that “Moran’s father was in the R.A.F.” and “died during the war.” He also recalls that Dicky Dauntless’s “father had been an airforce major.” It’s just the kind of convenient duplication of details that was common in early super-hero comics. Young Marvelman was essentially a cheap duplicate of Marvelman anyway, so why sweat the details? People just wanted to see a teenage version of Marvelman, and they didn’t care too much about his parentage.
Miracleman seems to only dimly remember the occupation of Dicky’s father, which may reflect how these sorts of details, because they were considered unimportant, were rarely referenced in old super-hero stories. Within the narrative, this may also reflect how uninterested Miracleman was in the lives of the Miracleman Family’s alter egos. As we discussed last chapter, in the context of him failing to call Liz Moran, Miracleman cares about his alter ego’s loved ones – just not too much.
“Oh, God,” blubbers Miracleman. “Why didn’t we realise? / Why didn’t we realise what they were doing to our lives?” Compared to his limited reaction on the previous page, Miracleman’s given far more space to react this time, and that reaction is far more effuse.
To some extent, that’s a consequence of the subject matter: the Zarathustra process required almost the full page to explain, whereas this page is a bit lighter in terms of the amount it’s forced to explain, providing more room for Miracleman at the bottom. Miracleman’s participation is also all but required, in order to authenticate and respond to the information about the Royal Air Force’s involvement in the families of the superhumans’ alter egos.
Still, the way Miracleman frames his reaction foreshadows his violent explosion, three pages later. It’s a reaction characterized by a sense of betrayal. “Why didn’t we realise what they were doing to our lives?” he says, reflecting that his nostalgic memories (which he explained to Liz Moran in chapter two) weren’t as innocent as he believed.
In this regard, Miracleman’s position mirrors that of reactionary fans who have accused revisionism of also denigrating the fun and innocent super-hero stories of the past, even if those stories didn’t make much sense. Within the narrative, Project Zarathustra’s responsible. But from a metatextual perspective, the culprit is Alan Moore.
To be continued.