"U.S.Avengers": A Guide to Marvel's New Patriotic Superhero Team
A standout of Mego’s World’s Greatest Super Heroes line, the Shazam 8-inch figure arguably more closely resembled the live-action television version of the character than it did his comic-book counterpart. And his release wasn’t followed by that of Mary Marvel or Captain Marvel Jr., but rather Isis, who shared a programming block with him each Saturday morning.
But now Figures Toy Company is about to make up for all of that with retro-style figures based on the Marvel Family and their foes.
Because this space is normally reserved for DC Comics and its stable of characters, you might think a post on Miracleman goes a little outside the lines. However, Miracleman was based on Captain Marvel, who is a DC character in the same way that Miracleman is now a Marvel character: the wonderful world of intellectual-property rights. That’s just one of several traits the two features share, so today I’ll be comparing and contrasting. I’ll also consider whether Marvel’s upcoming Miracleman revival could affect DC’s latest version.
Miracleman (under its original name of Marvelman, but you knew that already) started out as a way to hold onto British readers of Captain Marvel when the latter closed up shop in the mid-1950s. In that form, the series lasted until 1963. In 1982, writer Alan Moore headed up a revival that started by updating familiar elements, but ended up going off in a decidedly different direction. As reprinted, renamed, and subsequently completed in the United States, Moore’s Miracleman (from Eclipse Comics) filled 16 issues, give or take some reprints, and came out over the course of about four and a half years (cover-dated August 1985 to December 1989). Moore’s artistic collaborators included Garry Leach, Alan Davis, Chuck Austen (under the name Chuck Beckum), Rick Veitch, and John Totleben. From June 1990 to June 1993, Eclipse published eight more issues, written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by Mark Buckingham, and an anthology miniseries (Miracleman Apocrypha) came out from November 1991 to February 1992. For various reasons, though, no new Miracleman has seen the light of day for over twenty years.
That’s all about to change, starting with January’s reprints from Marvel. It remains to be seen whether today’s readers will be interested in 20- to 30-year-old stories from a writer whose popularity isn’t what it once was, and which will apparently be reprinted initially in a somewhat-pricey format. Additionally, Miracleman has turned into much more of an “Alan Moore book,” as opposed to a Captain Marvel parody. Therefore, its return doesn’t strike me as the sort of thing which will automatically generate more interest in Captain Marvel; but their similarities (and even some of their differences) can be instructive.
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Scott Snyder was already one of DC Comics/Vertigo’s rising stars when he began writing Detective Comics two years ago. In fall 2011, as part of DC’s New 52, Snyder moved over to the main Batman title and began writing Swamp Thing as well. His Batman work has helped put the title on a number of best-of-2012 lists, Swamp Thing is in the midst of the “Rotworld” crossover, and his collaboration with Jim Lee on a new Superman title will begin in 2013. American Vampire is going on hiatus for most of the year, but that will help him and artist Sean Murphy debut The Wake. I spoke with Snyder on Dec. 13, just after Batman #15 was published.
Thanks to Scott for his time, and to DC’s Alex Segura and Pamela Mullin for making the interview possible.
Tom Bondurant: I don’t know about the preliminaries [but] I will say that one phrase that kept coming to mind when I was thinking about interviewing you was that line from Ghostbusters: “How is Elvis, and have you seen him lately?”
Scott Snyder: [laughs] Thanks! Well, I’m a huge Elvis fan, so that really starts the day off right, hearing that.
Elvis Presley was more than just The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, he was also a comics fan, and there is photographic evidence to prove it: Craig Yoe’s Archie: A Celebration of America’s Favorite Teenager opens up to a photo of Presley reading a comic book while on tour in 1956. He told a roomful of Jaycees (hardly what you’d think of as a comics-friendly audience) that “When I was a child, I was a dreamer. I read comic books and I was the hero of the comic book.” He had a stack of Captain Marvel Jr. comics in his attic. And, come to think of it, that whole thing with the jumpsuits and the capes and the lightning-bolt logo… was Elvis cosplaying?
Maybe so, according to a new book, Graphic Elvis, which celebrates The King’s love of comics and gives the editors an excuse to commission some totally boss Elvis fanart from the likes of Paul Pope and Greg Horn.
The book will be published by Liquid Comics (the successor company to Sir Richard Branson and Deepak Chopra’s Virgin Comics), with a special limited edition due out in time for the holidays, a mass-market edition to be released in April 2012, and an iPad edition sometime after that.
This is our fourth summer in Memphis, but we hadn’t taken the Graceland tour until this weekend. It helped that twenty-odd relatives came into town for a big reunion, and one of them had been jonesing especially hard for an Elvis fix.
As for me, not so much. I have always been curious about the King, mostly as an historical figure; and as my musical tastes have developed, I’ve learned to appreciate the profound effect his life had on the culture at large. Many years ago I read Peter Guralnick’s exhaustive two-volume biography, and I have a couple of greatest-hits CDs and the “Aloha From Hawaii” concert. (I was, however, somewhat disappointed not to hear Captain Marvel’s costume and/or Captain Marvel Jr. mentioned in the tour’s discussions of Elvis’ infamous caped jumpsuits.)