Marvels and Miracles
Towards the end of the last series of Being Human, there's a confrontation between bad guy vampire, Herrick and our werewolf heroine, Nina. Herrick is feeling vengeful but hesitates in killing Nina because she was kind to him... or does he?
It's a great scene, but instead of being shocked as the writers intended, a little spark of recollection ignited in the back of my mind as I remembered a scene from an old comic strip I first saw in the 1980s UK comic Warrior.
Looks familiar? I thought so. Now I'm not for one minute suggesting that Being Human's writer, Toby Whithouse ripped this off. Not many people will remember this comic, let alone this scene, but it comes from a comic that holds a certain pride of place in my collection. The series was Marvelman or Miracleman as it came to be known, thanks to legal invention from a petulant Marvel comics. I won't go into the full background of the character, I just wanted to give a personal opinion on the book.
As someone who'd been reared on a staple diet of black and white reprints of American Marvel titles, Marvelman was like a kick in the goolies. It felt like real life, people got hurt in fights and innocent bystanders got killed. It reflected a very British attitude towards superheroes and comics in general. The Americans would quiver in fear at the thought of killing characters in their books but 2000AD did it all the time. You take that attitude and apply it to a superhero comic and you have four-colour magic. Would you expect anything else from a writer like Alan Moore?
This radical re-interpretation of a vanilla comic from the 50s became the precursor to other British takes on superheroes such as Zenith in 2000AD or the New Statesmen in Crisis. They did things with traditional superhero tales at a time when the most exciting change that an American writer might come up with would have been “wait a minute guys, what if we put his underpants inside his tights?”. No wonder that Marvel and DC were so keen to gobble up as much UK talent as possible and some of the most interesting takes on the big American titles have been done by British writers. Would there even be a Vertigo line from DC if not for Neil Gaiman?
So why am I telling you how good this is? A few reasons. It's a forgotten gem from a great era of 80s comics. Secondly, it's out of print so I can feel smug in telling you how good it is because I own copies of the collection that are almost impossible to find. Thirdly, at some point in the future you might be able to read these tales once again: Marvel have acquired the rights to the character, so with a bit of luck Marvelman will live once more and you can read for yourselves just how good this stuff was.