LAND OF LOST TALES: THE LOST MIRACLEMAN STORY
“Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in.” — Michael Corleone
As I’m writing this article on my birthday, I’m reminded about how little I really know about a lot of things. How whenever life lets you think you know something, it’ll throw you a nice, fat curve ball. It likes to keep you on your toes for some reason. It likes to remind you that you’re not as special as your mom thinks you are. As long as the world keeps turning, no book is ever really closed. New revelations appear. Things do change. New players come to the forefront. There’s really no room in this world for the obsessive-compulsive. All we can do is try to keep up. Funny, all of this reminds me of Miracleman, my favorite superhero and a character with comic book stories as interesting as the story behind him.
Back in 1998, I started work on a self-published Miracleman fanzine that evolved into a TwoMorrows book called “Kimota!” As an admirer of Eclipse’s “Miracleman” (“MM”) series, I longed for detail and history about the comics series penned by two of my favorite comics writers, Messrs. Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. When I started on the book, there was barely any information about MM anywhere, in print or online. Even Moore and Gaiman interviews seldom had any nuggets of discussion about their work on MM. I wanted to know more about the genesis of their incarnation of the vintage British superhero that was originally named Marvelman. And so I started to work, research and interview, with all the principals behind the character. “Kimota!” was a book that let the readers judge for themselves all aspects of the character and his story from the creators’ perspectives. If there was one thing I wanted to remind the readers, it was that the true value of “Miracleman” is not in the characters but in those rich stories that Alan Moore and company created.
One of the new things concerning “Miracleman” that’s popped up since “Kimota!” is a lovely lost story by artist John K. Snyder, III. His tale was intended for the “Miracleman: Apocrypha” mini-series that featured a nice list of writers and artists contributing their interpretations of the Miracleman mythos and family within a nice sequential wraparound by Gaiman and his art collaborator Mark Buckingham.
In his early twenties, Indiana’s John K. Snyder began his career apprenticing for Tim Truman on “Grimjack” and “Time Beavers.” When Truman took his titles to Eclipse Comics, Snyder was given the opportunity to put his own characters in the limelight. Snyder told me, “[Truman] had seen some sketches I had done in the back, I had done some sketches in my sketchbook of this all-female action team called ‘Fashion in Action.’ And he was like, ‘Hey, I’d like that to be a backup in ‘Scout.’’ And he sent it over to Cat [Yronwode] and Dean [Mullaney], and they said, ‘Hey, this is really neat.’ And that’s how I got in.” In little time, Snyder would go on to establish his name as a notable artist by his work on “Grendel,” “Suicide Squad” and a host of other titles.
Ironically, Snyder’s connection to the “Miracleman” books started via his cover to issue #10 during the Alan Moore run. In regards to the memorable cover, Snyder recalled, “[Eclipse Comics] said, ‘Can you do this cover for ‘Miracleman?’ We’ve got this guy that was supposed to do it. He can’t do it.’ And I was really turning stuff in left and right, I was in between doing ‘Fashion in Action’ and ‘Prowler’ at that time, so they were like, ‘Hey, can you do this?’ So what happened was that they wanted the cover overnight, and I’ll never forget this. They literally got me to confirm to do the cover, and sent me the reference for the cover. This is pre-computer, a different life. This was a different world. We’re talking ’86, I think. And what happened was they sent me the reference, and I literally took that cover reference and put that thing in the mail the very next day. I literally had a 24-hour turnaround on that cover, because they really needed it right away. And apparently, and I’m just working from memory here, Alan Moore wanted the cover to look exactly like the first page. So I took a look at the first page, and what I did was I tilted it to make it look more interesting, and I brought some of the characters more close up. Like, the dog’s paws are in the upper-left-hand corner, I think, and the postman and all that kind of stuff.”
Snyder continued, “But I have to tell you, what really amused me about it was they called me up and they said, ‘Hey, we want you to do a ‘Miracleman’ cover,’ and I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s neat.’ And then I get sent this piece, and it’s this slob in pajamas. It’s like, this is the cover? I really got a kick out of that, and I really had a blast doing it. I’ve never heard any reaction from Cat or Dean, Alan, or anybody, how they liked it in the long run, but I have to be honest with you, I had no idea at the time, I had to turn it around so quickly, I had no idea how huge ‘Miracleman’ was at that point. I didn’t realize what a great book that was. I look back on it and I go, ‘Wow.’ I really feel fortunate that I got a chance to draw that. It really is cool, man.”
In the early Nineties, Snyder was asked by Eclipse editor Valerie Jones to participate in “Miracleman: Apocrypha” by creating a short story of his own. Snyder remembered, “Valerie called me up and asked me to do this, and my thinking was, she said, ‘Who do you want to do?’ My thought was that I wanted to do Miraclewoman, because I knew everybody was going to do Miracleman, and I thought, what I’d like to do is the woman, because I like strong female characters. And they sent me all the ‘Miracleman’ books, which I was completely blown away by. I just could not believe how well-written and well-illustrated all of them were, and especially the last volume with [John] Totleben. I couldn’t believe it. So what I wanted to do was a foreshadowing... having her come home from work, and she has a dream, and the dream I wanted to base it on was what’s going to happen when Kid Miracleman starts destroying the Earth. But I wanted her to have a nightmare about it before it happens. And Neil Gaiman’s such a great writer, and I was just working on the Classics stuff, that I was so intimidated that I just thought I’d base it on ‘Khan.’ So it was ‘Kubla Khan’; I’ve loved that poem since I was a kid, and I wanted to interpret that through Kid Miracleman. Miraclewoman wakes up and she sees the spot of blood on the book at the end, and it’s like a precursor to the violence that’s going to happen. So that’s what I was trying to do with that story. I don’t know what happened there, but we just didn’t end up getting that one in. Maybe one day we will.”
“Kubla Khan” is the classic poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge that is believed to have been written in 1787. In Snyder’s story, Kid Miracleman is reading the poem from a book in Miraclewoman’s prophetic dream of the wicked things to come. Snyder commented, “What I tried to imply with Kid Miracleman was that he’s getting ready to destroy the universe. I think the thing with Kid Miracleman is the implication. I think, to really make the character work, first off, in my personal opinion, what I think is really great about what Alan Moore did with Kid Miracleman and that last sequence, with that confrontation between him and Miracleman, is that he portrayed what it would be like if superheroes actually fought each other, and that they would kill every civilian in their wake. It was kind of like ‘Superman II,’ but reality. What I tried to do with this story was imply that something really bad was coming, and that there were going to be a lot of innocent people hurt. And she’s having this nightmare about, ‘My gosh, something really bad is getting ready to happen, but it hasn’t happened yet.’ Moore wrote it in the comic, so to write anything bad about him would be kind of over-the-top. It’s already depicted. So what I was trying to do was foreshadow. And I think that was really what I was shooting for.”
The planned painted story would have ended with Miraclewoman waking up with a chilly reminder that even in their dreams the Miracleman family isn’t safe from Kid Miracleman. Snyder said, “Okay, she’s got the book open at the end, and he’s reading out of the book, and he’s drinking a cup of blood, and the blood leaks onto the copy of the book, and then, when she wakes up, she sees the bloodstain on the book that’s next to her bed.”
Somehow the story got lost in the shuffle when it came time for Eclipse to put it on the schedule. Regardless, Snyder does have it all sketched out and scripted when the day comes to paint it. “When all the dust settles,” said the artist, “if it ever settles, I’d love to do the story, still. I’d really like to do it, because, when I first was approached with this, my thought was that I wanted to do it like a really cool painted piece, and I had just started on ‘Dr. Midnite.’ I was really inspired by what John Totleben had done on his work with Alan Moore on the last story arc, and I wanted to do something like that.”