Why Isn’t It a Bigger Deal That Miracleman Is Finally Back in Print?

For decades, Miracleman has been one of the great lost works, a foundational comic by an acclaimed genius writer (and some snazzy artists) kept out of print for legal reasons. Now, after four years of teasing customers, Marvel finally started reprinting the good stuff, with two issues released in two weeks.

Miracleman #1 Marvel reprint cover

Yet no one seems to care. Did Marvel wait too long? I found hints of it being discussed eight years ago, which is an eternity in both fandom and the internet.

Has everyone already read it, through file-sharing? Even devout anti-pirates sometimes made an exception in this title’s case, since it was so important and so pricey to acquire in back issues.

Or is it the stupidity of the format, with a too-high price driven by unnecessary filler material, including old reprints of stories readers attracted to Alan Moore work don’t care about? As retailer Mike Sterling wrote,

So basically I just went ahead and did Marvel’s job for them, trying to at least try to get new readers to give this Miracleman release a shot, by offering the ridiculously-priced $5.99 debut issue at a significant discount at our shop. We’re not going to sell future issues if we can’t get people to at least pick up this first one, so it’s in our interest to get customers looking at this book any way we can. I’ve written before about how a six-freaking-dollar first issue is a hurdle too high for casual readers who might have a slight interest in this 25-year-old comic book story they’d heard about, starring a character they don’t know. As it was, even with the discounting, it’s been a bit of an uphill battle to move copies.

Then there’s the ridiculous number of variant covers, plus it doesn’t even come with a free digital copy. (The differences the editor refer to apparently include covering up a bare bottom with drawn-in underpants.)

Alan David Doane was the one I first saw pointing this out, by this way. He has more thoughts on the topic.

Has the market just moved on? Is history less important when there are so many exciting new works to follow? Is another Alan-Moore-pushing-boundaries-in-1982 story just old news these days, when you can publish and sell anything in comic format? (Although maybe not for digital distribution, thanks to Apple.) Many more shocking and revisionist and graphic tales have been told in the 30 years since, and reworking superheroes in “adult” fashion is passe.

Is Marvel the wrong company to bring an indy classic back into print? Or should they have done more publicity instead of coasting on the memories of 50-year-old-plus fans?


23 Responses to “Why Isn’t It a Bigger Deal That Miracleman Is Finally Back in Print?”

  1. Marc-Oliver Frisch Says:

    A lot of things have changed in the last eight years, not least the way Moore himself is perceived by readers, fellow creators and critics. And I do think it’s fairly safe to assume that everyone who had a burning desire to read MIRACLEMAN already did it a long time ago, at this stage; it’s not particularly hard to come by anymore, Marvel or no Marvel.

    Also, Marvel’s not publishing the idealized MIRACLEMAN fans were probably looking for once upon a time, anyway. First, it’s a bunch of overpriced comic-books that’ll take years to come out; then, it’s a bunch of overpriced slim hardcover editions that’ll take years to come out; finally, I suppose, we’ll see something like that platonic-ideal ‘omnibus’ edition of the Moore/Gaiman material that people might have been hoping for all along, but even then, it’s not going to be the original version people feel nostalgic for, but a drastically altered one.

    All of which makes perfect sense for Marvel and will sell well enough, I’m sure, but none of which is bound to cause storms of excitement, at this point. In 2004, new MIRACLEMAN editions might have been a big deal; in 2014, I don’t think they could have been more than an afterthought under the best of circumstances. A lucrative afterthought for Marvel, certainly, and I’m glad they made sure to do right by the creators.

    But ultimately, it’s a footnote.

  2. Ralf Haring Says:

    I think it’s just something everyone had accepted as a foregone conclusion in the decade plus that it was floated as a possibility. Gaiman’s 1602 came out in 2003 and before that came out they were publicly associating it with it’ll-pay-for-Neil’s-court-case-about-Miracleman. I think its long dormant period and unfinished nature means it’s probably seen as a historical curio rather than a work that is still relevant today, unlike say V for Vendetta or Watchmen. I do expect that when/if they finish the reprints and get into a theoretical continuation by Gaiman there will be a much bigger push of the then-extant collected editions. This current period of reprinting the thirty-year-old single issues is still a period where they’re selling to the hardcore enthusiasts.

  3. Cornelius Stuyvesant Says:

    I was looking forward to this book, but when I saw the price tag, no way. I am not paying $6 for it. I will wait until there is a decent collection or some digital sale that moves it to a reasonable price.

    Plus, I could do without the interviews and “classic” stories. I don’t really care about that and I won’t be reading it. Its just crap expanding the page count for no reason. Hopefully when they collect it it will be without all that garbage.

    Also this “re-do” it as a monthly book feels like a cash grab. I waited this long to get a legit copy of it. I can wait a bit longer until there is a realistic re-print of it.

  4. JG Says:

    Personally I never heard of the character until Marvel announced they bought it.

    Did not care much then, care even less now.

  5. James Schee Says:

    I don’t really follow comics news and stuff. Is there some reason given they didn’t put these out in expensive HC editions, sort of like the Masterworks, or DC’s Archives?

    That’s the only way I’d be tempted to spend $ on it.

  6. Ralf Haring Says:

    Nothing they’ve said, but I’d wager they’ll make more money selling it in different formats. There’s an slim hardcover of four issues coming in May. It seems plausible there’ll be softcovers after that followed by thicker hardcovers.
    http://www.amazon.com/Miracleman-Book-The-Original-Writer/dp/0785154620

    Presumably serialization of the reprints also gives lots and lots of lead time in case they want to have a potential Gaiman continuation follow directly from the last published issue.

  7. Sol Says:

    I’ll be all about picking up new Gaiman Miracleman issues. But I’ve already got copies of all Moore’s stories, either the Eclipse comics or trade paperbacks. (Issues #1&2 of Warrior, too, but those are more notable for V for Vendetta IMO.)

    I do kind of think Moore’s issues on it are wildly over-rated. I mean, groundbreaking in its day, yes, but they’re really an ugly mix of cynicism, rape, and hyper-violence, all wrapped in purple prose.

    Book 3’s art is really fantastic, though.

  8. Johanna Says:

    That hardcover, at $30 for 4 issues, isn’t exactly affordable either. By the time they do a real, substantial collection, I wonder how much more time will have gone by? (And then there’s the problem of Marvel’s collected editions department, which doesn’t work well with bookstores or keep much in print.) I’m curious, too, whether the collections will resort the material in more sensible fashion, or just reprint the issues in order.

    I don’t mean to sound like a negative nelly here. It’s just that this whole effort keeps raising questions for me. And I haven’t even mentioned not using Alan Moore’s name!

    You make a good point, Ralf, too, in that I forgot that there’s potentially new material coming eventually. Although Gaiman’s new comic work is happening spottily these days, what with the Sandman delay.

  9. Dave Carter Says:

    A lot of people are complaining about the price tag. And yes, $5 or $6 seems like a lot for a reprint comic. But there are some mitigating factors:

    * This is more than a simple reprint; the stories are being completely re-colored and re-lettered, and they’ve been tracking down the original artwork as much as possible and doing new scans. Opinions will of course vary, but IMHO they look fantastic. (I recently looked through my old Eclipse versions, and the Marvel editions look so much better.)

    * Marvel are apparently paying decent royalties to all of the creators involved (except of course for Moore, who doesn’t want any of the filthy lucre, or even his name associated with the work). This presumably is also the reason why they are including the old Mick Anglo reprints as well, to toss some royalty money that way too.

    * It’s not all reprints of the Eclipse material; issue #2 includes a story from Warrior that has never before been reprinted, for example. And in a couple of years we’ll finally get to the new Gaiman/Buckingham material.

    It will be interesting to see the sales figures on these. I’m expecting somewhere in the 20K range, and frankly I don’t think they’d sell that many more units had they been thinner $4 books without all the extra material. The collections will probably sell decently outside of the traditional comics market, much better than Marvel’s collections usually do.

    So yes, the price points may not be ideal for every consumer. But this is a seminal work in the comics field, and if the choice was between having it this way or not having it available at all, I for one am glad that it is back in print after all these years.

  10. Alexa Says:

    Couple of reasons:

    1. Piracy or no, most issues of Miracleman weren’t all that hard to come by. Except for #15, you could generally find all of Moore’s issues and some of Gaiman’s at any con for $5-7. That price is acceptable for out-of-print collectible issues of a legendary Alan Moore story regardless of whatever his current reputation is. It’s not really a good price for a new reprint.

    2. Even though I have virtually every comics site loaded into my feedly and check them mostly every day, I had basically no idea this was coming out. Yes, I knew the ground had been cleared (and that even Alan Moore had said he wouldn’t stand in the way of reprinting it), I knew they had been reprinting the original Mick Anglo Marvelman, and I vaguely remembered them announcing it was going to be reprinted “soon”, we’d been hearing that for what, 5 years? Ever since Marvel got the rights to the character. They didn’t do quite the PR push I would have expected.

    3. Like what everyone else has said, format. Give me a call when the omnibus is out. I already have most of the single issues (#1 actually signed by Alan Moore), so I don’t need to buy them again. It’s kind of a shame that Marvel got the rights, I’d have liked to see more of a Dark Horse reprint.

  11. Johanna Says:

    Dave, those are excellent points — but I think they get back to the question of Marvel’s promotion (or lack thereof). Why are you telling us this, when they should have made this information known?

    I agree, it will be interesting to see the sales figures, but I have to disagree that these will likely sell well in bookstores. I don’t think that audience cares about 30-year-old material of this type. Old favorite comic strips reprinted historically, yes. Grumpy superheroes? Maybe not so much.

    Not to nitpick, but the choice you lay out — having it this way or not at all — isn’t accurate. As others have pointed out, most of the people who were interested do already have it. Perhaps in a not-as-pretty version (Eclipse), or ratty back issues (me, after a water damage incident), or digitally unauthorized copies, but it’s already out there. And perhaps to a greater degree than anyone recognized.

    Alexa, you also make a great point — Marvel made too much noise about this years ago, when they had only intent, not product, and not enough now, when there’s actually something to buy. (Jealous of the signed copy!)

  12. Cornelius Stuyvesant Says:

    In reply to Dave –

    Just like I don’t really care about the internals of who is getting what when I buy an iPad I really can’t bring myself to give a care about who is getting paid for what when I buy entertainment. I think its great people are getting paid, and bully for them, but when I buy food at the grocery store I don’t really give two thoughts into how the dollar I spend is split up between everyone in the supply chain that brought me a box of Fruit Loops. And at the end of the day, all this is is commercial entertainment.

    I know it was not your intention, but in some ways your comment was a bit of a slap in the face to me and made me realize that somewhere along the line I stopped being a “comic book person”. I still read them and I obviously follow a few good blogs like this one, but the fact that I no longer fall into the demographic that cares about this release is sort of sad. I buy only digital, I don’t collect, and I tend to read and forget. All the matters is the quality of the entertainment I am getting for my money compared to all the other things I could be doing, and frankly any comic over $4 that is not an expanded page count just won’t rank for me as I know it will go on sale at some point.

    So I think you are 100% right, its not for everyone. But at the same time, seems like they really limited the number of people its for in the way they are handling it no? I should care about this, and I would buy it if it was $3. Pricing something like this so its only for the hardcore seems to just reinforce the insular nature of comics.

    Its not like the world is hurting for quality, cheap, entertainment. I have a stack of video games I never finished, seasons of great shows on HBO go and Netflix I have never watched, a butt ton of comic series I bought for 99 cents each on digital sales and never read, mountains of novels I bought on sale on the kindle that are really top notch, etc etc. If anything, my problem is I have too much quality cheap things to do that I don’t have time for it all. The idea of paying $6 for around 12 mins or so of entertainment just does not make sense.

    But again, its sad I don’t fall into the demographic. Not sure if it was me that changed, comics, or the world and the options we are presented. My guess is a bit of it all.

  13. Dave Carter Says:

    I perhaps could have been more clear when I said “between having it this way or not having it available at all…” What I meant was available in-print now, as opposed to getting it from the back issue market or illegal digital scans. Marvel were willing to spend the time and money to unravel the extremely complicated rights issues to bring this important comics work back into print. And if they have to charge a higher-than-what-many-consider-optimal price point to make the whole enterprise feasible, then I can live with that. I don’t think that Marvel are making much if any profit from the Miracleman deal; they surely could make more money by investing their time and energy into releasing yet another Avengers or X-Men comic.

    (I buy comics and graphic novels for our library’s collection, and I’ll be forking over $24 [$30 -20% discount from our retailer] for the hardcover editions to add to our collection. It is far more cost-effective than spending time haunting the eBays and back issue bins!)

    I’ll admit to being a bit mystified by the number of people (here and elsewhere) saying that they didn’t know about Marvel reprinting the Miracleman series. I certainly remember seeing announcements on all the usual comics news sites, I seem to recall that it was the cover feature for the Marvel Previews, etc. They are somewhat hampered by their agreement with Moore to not mention his name at all; more mainstream news outlets that feature comics occasionally might have come across ‘Alan Moore’ as a name they recognize and picked up the story. But I don’t have any secret Marvel knowledge, so everything I said in my earlier comment I was able to glean from available sources.

    And when I said “The collections will probably sell decently outside of the traditional comics market, much better than Marvel’s collections usually do,” realize that that is a very low bar; certainly no one will be expecting Saga or Walking Dead numbers here! But despite being a niche product it will probably have a bit more interest in the wider market than the latest X-Force collection.

    Anyway, I appreciate reading everyone’s thought and opinions here on this topic. But I’m rambling on here, which was not my intention, so I’ll shut up now…

  14. Alan Sepinwall Says:

    As someone who’s always wanted to read the material, but not enough to scour for the back issues at conventions (or download the bootlegs), I’m only going to be excited when, as others have said, there are some reasonably-priced omnibus editions — and that’s likely several years away . Whatever the motivations and rationales behind the current format and pricing, it’s much too much, especially since I read nothing month-to-month anymore. I imagine a lot of readers old enough to still care might have a similar preference for collections than paying that much for 20-odd pages at a time, plus lots of bonus material of limited appeal.

  15. Ralf Haring Says:

    I am actually one of the ones buying this in single issues. Partly, it’s because I am quite literally only following less than a handful of series as singles nowadays, and not all of them are even monthly. This series is enough of a curio that I felt fine buying it despite the higher-than-normal prices. Plus with “nobody” buying the single issues, the print runs will be so low that I’ll eventually make a fortune! :-)

    [Surgeon General's Warning: collector mentality contains carbon monoxide and causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and may complicate pregnancy]

  16. Jamie Coville Says:

    It’s likely that people who are interested don’t read monthly comics anymore. When they put out a decently priced TPD, then they’ll buy it, but not before.

    Sadly, I doubt Marvel will be publishing that anytime soon.

  17. Rich Johnston Says:

    Bleeding Cool has run a number of articles on each issue’s release and they prove popular with BC readers. Retailers have reported decent sales to BC. I’d say there is a lot of fuss.

  18. Johanna Says:

    Rich, it seems that the only time you comment elsewhere is to plug your site. (At least I didn’t get a “we had that story first” blurb, which is the usual comment. :) ) But thank you for providing an alternate viewpoint. I’m glad BC readers enjoy reading articles about Miracleman — although that doesn’t necessarily translate to reading or buying the comics themselves.

  19. Rich Johnston Says:

    You said that no one seemed to care. I just wanted to point out that some folk certainly seem to care and there were numbers to prove it. It so happened that the numbers I had was traffic on BC. And Miracleman coverage provides spikes.

    And as for reading or sales, as I said, there were strong sales reported from retailers I spoke to.

    It may depend on the individual retailer, one talked about their two stores having different levels of sales depending on the staff’s engagement.

  20. Rich Johnston Says:

    I’ve dug out the full retailer quotes I had from commentary on all sales on Wednesdays and Thursdays when the books were published, and it might give you your answer…

    Night Of The Living Deadpool #1 and Miracleman #1 sold well, but not enough to make the top ten.

    Miracleman performed better than expected, but Superior Spider-Man was the clear winner.

    KIMOTA! Miracleman kicked ass (and eventually sold out).

    While selling out, Readers had a tepid response to Miracleman #1, leaving me a bit concerned. Superior #25 on the other hand, was met with much glee.

    Miracleman #1 came in at #12 on my list, tied with Nova. I sold half of my order plus one copy, so I view that as break even at this point and I’m happy I went with my gut and didn’t go near the incentives.

    Miracleman #1 did good but not as good as we were expecting. Lots of younger fans who had heard about it for years flipped through it and were turned off by the amount of old black and white material in the back.

    It seems like people are coming back for Miracleman. A new issue of Saga always brings the customers running, and Black Science is a hit.

    It took Eclipse only 6 comics to reprint the black and white Miracleman stories in color. Marvel is padding their reprints with, sketches, articles and black and white reprints from the 50′s Marvelman series, so it may take them maybe 8 or 9 issues.

    Miracleman #2 is selling at less than half of #1 so far. I think having the back half black and white reprints again may have killed it. $5 for 22 pages of stuff they actually want to read is too much. They will also pass on the $30 HCs and wait for the eventual TP collecting the whole Moore story.

  21. Rich Johnston Says:

    We also ran a ComiXology runarouns, measuring sales globally on Wednesday release. Miracleman got tenth place as a $6 book in the US and Canada, seventh place in the UK and Ireland, third in Spain, second in Japan.

  22. Thad Says:

    I think I may be the target audience for this book. Which feels kinda weird, and I can’t shake the feeling it’s a poor business strategy.

    I was born in 1982; I was too young to read the comic during its original run. I’ve had digital copies of the comics for years but have never gotten around to reading them.

    I got a bit of sticker shock for the $6 cover price of #1 and the $5 for #2, but I pay $8 for Dark Horse Presents every month and this is a pretty comparable price per page. The interview bit in #1 seemed pretty padded, but I like the art pages, and I’m actually quite enjoying the 1950’s reprints too. I think I’d enjoy them simply as a historical curiosity if that’s all they were, but I always get a kick out of goofy 1950’s stories of this type (inflatable reflections that turn evil, all couched in super-serious pseudoscientific babble, that sort of thing). And, knowing how laughably inaccurate depictions of England tended to be in American comics around that time, it’s fun to see the shoe on the other foot.

    I don’t know if I’m in it for the long haul, but I’m liking it so far. The story hardly seems as revolutionary now as it must have in 1982, but Leach’s art still holds up and I’m pretty impressed by the new colors.

    So yeah, I think I’m the sort of guy this book is for — and I think you’re right that it doesn’t seem like much of a viable business strategy.

  23. Johanna Says:

    Thad, that’s a good analysis. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.




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