Wiseman-Trowse, N. J. B. (2008) Marvel or miracle: (re)placing the original in Alan Moore’s Marvelman. Paper presented to: Paraliterary Narratives: Reassessing the Graphic Novel, University of Northampton, 6 June 2008.
In 1982 Alan Moore resurrected the long-forgotten superhero Marvelman for the British comic anthology Warrior. Marvelman’s previous incarnation from 1954 to 1963 (published through Fawcett Comics) as a revamped Captain Marvel provided source material for Moore’s work in Warrior. However, given Moore’s revisionist project (arguably starting with Marvelman, continuing through Swamp Thing, Watchmen and his work for ABC comics amongst many others), the original Fawcett incarnation becomes re-read in the 80s as part of a subconscious fantasy forced upon the Marvel family (Marvelman, Young Marvelman and Kid Marvelman) as part of their induction within a British military arms project after the Second World War. As such the 50s incarnation of the Marvel family is contextualised by Moore as fantasy, in relation to the revisionist 80s narrative that foregrounds ‘reality’ and contemporary commentary. This paper seeks to understand the mechanisms by which Moore is able to relegate one narrative arc within another that holds a greater status of reality. In other words, how is Moore’s Marvelman more ‘real’ than Mick Anglo’s 50s version? These mechanisms are centred around contemporary concepts of reality, concepts that are further expounded in the late 1980s through titles such as Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns (Miller) and others, and through the process of ‘adaptation’ within formats, rather than adaptation between formats. The legitimisation of one narrative arc over another is considered to be not only a response to changing attitudes brought to bear on superhero narratives, particularly in Moore’s work, but also through alternate modes of reification brought to bear upon comic formats themselves that arguably commence in the UK with Moore’s work in warrior magazine