Sunday, November 4, 2018

Poisoned Chalice: The Extremely Long and Incredibly Complex Story of Marvelman (and Miracleman)

On Tuesday the 30th of October, after nearly ten year of writing it, on and off, I finally published Poisoned Chalice: The Extremely Long and Incredibly Complex Story of Marvelman (and Miracleman).

(Isn't that cover fabulous, by the way? My old friend Michael Carroll, who has been writing Judge Dredd stories for 2000 AD since 2010, did that for me.)

Whilst nothing will ever match the story of Marvelman for complexity, my own story whilst writing this had its own twists and turns -- I had, long before I started writing this, been fascinated with the whole complex nature of it, although it's fair to say that I had no idea just how complex that complexity was going to turn out to be. I had written a brief piece about it for some sort of publication - a con programme book, or something like that (possibly for They Came and Shaved Us, in October 2003, now that I think about it - which was held to commemorate ten years of Sproutlore, the Now Official Robert Rankin Fanclub, which I had a hand in setting up... But I digress!) - and fiddled about with it a bit after that, every now and then. I eventually decided to address myself to it properly, and thought that I could make some sort of article or blog post out of it. It kept growing, though, the more I looked into it, and it was around 2009 that I realised that what I was writing was inevitable going to be, if not a book, then at least book-sized. 

And that, as a wise man once said, was where my troubles began. Not long after I decided to go for it, and turn it into a book - I reckoned, with a lot of effort, I could bring it up to about 50,000 words - I got diagnosed with Prostate Cancer, which led to all sorts of exciting surgical procedures, and more bizarre side effects than you could shake a big stick at. This, unsurprisingly, slowed my urge to write anything, except perhaps my will, down to effectively zero. But we get used to everything and, although my damned cancer is still there, the medication has it stunned into submission for the moment, and my specialist assures that I could easily live another twenty years. So I got back to writing again.

As well as that, after a really long time when nothing had happened, news started to trickle out that the rights to Marvelman - and, by this time, his bastard offspring, Miracleman - were going to be sorted out, once and for all, and that Neil Gaiman was going to finally get to finish the story he had been forced to discontinue when Eclipse Comics went belly up in the mid-nineties. I dug down into the details, and back into the past, and talked to some people off the record, interviewed some other on the record. That 50,000 word book I thought I'd be lucky to stretch to eventually ended up at over 90,000, and the story is nowhere near its end yet. But right now it's as completely up to date as it can be, until the next time something happens.

If you're interested in comics history, then Poisoned Chalice is a book I think you need to read. It stretches from the birth of superhero comics in America all the way to right here in 2018. It features Superman, Captain Marvel, Marvelman, Miracleman, and several other comics icons. It covers the 1980s British Invasion of American comics, and those writers most associated with it, writers like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, and others. There's also Todd McFarlane, and Eclipse Comics. And Mick Anglo, who started it all. Not to mention loads of people assuring us that things were Coming Soon, even when the obviously weren't. It is, like so many great comics stories, a tale of good and bad, of good guys and bad guys, and of a sort of justice, in the end.

After all these years, and after spending a good chunk of my life looking into it, I'm still fascinated by the story of Marvelman, and all the people involved with it. I hope that, if you read this book, you'll feel some of that fascination.

Poisoned Chalice is currently available to buy, in both physical and electronic versions, via these fine electronic shopping emporia:, and

Thank you for reading this far. Now go buy my book!