Miracleman began as Marvelman, a 1950s homegrown British Captain Ersatz version of Superhero Captain Marvel. After Alan Moore revived the character in the 1980s, the character turned into something quite different.
It all started when London publisher, L. Miller & Son, Ltd., had the rights to make reprints of American Comic Book Captain Marvel for the UK. However, when Fawcett Comics, publishers and right-owners of Captain Marvel in America, had to cease when DC Comics threatened to sue due to similarities to Superman, L. Miller was faced with the reprint material drying up. So, ironically, he had one of his writers, Mick Angelo, created Captain Ersatz versions of the character and his supporting cast. Marvelman's adventures lasted from 1954 to 1963, for about 350 weekly issues.
In 1982, Alan Moore was hired to produce material for Warrior magazine; one of the properties given to him was Marvelman. Moore, in similar fashion as he did to Swamp Thing at the time, radically reinvented Marvelman: the original Marvelman comics were revealed to be dreams created by a machine to train Marvelman and that the British Government ultimately betrayed him and tried to kill him, resulting in him losing all memory of being Marvelman for nearly two decades. When he regains his powers, the hero goes about changing the world no matter what, while fighting with his now batshit crazy former sidekick and long time arch-enemy, who turned out to be the man who created his powers.
Sadly Warrior stopped publication about one-third through his run; the series would have remained lost and unfinished if not for Eclipse Comics, who offered to buy the US rights to the property and let Moore finish the series. Unfortunately, Marvel Comics was not thrilled with Moore and the fact that his character was called "Marvel"man. So the character was changed to Miracleman. Miracleman debuted in 1984 to rave reviews, though there would be much problem: Eclipse Comics had its corporate headquarters destroyed in a flood (which in turn destroyed most copies of Miracleman #15, the penultimate issue of the Moore run and featuring his legendary final showdown with the newly renamed Kid Miracleman),and Alan Davis (the original artist for the series) left over the fact that Moore's antagonistic relationship with Marvel Comics threatened to get Alan Davis blacklisted from working in the US. Several artists were called in to draw the rest of Moore's run (along with an issue that reprinted classic Miracleman stories, something that the book's editor replied was only being done because they absolutely had to have the book be back on schedule), including Steve Bissette and Rick Veitch of Swamp Thing fame and Chuck Austen (yes, THAT Chuck Austen). Moore ended his run with issue #16, as Miracleman, after defeating Kid Miracleman and witnessing the destruction of London at the villain's cruel hand, decides to take over the world and bring about utopia, with help of a group of heroes he had recently met. The final issue would show that Miracleman succeeded in his goals, thought at the cost of his marriage and his humanity.
Alan Moore's run would be followed by Neil Gaiman, who sought to write a trilogy of stories (The Golden Age, the Silver Age, and the Dark Age) which would explore Miracleman's new order and its ultimate downfall. Sadly the book was cancelled again with the collapse of Eclipse Comics and Gaiman's story would be unfinished.
With the collapse of Eclipse Comics, the rights to the series fell into legal limbo hell, made worse with Todd McFarlane buying up ownership of Eclipse Comics assets when the company went down. [McFarlane drew much controversy in his desire to incorporate Miracleman into the Spawn universe and holding usage of the character and the chance to finish his story, as blackmail material to force Neil Gaiman (who thanks to Alan Moore, had partial legal ownership claim to the character) in exchange for Neil giving up his longstanding legal fight over ownership of popular Spawn character Angela and claims to royalties that were being withheld from by Todd. However, it would be for naught as it was revealed that the real rights were held by Mick Angelo, who due to a various number of loopholes with the British copyright system, had never signed away his rights to the characters and that the deal with Alan Moore for usage of the character in Warrior and at Eclipse Comic were invalid. Ironically, this allowed Marvel Comics to cut a deal to buy the rights to the entire franchise from Angelo (as well as the scripts to the 80s comic series, as the artwork has to be renegotiated since Gaiman still owned the rights to the Miracleman scripts).
As part of their deal and as a means to help out Angelo (who never saw a dime for his character in the years after Moore revitalized him and was terminally ill), Marvel republished several trade paperbacks of the original 1950s Miracleman series (now Marvelman again) in hardcover and mini-series format. This in turn brought back into the spotlight many characters that Angelo created that were abandoned by Moore in his revival, most notably Nastyman and Young Nastyman, a pair of Black Adam Expies. In 2014, Marvel began reprinting the Miracleman stories with new color, both as single issues and hardcovers, and will be continuing onto the Gaiman issues.
- All Just a Dream: In just the first few issues of the Alan Moore run it's revealed that the entire 1950's-60's run of Miracleman was just an elaborate dream induced simulation created by Miracleman's government handlers.
- Anti-Hero: Type V.
- Applied Phlebotinum: Originally, Marvelman transformed by saying a formula for the "key harmonic of the universe," whatever that might mean, that just happened to be "atomic" spelled backwards and with a K.
- Author Tract: Essentially boiling down to "'Benevolent' dictatorship would be awesome."
- Because You Were Nice to Me - Subverted horribly by Kid Miracleman. Upon his escape from the hospital, he invokes this trope to the only nurse who was kind to him during his stay. Then returns and punches her head into pieces while she was smiling at being spared.
- Benevolent Alien Invasion
- Beware the Superman
- Black and Gray Morality - Though self-evidently much more "good" than his antagonist, Miracleman neither acts according to merely human ethics or morality nor gives lip services to it.
- Bus Full of Innocents - Quite literally, but subverted in that Miracleman himself throws it.
- Canon Discontinuity - The earlier Marvelman adventures happened only in a kind of Lotus Eater Machine.
- City of Spies - Features in a short story later in the series.
- Completely Missing the Point - As Miracleman disconnects from humanity more and more, he starts to do this in regards to people's reactions.
- Continuity Reboot - The modern version.
- Darker and Edgier - Moore's interpretation.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him - magnificently subverted with the death of Gargunza. "I threw him at a planet."
- Enemy Mine - The threat of Miracleman overseeing the planet as a "god" is enough that both Christian and Muslim fundamentalists join together in its wake. However, there's not really much they can do about it.
- Eye Beams: Johnny Bates has this ability, while Miracleman and others like him do not. Something which is not explained, though perhaps these are meant to be focused telekinesis.
- Flying Brick - Miracleman, Young Miracleman, Kid Miracleman, etc., in both versions.
- Imported Alien Phlebotinum - Responsible for the creation of the superhumans in the modern version (but not the original).
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: Due to the legal issues surrounding its rights, this series is out of print with no immediate plans to collect it or reprint the issues.
- Mad Scientist - Dr. Gargunza, in both the '50s comics and the Alan Moore version.
- Mistaken for Granite - The doors to the room housing the kingqueen of the Qys is guarded by two guards whom Miracleman/Marvelman mistakes for statues, due to their immobility and size.
- Psychopathic Manchild - Kid Miracleman and Young Nastyman
- Reed Richards Is Useless - Both played straight and later inverted as much as possible. On the one hand, Gargunza, Miracleman's creator, strangely, never capitalizes on his biotechnological brilliance. After Kid Miracleman destroys London, however, Miracleman and his friends "go public," which changes every human society on every level.
- Revision - The modern version.
- Serial Escalation: One suspects he has the power to make up superpowers as he goes along like the Silver Age Superman, except instead of super-ventrilquism and super-knitting he invents things like super-horriblemurder or super-evil. Example of just how hard he went: while not fully shown or detailed how he acomplished this somehow Kid Miracleman manages (once his darker alter-ego is fully unleashed) to elaborately mutilate, torture, rape, kill and arrange into morbidly artistic ornaments half the population of London in one or two hours.
- Stable Time Loop - In one of the original Warrior comics, and hinted at in Issue#15, Miracleman and the Warpsmith travel back in time twice to battle his earlier self in order to steal kinetic force from their blows. After each battle, the Warpsmith erases his earlier double's memory.
- Super Family Team
- Super-Hero Speciation - The superhumans created by Gargunza have the same Flying Brick power set.
- Apparently, they all have Psychic Powers, that's just how they manifested.
- Also, the Warpsmiths are all teleporters, and Firedrakes are pyrokinetic.
- Take That - After Miracleman effectively takes over the world, there is no power structure anymore. All the former tyrants of the world meet in group therapy to deal with the reversal. One of the members is a gray-haired white guy who tells the rest he got aroused from a dream where he ordered soldiers to kill rabbits and give him money. The group's therapist then thanks "George" for his trust. It's pretty obvious it's George H.W. Bush, who became President the year the issue came out.
- Similarly, when Miracleman announces that the old ways are over, and the world will be remade, Margaret Thatcher insists the world's leaders will not allow it. Miracleman looks at her nonchalantly and responds, "'Allow?'"
- You Are Already Dead: The final fate of Evelyn Cream.