Someone at Marvel Comics decided that their new edition of Miracleman needed to be censored for digital release—but apparently not everyone is on board with that.
Last week, Marvel released the first of a planned series of reprints of the Alan Moore/Neil Gaiman run of Miracleman. Miracleman itself has a tangled history, having started off in the early 1950s as Marvelman, a British knockoff of Captain Marvel (which was, confusingly, published by Fawcett Comics, not Marvel). That comic, created by Mick Anglo, ran for ten years and never seems to have stretched the boundaries of the standard superhero comic. In 1982, however, Alan Moore picked it up and created a much darker superhero story, something that is common now but was groundbreaking at the time. This series was picked up in the U.S. by Eclipse Comics, and the name was changed to Miracleman for U.S. readers. Moore wrote the first 16 issues, and then Neil Gaiman took over, working with artist Mark Buckingham (who would later illustrate Fables). Gaiman and Buckingham planned to do three six-issue story arcs, but Eclipse Comics went bankrupt and the last issue to be published was #24. (Miracleman #25 was completed, except for coloring, but has not been published in full.) Many, many lawsuits later, Marvel has ended up with the rights to the story and is republishing the Moore/Gaiman issues, with plans for Gaiman and Buckingham to finish their planned series. And along the way Alan Moore got pissed off and asked his name be taken off the comic, so the official credit is simply “the original writer.”
Got that? OK, welcome to this week’s puzzlement: Despite its hefty price tag of $5.99 for a single issue (with, admittedly, a lot of bonus content), Miracleman does not come with a download code for a free digital version, something that has become pretty standard with Marvel comics. What gives? Marvel editor Tom Brevoort explained on Formspring:
The need for differences between the material as originally printed, and what we’re permitted to release in the digital space. As aspects of the story are having to be adjusted in order to pass muster in the digital edition (whereas the print edition preserves the material as it was originally presented), it became untenable to link the two together.
What exactly is he talking about? My initial thought was that the original was too spicy for the bluenoses at Apple, so Marvel had to produce a cleaned-up edition to be sold in-app at comiXology. However, the uncut version, which bears the awkward title Miracleman: Parental Advisory Edition #1, is available in the comiXology iPad app as well as the Android app and the website. This version is rated 17+. The censored version, Miracleman: Mass Market Edition #1, seems to only be available on the Marvel digital comics store—I couldn’t find it on comiXology. This seems backwards, as you would expect that (1) Marvel would be publishing the most authentic version of their own comic and (2) ComiXology would be selling the 12+ version in their iOS app because of Apple’s content restrictions. Instead, it’s the other way around.
Eh, whatever. According to Bleeding Cool, the difference between the two versions is that a character has a bare butt in one version and is wearing underpants in the other. Presumably the two editions will diverge more as the series goes on and the story gets more intense. The real story here is that the changes give Marvel an excuse not to include that free download code, which makes the comic more expensive, especially for readers who regularly defray the cost of their comics by selling the download codes on the black market.