In March 1982, a new British monthly black-and-white comic was launched called Warrior. From the first issue until issue #21 (August 1984), it featured a new, darker version of Marvelman, written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Garry Leach and Alan Davis, and lettered by Annie Parkhouse. Moore had been fascinated by the notion of a grown-up Michael Moran and this was the Moran presented in the first issue: married, plagued by migraines, having dreams of flying, and unable to remember the word that had such significance in his dreams. In his initial run of Marvelman stories Moore touches on many themes of his later work, including the superhero as a source of terror, the sympathetic villain, and exploring the mythology of an established fictional character.
Moran is working as a freelance reporter when he gets caught up in a terrorist raid on a newly built atomic power plant. Fortuitously remembering the word "Kimota", Marvelman is reborn and saves the day. As Marvelman, Moran remembers his early life as a superhero, but oddly there are no known records of his exploits and his wife Liz finds the descriptions of the adventures ridiculous. Moran later discovers that Johnny Bates (Kid Marvelman), not only also survived, but lived on with his superpowers intact. Bates however was corrupted by his power and is now a sociopath. After a brutal confrontation, Kid Marvelman says his magic word ("Marvelman") by mistake and reverts to his alter-ego, the 13-year-old Johnny Bates. The child, an innocent only vaguely aware of the evil he committed as Kid Marvelman, swears to never say his power word again and is taken away by the police to a group home.
With the aid of renegade British Secret Service agent Evelyn Cream, and after a short fight with a new British superhero called Big Ben, Marvelman makes his way to a top secret military bunker. There he discovers remains of an alien spacecraft, and two non-human skeletons fused together. Marvelman views a file that reveals his entire experience as a superhero was a simulation as part of a military research project, codename "Project Zarathustra", attempting to enhance the human body with alien technology. Moran and the other subjects had been kept unconscious, their minds fed with stories and villains plucked from comic books by the researchers, for fear of what they could do if they awoke. When the project was terminated, so were Marvelman and his two companions: in a final, real adventure they were sent into a trap where a nuclear device was meant to annihilate them. Moran survived, his memory erased, and Young Miracleman died. In the meantime, it is revealed that Liz has conceived a child with Marvelman, which has the potential of being the first naturally born superhuman.
The series stopped (but was not complete) in issue #21 of Warrior, just after Moran meets his arch-nemesis Dr. Gargunza (based on Dr. Sivana, but now the scientist behind the experiment that created Marvelman). Now it was revealed that Gargunza, after working as a geneticist for the Nazis, had been recruited by the British after World War II. Unable to keep pace with the US and Soviet nuclear arms race the British had backed Gargunza to use genetics to develop a new superweapon. By coincidence an alien spacecraft crashed in the UK in 1947 and Gargunza was able to reverse-engineer enough technology to create the first Marvelmen. The Marvelman project consisted of giving someone a second body, which was stored in an extradimensional pocket of space when not in use; when a special word was spoken the two bodies switched place in space and the mind was transferred as well. After the cancellation of the project Gargunza escaped to South America where he developed bio-technology weapons such as "Marveldog". It is revealed that Gargunza has a deeper purpose: after the death of his mother, he has a mortality complex, and intends that the child of Marvelman will act as the host of his own consciousness.
August 1984's #21 was the last issue of Warrior to feature Marvelman. Although the magazine would continue for a few more issues, Warrior's legal troubles (partly due to the publication of a Marvelman Special, which Marvel Comics felt infringed their trademark) led to the character being licensed to an American publisher: first to Pacific Comics, and after Pacific's collapse, to Eclipse Comics. In August 1985, Eclipse began reprinting the Marvelman stories from Warrior, colourised, resized, and published under the new title Miracleman (also due to pressure from Marvel Comics). With its sixth issue, Eclipse finished reprinting the Warrior content and began publishing all-new Miracleman stories from Moore and new artist Chuck Beckum (aka Chuck Austen), soon replaced by Rick Veitch and then John Totleben.
Miracleman #15, art by John Totleben.The new Miracleman material widened the story's scope and continued to build in intensity. Moran's daughter was born in issue 9 (which became highly controversial due to a graphic birth scene); two races of aliens, one called Warpsmiths, the other called Qys (who were behind the body-swapping technology) came to Earth; Miraclewoman emerged; and several native superhumans were revealed to already be living on Earth, such as Firedrake.
It was with the return of Kid Miracleman in issue 15 ("Nemesis") that Moore wrote at his darkest. Sexually assaulted by several older boys at his group home, Johnny Bates transforms into Kid Miracleman out of desperation. Slaughtering his attackers, Bates unleashes a murderous vengeful holocaust on London while Miracleman, Miraclewoman, and their allies are in outer space.
The gory excess of Kid Miracleman's rampage and that of the battle which followed when Miracleman and his allies return to discover the carnage is highly disturbing, featuring a degree of violence not previously seen in superhero battles. John Totleben's detailed apocalyptic renderings are still acclaimed today (by the few who possess a copy of the book). Depicted are people running from a rain of severed hands and feet, skins hung up on clothes lines, corpses impaled on the hands of Big Ben, the Tower Bridge in ruin, mounds of severed heads, cars full of people plummeting to earth, mutilated children wandering screaming through the streets, and countless dead bodies.
It is only when one of the Warpsmiths, Aza Chorn, teleports some wreckage into the body of Kid Miracleman, forcing him to transform back to his mortal form, that the rampage is stopped. Unwilling to risk another day of horror, Miracleman then executes Johnny Bates. However London has been destroyed, the Warpsmith Aza Chorn lies dead, and the world now knows that gods walk among them.
Moore's last issue, number 16 ("Olympus") ends with an unsettling depiction of Miracleman's apotheosis, as he and his superhuman allies bring the entire planet under their totalitarian control. Miracleman and his companions, explicitly compared to gods, now rule the planet as they see fit, though they are ineffectively opposed by groups such as an alliance of Christian and Islamic fundamentalists. The "age of miracles" is ostensibly benevolent, but in scenes such as the final conversation between Miracleman and Liz, Moore suggests that Miracleman has lost his humanity and that his utopia is ultimately harmful to humankind. This ending contrasts with that of the simultaneously conceived serial V for Vendetta, in which the "hero" destroys a dystopian society. Lance Parkin's book on Moore argues that the two endings, read together, demonstrate the writer's refusal of "easy" utopian/dystopian answers (the ending also contrasts with the conclusion of Moore's Promethea, in which an "apocalypse" of expanded human consciousness heals rather than destroys the world).
The notion of bringing superhero fiction into the real world — having immensely powerful characters use their power to make drastic changes to global politics — has become an extremely popular theme in recent "mature" superhero fiction, such as in Rising Stars, Squadron Supreme, Moore's own Watchmen, Kingdom Come, The Authority, and many of the works of Mark Millar.
We can gather a glimpse of how Moore originally meant the story to continue in Warrior issue 4 (also called the Warrior Summer Special), which features Marvelman and Aza Chorn gathering energy for the final battle with Kid Marvelman. This story has never been reprinted in any shape or form since then, so it remains an obscure yet highly discussed piece of comic history.