One of the joys of a curious mind, is when you can find a small spark of information in a piece of media you love, and it leads to you discovering a whole new aspect of the world around you.
While finally completing the fantastic Alan Moore run of Miracleman, I came out of it with just as many questions as I had at the start. One at the forefront of my mind was the monstrous Zarathustra experiments that created the Miracleman family. Where did the name come from? What did it have to do with the story? and the ongoing wonder, had it influenced the story in other ways?
Upon research, I discovered the 19th century philosophical novel, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None.” by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. While Nietzsche is most known for coining the term ‘Ubermensch’, a phrase many comic book fans have most likely come across at some point given one of its translation, Superman. In “Zarathustra”, the idea of the ‘Ubermensch’ being a goal for humanity is explored, pushing humans to their highest potential and creating super humans. In essence, this is the goal of not only the comic creators, creating superheroes to show the best of humanity, but the motives of the comics character Dr. Gargunza when carrying out the Zarathustra experiments. When Dr. Gargunza explains his work to Liz, he states “You see, it was my belief that this process might be made to work upon humans. What if you were to take a human being … let’s say a young orphan whom no-one would miss .. What if, from his living cells, you could create a perfect evolved superhuman?” [Moore.2014:44]. Naming the experiment after Zarathustra was a logical step, given the focus of both the novel and the
In regards to weather the novel had any greater impact on Miracleman, there are multiple quotes and notion that mirror this saga of Miracleman. “One must still have chaos within oneself, to give birth to a dancing star.” [Nietzsche.1883], perfectly describes not only Michael Moran’s discovery of his powers but the destructive nature that Johnny Bates unleashes in his superhero form. The chaos within the two of them burning as they fly through the stars in battle. The line “I teach you the superman. Man is something to be surpassed. What have ye done to surpass man?” [Nietzche.1973], perfectly mirrors advice given to Miracleman by his ‘creator’, Dr. Gargunza.
The most famous phrase attributed to the novel is “God is Dead” [Nietzche.1973], while the phrase is often misused to describe a complete lack of god, it was actually used to describe the rise of Atheism and Agnosticism. While Miralceman does contain aspects of man playing god as well as creating god. The final chapter of book three, even displays Miracleman as a god like figure in the utopia he creates, giving himself a rebirth by travelling to the north of Scotland in his human form and leaving a note as a tomb stone for his human life.
There are several parallels between Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” and Moore’s “Miracleman”. While a lot of it could be considered coincidence, Moore is well known for his attention to detail and the fact that he would use this name for the experiment, proves that he must have had some knowledge of the book. Fascinating to wonder just what else could have influenced his saga of Miracleman.
- Moore, A. (2014). Miracleman Book One: A Dream of Flying. Marvel: UK.
- Moore, A. (2014). Miracleman Book Two: The Red King Syndrome. Marvel: UK.
- Moore, A. (2014). Miracleman Book Three: Olympus. Marvel: UK.
- Nietzsche, F. (1974). Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None. Penguin Classics: UK.