Read this great summary of the whole Marvelman / Miracleman saga on Steve Holland's weblog here. (via).
For those of you who don't know the whole sorry tale, it's a good place to start. It also reports on Alan Moore's recent radio interview where he states that the whole copyright issue may well be null and void if Mick Anglo, creator of the original Marvelman, never signed the rights away.
The popular time line goes something like this (and I'm doing this quickly, on the fly, from memory and an occasional glance at the Wiki entry, so forgive me any mistakes!
The whole thing started as a simple rip off of Captain Marvel, the US superhero. Mick Anglo simply created Marvelman after the license to reprint Captain Marvel comics in the UK was stopped.
Fast forward to 1982 and the wonderful Warrior magazine (wiki) decided to bring the character back and got Alan Moore to redesign / reimagine the character. The copyright was split between Moore, Dez Skinn (publisher) & Garry Leach / Alan Davis (artists). Moore took the idea and simply transplanted it into the modern age with the often repeated since conceptual twist of making Marvelman function in the real world. Of course, being Alan Moore, the concept worked beautifully and eventually, over the course of the 3 books, transformed a tired little superhero into a god, ruling over the planet. By this time to further complicate matters a potential lawsuit with Marvel comics resulted in the change of name to Miracleman and the comic eventually was released as 16 issues by Eclipse comics in the US.
Of course, Eclipse also believed they owned part of the title after buying rights from Skinn.
Moore passed the writing and his 30% share to Neil Gaiman and the series finished with #24 when Eclipse went bust.
In 1996, Todd McFarlane (he of Spawn fame) bought Eclipse's creative assets and, believing this gave him rights to Miracleman started announcing MM projects. But Gaiman objected and a complicated round of legal stuff ensued.
Which is where it all stands now.
Gaiman has even created a separate corporate entity Marvels & Miracles to put profits from certain projects towards the fight to regain the character.
Of course, in the end, all we really want is to see one of Alan Moore's best series reprinted and Gaiman to finish the story.
In the meantime I'm holding on tight to my copies of the collected books and hoping that someone, somewhere can sort out the whole mess.