Saturday, July 25, 2009

Marvelman's Back.........


Rich Johnston, over at the Bleeding Cool site has news from San Diego that Marvel has sorted out a deal with Emotiv, the company representing Mick Anglo's interests in the Marvelman character and will begin republication of Marvelman stories from the 1950s and 1960s.

No news yet over the more modern stories from Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Garry Leach, Alan Davis, Chuck Austen, Rick Veitch, John Totleben and Mark Buckingham yet, but I imagine it's all in hand.

According to Bleeding Cool:

"I understand it is Marvel’s intent to publish that as well, and they are currently trying to contact every party involved to come to an agreement over any outstanding issues."

Marvelman #185 miracleman01

(Marvelman from the 50s by Mick Anglo and Miracleman from the 80s by Alan Moore and Garry Leach.)

In comic circles this is rather huge news. Marvelman / Miracleman and the whole sorry saga around it's publication is one of those great if only tales......

And if this means nothing to you, here's a quick recap/refresher:

Marvelman was created by Mick Anglo in the 50s as a British version of Captain Marvel (Shazam). A decade of stories followed. (This is what Marvel currently have the rights to reprint).

Fast forward to the early 80s when Dez Skinn is assembling Warrior magazine and, as I understand it, asks Alan Moore if he's interested in the character. New Marvelman is darker and one of the definitive "real-life superhero" type tales. Except it's never finished in Warrior. There's various fallings out and eventually Eclipse comics in the US reprints the series as Miracleman (Marvel Comics would not like a character called Marvelman) and continues it with all new material leading up the end of Moore's run with issue 16 (and one of the most incredible superhero fights you will ever see between Miracleman and Kid Miracleman). Neil Gaiman is asked by Moore to write the character and, with Mark Buckingham on art, produces another 8 issues. Which is where it finished, with Eclipse going bust.

But like all great comic stories there are so many rights and ownership issues on this one that we never thought we'd see it back in print. When Dez Skinn published it in Warrior the ownership was split between Skinn, Moore, Leach and Quality Communications (Warrior's publisher). When Leach left, Davis got a share as the new artist. When Moore passed the writing onto Gaiman, he also passed his share over and Gaiman split it with Buckingham, his artist.

Except it seems that the reality is that the rights have always really belonged to Mick Anglo after all. As reported in a recent interview with Alan Moore here on the FPI blog:

I mean, other than the fact that I was happy to do everything that I could to help Mick Anglo, who is the person who has always owned all of the rights to Marvelman, as far as I now understand it, that we never had the rights to do those stories, even though Mick really liked the stories that we did. We didn’t understand at the time that Mick Anglo was the sole owner of the rights. We were misled. So I’ve done everything that I can to clear all that up. I’ve said that, they talked about the possibility – what they want is money quickly, because Mick’s a very old man, he’s got a sick wife to look after, and they could use some dosh quite quickly.

Mick was the owner, and also, Len Miller never went bankrupt, and all of the things that we were told when we were doing Warrior turned out to have been fabrications, you know, unwitting fabrications, but fabrications none the less, and that goes for all of the American versions. Apparently Mick Anglo was abused, by the usual suspects in today’s rather venal comics industry, you know, right up to the Todd McFarlane part of the case. Neil Gaiman has been an absolute diamond throughout all this, and I’ve done me best, and the important thing is supporting Mick Anglo, really.

What this means for the future - who knows?

Do the modern creators; Moore, Leach, Davis, Gaiman et al have any ownership of the character? Maybe not.

Do they have ownership of the stories they wrote at the time? Maybe.

But I'm certain Marvel and it's lawyers are desperately trying to broker deals with all involved to get the reprints starting and get the story finished. According to Gaiman, he's got two more stories to finish with Miracleman/Marvelman (the end of the Silver Age story and the Dark Age). Alan Moore has a very prickly history with Marvel which may hamper proceedings, but he's also keen to point out that he's willing to support anything that helps out Mick Anglo. I imagine this one's going to run and run.

Miracleman Silver Age Neil Gaiman Mark Buckingham 1248472613

(Neil Gaiman's 90s Miracleman and the first artwork from Marvel's take on the character via a very quick off the mark poster coming in September by Joe Quesada.)

One things for certain though. I'm not parting with my collections of Marvelman/Miracleman until I have the deluxe hardcover reprint that Marvel will hopefully be planning in my hands. After that, feel free to make me an offer.

Bleeding Cool article here. article and announcement here.
CBR article here and interview with Joe Quesada here.

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