Archive for Marvelman

Marvels vs. Miracles


So Marvel announced at the just-completed Comic-Con in San Diego that they’ve acquired the rights to Marvelman — and right now, I don’t think I can bother to be excited.

Part of the problem is that I don’t know that we can trust Marvel to do right by the character or its creators. When you read the convoluted publication history of the character, it becomes clear really quickly that, while the story itself is acclaimed, the history of the comics themselves have been a tawdry and embarrassing mishmash of conflicting legal claims. Marvelman was originally a 1950s British ripoff of DC’s Captain Marvel; when the title was cancelled in the ’60s, no one touched it again ’til the 1980s, when the great British comics anthology “Warrior” resurrected the character — they didn’t have the rights to the character originally, but assumed that no one would care if they used him. The new storyline was written by Alan Moore, who believed that all the necessary permissions were in order.

The series moved to Eclipse Comics, which changed the name of the character to Miracleman because Marvel Comics was threatening to sue (Oh, the irony). After Eclipse went out of business, Todd MacFarlane bought Eclipse’s back catalog — Neil Gaiman, who was, as far as anyone knew, the last person to hold any rights to the character, sued to keep MacFarlane from using the character. Gaiman eventually won the suit, but there was no expectation that the old Eclipse stories, which have always been considered the best, would ever be published.

But now Marvel has the rights to the character… but no one seems to be talking about what rights those are. Is Marvel limited to just writing new adventures about the character? If so, big deal — they can’t reprint Moore’s or Gaiman’s classic Miracleman stories, much less re-tell them, without facing another punishing lawsuit. If they do have the rights to reprint the older stories, that may be good for readers — Eclipse’s “Miracleman” comics are very rare and very expensive — but that may be bad for Moore and Gaiman, unless Marvel is going to do something DC has always avoided — pay the original creators some significant reprint fees.

And on a fanboy level, I wonder if Marvel is going to shoehorn Marvelman into their regular superhero continuity. In only the last few years, they’ve added Superman-level characters like the Sentry and the Blue Marvel — do they really need another nigh-omnipotent demigod running around their universe?

Marvel’s press release is pretty vague about their plans. I’d like to think they’ll pay Moore and Gaiman — and orignal creator Mick Anglo — a tidy sum, if only to stick it in DC’s eye. But will they? I really have no idea — but I don’t hold out a lot of hope. Comic history is filled from its beginnings with comics creators getting screwed out of their money by the publishers, and my pessimistic nature suspects that the same thing will happen this time, too.

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