With the abandoning of the Miracleman trademark by Todd McFarlane and the registering of the Marvelman trademark by Marvel, there has been a glimmer of hope that this character may return to the pages of a comic book in new stories.
A bit of history for those not in the know. The sad thing is that I have followed this since the 80s, and it has only gotten worse up to this point.
In the mid-50s Fawcett stopped publishing Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family books in response to the completion of the DC copyright infringement lawsuit. Claiming that the Big Red Cheese was a Superman clone, DC forced them to stop publishing. That and the drop in sales made them decide that the book was not worth the effort. In Great Britain, they needed something to fill the void, so Mick Anglo came up with a less than original idea for the Marvelman Family. Jiggering the origin of the main character some, there was almost no difference in the new books. Even the art style was a pretty loose copy of the Captain Marvel books. Much of this material has since been reprinted by Marvel. The new books were even more popular with the British fans and the books lasted for nearly a decade, ending in 1963.
The characters lay dormant until 1982, when Warrior magazine started running an updated version of the character by Alan Moore. It is these stories that have kept the industry interested in the character. Without Alan Moore, Marvelman would be no more remembered than The Green Llama and other Golden Age has beens. The Moore version of the character kept almost every part of the stupid 50’s origins and folded them into a much richer and more intelligent tapestry that made sense of the ideas and poked fun at them at the same time. Complex and powerful serialized stories in Warrior continued until issue 21, when they stopped without completing the story. Creative issues between Moore and artist Alan Davis coupled with the problems within Warrior cause then end of the series, until 1985 when Eclipse comics started reprinting the Warrior stories, with the name changed to Miracleman to avoid the wrath of Marvel. They repackaged the stories to fit in a monthly book and MM was suddenly a major title in the US. Moore’s run ended with number 16, his run completed (new stories continuing where the Warrior ones left off started at issue 7) and now one arc in 3 books.
Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham took over with issue 17, getting all the way up to issue 24 before Eclipse’s financial issues caused the end of publication. I remember a signing where I met Neil Gaiman. It was during the Kindly Ones run on Sandman, he and artist Jill Thompson were at a comic shop in Wisconsin. This was a few months after the last issue had come out and the full picture had not emerged publicly about Eclipse. When I asked Neil about it, his response was that they were still going to do them as soon as Eclipse started paying them again. Then that was it. It was not long after this that the legal issues began to crop up.
The ownership of the character has always been muddled. When Warrior started the Moore run, everyone thought the rights were fine. Moore and his artists had a share in ownership and that was that. But Warrior never owned it officially and Mick Anglo continued to dispute it. Once Eclipse had it, they too thought they had all the legal bases covered. They didn’t. Todd McFarlane bought all of Eclipse’s assets at auction for a song in the hopes of getting MM back in print and creating new stories. But his engulf and devour style pissed off everyone. Neil Gaiman sued, and then Marvel got involved on Gaiman’s side. (This partnership gave us the amazing series 1602) Now mixed up in the legal issues surrounding Spawn and some of the characters Gaiman created for that book, things got even messier.
Now the status appears to be the above mentioned trademarks, apparently resolved. Marvel bought the rights to the classic stories, characters and some of the Moore stuff. The artists still hold the rights to their work. This may end up being an even bigger issue if Rick Veitch and others choose not to work with Marvel. So it APPEARS that the main legal hurdles are cleared at this point. It is just a matter now of getting everyone together. Gaiman and Buckingham are willing to finish their story. After that Marvel could have it’s very own Superman in Marvelman. They need to do whatever they can to make this happen. Even if they botch up new stuff, the Gaiman run completed will sell HUGE for them.
My main concern if these do see print again is that they are old. They have been copied and ripped off for decades no. What was once Alan Moore at the top of his game with a groundbreaking and original story may seem to a younger, more cynical reader to be just more of the same thing that they have seen for years. Much of what Image and Wildstorm did in the 90s was a rip off of these stories, some blatantly so. Presented correctly, I think these older stories will be fresh and powerful to new readers, but that is a big IF. Marvel is not very good at this sort of thing.
So here’s hoping that the last few cogs in the machine fall into place and get things moving forward. This is one of those stories that the industry needs to have in print, if only to be able to put it behind them and say that it was resolved for the better.