Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What's the News on Marvelman? Marvel Replies...

On Friday the 24th of July, 2009, Joe Quesada, then Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics, accompanied by Dan Buckley, Marvel’s publisher, made an announcement at San Diego’s Comic-Con International, saying that Marvel Comics had bought the rights to Marvelman.

That’s now two and a half years ago (or a bit over 900 days, if you like), and we’re all more or less still waiting for them to announce what their actual plans are. Without attempting to draw any conclusions of my own here (because I’ll be doing that somewhere else, before the year is out), I thought I’d try to find out what they have said in those two and a half years.

It seems that various different people from Marvel Comics regularly take part in Q&A sessions on Comic Book Resources, and these sessions are the primary source for very nearly all the information that follows.

So, here’s what I’ve found:

The first report on CBR was on Friday, July 24th, 2009, where a somewhat triumphalist Joe Quesada made the first announcement:

"Marvelman belongs to Marvel," said Quesada, saying that the company purchased the character from creator Mick Anglo – a process that started in 2007 thanks to word from Neil Gaiman. "Mick is 94 years old, and I talked to him on Wednesday for an hour and a half," said Buckley noting that Marvel had discusses plans for the character and its stories with Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Alan Davis and Mark Buckingham, who was in the audience.

"I'm excited to see this character not just at Marvel, but the continued adventures of Marvelman," said Quesada.

The next day, Saturday, July 25th, 2009, there was more:

The Marvel panellists had much to say on the subject, starting with Quesada saying, "Marvelman belongs to Marvel. Marvel has purchased the rights to Marvelman from Mick Anglo, who is the creator of Marvelman. He is arguably the JD Salinger of comic book characters. It is arguably one of the most important comic book characters in decades."

Publisher Dan Buckley went on to describe the process behind the purchase, saying, "I'm pretty sure if you go on the internet right now, within the next five minutes you'll hear every rumour associated with this character from the 1950s through the '80s to the '90s. We started talking to Mick Anglo's people in 2007 about this, and it was a very exciting prospect. I first became aware of it through our relationship with Neil Gaiman. I really didn't know much about Marvelman at that time, but the conversation started about how we could get involved with the character and bring him back. Mick Anglo and his folks are great to work with. John Campbell who represents Mick Anglo – I want to mention him because he's done a great deal to bring him back here. He's not going to get all the kudos because he's got to do all the negotiations with me.

"But it's very exciting for us to get this character that has so many great stories attached to it. We're working. We don't have a lot to say on the publishing right now. We will be publishing some Marvelman material next year. We are talking to all, besides having Mick on board – who by the way is 94 years old, and I spoke to him Wednesday for an hour and a half. It was a pleasure. We're talking to all the people who were involved in the '80s and '90s material – Alan [Moore], Neil [Gaiman], Garry Leach, Alan Davis – we've reached out to all these folks. Mark Buckingham, who is also in the house..."

"The impact of this story that the character had on the industry is akin to what happened with 'Watchmen,' and we're very excited about it. We'll have a lot more details in the near future."

Just over a week later, on Monday, August 3rd, 2009, CBR editor Kiel Phegley hosted CUP O’ JOE, a regular Q&A feature with himself and Joe Quesada, which included this:

This is our first edition of CUP O’ JOE after the madness that was Comic-Con International in San Diego, which we are still filing reports from even today. As you can see from our complete Comic-Con news index, there were a ton of announcements, but the biggest comic book news concerned Miracleman -- known originally as Marvelman when his adventures were serialized in Britain’s Warrior Magazine. Miracleman will be back under his proper Marvelman name and under the Marvel Comics banner, ending years of legal issues surrounding the character.

Kiel Phegley: In terms of news, we already spoke a little bit on CBR TV about the Marvelman announcement; that Marvel has obtained the rights to the character. How did you think the announcement went over with comics fans?

Joe Quesada: I think it went amazingly well. For most people it was a jaw dropping announcement. For other, younger fans, it was a bit lost on them until they went back and looked up exactly what the character means to the history of modern comics. All in all, the response was pretty amazing, even more than I anticipated and I was anticipating a lot.

[And later in the interview...]

Kiel Phegley: The one thing that was repeated over and over by Marvel staff about this deal was the fact that Mick Anglo, Marvelman’s creator, was getting his due. I know that Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley has been playing point man in talking to Anglo and settling the specifics of the deal, but what's been your take of the man and his art?

Joe Quesada: While most people in the States aren’t familiar with Mick’s work, over in the UK he is incredibly well respected. I actually spoke with David Hine about this a bit at one of the con parties. It was loud and crowded, but I could tell that David just had tremendous respect for the guy. I do believe that if Mick had been working here in the States, he would have been known within the American comics community as one of the classic masters. So, our hope is to expose Mick and his early work to a wider audience as well as introduce Marvelman to a whole new generation of readers who aren’t aware of how the character revolutionized how we write and draw characters today. But that’s the interesting thing about Marvelman, there has always been something magical about the character, something prophetic about it that even though he’s not a household name, he’s caused seismic creative changes within our industry on every shore.

A few days after that, on Thursday, August 6th, 2009, CBR spoke to Todd McFarlane, to see if he had any opinion on the announcement. He did:

CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland spoke with McFarlane during Comic-Con. When asked to comment on Marvel's announcement, McFarlane responded, ‘Here’s what I know as a guy who’s been living a complicated life: I will be having meaningful conversations with my lawyer when I get home.’

A few weeks later, on Friday, August 21st, 2009, Joe Quesada was answering more questions with Kiel Phegley, the last time they spoke about Marvelman in 2009:

Kiel Phegley: We've got an awful lot of questions about the status of Marvelman since Marvel's acquisition of the character. We know that for now there's nothing to report with respect to reprinting material that's already been seen in the US, but in terms of the classic character and his place at Marvel, Byzantine echoed a few readers when he asked, "Will we see the character brought into the Earth-616 continuity? Or will he be given his own universe to exist in?"

Joe Quesada: The simple answer to this is that we’ll be making announcements about this in due time. With the acquisition of Marvelman, we inherited a character with not only a long publishing history, but a character that over the years, due to its interesting history, has become a legend in our industry. It’s because of that that we want to take great care and really think through what we’re doing with the character and how we will present him. I know fans are dying to know all the whats and hows as soon as possible, but rushing into those decisions, at the end of the day, won’t serve the character. What I can say is that when we do start to announce our publishing plans, I think longstanding fans of the character will be pleased and fans unfamiliar with the character will be intrigued.

Kiel Phegley: hondobrode followed that up, wondering, "How would Marvelman be different than, say, the Sentry? I would think he would most appropriately fit under the MAX imprint, but I imagine that would also limit sales and exposure. Are you going to change his back-story? Can we expect Marvel to purchase any other properties?"

Joe Quesada: All of this will be revealed in good time, hondobrode. We’ve already had some pretty fantastic idea sessions internally here at Marvel about how to go about it all, but there are other cool ideas still on the way that we’re going to be throwing into the mix. Once we’ve gathered all of this, then we’ll start laying a groundwork and foundation for the character and that’s when fandom will get all of the info it’s starving for. I wish I could be more specific, but I think this is better than rushing into things and then hearing that we should have taken our time and thought it through.

Look, folks have waited for decades to see the character return. Heck, most thought he never would. So what’s a bit more time? Especially knowing that it’s finally going to happen!

Kiel Phegley: Finally, with all the praise sent towards Marvelman creator Mick Anglo and his contributions to the original British strips, Steve Bishop wanted to know, "Given that the Marvelman series that ran in Britain during the '50s and '60s was originally printed in black and white, does Marvel have any plans to put out an 'Essential Marvelman' series?"

Joe Quesada: Hey there, Steve Bishop. I would say it’s a very safe bet that you’ll see the older material printed. In what form, I couldn’t tell you just yet. This has also been a part of our internal conversations.

Eight months after the last piece, on Friday, April 2nd, 2010, we have Joe Quesada answering more questions submitted on the CBR message boards:

Kiel Phegley: Another piece of news ... was that Marvel is ready to release some Marvelman product starting in June with a Marvelman Classic Primer. You spoke at the convention about interviewing Marvelman creator Mick Anglo recently, and I'm assuming that was for the Primer. What was that experience like, and what can fans expect from this opening one-shot come June?

Joe Quesada: Meeting Mick was a huge thrill, and despite his age, he's still spry and sharp as a whip. What was interesting about Mick is that he really doesn't understand to this day what the big deal is with respect to Marvelman and his past work. It was just a job for him back in the day. While he is certainly appreciative, he is incredibly humble about the whole thing - but also incredibly eager to see his old work in print, which is what we'll be starting with.

Phegley: As exciting as this all is, many have been wondering what the classic material on tap for the summer means for the famed modern material? What can you say about the full rollout in terms of why you've started with the original British material and when readers might expect word on more plans for Marvelman at Marvel?

Quesada: A publishing plan has been set internally at Marvel, and we'll be making this all public very soon. But that said, we think it's important to put MM in historical context, so it only seems fitting that we start with the original Mick Anglo creation and run. While Mick is well known in the UK, I think this will help people here in the states realize what a great artist he was. It's a perfect primer for anyone wanting to really immerse themselves in the rich history of Marvelman. So, patience, grasshopper, patience.

The listing for the Marvelman Classic Primer on Marvel’s website says:

Who is the mysterious Marvelman? The answer to that question is one of the most mysterious in comics lore. Created in 1954 by writer/artist Mick Anglo, the character enjoyed a long run in the British comics market as one of its most powerful heroes. A few decades later, the character was revived with a dark, moody, deconstructionist bent, and produced one of the most important works of comic art in the medium's history. But now, miracle of miracles, Marvel has stepped up to the plate to deliver on the promise of Anglo's incredible characters. The Marvelman Primer will help readers unfamiliar with that character get up to speed on the past, present and future of Marvelman stories. We'll check in with Mick Anglo, Neil Gaiman and others who contributed to this character’s history over the years. It was the news that swept the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con and the Marvelman Primer explains why.

Despite this, there was no interview with Neil Gaiman, or indeed any ‘others,’ and the interview with the late Mick Anglo was sadly uninformative.

Just five days after the last piece on CBR, on Wednesday, April 7th, 2010, there was a quote from Axel Alonso, vice-president and executive editor of Marvel Comics, speaking at WonderCon on Sunday 4th April:

Another fan wanted to know if new Marvelman stories are coming soon, and when Marvel will reprint Alan Moore's run on the book. ‘I'm not at liberty to talk about that,’ Alonso said. ‘There will be an announcement soon about the reprint.’

He added that ‘there will be new Marvelman stuff. We will be meeting en masse, all the right people, to talk about how to do it. We've already begun some of those conversations. We're very excited about this, very excited about it. We want to make sure we have the appropriate game plan to roll forth.’

Four months pass before we next hear from anyone at Marvel. On Tuesday, August 31st, 2010, more than a year after Joe Quesada’s initial announcement, Marvel Comics editor Tom Brevoort was at Baltimore Comic-Con:

With respect to Marvelman, Brevoort said, ‘Not only do we need to make sure everything is right and proper with everyone associated with the character, but we need to do Marvelman right.’ Marvelman writer Neil Gaiman has spent some time with the Marvel staff to share his ideas. Brevoort is aware of people waiting for developments with the property, but said it is still some time off in the future. ‘Not a day has gone by that we have not worked on Marvelman in one way, shape or form,’ including the remastering of the early material.

Nearly a year passes, however, before we hear anything else. On Friday, June 3rd, 2011, now nearly two years after Quesada’s announcement, Tom Brevoort, now billed as Marvel’s Senior Vice-President of Publishing, is interviewed by comics retailer Jud Meyers:

Jud Meyers: When are we getting Marvelman?

Tom Brevoort: Honestly, the short answer is ‘As soon as everything is ready.’ It should come as no surprise that while we have overcome 80% to 90% of all the loop closing that we have to do, there's still more to be done. Everybody's ready and lined up, and now the book's been announced for two years. But we've spoken to Neil [Gaiman]. We've spoken to Mark Buckingham. Eventually, once every single thing is lined up, we'll get to a point where they can come back, finish The Silver Age and do the Dark Age story they always had planned, and we'll get the earlier four collections in some way, shape or form back into the marketplace. It should come as no shock to you that Marvelman has been screwed up in terms of one issue or another legally for decades now. So while we have gone over most of it, we really want to make sure that we have every hatch battened down before we try to roll any of this stuff out. We're getting there.

I'm sorry it's taken so long since we announced the whole thing - we were excited about it! And we thought other people would be too, but we didn't anticipate it would take this long. Things move slowly, particularly because we’re trying to make sure everything is done right and above board and everyone involved is satisfied. So have patience. We're getting to it. It is coming. We will get there. We're trying to do that thing that fans talk about every once in a while where they say, ‘Rather than having this come out haphazardly, couldn't you just get the whole project done and then release it?’ We're not quite doing that, but we're doing that sort of thing. We're making sure everything is as it should be before we start to roll these out so we don't have an enormous problem after we've put two issues out and then everything is jammed up again.

Meyers: Well, luckily it's no secret that every retailer in the world is just dying to give you all their money for this.

Brevoort: Me too! I can't wait to have those stories back in print as well. I have copies of all the old collections and the Eclipse issues. Hell, I have them in Warrior. I was buying Warrior back in the '80s! So I know that material forwards and backwards, and I'd love to have it back in a more modern package and in a more modern edition. We're making steady progress. One after another, things get done, but then some new complication will crop up. It's all behind-the-scenes legal stuff, and even the differences between American copyright law and UK copyright law make for a whole different set of issues to deal with. Back in the day, I don't know if Eclipse closed all those loops either. So we're trying to make sure that when we're ready to go, everything is as it should be.

Meyers: I had to ask, my friend.

Brevoort: That's what I'm here for. But for now the news on Marvelman is: We’re working on it!

Four more months pass. By now, Joe Quesada, who announced that Marvel owned Marvelman, is no longer Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief, but rather their Chief Creative Officer, whatever that actually means. On Saturday, October 15th, 2011, at the 2011 New York Comic and once again in the company of publisher Dan Buckley, they addressed the issue of Marvelman one again:

The perennial question about new stories for Miracleman/Marvelman received the standard response that things are in the works, but no hard news was announced. Buckley said, "I will give as much as I can give... there's a lot of very complicated things to navigate to ensure that every creator involved in said property [can be taken care of properly.]" He added, "If we're going to do it, we're going to do it right, and we're not going to have anybody questioning what we're doing."

And finally, on Friday, January 13th, 2012, Axel Alonso, now Marvel Comics’ Editor-in-Chief, answered the question, "Marvelman in 2012?" with this:

“Sit tight. We'll have some additional news soon.”

And that’s everything that Marvel have said about their plans for Marvelman. Which, as you can probably see, is a mixture of stonewalling, saying that things are complicated, and telling us that there’ll be news soon. In fact, we’ve been promised news ‘soon’ on a number of occasions, and told several times that we’d be given details on their plans for Marvelman, without ever being given any actual details. Will we ever actually be told anything? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Edited on the 12th of February, 2012, to add:- When the Forbidden Planet Blog posted a piece about this - here - an artist called Andy Turnbull posted to say that he'd like it if he got some recognition for image I used:
'No way of saying this without coming across as a bit churlish, but it would be nice to have some credit for the image. Its a cropped version of a cover design I did a few years ago.'
I did ask if he had any opinion on who he'd like me to attribute copyright to, but there has as yet been no reply. It's hard to know how to respond to this - On one hand, people are entitled to be acknowledged for their work. On the other hand, it's the digital equivalent of making a copy of an image on tracing paper, sharpening up the lines, and claiming it as you own. And, in a story that's all about copyright, and who might or might not own what, it almost beggars belief that someone would even want to thrust themselves into it. Still, what would I know?


Edited on the 18th of March, 2012, to add: Marvel have spoken about Marvelman once again. Marvel's Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort, talking at his inaugural Talk to the Hat panel at WonderCon 2012 in Anaheim, California, as reported by Comic Book Resources, said:
In terms of reprints of "Marvelman" issues, "we're working on it," said Brevoort. "We don't want to do it halfway, so we really are taking our time … but it is our absolute intention to get that material back into print. … We appreciate your patience, so as soon as we have anything to tell you, we'll let you know."
So, when Axel Alonso said 'Sit tight. We'll have some additional news soon' back in the middle of January, we must presume that 'soon,' in this case, means 'not really very soon at all,' and certainly longer than two months. Then again, it's a word we've been hearing a lot, over the past two and a half years.


Edited on the 3rd of April, 2012, to add: At Marvel Comics' final panel of Emerald City Comicon in Seattle earlier today, according to this report, 'Answering a question about Miracleman [sic], [Marvel's Senior Vice-President Creator & Content Development] CB Cebulski said big news was coming very soon.'


Edited on the 21st of May, 2012, to add: At the Cup O' Joe panel on Saturday the 19th of May at the KAPOW! Comic Convention in London, Marvel Comics' Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada responded to a number of questions about Marvelman, 'As for Marvelman, one fan's various questions about the property were evaded for legal reasons, with Quesada simply assuring the audience that "it is coming."'

I don't wish to diminish the impact of this news, but we've been told on at least six occasions over the last two years that news about Marvelman was 'coming soon,' so perhaps someone from Marvel could help us, by telling us what definition of the word 'soon' they're using?