Showing posts with label Marvel Comics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marvel Comics. Show all posts

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Marvelman Bibliography: Part 4 - Marvel Comics

A bibliography of Marvelman (and his occasional nom de guerre Miracleman) is a complicated business, so I’ve decided to do it in four five parts:

  • Part 1: L Miller & Son Ltd/L Miller & Co Ltd
  • Part 2: Quality Communications Ltd
  • Part 3: Eclipse Comics
  • Part 4: Marvel Comics
  • Part 5: Everything Else, and Bibliography

  • If you’re wondering why you might not have seen any of these before, it’ll be because this one, the fourth one, is actually the first one I’m writing. This paragraph will eventually disappear when I’ve finally done all those pages. In the meantime, here’s what Marvel have been up to so far, since they bought Mick Anglo’s rights to Marvelman in July 2009.

    ---------------COMICS---------------

    24 July 2009: Marvel Comics announces it has bought Mick Anglo’s copyright in Marvelman.

    8 July 2010: Marvelman Family’s Finest #1 - Sales: 17,739

    A recluse Astro-Scientist discovers the key word to the Universe, one that can only be given to a Boy who is completely honest, studious, and of such integrity that he would only use it for the powers of good. He finds such a Boy in Micky Moran, a Newspaper Copy Boy, and treats him in a special machine which enables him to use the secret. Just before the Scientist dies, he tells Micky the key word which is KIMOTA. Micky Moran remains as he was, but when he says the Key Word KIMOTA he becomes Marvelman, a man of such strength and powers that he is Invincible and Indestructible!” And with those words in 1954’s Marvelman #25 began the saga of one of the most storied characters ever to emerge from the British comics market. Now, thrill to the adventures of Marvelman, Young Marvelman and Kid Marvelman as they take on enemy agents, mad scientists and more in this “best of” series! #1 of 6

    21 July 2010: Marvelman Classic Primer #1 - Sales: 16,943

    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!
    Actually, many of the things promised don’t appear, and it’s hard to see exactly what Marvel were trying to do with this. Whatever it was, I really don’t think it succeeded. Note where it says ‘miracle of miracles’: They never mention Miracleman, but someone can’t resist an oblique reference...

    4 August 2010: Marvelman Family’s Finest #2 - Sales: 9,324 (-47.4%)

    1 September 2010: Marvelman Family’s Finest #3 - Sales: 6,151 (-34.0%)

    6 October 2010: Marvelman Family’s Finest #4 - Sales: 4,707 (-23.5%)

    3 November 2010: Marvelman Family’s Finest #5 - Sales: 3,993 (-15.2%)

    1 December 2010: Marvelman Family’s Finest #6 - Sales: Below 3,811

    The lowest sales recorded on the relevant page on ICv2.com - Top 300 Comics -- December 2010 - is 3,811, so the presumption is that the sales of this must be lower than that figure. For some reason there is no page for this issue on the Marvel Comics website, even on their Marvelman Family’s Finest page, originally leading me to believe that it hadn’t actually been issued, but I’ve seen a copy, so it definitely does exist.

    So, that’s all the Marvelman comics Marvel have issued. The Marvelman Classic Primer sold 16,943 copies, so, in total, between the six issues of Marvelman Family’s Finest and the one-shot primer, Marvel sold maybe 60,000 of these comics in all. I’m no expert on the sales of comics these days, but I’m guessing that’s not really very good.

    Next up is sales of collected volumes.

    ---------------BOOKS---------------

    11 August 2010: Marvelman Classic Vol 1 - Sales: 2,080
    Reprints Marvelman #25 - #34, excepting #26, which they could not find a copy of, despite some intensive searching.

    23 February 2011: Marvelman Classic Vol 2 - Sales: 303
    Reprints Marvelman #35 - #44

    2 March 2011: Marvelman Family's Finest - Sales: Below 352
    Reprints Marvelman Family's Finest #1 - #6

    11 May 2011: Young Marvelman Classic Vol 1 - Sales: Below 343
    Reprints Young Marvelman #25 - #34

    14 September 2011: Marvelman Classic Vol 3 - Sales: Below 296
    Reprints Marvelman #45 - #54

    18 January 2012: Young Marvelman Classic Vol 2 - Sales: Below 285
    Reprints Young Marvelman #35 - #44

    Marvel’s reprint programme for the 1950s L Miller & Son/Mick Anglo era Marvelman comics seems to have halted for the moment - unsurprisingly, I suppose, looking at those sales figures. However, if they had continued as they were, reprinting 10 issues per volume, with 2 volumes per title per year, they would have eventually ended up with 66 volumes in all: 31 Marvelman Classic, 31 Young Marvelman Classic, 3 Marvelman Family, and 1 Marvelman Family's Finest, but it would have taken them until 2026 and, at $34.99 per volume, the whole collection would have cost just over $2,300. And perhaps by 2026 they might finally have sorted out all their problems with the 1980s Marvelman, and could start reprinting those, as well...

    ---------------------------------------------

    Sales figures are from ICv2.com (you can find a handy index to their monthly sales reports on their Top 300 Comics & Top 300 GNs Index page), with percentages on those figures from The Beat. Wherever I say that sales of a book are ‘Below X,’ that means that the particular book is not recorded on the Top 300 sales list for that particular month, and the X figure is the sales of the book at #300, the lowest selling title of that month. How far below that figure the individual titles' sales are is anyone's guess.

    If you’re interested in what Marvel have had to say about their purchase of Marvelman, and their plans for the character, you might want to look at this blog entry: What's the News on Marvelman? Marvel Replies...

    Monday, March 19, 2012

    Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane: The Story So Far (March 1993 - May 2012)

    On the 27th of January, 2012, Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane finally settled their long-running legal dispute over Gaiman's share of various Spawn properties. And when I say ‘long-running,’ this is very nearly an enormous understatement. Although Gaiman and McFarlane’s first meeting in court was on the 1st of October, 2002, nearly ten years ago now, the cause of their dispute goes back nearly ten years before that, with roots set in place some years before that, again. So, in an attempt to put it all into some sort of context, I’m listing what I see as the main points of their dispute, in chronological order, as exactly as I can, along with some earlier events, to put it all into context.

    August 1985: Miracleman #1, reprinting stories originally published in Warrior, is published by Eclipse Comics in California. At this time, the copyright for Miracleman (recently changed from Marvelman, which it was originally), is believed to be owned by Alan Moore, Garry Leach, Alan Davis, and Dez Skinn in a ratio of 30% - 30% - 30% - 10%.

    February 1986: Dez Skinn and Garry Leach sell their rights to Miracleman to Eclipse Comics, at least partly due to their unhappiness at Eclipse Comics’ Editor-in-Chief cat yronwode’s choice of Chuck Beckum as the next Miracleman artist, from issue #6. Garry Leach at this stage also owns Alan Davis’s share, so has 60% in total, with Dez Skinn still owning his 10%, meaning that Eclipse end up buying a 70% stake in the character.

    One of the clauses in the contract between the parties says,

    Transfer of Rights: Eclipse shall not assign or otherwise dispose of its rights in the Ownership hereunder to any third party except to Rights Holder, or a new corporation or entity in which the majority stockholders of Eclipse are and remain the majority stockholders or managing partners.

    7 March 1989: Alan Moore transfers his 30% share in Miracleman to Neil Gaiman, who shares it with Mark Buckingham.

    According to an article in The Comics Journal #185, in March 1996 (which I shall be referring to again shortly),

    Under an agreement signed by Alan Moore on March 7, 1989, transferring his one-third ownership, the agreement states that Gaiman and Buckingham ‘will, in their turn, pass on their part of the trademark to their successors on the strip, or failing that, return the trademark to Alan Moore to keep or pass on as he sees fit.’

    However, Gaiman and Buckingham’s first Miracleman story has actually appeared a few months beforehand. Issue #4 of Eclipse’s company-wide crossover, Total Eclipse, cover dated January 1989, contained a ten-page Miracleman story called Screaming, which would later be reprinted in Miracleman #21.

    1 April 1989: After being given Alan Moore’s share of Miracleman, Neil Gaiman signs a contract with Eclipse publisher Dean Mullaney which states, amongst other things, that Gaiman is clearly the owner of his own work, and that he will produce eighteen 26-page issues of the comic for them. You can see the contract on Daniel Best’s excellent 20th Century Danny Boy blog, in this post. According to this agreement, Eclipse Comics owns two-thirds of the rights to Miracleman, with Gaiman and Buckingham sharing one-third, slightly different from the previous 70% - 30% split.

    December 1989: After long delays, Moore’s last issue, Miracleman #16, finally appears.

    June 1990: Miracleman #17, Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham’s first issue, is published by Eclipse Comics.

    February 1992: Image Comics is founded. Amongst the founders is Todd McFarlane, with his studio, Todd McFarlane Productions.

    June 1992: One of the very first comics to appear from the newly formed Image Comics is Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, with the first issue appearing in June 1992. It becomes obvious from early on that, although his art is seen as the comic’s strong point, his writing certainly isn’t. To counter this, McFarlane decides that he would ask some of the major comics’ writers of the time if they will each write an issue of Spawn for him. In the end Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Dave Sim, and Frank Miller all write issues #8 to #11, respectively.

    March 1993: Spawn #9, written by Neil Gaiman, is published. This issue introduces three new characters to the Spawn mythos. These were called Count Nicholas Cagliostro (later changed to Cogliostro), the angelic hunter/warrior Angela, and a character named in the script as Olden Days Spawn, and later known as Medieval Spawn, but without a specific name given to him in his original appearance in Spawn #9.

    August 1993: Miracleman #24, the last issue of that title to appear, is published by Eclipse Comics, although #25 was written and drawn, and you can see parts of it on Robert Ferent’s greatly informative Miracleman.info site, here.

    December 1994: Angela #1, the first part of a three-part monthly miniseries written by Neil Gaiman, and drawn by Greg Capullo, featuring the character co-created by them in Spawn #9, is published by Image Comics. The three parts would be collected into a single-volume trade paperback in late 1995. As well as the three issues of Angela, Gaiman also writes a few pages of Spawn #26, cover dated December 1994, as an introduction into the Angela story.

    21 December 1994: Eclipse Comics files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, meaning they intend to dissolve the company, and sell its assets to pay off their debts.

    According to an article called McFarlane Buys Eclipse Assets at Auction in The Comics Journal #185 (as mentioned earlier):

    Eclipse Comics’ demise began in the summer of 1993 when cat yronwode and Dean Mullaney who, along with Jan Mullaney, owned the majority of Eclipse stock, entered into divorce proceedings. The company subsequently entered into bankruptcy proceedings after being hounded by a variety of creditors, as well as having lost a judgement to Studio Proteus owner Toren Smith. The California Superior Court awarded Smith $122,328 for the translation and packaging of several Japanese books Studio Proteus had done for Eclipse between 1988 and 1992. Eclipse also owed money to the artists who drew Miracleman, according to Neil Gaiman.

    29 February 1996: The sale of Eclipse Comics’ assets takes place in Stony Point, New York under the order of the Bankruptcy Court. In the same article in The Comics Journal #185 it says,

    The final chapter in the saga of Eclipse Comics came to an end when Image impresario Todd McFarlane purchased the trademarks and character rights, along with two pallets of tangible property, of the defunct comics company at a Stony Point, New York, auction on February 29th [1996].

    McFarlane beat out eight other bidders for all copyrights, trademarks, characters, and other intellectual properties, along with the remaining trading cards, film negatives and publishing agreements held for Eclipse comic books by the court. According to Mary Ellen Lynch, the attorney handling the case for the Bankruptcy Court’s appointed Trustee, McFarlane employee Terry Fitzgerald quickly won the auction with a winning bid of $25,000. She told the Journal she believes Fitzgerald bought everything that remained of Eclipse, but that ‘it will take about a year or so to close out all the details.’

    The most valuable piece of the purchase may prove to be the United States Patent and Trademark office registration (number 1,447,456) of the highly acclaimed series Miracleman. Also presented to the bidders as part of the auction was the written agreement on trademarks and copyrights for Miracleman between Eclipse publisher Dean Mullaney and Neil Gaiman, executed on April 1, 1989. Exhibit B of that agreement includes the transfer by Alan Moore to Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham of his portion of the Miracleman trademark. Within these nine pages of legalese lie fragmentary clues to one of the most debated questions in contemporary comics: who owns the rights to Miracleman?

    The agreement between Eclipse and Gaiman called for the writer to script twenty-six pages for eighteen issues, with illustrations done by Buckingham. While the agreement stipulates that Eclipse Comics owns two-thirds and Gaiman and Buckingham jointly own one-third of ‘all the characters in the Stories and all the trademarks in and to the title Miracleman,’ under an attached agreement signed by Alan Moore on March 7, 1989, transferring his one-third ownership, the agreement states that Gaiman and Buckingham ‘will, in their turn, pass on their part of the trademark to their successors on the strip, or failing that, return the trademark to Alan Moore to keep or pass on as he sees fit.’ This agreement, like the one between Gaiman and Eclipse, excludes the characters created by Moore and Garry Leach in Warrior’s Warpsmith. Though Gaiman and Buckingham were granted permission to use them, Moore and Leach retained the trademarks to ‘the Warpsmiths, the Qys and related characters.’

    Actually, on the same post on the 20th Century Danny Boy blog mentioned earlier (this one), you can also see the letter of acceptance of McFarlane’s bid, which includes this observation:

    As discussed, the onus is on you, as purchaser, to do your due diligence investigation.

    Later in 1996: After the Eclipse assets had been sold at auction, and due to rumours circulating at the time that McFarlane was going to sell his company, Gaiman asks for a written contract to cover the work he had done for McFarlane, as up until then it was all done on a word-of-mouth agreement. In any case, the use of all three of the characters Gaiman had created has gone substantially beyond their original appearance in Gaiman’s stories. Without Gaiman’s knowledge or assent, McFarlane has registered copyright in his sole name for the comics and trade paperback with Gaiman’s story in it, and has copyright notices inserted that seem to indicate that the copyright is solely his.

    Eventually, an agreement is reached whereby Gaiman will exchange his rights in Olden Days Spawn and Count Cagliostro for McFarlane’s rights to Miracleman.

    31 July 1997: Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane are to swap their rights for the Spawn characters and Miracleman, respectively. This never happens.

    27 October 1997: Todd McFarlane files three trademark registrations in the name Miracleman with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Apparently he doesn’t want to trade rights with Gaiman after all.

    14 February 1999: Neil Gaiman gets a letter from McFarlane telling him that he is withdrawing all his previous offers, and offering a deal to Gaiman on a ‘take-it-or-leave-it basis.’ This is that Gaiman will give up all his rights to Angela in exchange for all of McFarlane’s rights to Miracleman. It further states that ‘all rights to Medieval Spawn and Cogliostro shall continue to be owned by Todd McFarlane Productions.’ It is obvious that McFarlane isn’t going to give up without a fight, so Gaiman gets ready to give him one.

    February 2001: Hellspawn #6 is published by Image, and includes a character called Mike Moran (Marvelman/Miracleman’s ‘secret identity’). There are plans to have Miracleman himself appear in #13, but this never happens, as Gaiman lodges an objection.

    15 June 2001: In the meantime, McFarlane seems to have decided that not only does he own all the rights to Medieval Spawn and Cogliostro, but all the rights to Miracleman as well. In an interview with Michael David Thomas published on the Comic Book Resources website on the 15th of June 2001, the relevant part says,

    Michael David Thomas: The rights to Miracleman seem to be a source of controversy that pops up now and again. It's coming back to the forefront. What kind of rights do you have to the Miracleman character?

    Todd McFarlane: Ultimately? I've got all of them. We'll find that one out.

    MDT: You own the rights to the character, lock, stock and barrel?

    TMcF: Until someone proves otherwise.

    MDT: The only reason I ask is that Neil Gaiman has cited as a partial owner. But as far as you're concerned, you've got all of that?

    TMcF: Someone may very well prove that wrong, but I'm willing to prove the point. If somebody else thinks that they have control of this, then do something about it. Because I'll be right there on you, right now. Then we will solve this problem.

    MDT: Is it something where it's been so murky, you want to get into a courtroom and get it over with, if someone really wants to litigate it?

    TMcF: Nobody wants to litigate anything. It's a matter of people moving on with life, making a call as to what's a priority. If somebody feels as strong about Miracleman as I do, then I invite them to take as hard a stance as I will. If somebody steps that way, then we'll let somebody else decide which of us is right. Maybe neither of us will be. Maybe we'll both partially will be. Who knows? Until any of that happens, then I take the position that I own Miracleman. He was sitting there in the auction. He was a part of the auction we bought and I picked it up…

    I would like to interject here to point out that, when McFarlane says, ‘If somebody feels as strong about Miracleman as I do,’ he never actually explains why he feels so strongly about it, having after all never actually worked on the character.

    24 October 2001: Marvel Comics’ then Editor-in-Chief, Joe Quesada, and the company’s President, Bill Jemas, accompanied by Neil Gaiman, hold a conference call press briefing with journalists from the comics media. This is to announce the formation of a company called Marvel and Miracles LLC, founded by Neil Gaiman and lawyer Kenneth F Levin, whose purpose is to collect funds to allow Gaiman to fight his forthcoming court battles with Todd McFarlane, with any funds left over after it is all done to go to a few different comics charities. Talking at the press conference, as reported by the Comic Book Resources website, Gaiman says,

    I've been talking to Todd about this for five years. I thought we'd all sorted it out in 1997 when he signed the rights over to me and handed over the film. Unfortunately, this being the modern world, sorting out takes lawyers and lawyers cost incredible amounts of money.

    Alan [Moore] is completely aware of this. I've been checking with him every step of the way. I've been getting his blessing and a huge amount of moral support. And every now and then he apologizes for having given me Miracleman... It's a poisoned chalice. He's very much behind this.

    Joe Quesada also makes it clear that, if the rights are recovered, Marvel Comics will not object to the name of the character being changed back to Marvelman. It is then announced that Gaiman is to write a six-issue miniseries with the profits from both the publisher and the writer going to fund Marvel and Miracles. This will eventually become the eight-issue miniseries Marvel 1602.

    24 January 2002: Gaiman’s right to redress against McFarlane’s letter of February 1999 will expire in February 2002, after a three-year statute of limitations, so a month before that Gaiman files a suit under the Copyright Act, seeking a declaration that he is a co-owner of the characters that he has written for McFarlane. According to an article called Miracleman Heads to Court on the ICv2.com website on the 27th of January, 2002,

    Neil Gaiman said, ‘This suit is not about the money, it's about respecting the rights of the creator and keeping promises.’ One of the leaders of Gaiman's legal team, Kenneth F. Levin, stated that Gaiman was filing the suit reluctantly after other avenues proved fruitless, ‘We did everything we could to get this solved outside the courts.’

    1 October 2002: In a court in Madison, Wisconsin, the case of Neil Gaiman and Marvels and Miracles LLC v. Todd McFarlane et al opens in a jury trial before Judge John C. Shabaz and an all-female jury.

    3 October 2002: In less than a week the trial is over, and the jury, after deliberating for just over a day, return their verdict this afternoon, finding for Gaiman in all specifics. They find that there was a contract between Gaiman and McFarlane in 1992, when McFarlane offered to look after Gaiman ‘better than the big guys,’ which McFarlane subsequently breached; that Gaiman has a copyright interest in the three characters that he created for Spawn #9; that there was a later contract in 1997, when there was to be an exchange of Gaiman’s Cagliostro and Medieval Spawn rights for McFarlane’s Miracleman rights, which again McFarlane was in breach of; and that Image Comics are in the wrong to use Gaiman’s name and biographical details on one of their trade paperbacks without his permission.

    Unsurprisingly, McFarlane appeals.

    7 October 2002: The actual judgement on the case is handed down, after which the damages phase of the case is heard, at which point Gaiman could ask to have the 1997 contract enforced, and to trade his copyright in Medieval Spawn and Cagliostro for McFarlane’s copyright in Miracleman, but he chooses not to. Although he doesn’t leave the court with the rights to Miracleman, Gaiman doesn’t go away empty-handed, as he is awarded damages of $45,000 for Image Comics’ unauthorised use of his name and biographical details on the back cover of one of their books. According to an article called Gaiman Keeps Share of Spawn Characters on ICv2.com,

    Gaiman's attorney ... suggest[ed] in his final argument to the jury that the use of Gaiman's name in a book published in 2000, well after Gaiman and McFarlane had become estranged, was a cynical exploitation of Gaiman's increased fame and a 'slap in the face,' since Gaiman received no royalties for the book. The jury found for Gaiman in precisely the amount requested.

    April 2003: Todd McFarlane releases a Miracleman statue through his McFarlane Toys company, quite possibly out of sheer spite. Gaiman says it looks ‘clenched’ (which it does) and produces a much nicer one in January 2005.

    November 2003: Marvel Comics publishes the first issue of Neil Gaiman’s Marvel 1602, with the profits going to fund Marvel and Miracles LLC.

    5 January 2004: Todd McFarlane’s appeal against the judgement in his case against Neil Gaiman, on the grounds that Medieval Spawn and Cogliostro were too generic as characters to be copyrightable, and that Gaiman’s time to contest McFarlane’s claim for copyright on the characters had run out anyway, begins. The appeal is heard in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, again in Wisconsin, under circuit judges Richard Posner, Michael Stephen Kanne, and Ilana Rovner, who uphold all the rulings of the original court in 2002, and dismiss both of McFarlane’s grounds for appeal. In the transcript from the appeal in 2004, Judge Richard Posner says,

    In addition to the copyright notices, McFarlane registered copyright on the issues and the books. But to suppose that by doing so he provided notice to Gaiman of his exclusive claim to the characters is again untenable. Authors don’t consult the records of the Copyright Office to see whether someone has asserted copyright in their works; and anyway McFarlane’s registrations no more revealed an intent to claim copyright in Gaiman’s contributions, as distinct from McFarlane’s own contributions as compiler and illustrator, than the copyright notices did.

    The existence of a dispute over the terms of a publication contract does not alert the author to a challenge to his copyright. Quite the contrary, it presumes that he owns the copyright. If his work is in the public domain, the publisher could publish it without the author’s permission, so would hardly be likely to have promised to pay him for the ‘right’ to publish it - he would already have (along with the rest of the world) the right to publish it.

    There was other evidence that right up until McFarlane’s 1999 letter, receipt of which clearly did start the statute of limitations running, he acknowledged or at least didn’t deny Gaiman’s ownership of copyrights in the three characters. There was the reference in the royalty reports to Gaiman’s being the ‘co-creator’ of the characters, the fact that McFarlane let pass without comment Gaiman’s claim in the demand letter to have created the characters, and the payment to Gaiman of royalties on the statuettes, payment that would make most sense if they were derivative works of copyrighted characters - with Gaiman the (joint) owner of the copyrights. McFarlane argues that he could have given Gaiman these royalties pursuant to contract, and he points out that under Gaiman’s work-for-hire agreement with DC Comics Gaiman received payments denominated as ‘royalties’ even though he had no copyrights. But McFarlane also contends that DC Comics would not have paid Gaiman royalties on the statuettes, so what would have been Gaiman’s entitlement to such royalties from him unless Gaiman had a copyright interest?

    25 February 2004: In neither of the cases have the courts ruled on the copyright of Miracleman, as those rights were not part of the dispute, so their legal status remains unresolved. However, some further light is cast on what McFarlane might actually have bought in the Eclipse bankruptcy sale, and on why Gaiman might have chosen not to take the rights to Miracleman that McFarlane allegedly owned. Commenting on the case in his online journal, in a post called Last Legal Post for a long time, Neil Gaiman says,

    I used to think that McFarlane actually had some rights in Miracleman. He told me he had, after all - he'd bought what was left of Eclipse from a bankruptcy court - and that he very much wanted to swap those rights for my rights in Cogliostro and Medieval Spawn. He never sent me any of the papers, though, after I agreed to the 1997 character swap, although he sent me the film for several issues of Miracleman. Then, a month after sending me the film, and having told me that he had transferred his rights in Miracleman to me, he sneakily filed an application for the trademark on Miracleman. Then a year or so later, he abandoned that trademark application. (This was something I didn't know, but that came out in the run-up to the court case.)

    During the legal case, the one thing that no-one was confused about was that I, and Mark Buckingham, and Alan Moore, owned the copyright to our work in Miracleman. That was straightforward and obvious. We owned our copyright on our material; the bankruptcy of Eclipse didn't affect our rights.

    Actually that's not quite true. Todd said in some interview online before that he owned all rights to Miracleman and if anyone said different, he'd see them in court. Well, he saw me in court...

    As part of the court case, we finally got to see the Miracleman paperwork. It turned out the entire paperwork that Todd hadn't sent me consisted of an expired Eclipse Trademark registration for the Miracleman logo. From another source I also got to see the original contract, under which Eclipse had obtained their license to a part share in the Miracleman character, and it was explicit in saying that in case of Eclipse folding, or even substantially changing directors, that Eclipse's share in the rights to Miracleman would revert.

    So one thing that the court case did establish was that Todd obviously didn't, as he had been claiming, own all of Miracleman. As far as I can tell, or any of the lawyers working with us on the case could tell, Todd probably doesn't actually own any share of Miracleman. He certainly has no copyright in any of the existing work.

    Currently (as of late 2001) Todd has another trademark application in on Miracleman, on the grounds that it was an abandoned trademark, which we've opposed.

    11 December 2004: Todd McFarlane Productions files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix, Arizona, after hockey player Tony Twist was awarded $15 million damages against McFarlane, due to his creating a violent character named Antonio "Tony Twist" Twistelli in an early issue of Spawn. They eventually settle their case out of court for $5 million in 2007, after McFarlane appeals the original amount.

    Early 2005: McFarlane still seems to believe that he had the rights to Miracleman, or at least is claiming that he believes this, as can be seen in an interview on the UGO.com website (The page seems not to be there any more, so I’m linking to this post from the 21st of March on Neil Gaiman’s site instead):

    UGO: Has the Miracleman film gone back to Neil Gaiman or wherever it is supposed to go?

    TMcF: With the lawsuit, Gaiman walked away from Miracleman. I have the trademark for Miracleman. No one wants to say it out loud, but that's what happened with the lawsuit. Everyone was like ‘Hah hah, he killed Todd,’ but unfortunately - or fortunately, depending on where you are standing - he had to pick some copyrights to some Spawn characters or pick Miracleman. He didn't pick Miracleman.

    UGO: Did he take Angela?

    TMcF: Yeah, he took some of the Spawn stuff. For whatever reason he walked away from Miracleman, so now Miracleman will be in the Image 10th Anniversary Book.

    You can read Gaiman’s comments on this through the link.

    November 2005: Image Comics publishes the Image 10th Anniversary Book, three years late. This includes the unnamed likeness of Miracleman in Todd McFarlane’s section of the book. The character will later be identified as Man of Miracles.

    14 July 2008: As part of his bankruptcy case, McFarlane is ordered to pay $382,000 into a third-party escrow account to offset any possible losses that might arise in the Gaiman. You can see the documentation on this post on the 20th Century Danny Boy blog.

    24 July 2009: Marvel Comics announces it has bought Mick Anglo’s copyright in Marvelman.

    6 August 2009: Comic Book Resources reports on Todd McFarlane’s reaction to the news that Marvel has bought Marvelman:

    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.

    7 September 2009: In an interview with Sam Moyerman on the Broken Frontier website, Todd McFarlane seems to be taking a much more conciliatory approach to the rights to Miracleman, and it makes interesting reading, in light of what he’s said previously:

    Sam Moyerman: Finally, I'd be remiss not to bring up another topic with you. I remember waiting with baited breath for months and months after seeing an Ashley Wood drawing of Miracleman that I'm really just curious as to what your plans were for the character…

    Todd McFarlane: As you might imagine, that character has been a much talked about topic of conversation, even involved to some degree in the lawsuit with myself and Neil. It's a curious topic. I can't profess to have all the answers on it, so again I'd be sort of foolish to speak out of school.

    Obviously Marvel believes they have certain rights to it. I know that I and my lawyers believe we have certain rights. The question is just what can we do to settle it and when can we settle it. One way would be for someone to just give up and say it's not worth it.

    The other way would be to sit down and have a meaningful conversation like gentlemen, to find a way so that everyone can win. Not necessarily so either party can win, but for the comic community to win. To figure out a way to get this character back out there and not be a pain in the ass to the point where people have to look over their shoulder.

    I don't know… we'll see where it all sort of ends up. It'll either be much ado about nothing or it'll be a hell of a book someday – the behind the scenes novel of it. "The True Story of Miracleman. Starring Matt Damon!" [laughs] But we'll find out how all that goes. I'm as curious as you are.

    SM: There are so many things with the lawsuit where there are questions that can't be discussed and impossible to answer. You were able to fit in the Man of Miracles for the Image 10th Anniversary book. Do you plan on bringing him back and using him? Have you had to push him off to the side?

    TMcF: Here's what happens that makes it tough. Every party involved has a position that they feel they are entitled to with the character. That would include Marvel, Neil, it [?] and myself. I think the prudent thing would be to see if there can't be an adult conversation to be had instead of rubbing people's noses in it.

    So, for me to say I've got my Miracleman miniseries coming out the same time as yours, that would just be instigating something that might not be necessary.

    Like I said, my whole hope is to just get together and have a real conversation about it. It might not necessarily solve everything, but just for everyone to state what they believe is their right and what they want to see and to see if there is any common ground anywhere in there and then move on from there.

    SM: Well I would really hope so, because as much as I would love to see Neil finish his arc, I would love to see that Ashley Wood Miracleman that was supposed to come out back when.

    TMcF: I agree it would be really cool, but I think that at this point everyone simply wants to see Miracleman done by someone who has the legal rights to get it out in the marketplace. It's always been a real curious topic amongst the fans and even amongst the lawyers because this is a complicated ball here. I'm sure if anything dramatic happens it'll become public record or Marvel and Neil will make an announcement.

    Certainly, the ‘let’s all sit down and talk like gentlemen’ approach is a long way from his previous ‘come and fight me if you think you’re hard enough’ stance. It’s almost as if he knows he doesn’t have a leg to stand on, legally...

    14 June 2010: Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane are in court again, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, where District Judge Barbara B. Crabb hears case #02-cv-48-bbc, to determine if the angel warrior characters Tiffany and Domina, both created by Todd McFarlane, who first appeared in Spawn #44 in March 1996, and Dark Ages Spawn, who first appeared in Spawn: the Dark Ages #1 in March 1999, and was created by Brian Holguin, are derivatives of the previously created characters Angela and Medieval Spawn, co-created by Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane.

    29 July 2010: Judge Crabb finds for Gaiman. In her judgement she says,

    Both Medieval (Gaiman) Spawn and Dark Ages (McFarlane) Spawn committed bad deeds in the past for which they want to make amends, both have sisters whom they loved who married men who were or became the Hellspawn’s enemies; both made a deal with the devil to let them return to Earth; and both use their powers to help the defenseless. The two characters are visually similar: both wear metal helmets and face masks with rivets; both ride horses and carry oversized swords and battle shields; both have armor shoulder pads with spikes. Both have aspects of the first Al Simmons Spawn: a ‘neural parasite cloak,’ a particularly shaped face mask, green eyes and a red ‘M’ on the chest.

    Tiffany and Domina are visually similar to Angela and share her same basic traits. All three are warrior angels with voluptuous physiques, long hair and mask-like eye makeup. All three wear battle uniforms consisting of thong bikinis, garters, wide weapon belts, elbow-length gloves and ill-fitting armor bras. Angela and Domina each wear a long cloth draped between their legs and a winged headdress. Tiffany and Angela are shown in the Spawn Bible [Image Comics, August 1996] as having sharp wings. All three of these female characters are warrior angels who fight in the war between Heaven and Hell. When plaintiff conceived of Angela, he saw her as part of an army of 300,000 ‘female, kick-ass warrior angels, who are hunters, merciless and not very nice.’ Tiffany and Domina are part of this same heavenly army. Like Angela, Tiffany is described in the Spawn Bible as having failed to kill only one of the persons she intended to kill: Al Simmons, the original Spawn. Domina is a less developed character, but has superpowers substantially similar to Angela’s. She is described as having led angels into battle against the ‘superpowered Hell demon Urizen.’ Like Angela, she is headstrong and not inclined to obey Heaven’s commands.

    I conclude that the newer characters are derivative and that plaintiff is entitled to his share of the profits realized by these characters and to the immediate production of all documents and other information material to the calculation of the profits.

    Even the judge in the 2010 case seemed puzzled that McFarlane couldn’t come up with a different character concept of his own, rather than try to published a character who was pretty obviously a badly-disguised version of Medieval Spawn. At one point she said,

    Much as defendant tries to distinguish the two knight Hellspawns, he never explains why, of all the universe of possible Hellspawn incarnations, he introduced two knights from the same century. Not only does this break the Hellspawn ‘rule’ that Malebolgia never returns a Hellspawn to Earth more than once every four hundred years (or possibly every hundred years, as suggested in Spawn #9), it suggests that what defendant really wanted to do was exploit the possibilities of the knight introduced in issue #9. (This possibility is supported by the odd timing of defendant’s letter to plaintiff on February 14, 1999, just before publication of the first issue of Spawn: The Dark Ages to the effect that defendant was rescinding their previous agreements and retaining all rights to Medieval Spawn.) If defendant really wanted to differentiate the new Hellspawn, why not make him a Portuguese explorer in the sixteenth century; an officer of the Royal Navy in the eighteenth century; an idealistic recruit of Simon Bolivar in the nineteenth century; a companion of Odysseus on his voyages; a Roman gladiator; a younger brother of Emperor Nakamikado in the early eighteenth century; a Spanish conquistador; an aristocrat in the Qing dynasty; an American Indian warrior; or a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I? It seems far more than coincidence that Dark Ages Spawn is a knight from the same century as Medieval Spawn.

    All of which inevitably led to a number of online pundits joking that the judge had a better imagination when it came to creating comic book characters than Todd McFarlane did.

    16 June 2010: Meanwhile, Gaiman is still waiting for payment from McFarlane after the appeals court judgement went his way in 2004, as McFarlane had declared bankruptcy in the meantime, due to the Tony Twist case. However, as Gaiman said in his online journal,

    This left me one of the biggest creditors of McFarlane's bankrupt comics company. Because they've been in bankruptcy, he's paid me nothing since the 2002 court case.

    Now, some years later, McFarlane's comics company is coming out of bankruptcy, and an accountant whom Todd and I have mutually agreed on is trying to sort out exactly how much money I'm owed.

    11 July 2010: Todd McFarlane’s again attempts to register the name Miracleman with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This is opposed by Gaiman, and is not completed, pending some sort of final resolution of the rights to the name.

    27 January 2012: Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane finally settle their legal dispute over Gaiman's share of Spawn properties. According to a report on minnesota.publicradio.org:

    Fantasy industry giants Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane have agreed to settle their long-running legal battle over Gaiman's share of the Spawn universe.

    Their attorneys filed notice Friday in federal court in Madison saying they've reached a deal that calls for declaring Gaiman a 50% owner of Spawn issues #9 and #26, the first three issues of a spin-off series on the angels and the issues' contents.

    Jeffrey Simmons, one of Gaiman's attorneys, declined to elaborate, saying the terms are confidential.

    So, if the settlement also contained any final agreement between Gaiman and McFarlane on issues related to Marvelman/Miracleman, we’re not going to be told, one way or the other.

    24 February 2012: An order is made to release the $382,000 McFarlane paid into a third-party escrow account on 2008, along with any accrued interest, presumably as part-payment on McFarlane’s debt to Gaiman.

    At this stage, Todd McFarlane needs to account for, and pay Neil Gaiman for, his share of:


  • Spawn issues #9 and #26, presumably also including the proceeds of any reprints of these issues in trade paperbacks;
  • The Angela miniseries and trade paperback;
  • The Spawn movie, which featured some of the characters co-created in Spawn #9;
  • The Spawn animated TV series, for the same reason as above;
  • Video and DVD sales of both of the above;
  • Any appearances of the characters Tiffany, Domina, and Dark Ages Spawn, that were found to be derivative of the characters in Spawn #9;
  • And, finally, the action figures based on all the above characters.

  • So, it seems that the $382,000 is only going to be a starter for what is going to be owed to Gaiman by the time all of that is accounted for.

    19 March 2012: I don’t think we’ve seen the end of this, though. I would like to point out that these two parties have reached agreements before, and these have invariably been ignored by McFarlane. I’d like to think that this is the last time we’ll see these two in court, and that it will all finally end, but past experience doesn’t really point that way, I’m afraid. We shall see what we shall see.

    1 May 2012: According to this post on 20th Century Danny Boy, Todd McFarlane has paid $1,100,000 to Neil Gaiman, according to his Summary of Disbursements, as filed with the Bankruptcy Court in Arizona for the quarter-year ending on the 31st of March, 2012, and signed off by the judge on the 24th of April.

    So, it seems that it's finally over, after all this time. I mean it is over, isn't it? Right?

    Addendum #1: Amongst the posts reporting on this, I want to single out this one on The Beat, which has some very useful comments from some people who were involved with some of the goings on I am reporting on. In particular these two:

    Dean Mullaney says:

    A correction, please: it wasn’t cat or anyone at Eclipse who chose Chuck Beckum to continue drawing Miracleman. It was Alan Moore who picked Chuck, over my objections. I had never even HEARD of Chuck Beckum until Alan brought him to the table. But in deference to Alan, I agreed. Turns out Chuck was a really nice guy but I — and everyone at Eclipse — thought he was complete WRONG for the series. And while cat and I have our differences, this is one thing she CAN’T be blamed for.

    ... And Dez Skinn agrees with him

    Oh, and I agree with Dean. We were told at the time Alan Moore had chosen Chuck Beckham to replace Alan Davis (“he’s like another Hernandez brother”, was how it was put to us on a transAtlantic call quoting Alan.)

    Garry and I were in the office when we saw the end product, and both despaired.

    Addendum #2: There was this exchange on Twitter I wanted to record, between Neil Gaiman and one of his followers:

    Neil Gaiman [@neilhimself] - The history of the @todd_mcfarlane legal case, & how it related to Miracleman, laid out as a timeline. Well researched:[link to this post]

    James Gaskell [@big_poppa_G]: @neilhimself Any lingering creative or personal hard feelings towards @todd_mcfarlane or perceived that he has them against you?

    Neil Gaiman ‏[@neilhimself]: @big_poppa_G read the timeline. How could you have any respect for someone who behaved like that, over and over?

    Sunday, February 12, 2012

    Is Marvelman Actually Coming Soon, After All?

    So, as I mentioned here about a month ago, Marvel Comics’ Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso has promised that there will soon be news about Marvelman. The thing is, despite my essentially casting a large amount of doubt on that in my previous post, this may actually be the case. A number of things have all happened at virtually the same time and, at the risk of looking like a good old-fashioned conspiracy theorist, it really does look as if they might all add up to something. So, here’s a chronology of events, with bit more exposition on my part afterwards:

    31 October 2011: Mick Anglo dies at the age of 95. Kiel Phegley of Comic Book Resources [CBR] says ‘How Anglo's passing impacts the release of Marvelman material is unknown.

    13 January 2012: Axel Alonso, now Marvel Comics’ Editor-in-Chief, answers the question ‘Marvelman in 2012? on CBR by saying, ‘Sit tight. We'll have some additional news soon.

    26 January 2012: Geoff Johns announces that DC’s Captain Marvel character will henceforth be called Shazam.

    27 January 2012: News breaks that Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane have finally settled their long-running legal dispute over Gaiman's share of Spawn properties.

    Their attorneys filed notice Friday in federal court in Madison saying they've reached a deal that calls for declaring Gaiman a 50 percent owner of Spawn issues 9 and 26, the first three issues of a spin-off series on the angels and the issues' contents. Jeffrey Simmons, one of Gaiman's attorneys, declined to elaborate, saying the terms are confidential.
    31 January 2012: Neil Gaiman Tweets this:
    Lots of people asking ‘Who owns Marvelman/Miracleman?’ I thought that was already established: [link]
    ... with a link to the original story on CBR, dated Friday, July 24th, 2009, that announced that Marvel Comics had ‘purchased the rights to Marvelman from creator Mick Anglo’.

    1 February 2012: DC Comics - sorry, that should be DC Entertainment - announces they will be publishing a number of comics series under the umbrella title of Before Watchmen, described as ‘all-new stories expanding on the acclaimed Watchmen universe’.

    2 February 2012: Neil Gaiman announces ‘I'm off in hiding...

    ------------------------------------------------------

    What meaning can we squeeze out of all the above, apparently unrelated, events and announcements?

    The thing about Mick Anglo and Marvelman is, in all the years I’ve been reading about this, I have not found one single instance of Mick Anglo stating that he owned Marvelman. Yes, he claims to have created the character - although I often think that ‘created’ is possibly too strong a word for running a quick coat of paint over an already established character at the behest of L Miller & Son, even if all parties involved were agreeable to it at the time - but he never claimed to have owned it, although this claim started being made on his behalf about five years back, or so. I’ve seen a few interviews with him, although these are by no means numerous, and the closest anyone got to asking him if he owned it was when George Khoury asked him about it in Kimota! The Miracleman Companion (TwoMorrows Publishing, Raleigh, 2001), where he answered,
    I don’t know; that was [Len] Miller’s sort of thing.’
    Later on he says,
    All I was interested in was producing the stuff and getting paid on the nail, and that’s how it worked out.
    All pretty much as one would expect in the comics business in the UK in the 1950s: the publisher had the rights to what they published - it may not have been right, but that’s a completely different argument. So, how did Mick Anglo’s death change things? Well, I suppose it meant that he wasn’t around anymore to give potentially unhelpful interviews, or to be asked awkward questions. But, at the same time, over two years passed from Marvel’s announcement in July 2009 until his death at the end of October 2011 without anyone interviewing him about Marvel’s purchasing of his supposed rights to Marvelman, which in itself seems odd, now that I think about it. If he was the visionary creator people (mostly the likes of Marvel Comics, who had a vested interest in saying so) said he was, why wasn’t there a whole slew of interviews with him about his creation? Just another unanswered question to go on an already very long list...

    Why would the renaming of DC’s Captain Marvel have any bearing on Marvel’s likely publication of Marvelman? Well, DC’s Captain Marvel was once Fawcett’s Captain Marvel, the middle part of the line of succession that runs ‘Superman begat Captain Marvel, who begat Marvelman,’ so the character certainly has a place in Marvelman’s history. Undoubtedly most of the reason DC renamed the character is because Marvel Comics actually owns the trademark to the name Captain Marvel, meaning that DC can never actually use it as the title of a comic, and also because, if DC decide to exploit the character further, as far as the movies, for instance, they’re hardly likely to want a character who, every time his name is mentioned, is as good as advertising their rivals - it’s one thing having it happening in comics, where the consumer has some idea about who owns what, but if the public go to see a character called Captain Marvel in the cinema, they’re probably going to assume he’s published by that Marvel Comics company they’ve heard about. Having said that, Marvel haven’t published a comic featuring their own Captain Marvel since 2008, and in particular not since their acquisition of Marvelman - a character whose origin is directly related to Captain Marvel, just not the one they own. So, the net result is that, certainly for the time being, there is no character called Captain Marvel currently active in either of the two major comics universes. Which may or may not be a sign of something else going on, or of people clearing the boards for what is to come.

    Next along we have the news that Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane have resolved their long-running dispute over the rights to various characters co-created by them for Spawn #9, originally published in June 1993, nearly twenty years ago now. Very briefly, three characters that appeared in that issue - Angela, Olden Days Spawn/Medieval Spawn, and Count Nicholas Cagliostro/ Cogliostro - were later used by McFarlane in numerous ways that hadn’t been part of the original agreement between them, a situation made worse by McFarlane then claiming that he owned all the rights to them, rather than sharing those rights with Gaiman. In January 2002 Gaiman sued McFarlane, looking to have his position of co-creator legally established - the suit wasn’t about the money, as most of these things tend to be, as Gaiman has stated publically, more than once, that any money he gets from the case will be donated to various comics charities. There has been a huge amount of to-ing and fro-ing in the meantime, which I’m not going to go into (go here for a brief overview). Again, though, what bearing does this have on the story of Marvelman? Firstly, there’s the fact that Todd McFarlane bought up all the assets of the bankrupt Eclipse Comics in 1996, which was said to include Eclipse’s share of Miracleman, as Marvelman was known at that time. Whilst there has been doubt cast on whether or not Eclipse had any rights to Miracleman for McFarlane to buy, or indeed had any right to sell those rights, his having these - real or otherwise - rights to a portion of Marvelman was always an unspoken part of the interaction between him and Gaiman, and it seems unlikely that they will have reached a deal between them without this issue being part of it. But, as we are told that ‘the terms are confidential,’ this may not become public knowledge any time soon.

    Another reason that the end of the case between Gaiman and McFarlane is significant is because all of Gaiman’s costs for these cases were being paid for by Marvels and Miracles LLC, a company set up by Gaiman and his friend and lawyer, Ken Levin. Marvels and Miracles was announced to the world at a press conference on the 24th of October, 2001, where Gaiman was joined by Marvel Comics’ then Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, and their company president Bill Jemas. The actual funding of Marvels and Miracles itself came from two projects Gaiman did for Marvel, Marvel 1602 (2003) and Eternals (2007), with both Gaiman and Marvel putting their share of the proceeds into the M&M pot. It certainly appears that Gaiman and Marvel were hand in hand on this project, and presumably the pay-off for Marvel would be that, once Neil Gaiman got the right for Miracleman - such as they were - from Todd McFarlane, that he would make these available to Marvel, or more likely simply put them to rest forever. So, one outcome of the conclusion of action between Gaiman and McFarlane is undoubtedly the removal of Todd McFarlane and Miracleman from the board, tying off at least one of the many loose ends surrounding the Marvelman story. One caveat to all of this, of course, would be the fact that this pair have reached agreements before, going back over all those twenty years, and Todd McFarlane has broken his word on pretty much every single one of those agreements. So, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over, even at this stage.

    Why do I think that Neil Gaiman’s tweet on the 31st of January is significant? Because he’s the only one of the creators of the 1980s version of Marvelman that speaks publically about it, and him referring to it, just after his positive trial result, seems to indicate that he’s still actively involved with it, and that he still sees Marvel Comics as where it’s all going to happen, and possibly even to indicate that, now that one particular roadblock has been successfully negotiated, we can expect to see some positive movement soon. It also adds legitimacy to the idea that, yes, Marvel do have rights to Marvelman, which they bought from Mick Anglo - or, more correctly, from Jon Campbell of Emotiv, who bought out Anglo. I concede that that’s a lot to read into 140 characters!

    How could DC’s announcement that they’re going to start exploiting - and if ever there was a word that says exactly what it mean, exploiting has to be it - Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen have any bearing on this? Undoubtedly it doesn’t, but I’m fascinated by the fact that we have two major works by Alan Moore, Marvelman and Watchmen, both from early in his career, and both dealing with essentially the same idea: What would happen if superheroes were real, in a real world? In both cases we now have work based on those works: Neil Gaiman picked up Miracleman after Alan left, after being specifically hand-picked by Alan to do so, and the first six issues of his run, The Golden Age, are effectively responses to things from Alan’s run. Neil did all this at the very start of his career, before he was the major name he is now, but Moore chose him because he felt he had talent, and trusted him.

    On the other hand, we have a series of sequels being produced to Watchmen, very much against the wishes of Alan Moore - and only receiving lukewarm support from Dave Gibbons, at best - by supposedly ‘top-drawer talent,’ who nonetheless seem to need to raid perhaps the most famous and important comics story there is, over a quarter of a century after its publication, because apparently they’ve all run out of ideas of their own. The fact that the announcement for this was made less than a week after a major development in the Marvelman story just seems like interesting timing: two major Alan Moore projects, from early in his career, still able to make the two major comic companies get excited. But not to actually treat him with respect, or anything like that - respect and earning money don’t seem to get to be in the same room, if you’re DC or Marvel, it seems.

    And then poor old Neil Gaiman decided to go into hiding! He’s actually going on the road for a while in preparation for his new novel, but you couldn’t really blame him if he did go into hiding - I imagine that the time leading up to the announcement of the settlement with Todd McFarlane must have been fraught, for instance, and now that things might be forthcoming with Marvelman and Marvel, well, it’s possible that there could be some interesting things happening there, and he may just want to walk away from it all for a while. And who could blame him?

    So, there you have it. A whole bunch of things happening in a short space of time, that may or may not be related, or have any bearing on one another. Or that may point to, as promised by Axel Alonso in the middle of January, 'additional news soon.' If there is to be news, I suspect we will not be waiting too long to hear it...


    [Over the past many years, I've been obsessed with the story of Marvelman, so much so that I've written a book about it, called Poisoned Chalice: The Extremely Long and Incredibly Complex Story of Marvelman, which just keeps on growing. I managed to get it finished at one point, and had a contract with MonkeyBrain Books, who soon afterwards decided they were giving up publishing books. Curse of Marvelman, anyone? If you're a publisher, and you think you might be interested in publishing a really ridiculously long and detailed - I believe we use the word 'immersive' now - book about Marvelman, then leave a comment, and I'll get back to you.]

    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?

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    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.

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    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.'

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    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?