History


This was originally the last few paragraphs of the History article as it stood before Joe Quesada's announcement. The first is just there for context and hasn't been changed. The rest is my on-the-hoof speculation as to the rights side of things that's largely been made irrelevant by the Marvel announcement. I didn't really want to airbrush it off the site entirely, and I thought we could all have a good laugh as the story unfolds and we find out just how many miles off the mark my wittering was.


Miracleman #24 cover, with art by Barry Windsor-SmithYoung Miracleman had been revived, but only served to highlight that all was not well in Miracleman's utopian world. The second chapter arrived considerably later, but reassurances were given that the series would keep to a better schedule. The plan was to keep Miracleman on a bi-monthly schedule, with a Gaiman-approved spin-off series, Miracleman Triumphant either running monthly or alternating with Miracleman itself. This series, to be written by the largely unknown Fred Burke and pencilled by Mike Deodato Jr., would take place in the ten-year narrative gap between Books 4 and 5. Miracleman #25 was at a completed pencils stage when Eclipse went into bankruptcy, while Miracleman Triumphant #1 was ready to print (and #2 fully scripted).

Cat Yronwode was able to return Buckingham's work to him before the company folded (quite what happened to the Triumphant material is unknown), but it left Miracleman without a home. Eclipse's assets were purchased by Todd McFarlane in 1996, for around $40,000, largely to acquire Miracleman. However, it soon became clear that the ownership of the character was incredibly muddy. McFarlane certainly acquired the negatives for all the Miracleman material published by Eclipse, but whether he had the rights to use the character or reprint material is unclear.


The ownership problems have bought forth several claimants over the years (legally-unsound projection ahoy!): -

  • Mick Anglo - Owner of Anglo Studios, who revamped Captain Marvel into Marvelman in 1953. While the original Marvelman is undoubtedly the creation of his studio, the idea that at the time this would entitle him to any ownership of the character (remember Jerry Siegel?) is unusual, if still possible. Any claim of ownership would surely be reliant on what deal he had with L. Miller & Sons at the time - i.e. was he simply a hired hand, or a partner? Anglo did not dispute the character's ownership for the bulk of the 1980s, taking money for the Marvelman Special/Miracleman 3D #1 reprints, but reportedly knew nothing about the reprints ran in Miracleman #8/Family/#14-15 until he saw them in a comics shop, and has only voiced his claim since Eclipse's collapse.
  • Dez Skinn - Various rumours have surrounded Skinn's 'ownership'. Some say he purchased the character from Anglo (something reliant on the character being Anglo's to sell), some that he basically just took a dead character from a folded company and didn't expect any other interest. Assuming he did have a valid claim in the first place (the situation was certainly amicable enough in the 1980s, as mentioned above), he sold his share to Eclipse, but the deal included a clause by which the rights reverted to Skinn in when the title left publication (i.e. when Eclipse folded - this would seem to be supported by documentation found during Gaiman's lawsuit action against McFarlane). The problem here is whether his share existed in the first place.
  • Neil Gaiman/Mark Buckingham - AKA The Creator Share. When Marvelman returned in Warrior, Alan Moore and Garry Leach each took a share of the character (30% each), apparently under the impression Skinn had purchased the character from Anglo. When Leach left the series, his share was transferred to Alan Davis. Davis returned his share to Leach when Warrior ended, fed up with the whole thing. Leach sold his share to Eclipse at the same time as Skinn. Moore handed his share to Gaiman after completing his run with Miracleman #16. Gaiman split his share with Buckingham. Gaiman, Buckingham, and Moore then consolidated their interests into Marvels and Miracles LLC in 2002, to allow Gaiman to sue McFarlane for the character's ownership.
  • Todd McFarlane - Purchased Eclipse's assets in 1996. He does own copyright to two Miracleman logos, and also owns many (or all?) negatives from the original comics, but thought he was purchasing the rights to Miracleman. He attempted to relaunch the character via Hellstorm , and produced a statue of Miracleman, but in the end the former became The Man of Miracles when Gaiman began legal action. Gaiman has claimed they reached a verbal agreement in 1997, exchanging the Miracleman rights for two Spawn characters Gaiman created, but this hasn't come to fruition (and McFarlane may not have owned the full rights in the first place). His attempts to register Miracleman as a trademark in 2001 were successfully blocked by litigation from Gaiman.
  • Alan Class - When L. Miller & Sons folded in 1966, Class purchased the physical plates of their back catalogue, and possibly the character rights as well. This could well have included the rights to Marvelman, dependant on Miller's deal with Anglo. It's unclear how exactly Class was involved - did he provide the negatives for the reprints seen in the Marvelman Special, or for Eclipse's reprints (though various sources indicate that Eclipse bypassed Anglo for their own reprints, buying the negatives from another source), or were these duplicates owned by Anglo?

New Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada has reportedly agreed with Gaiman to continue the series whenever the mess is cleaned up, with the title reverting to Marvelman, backed by a full programme of TPBs. He also commissioned Gaiman to write the Marvel 1602 mini-series, with all profits going into a war-chest for Marvels and Miracles LLC.


There are further complications to consider too - all of the creators who worked on the Warrior/Eclipse books held ownership of their own work, and would need to agree to any further reprints. This isn't much of an obstacle, really, as all those involved are either enthusiastic or compliant with this plan. The Warpsmiths, who featured in Books 3 to 5, were 'on-loan' from Garry Leach for the series, and any reprints (or a continuation of Book 5 involving the characters) would need his consent.

Sadly, aside from sorting out the ownership of a couple of Spawn characters, Gaiman's lawsuit with McFarlane largely seems to have only suceeded in stopping McFarlane from claiming ownership of Miracleman by proving he doesn't own the character either. The difficulty now is working out who does own the character, and arranging a deal with them for continuation. The key issues would seem to be:

  • Did Anglo retain the rights to Marvelman while doing work for hire for L. Miller & Sons?
  • Were the rights to Marvelman included in the L. Miller & Sons assets purchased by Alan Class in 1966?
  • What deal did Dez Skinn make with Anglo (assuming Anglo held the rights) in 1981/82?

God, I can be quite boring when I put my mind to it, eh? Most importantly, at the time of writing it's coming up for 15 years since new 'real' Miracleman material last saw print, and the series remains in limbo. Gaiman and Buckingham have both regularly said they will continue the series as soon as the rights issues are solved and a new publisher can be found. Sadly, it's three years since 1602 was released, and updates have been sparse since, so whatever happens, it may take some time yet.

The greatest shame of all is that these conflicts have left the comic not only incomplete, but also out of print. This is probably what leads to most recollection about the series centres around the legal troubles - comic fans can't read this masterpiece without hunting down expensive back issues (Miracleman #15 can fetch around £30, while the three Alan Moore TPBs usually cost triple figures), and that's the saddest part of all.