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Alan Davis talks ‘Miracleman’

by  in Comic News Comment
Alan Davis talks ‘Miracleman’

On Sunday CBR News received the following open letter from Alan Davis regarding recent issues brought up in “Kimota: The Miracleman Companion.” We reprint it in its entirety.

Since the recent release of John Morrow’s KIMOTA!, The Miracleman Companion, I have received a number of phone calls and faxes requesting confirmation and clarification of some of my statements contained therein. Via this open letter I would like to provide such clarification for the public record.

I have always preferred to let my work stand or fall on its own merits. Although I do realise that self-promotion is a necessary evil in any business, my experience is that most interviewers are more interested in promoting their own views than in accurately reporting mine. Despite reservations I decided to contribute to KIMOTA!, because John’s previous publications, especially Comic Book Artist and Alter Ego, had impressed me. As interviews in those publications often mention the interview subjects editing the final transcript, I had assumed I would also receive a transcript of my interview to proofread before the book was published, so I was surprised when the queries started coming in. I never saw a copy of KIMOTA! until November 1st, by which time I had seen copies of odd pages sent by friends which seemed to suggest that most of the confusion was a result of typos or mistranslation in the transcription of my interview. There are a few paragraphs that completely lose any sense of what I intended, but I’m prepared to accept that colloquialisms, my accent and a poor phone connection could all have contributed – although I am more than a little surprised no one from TwoMorrows contacted me for clarification. But, all of this is really incidental.

The topic I had expected most controversy over was the theft of my artwork by Eclipse Comics. I was prepared to see differing recollections and rewritten history, but what has prompted me to speak out now was the opinions of a few people who interpreted claims in KIMOTA! as supporting a belief that the entire Marvelman copyright has been bought up by Todd McFarlane – including my copyright to the artwork I drew. I don’t intend to dispute the ownership of the Marvelman character copyright; I have never had any interest in that. I do want to make it clear that I still own the rights to the Marvelman pages I drew, and that anyone who has been sold any degree of copyright to this artwork has been conned.

I have had more than one rethink about writing this open letter. The sensible thing might be to stay quiet and accept defeat. I had to do that the last time because I couldn’t get my side of the story heard. The whole affair is history now, the best part of twenty years old – but the only way I can prove my case is by opening up the old can of worms.

I have never spoken about the events leading to the breakup of my relationship with Alan Moore, but in this instance it may be unavoidable because he is at the centre of the affair. However, I cannot allow my silence to condone any misrepresentation, intentional or accidental, contained in the KIMOTA! book. Alan and I had a great working partnership and what I thought was a solid friendship for more than three years. We were both there at the end. We BOTH know the truth. If his version differs from mine it becomes a matter of who you choose to believe.

I appreciate some may well believe Alan Moore’s muddled remembering that, as the victim of Cat Yronwode’s editorial bullying, he is somehow excused from any responsibility in supporting a dishonest publisher. The important point of his recollection is that the documentation Eclipse promised never appeared but he chose to work for them anyway. The truth of the matter is the documentation never existed.

I didn’t recognise George Khoury’s name when I first read a copy of the “Whatever Happened to Our Miracleman?” overview – partly because I have only spoken to him twice on the phone, but more than that I couldn’t believe we had spoken yet he had pointlessly quoted an old interview by my old mate, Les Chester, to support the theory he was trying to promote in the overview, rather than to ask me directly. I was inclined to accept the analysis of a friend who said “such blatant inaccuracy could only be the result of sloppy journalism or sycophancy” until I remembered the old adage about a lie repeated often enough becoming the truth.

George Khoury fudges the major issue with terms like “Copyright laws are EXTREMELY DIFFERENT between the United States and England and it APPEARS Moore has ownership of his Marvel work…” I don’t know if Mr. Khoury was being deliberately vague or if he was unknowingly perpetuating the old smokescreen of lies. The truth is far simpler.

At the time Alan Moore and I were producing Marvelman and Captain Britain, UK-originated comics were not being taken seriously. There were no contracts between Marvel UK and its freelancers, and the Warrior contracts only ever covered the broad concepts of the series, NOT specific pages. Because we were being paid so little by both Marvel UK and Quality/Warrior, we were able to sell our work as “first English language edition only.” That is, we sold the company the right to print the work ONCE. After that, they would have to renegotiate for further publication.

In the case of the Captain Britain series, Marvel owned the rights to the Captain Britain character and all related characters and concepts prior to work contributed by Dave Thorpe, Alan Moore and myself. The work we contributed was not only outside of a work-for-hire agreement, we had also retained our copyright on the invoices accepted by Marvel, which is why Marvel could not reprint Captain Britain without our permission. (Nor could we reprint without theirs.) The company owned the original concepts but not the new pages or any new concepts originated in those pages. As far as I am aware, this would be just as true in the United States. With the upcoming reprint of Captain Britain both Alan Moore and myself sold our controlling copyright to the pages involved by signing work-for-hire agreements.

The same split copyright existed between me and Eclipse/Warrior over the Marvelman pages. I owned the individual pages, plus a share on the character copyright, but I won’t complicate things by involving it here. I have no knowledge of what Alan Moore, Garry Leach and Dez Skinn signed over to Eclipse, BUT I did not give or sell anything to Eclipse. I have only ever sold a single right, to one English language publication, of any of the Marvelman pages I drew, for their first appearance in Warrior. What Eclipse reprinted they stole. Who precisely was involved is irrelevant. The crux of the matter to anyone interested in the Marvelman/Miracleman copyright wrangle is that, as the creator of the Marvelman artwork I drew, I still retain all the rights to the images on the pages I created and to the visual character designs that first appeared in those pages (Marveldog, Evelyn Cream, the Zarathustra aliens, spaceships and the revised Gargunza, etc.).

Copyright only becomes problematic when it is sold because contracts have to precisely stipulate the terms and limits of the ownership. It’s very easy when you haven’t sold anything. It’s yours!

The problem with owning a copyright has more to do with whether you have the money and time to take legal action against anyone stealing your work and whether the culprit has enough resources to make legal action profitable. This is the main reason I have done so little work for independent comic companies. In broad terms, Marvel and DC have been pretty straight with me. In fact, it is ironic that Marvel, which is damned for its use of work-for-hire, would not reprint the Captain Britain without the creators’ permission while Eclipse happily stole my Marvelman pages. I could do nothing to stop the theft. It wasn’t simply that I didn’t have the resources. I couldn’t even get my side of the story heard. Eclipse had Quality Comics, much of the fan press and Alan Moore on their side.

Another factor that has been used to distort the truth is the copyright I gave/returned to Garry Leach. This copyright only covered the Marvelman name, design and related concepts which had been given to me by Dez, Garry and Alan. (Whether or not it was theirs to give is another story.) They could not have given me the copyright to my own work. It WAS and IS mine until I sell it. The reason I had sought a percentage of the character copyright in the first place was because it would guarantee a share of any profits generated by the merchandise badges and a Marvelman t-shirt using my art.

(The reason I gave Garry the Marvelman share I had been given by Dez, Alan and Garry is because I thought he deserved it. His vision was the foundation for the mood and reality of the entire series. He was a far more experienced and accomplished artist than I was, and I knew I couldn’t compete with what he had created. All I could do was imitate a few superficial elements to keep the identity of the Marvelman series separate from that of Captain Britain.)

If necessary, I can prove my ownership of my Marvelman art. I have kept every note, voucher, receipt and letter from Warrior (Dez Skinn, Quality Comics), Alan Moore, Eclipse and others. Whether I can defend any further theft has more to do with the honesty of the parties fighting over the rights to Miracleman.

— Alan Davis

For the latest Miracleman/Marvelman news see the CBR News report from October 24th, Neil Gaiman returns to comics with Marvel project.

Alan Davis talks ‘Miracleman’