Though it’s been over 30 years since it happened, the UK comics revival most commonly known as “Miracleman” remains a holy grail for many a comic book reader. And come January — after a long process of preparation by Marvel Comics — fans who have been intrigued by the legendary reputation of the realistic superhero serial will get their chance to relive the series.
Marvel’s acquisition of the comic started in 2009 when the publisher announced that they’d purchased the rights to Marvelman — the British version of DC’s Captain Marvel superhero created by Mick Anglo — to much fanfare. However, the real prize was the rights to reprint the 1980s revival of the character which started in the UK “Warrior” magazine before coming to America as “Miracleman.” This run of stories started by Alan Moore (whose name has, reportedly at his request, been conspicuously absent from Marvel’s promotional efforts and is referred to only as “The Original Writer”) and a host of artists including Alan Davis, Gary Leech and more. That serial broke new ground for superheroes with its mix of a mundane secret identity and a horrific, earth-shattering end. When the comic came to America via Eclipse, Moore handed the reins of the franchise over to then newcomers Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham, who undertook an ambitious trilogy of stories which were cut short when Eclipse went out of business. The ensuing legal fallout, combined with the fact that “Miracleman” was in the unique position of having its copyright shared between both publisher and creators, sent the series into legal limbo for decades.
Now, the character’s return is imminent. To get the inside view of what Miracleman’s return means and how it finally came together, CBR News spoke with Marvel CCO Joe Quesada about the road behind and ahead. The writer/artist explains why it took so long to finally put “Miracleman” back in the stands in single issue form, why the publisher stuck with the American-ized “Miracleman” rather than “Marvelman,” when new issues by Gaiman and Buckingham will follow on the heels of the remastered reprints and much more.
CBR News: Joe, it’s finally here: The return of the Miracleman comics of the ’80s and ’90s. As I understand it, Marvel will be representing the original stories from Warrior Magazine as well as Eclipse Comics, including the issues by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham. Tell me a bit about the formatting. How close with the Marvel package resemble the original Eclipse issues in content, and why did you choose to go with a serialized release for these now classic stories?
Joe Quesada: Our goal from the very beginning was to provide readers new and old with not only a classic experience but one that would allow the original work to shine as bright as it was intended. There’s no denying that today’s printing techniques far surpass those of even a decade ago, so we’ll be looking to apply the exact same high standards and restoration techniques that we’ve applied to our Marvel Masterworks line.
In order to do this, we’ve been working hand in hand with past “Miracleman” artists to obtain as much of the original artwork or high quality photostats as we could possibly get our hands on. It’s been pretty exhaustive, to the point where our Marvel Special Projects Team has been developing some new techniques specifically for this project. In short, we’re giving this our all, and we want to provide the material and our readers with the absolute best experience possible. If we do our job right, the art will look as good if not better than the day it was published — with a nice new modern sheen, coloring and lettering to meet today’s standards.
I think the question most fans have been asking about this is, “Why did this take so long?” Was there a specific hurdle Marvel had to clear before publishing this material? If so, how confident are you that the future of Miracleman won’t be as litigious as his past?
The simplest answer I can give you, is that it took the time it did because we wanted to make sure we did everything right. As you know, the history of “Miracleman” is an incredibly interesting and tangled one. Our goal was simply to get it right, before we started. And to do that — there were a lot of people who worked on these books over the years, and we wanted to speak to each and every one of them in order to get their input. A process like that takes an incredible amount of time and patience, but now we’re done and ready to go.
It’s probably safe to say that Neil Gaiman himself has been the driving force in making all this happen. Now that the long journey to making this publishing project a reality is at its end, what do you recall about Neil’s initial mentioning of Miracleman to you? How long did it take to go from conversations to actively trying to make this happen?
Neil was very passionate about seeing “Miracleman” come back into print and keeping this project in the top of our minds. He was especially excited about finishing his and Bucky’s classic run on the character. His patience was amazing as we worked through the logistics of the project, reaching out to talent going as far back as the original creator of Miracleman, Mick Anglo.
The other big question people are going to ask now that this is on the schedule is, “How long will it take until we’re seeing all-new material from Neil and Bucky?” Where is Marvel at in the process of aiding them in completing their story decades in the making?
At the moment, from the looks of the calendar I would project Neil and Bucky’s new material to see the light of day sometime in 2016. I know that it seems like a long way away, but the material is finally going to see the light of day and will remain in print, and I think for that, we can all be grateful. To me, it’s a travesty that there are readers who have not only not been exposed to the original stories, but don’t even had a way to easily access them.
Marvel’s announcement at NYCC and the subsequent solicitations copy referred to the series and character as Miracleman — the name adopted in America in the ’80s. Why keep with this title on this project? Are you guys viewing Neil’s Miracleman series of stories different from Marvelman as a character you may use somewhere else?
The answer is really simple. After much thought and internal discussion, we felt that between the two, “Miracleman” was the coolest name for the project. I wish I had a more scientific answer for you, but that’s kind of how it went down. A bunch of us sat around at the editorial meeting and talked about it. We all remember it fondly as “Miracleman” and just felt that the name was by far better than Marvelman. That’s not to say that the name Marvelman isn’t in play for something else down the line someday, but when asked to choose between the two, well…
Overall, the entire run of “Miracleman” has a reputation as being some of the most groundbreaking storytelling in the medium. What do you think is the biggest general impact of having this material in the hands of a new generation, and what does “Miracleman” do for Marvel’s catalogue on the whole?
Well, as you state yourself, the entire run of MM has been some of the most groundbreaking in the history of the comics medium. So, when you add something like that to your catalog, I think it brings nothing but great things.
To be honest, “Miracleman” was one of my all-time favorite comic runs, and when I became Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief in 2000, it was one of those things that we looked into possibly acquiring. But, for many reasons, it wasn’t something that was going to pan out at that time. So to have the character in our stable at this juncture is really a dream come true. The tough thing about Miracleman is that unless you were reading the actual books around the time that they were published, it’s so hard to put into context just how influential they really were. But there have been so many legendary modern comic runs — and even modern super hero and action adventure movies — that owe a debt to those Miracleman comics as they were directly influence by the level of realism and tone that were presented for the first time in those stories. I urge fans who are unfamiliar with the material that when they read it for the first time, think about the time period in which it was written and how utterly revolutionary it was.
Since Marvel’s original announcement a few years ago, we’ve seen a few products from the House of Ideas featuring the character, including t-shirts, reprints of classic British strips and a memorable poster by you. What other new art and products are you planning outside letting Neil and Mark finish their tale? Do you have any more new art you’ll be drawing yourself with the character?
With respect to products, I honestly don’t think we have anything in the immediate works. That’s not to say that something might not come up from time to time, or that there might not be a fun convention exclusive here and there. What I can tell you is that our focus is on getting the original material back in print and looking great. As far as I’m concerned, like so many writers and artists who remember the original run and have an incredible affection for the material, I’d love to do some more here and there. Heck, I might even have a surprise up my sleeve somewhere down the line. But with my current duties at Marvel, travel schedule and assorted other stuff that crosses my plate, I always hate talking about any projects sitting on my desk until they’re completely done and I know they will someday ship.
Of course, the other big question is what will happen with Miracleman outside the very finite story that Neil and Mark will be telling. Have you had discussions internally about Miracleman’s broader presence as a character? Perhaps in the Marvel U at some point?
I would be lying to you if I told you that we haven’t had creators coming to us asking if we were looking to explore the character beyond Neil and Bucky’s story, but first, we want to be respectful to where Neil and Bucky go with their tale. Secondly, it’s much too early to make those kinds of decisions. Let’s say for example that we were looking at some time in 2016 as a possible date for the continuation of MM’s stories beyond Neil and Bucky. Who knows what kinds of stories comic fans will be looking for at that time? The whole landscape could be completely different.
But again, that’s not to say that you might not be surprised by something unexpected. If we’ve proven anything over the years here at Marvel, it’s that we can sometimes provide you guys with the most unexpected events. Sometimes all you have to do is read between the lines.
“Miracleman” returns from Marvel Comics this January.