New York City, guns, skyscrapers and explosions. These are the things Neil
Gaiman wanted to avoid putting in the Marvel comics series that he began
developing almost two years ago. Addressing fans at Comic-Con International, the
writer said he agreed to do a Marvel book just before September 11th,
“There’s something about Marvel that automatically makes me think: New York
and skyscrapers and people with guns and things that explode,” Gaiman told
fans. After the terrorist attacks of that day, he was unsure what the new book
would be like. “I wanted to do something that had all of the fun of the Marvel Universe, but
had no skyscrapers, no planes, nothing exploding and no guns.”
after the terror attacks, Gaiman traveled to a convention in Venice and it was
there that he found inspiration. “I thought, ‘Oh, I know what my story is,’ and ‘1602’ was there in my
“1602”, due out next month, looks to be the uniquely
Gaiman look at the Marvel Universe. Although it has been in the works for almost
two years, Marvel and Gaiman managed to keep mum about it until just a few
months ago. The creator was concerned about hyping the book too far ahead of its
“The Internet exists in mayfly time anyway…you know: a half an
hour on the Internet is like several years in the real world,” Gaiman said
of his reasons for keeping the project quiet. “The veil of secrecy has now been lifted. The veil of secrecy on ‘1602’
was something that just sort of…what’s that wonderful ‘Simpsons’ word…embiggened.
“The premise of ‘1602’ is as follows: It’s 400 years ago and the Marvel
universe, for reasons that we do not know when we begin, has started occurring
400 years early,” Gaiman said.
“It’s not an Elseworlds. It’s not a ‘What If.’ It’s actually
happening and it will have some spillover into the real Marvel Universe,”
he said, adding that the series would make some alterations to the universe.
“Sir Nicholas Fury was the head of Queen Elizabeth’s
intelligence service. The court physician was a magician named Stephen Strange.
Fury’s assistant is a young man named Peter Parker who has an obsession with
spiders. His top agent is a man named Matthew Murdock, who is a blind, Irish
ballad singer who turns out to be this very mysterious figure of the night.
“We have the witchbreed who are these persecuted kids with peculiar powers.
“There’s the mysterious hand of Otto Von Doom, known as ‘the
handsome,'” he revealed, getting big laughs from the crowd.
Gaiman told fans that the book has been enormous fun to write and that it’s
given him a hint of what Stan Lee and Jack Kirby might have felt like when they
created the characters. While the book was designed to be a diversion from real
world events, Gaiman found that life often imitates art.
“The initial vision was not to be topical, but
by the time I’m writing issue
number five, and have a number of people heading into a small European country
to try and rescue potential weapons of mass destruction,” Gaiman said,
noting how his story inadvertently dovetailed with world events.
Asked about the length of “1602” Gaiman told the crowd, “It’s definitely going to be eight issues, unless it’s nine.”
The writer initially agreed to do the series to help fund his “Marvels
and Miracles” campaign to free his “Miracleman” stories from a
copyright battle with comic creator Todd McFarlane. The pair battled in court
and Gaiman reported that his side won every single count against his former
employer. McFarlane is, of course, appealing the court’s decision.
“Todd’s appeal goes like this,” Gaiman explained. ” ‘Yes, I said to Neil that he was not signing
away his copyright. No there was no indication he was signing away his
copyrights. He didn’t sign his copyrights away in 1993.
“‘Yes, in 1996 I falsely
filed copyright papers claiming that I had written the ‘Angela’ book and ‘Spawn’
#9. But, in the subsequent three years, the statue of limitations on copyrights,
Neil didn’t find out that I had done this and so his winning the case should be
Gaiman said he still feels secure that his side will win out on appeal.
“I’m not a betting man but I would not put a lot of money on Todd’s appeal as
he’s going with the ‘Ah ha! Tricked you!’ defense.”
Further, Gaiman said it’s looking as if McFarlane’s hold on the books was
practically non-existent to begin with. McFarlane thought he acquired the
property from the now-defunct Eclipse Comics. However, Gaiman said, Miracleman
creator Gary Leach’s agreement with that publisher allowed that the rights to
the material would revert back to him should anything happen to Eclipse. Given
that, it seems McFarlane may never have had a legitimate claim on the character
to begin with.
“I know that I have rights to Miracleman. I know I have rights to the stories
I wrote. We plan on getting them back into print,” Gaiman said. “What rights Todd has, I don’t know. He did that peculiar statue of Miracleman
where he’s clenched.”
So that the constipated Miracleman statue won’t be the only representation of
the character on the market, Gaiman is working with Randy Bowen on a new statue.
Gaiman touched on his recent forays into filmmaking. He just made his
directing debut on with “A Short Film About John Bolton” which was
screened at the con. He wrote the script for “Mirrormask” which
collaborator Dave McKean is directing. He plans on directing the feature film
“Death: The High Cost of Living” next.
Gaiman also debuted his new spoken-word CD “Telling Tales” at the
con. “It has strangely cool drummy noises by Robin Adnan Anders,”
His book (another collaboration with McKean) “The Wolves in the Walls”
is due in stores this week.
“We’ve got another children’s book coming out in about a year, in theory,
called ‘Crazy Pair,'” Gaiman revealed. He added the “in theory”
qualifier as McKean has taken on a tremendous workload and Gaiman is skeptical
about how quickly he’ll be able to clear it.
One final project Gaiman announced is a children’s book called “The Graveyard Book” which is like “The Jungle Book” only
set in a graveyard, where the protagonist was raised by dead people.