One of the longest and most confusing legal battles over one of comics most acclaimed series appears to finally have ended. And Miracleman is set for a full return in the hands of Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham at last.
CBR spoke with Gaiman as part of the writer's press tour for his new Amazon TV series Good Omens, and when asked about the status of the groundbreaking superhero series he and Buckingham inherited from Alan Moore nearly 20 years ago, Gaiman cautiously explained that all hurdles seem to be clear. In fact, the pair have in fact begun creating new Miracleman stories.
"Miracleman is back on the road again. I'm almost hesitant to say too much, because it's gone off the side of the road so many times for reasons that are way beyond the control of me and Mark Buckingham," he said, cautiously. "There was a whole bunch of contractual stuff that people in back rooms spent literally years sorting out before we were allowed back onto it, and it's been sorted out. Mark Buckingham is, I believe, drawing Miracleman even as we speak. So it may be a thing. And given that the last issue of Miracleman came out in 1993, it's a little bit... I'm like, 'I may be speaking too soon. Something terrible may happen.' But it looks on track."
When reached by CBR, Marvel had no comment.
The long battle over the rights to the character and the material produced by Moore, Gaiman and their various artistic partners can credibly be called the most complicated one in the history of comics. The character began as Marvelman – a UK knockoff of the Golden Age "Shazam" Captain Marvel. When Captain Marvel's publisher Fawcett lost its legal battle with DC Comics in 1953, UK artist and comics packager Mick Anglo (who had been localizing America's hero) conceived Marvelman to continue publishing Shazam-esque exploits. The result was Britain's first original (if derivative) superhero.
Marvelman returned in the 1980s in Warrior – a UK comics magazine that claimed it had acquired rights to the hero (though the specifics of that deal have been disputed). Alan Moore and artists Garry Leach and Alan Davis created the strip in what would be the first in Moore's long line of more adult revisionist super comics. The series migrated to U.S. indie publisher Eclipse where it was rechristened Miracleman, and the rights were supposedly split between the company and the creators of the various stories. By 1990, the key creators in the equation were Gaiman and Buckingham, but when Eclipse folded three years later, the pair were only a third of the way through a planned trilogy of stories.
Throughout the '90s and beyond, the battle for Miracleman became just one front in the ongoing legal war between Gaiman and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane, who purchased most of the Eclipse assets in bankruptcy proceedings. The pair went back in forth in the courts for years over both Miracleman and the character Angela. McFarlane drew a version of the former into a Spawn story meant for Image's 10th Anniversary hardcover (itself delayed by three years). Meanwhile, Gaiman began writing comics for Marvel in 2001 with profits funneled into a legal entity called Marvels and Miracles, LLC whose sole purpose was to fight for the rights to the character in court. The entire question of ownership was thrown for a loop near the end of the 2000s when Moore began espousing the idea that Marvelman belonged to original creator Mick Anglo the whole time and that his Miracleman run should never have existed, legally speaking.
In 2009, spurred on in part by Moore's comments, Marvel announced that they had purchased the underlying character rights to Marvelman directly from Anglo. In the ten years since Marvel's declaration, an astonishing amount of news related to the character arrived. Marvel published a wave of reprints celebrating the original 1950's comics. Anglo died in 2011 at the age of 96. Gaiman and McFarlane finally settled their legal dispute, with the rights to Angela reverting to the writer who promptly assigned them to Marvel. The publisher initiated an often-delayed reprint series of Miracleman comics, crediting Moore as The Original Writer at his request. The only new content released with the character has been a one-shot produced largely to reveal a Grant Morrison-scripted story that sat by the wayside for two decades. And while Marvel did release reprints of previous Gaiman/Buckingham stories, it's been almost four years since the last copy saw print despite PR promising otherwise.
Many readers who have been waiting for the conclusion of the pair's "Silver Age" storyline and its proposed "Dark Age" follow up will doubtlessly remain skeptical that the comics will ever see print.