Neil Gaiman returns to comics with Marvel project

At the semi-weekly Marvel phone conference this morning the comics press gathered to hear what Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada and President and COO Bill Jemas had to say about the current state of Marvel Comics. This time the two were joined by writer Neil Gaiman.

Neil Gaiman?

The creator of the massively popular "Sandman" series from DC/Vertigo and author of the New York Times' bestseller, "American Gods," joined Quesada and Jemas on this phone conference to announce a new project Marvel will be publishing by Gaiman. Details were not plentiful, other than the project will be a 6 issue limited series seeing publication in 2002 featuring the characters of the Marvel Universe. Gaiman will be working with Stuart Moore, the editor of the "Marvel Knights" line of comics. Assumptions can be made that the project will fall under the "Marvel Knights" banner, but that was neither confirmed nor stated.

The most interesting thing about this announcement is where the profits will be going. In this case they're not exactly going into Gaiman or Marvels' pockets directly. All profits from this project will be donated to a "Marvelman" property fund called Marvels and Miracles, LLC.

[Miracleman #24]"Marvelman," known in America as "Miracleman," was a property published by Eclipse in the 1980s to which Neil Gaiman contributed following Alan Moore's run on the title. After the demise of Eclipse the rights to the property ended up in the hands of "Spawn" publisher and toy manufacturer Todd McFarlane. According to Gaiman, McFarlane agreed to hand the rights to the Marvelman property over to Gaiman in exchange for Gaiman contributing to the Spawn universe by creating the "Angela" character and writing a 3-issue limited series for McFarlane. Gaiman's claim is that he met his side of the agreement, but McFarlane has never followed-up on his promise. In an interview at CBR in June McFarlane was asked about the current state of ownership of the Marvelman property and who owns the rights.

"Ultimately? I've got all of them. We'll find that one out," said McFarlane.

The Marvels and Miracles, LLC. fund will be used to pay for Gaiman's legal efforts in acquiring the Marvelman property from McFarlane. All other money's raised by the fund will go to comic charities such as the CBLDF and ACTOR.

"[Neil] adds an air of class that's sorely lacking at Marvel. And he's got a wonderful accent." -Joe Quesada said during the press conference. "I am fanboyishly giddy."

"[I've been] writing comics professionally for 16 years, I've never written the classic Stan and Jack characters," said Gaiman. "The proposal I made to Joe, I thought he was going to ... had a very strange idea for a way to do it, which I'm not going to talk about, which I told Joe, and thought he was going to laugh at, and instead he said, (long pause) 'That would work.' And then he got all excited. And he even likes my title for it."

Details of the project will be revealed in Wizard Magazine #124 set for publication November 21st. No artist has yet been announced.

"Once this project is done, it will leave some fertile areas behind that Marvel will be able to do other stuff in without me," said Gaiman. "It's indulging my seven year old fanboy."

The three also clarified their position relative to Todd McFarlane.

"I've been talking to Todd about this for 5 years," Said Gaiman. "I thought we'd all sorted it out in 1997 when he signed the rights over to me and handed over the film. Unfortunately, this being the modern world, sorting out takes lawyers and lawyers cost incredible amounts of money."

"On a personal level, I happen to like Todd a lot," said Quesada. "There is personal, there is business. The two really should never mix, and in my mind they don't. That's about as simple as I can make it for you."

"There is no anti-Todd campaign at Marvel," commented Jemas. "The hope is that there will be a handshake among the proper parties. This is a very very complex chain of ownership...Our hope is that the bulk of the profits end up with the CBLDF."

"Alan [Moore] is completely aware of this," said Gaiman. "I've been checking with him every step of the way. I've been getting his blessing and a huge amount of moral support. And every now and then he apologizes for having given me Miracleman... It's a poisoned chalice. He's very much behind this. He's been impressed with how Joe's behaved... [Including] Joe's willingness to let it go back to 'Marvelman.'"

In other news covered at the press conference CBR's Augie De Blieck Jr. asked about the low sales for the first printing of Marvel's "Heroes" tribute book.

"Augie, I don't think we publicized it well enough," joked Joe Quesada in response.

For anyone who's followed the story since it was announced a few days following September 11th you know that Marvel spent a tremendous amount of time and man power promoting the book, with almost daily updates coming from sites like CBR and others. Their promotion included an appearance on NBC's "The Today Show" last Wednesday.

"In fairness, this was not a regular Diamond solicitation," replied Bill Jemas. In fact since this project was rushed to press it did not appear in the regular Diamond Previews catalog which retailers use to make their orders. It was announced in supplemental editions and through various press releases to try and spread the word as widely as possible to retailers, but some underestimated the impact of this book and still others didn't order any at all.

"For some retailers, there's a credibility issue with Marvel," said Jemas. "Joe and I are hoping that 20 years down the road... we'll get more credibility."

Jemas added that orders weren't low from ALL retailers. Some ordered it right. The reorders on the book have been "Spectacular" according to Jemas with a second print run at 150,000 additional copies on top of the original 100,000.

Also, Joe Quesada noted he will be making an appearance on MTV tomorrow and Dateline next week in relation to the "Heroes" project.

For more on the Neil Gaiman project read the official press release from Marvel Comics here at CBR.

Augie De Blieck Jr. contributed to this story.

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