After decades of legal troubles and back-and-forths and he-said-he-saids, Marvelman is back, baby! But, the man who made Marvelman a worldwide phenomenon isn’t getting credit for it – and that may be just how he wants it.
Full disclosure: As mentioned before, I have (and continue to, when given the opportunity) freelanced with Marvel, but I have nothing to do with the current Marvelman/Miracleman products. Also, this is 99.9% fanboyish speculation on my part, so take from it what you will.
First, the history you should (but may or may not) already know.
Who is this Marvelman character anyway?
(I’m summing up a lot of history here, if you’d like to hear someone go through it, check out this episode and its follow-up from The Big Picture at The Escapist. Or read an even more detailed history by the self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Critic.”)
Back in the Golden Age of comic books, generally agreed to be the late-1930s through the late-1940s (although some people include the 1950s in that) one of the biggest sellers in comic books was Captain Marvel (originally “Captain Thunder,” and today known only as “Shazam” due to a whole long story that I’m not getting into yet).
Captain Marvel was such a big deal that – many argue – for a while he was outselling Superman! And therein lies the problem. DC saw Captain Marvel as a threat, and after a long and drawn-out legal battle, DC and Superman defeated Captain Marvel publisher Fawcett Publications thanks to a settlement deal that cost Fawcett $400,000, and the ability to publish CM.
Over in Britain, where CM was licensed by Len Miller, the publisher hoped to continue selling Captain Marvel comics without Captain Marvel. In comes Mick Angelo and Marvelman, a wholly new and original character!
Angelo’s Marvelman lasted from 1954 to 1963 – a respectable run, and would have been all-but forgotten if not for Alan Moore, an-up-and-coming writer (in 1982) who had new and startling ideas about superheroes. In Warrior #1, he rescued Marvelman from oblivion and reimagined him as a dark mirror on humanity and the inability of people to handle such awesome power and responsibility. Moore’s dark new take on superheroes turned heads among comic readers around the world – there was even an alternate-reality, Marvelman-esque character appearing in Alan Moore and Alan Davis’ Captain Britain comics, which Davis followed up on in his solo issues. But, just as Captain Marvel’s success was his own undoing, so too was Marvelman’s new fame the key to later troubles.
See, after Captain Marvel ceased publication, other people took up the furloughed name. First there was the ersatz Captain Marvel android, from the creator of the original Human Torch android Carl Burgos, then there was the Marvel Comics version, Mar-Vell, and later Marvel’s female Captain Marvel – heck, Marvel even established their own Marvel Man in 1978! Marvel Comics, at this point, was zealously guarding the name “marvel,” so by 1985, after numerous other professional and legal issues, Marvelman was redubbed Miracleman – the name that most American readers in the 80s and 90s knew him by (nevermind that Marvel had a “Miracle Man” back in 1962).
Miracleman continued with other amazing creators taking the reigns, but by 1994, storylines by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham had to be cut short due to the bankruptcy of their then-publisher, Eclipse Comics.
Nearly two decades of legal battles later, Marvelman has found a new home again, interestingly enough, at Marvel Comics.
Why doesn’t Alan Moore’s name appear on a lot of things he created?
Alan Moore’s work – from V for Vendetta (which premiered with Marvelman in Warrior) to Watchmen to the League of Extraordinary gentlemen – has all been rightly praised, but as mentioned before, mo’ success begets mo’ difficulties.
Moore’s work has been adapted numerous times, but to he has stated repeatedly that he wrote the comics, the movies were made by others – he’ll have nothing to do with them.
The biggest offender, or the one that broke the camel’s back, may be the League movie, dubiously dubbed LXG (and strangely now being considered for a series).
Aside from being overall atrocious, the film also spawned a nonsense lawsuit that claimed Fox stole the idea for the League from an unproduced screenplay called Cast of Characters. The suit went so far as to claim Moore had been hired to write the graphic novels just so Fox wouldn’t have to pay the original screenwriters – not only insulting, but nonsensical given Moore’s creative past.
Moore has refused credit on subsequent movies, even going so far as to allow his artistic partners to take his share of any royalties due. Dave Gibbons, for example, made quite a pretty penny off the Watchmen movie, video game and subsequent prequel comics.
On more amicable terms, Moore agreed to the reprints of some of his Marvel Comics work, including Captain Britain. As before though, on some stories Moore has asked that his credit be removed.
The theory then, is that the oddly absent mention of Moore in recent press releases might be connected to an agreement between Moore and Marvel.
One would assume, that has something to do with the character being referred to as “Miracleman” for the new reprint editions, though who’s to say?
There ya go. Did that answer all your questions? No? Well, then go read a book!