Must read: Gaiman/McFarlane/Miracleman: The Saga

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This is what we call a “hot drink” post in the biz*, as in, you must get a hot drink and a comfy chair before you dive in to the next link. Pádraig Ó Méalóid has done an amazing job of putting together a Gaiman/McFarlane/Marvelman timeline, which, although it only skims the details of the Marvelman deals of the ’80s, does cover the 10-year legal battle between Gaiman and McFarlane as it pertains to Marvelman. It’s a tale of (Tony) twists and turns. Of course the pre-history is also stunning:

February 1986: Dez Skinn and Garry Leach sell their rights to Miracleman to Eclipse Comics, at least partly due to their unhappiness at Eclipse Comics’ Editor-in-Chief cat yronwode’s choice of Chuck Beckum as the next Miracleman artist, from issue #6. Garry Leach at this stage also owns Alan Davis’s share, so has 60% in total, with Dez Skinn still owning his 10%, meaning that Eclipse end up buying a 70% stake in the character.


You’ll recall (or maybe not) that Chuck Beckum is a pen name of Chuck Austen, so you can add Marvelman/Miracleman to the list of things Austen has touched and doomed.**

Anyway, that is just the beginning as we hop into a boat and drift past the “It’s an IP World After All” ride covering the last 20 years of comics, with stops for the formation of Image (BOOM!), the bankruptcy of Eclipse (BAM!), the early Gaiman-Quesada team-up at Marvel (CRASH!) and so on and on to the current day. When, Ó Méalóid accurately observes, it’s not over yet.

And still, Miracleman lies in total limbo. At this point, the story can never live up to the story behind the story, if you know what I mean.

Although, before I left for WonderCon, I held a copy of the FLEX MENTALLO collection in my hand so…miracles can happen.

* PS: I just made that term up this minute.

** We here at Stately Beat Manor have no personal beef against Austen, but we would agree that his stripped-down art style was probably not the best choice to follow Gary Leach.

Comments

  1. Chris Hero says:

    I will never stop finding it hilarious that Marvel spent millions of dollars on the rights, announced to the world they had the rights, and then found out they owned nothing. The best part is they keep insisting we’ll see Marvelman any day now.

  2. Chris Hero says:

    I’m reading this article right now while on an awful conference call. Pádraig Ó Méalóid always does a phenomenal job every time he steps up to the plate.

    It’s heartbreaking, though, that we’ll never see this story completed. All these years later it’s still my favorite comic story ever.

  3. Kevin says:

    Should I just bite the bullet and buy the Moore issues on Ebay? (Actually this is probably what the comics community needs me to do since the moment I win an auction a Miracleman Omnibus will be announced).

  4. Torsten Adair says:

    McFarlane bought the bankrupt remains of Eclipse for $25,000.

    The film for Miracleman is in Gaiman’s possession?

    When Eclipse went bankrupt and the Miracleman rights reverted, does that mean Leach and Skinn own those rights? Oh, wait, apparently Mick Anglo owned the rights since the 1950s. Which he then sold to Marvel. So, the trademark of “Miracleman” would be owned by Skinn/Leach/Gaiman/Buckingham, even though it is currently registered to TMcFP.

    The “Marvelman” trademark is owned by Marvel.

    Why do I suspect that Marvelman could become Marvel’s “Before Watchmen”?

  5. Why is it that every secret and mystery of comics usually includes Alan Moore in it somewhere? Hail Glycon!

  6. jacob lyon goddard says:

    Why kick Austen for no reason?

  7. Chris Hero says:

    @Torsten

    It’s widely believed Skinn never owned any rights in the first place, so he never actually sold Eclipse anything. Last I knew, the question was whether or not Mick Anglo owned the rights and if not, did Miller & Sons (the original publisher) or someone else own them.

    That’s part of the problem…Marvel essentially brought a quitclaim deed from the party representing Mick Anglo. But that party really didn’t know if Anglo owned anything or not.

  8. Okay JLG, see my new footnote. I like Chuck Austen but he wasn’t very suitable as a Miracleman artist.

  9. A correction, please: it wasn’t cat or anyone at Eclipse who chose Chuck Beckum to continue drawing Miracleman. It was Alan Moore who picked Chuck, over my objections. I had never even HEARD of Chuck Beckum until Alan brought him to the table. But in deference to Alan, I agreed. Turns out Chuck was a really nice guy but I—and everyone at Eclipse—thought he was complete WRONG for the series. And while cat and I have our differences, this is one thing she CAN’T be blamed for.

  10. Torsten Adair says:

    Well, Skinn et al. would own the rights to the “Miracleman” trademark, as that was created for the American market. But that’s moot, as Marvel can use “Marvelman” instead, thereby sidestepping any argument from TMP.

    The copyright is murky, especially given that the original copyright is registered in the UK, and was thought in the public domain when Miller went bust.

    U.S. courts have reinstated copyrights on public domain work if ancillary copyrights still exist. (See:”It’s A Wonderful Life”)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It's_a_Wonderful_Life#Release

    Of course, DC might argue that it’s derivative of Shazam, which is derivative of Superman, but I don’t think DC is willing to drink from that chalice. Especially if Disney copyright lawyers are involved.

    Hmmm… what about the Warpsmiths? Does that make this murkier?

  11. BTW, not that it’s important, but if I remember correctly, Beckum is his birth name, and he changed it to Austin for personal reasons.

  12. Sometimes I feel like commenting about all this & sometimes I don’t.
    Today I don’t.
    But wait, I just did, didn’t I?

  13. Skott says:

    “Although, before I left for WonderCon I held a copy of the FLEX MENTALLO collection in my hand so…miracles can happen.”

    it DOES exist. *sniffle*

  14. The one thing that seems a certainty is that those “Miracleman” issues that came out under Eclipse will never be reprinted again.

    If Marvel really, really wants to spend an awful lot more money, then they could conceivably cobble together some sort of legal standing that would allow Gaiman (or whoever) to continue the series from where the “Silver Age” story arc left off 20+ years ago.

    But the right of those actual, hard-to-find issues? They don’t come with the deal when you just buy the character, I’m afraid, especially if what you’re buying is “Marvel Man”, not “Miracleman”. Maybe Eclipse et al. never had the right to make those comics in the first place (although, I’m pretty sure they legally did; and Mick Anglo never protested). But Marvel has no right to reprint the Moore/Gaiman issues without the consent of like five or six different parties all signing on board. And I’m pretty sure Moore himself would never go for it.

    Yeah, I laughed pretty hard when Marvel bought those rights a few years ago and everyone assumed that the Eclipse stuff was going to get reprinted. It was pretty obvious that it wasn’t going to be.

  15. Dave Hartley says:

    L Miller & Sons didn’t go bust. They ceased publishing comics in 1966 but carried on distributing old stock and US imports until the early 1970s. (Until 1970 this included horror film magazines and, following Warren’s revival of the genre, horror comics. In October 1970 they were prosecuted and fined £25 under the 1955 ‘Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act’ – the UK’s response to the pre-code horror comic panic – for distributing Eerie Publications titles. They appear to be the only company ever to be prosecuted under the act). They went into voluntary liquidation in 1972 finally winding themselves up in 1974.

  16. Matt O'Hara says:

    Great article. Just about the only piece of the puzzle it doesn’t address is something that confused me for years. Why the heck did McFarlane swoop in and buy Eclipse’s assets in the first place? Turns out it had little to do with acquiring the rights to Marvelman/Miracleman. He was going after pogs. Or, as Todd called them, Spogz. The full story is on Steve Bissette’s blog entries for November 23, 2011 and November 28, 2011 at http://srbissette.com/?p=13707 and http://srbissette.com/?p=13736

  17. ” And I’m pretty sure Moore himself would never go for it.”

    Moore: “I believe that they’re going to be reprinting some of my stuff, but I’m not sure of all the details, I’ve just said, “Yeah, go ahead,” and all the money from the first book, from the first printing of the book, should go to Mick Anglo.”

    That was prior to the sale of Anglo’s rights to Marvel and Anglo’s subsequent passing, so obviously we have no idea if Moore’s feelings extend to dealing with Marvel or giving the money to Anglo’s estate, and we don’t know if Anglo’s people got anything in writing from Moore at the time. Even with those caveats, I’d say the available evidence is that if there is a stumbling block preventing a reprint/continuation of the Warrior/Eclipse material it’s probably nor Moore.

  18. Chris Hero says:

    I’ve heard and read numerous times there are two stumbling blocks and neither are Moore.

    Stumbling block #1 is Dez Skinn didn’t have the rights when the stories were originally published.

    Stumbling block #2 is Gary Leach wants nothing to do with Marvel. Since the 3rd book involves a lot of his characters in major roles, that means we’ll never see them reprinted.

  19. I just want to state for the record, that the rights to my character Captain Miracle are in no way involved in this dispute. :)

  20. Well, Mick never objected all the time we were publishing Marvelman and stayed in touch through to the early 1990s without complaining – except for those US reprints of the old stuff he was involved in. But he told me once he contacted Eclipse when he saw them in a comic shop over here and they were happy to pay for them.

    I’d like to think I fulfilled my initial promise to him, that if we could make MM work in the 1980s, there’d be a market for the by then totally dead 1950s stuff (even though he didn’t particularly like our reworking, he was happy to go along with us as he’d nothing to lose).

    I just wish he’d received some of the money Marvel shelled out for his perceived rights, but I believe he’d already signed away anything he may have owned as an editorial packager/letterer/whatever for a far smaller sum a while before then.

    Worse, it appears the (estates of) the brilliant artists whose work was actually reprinted didn’t get a single penny/cent.

    It’s an interesting world where agents and packagers get the big bucks and the actual creatives who make it happen invariably suffer. That was NOT meant to be Warrior’s legacy. Our company’s cut was never more than 10-15%, the artists/writers got 85-90% – as is the agency standard, even though we were also the originating publisher.

    Oh, and I agree with Dean. We were told at the time Alan Moore had chosen Chuck Beckham to replace Alan Davis (“he’s like another Hernandez brother”, was how it was put to us on a transAtlantic call quoting Alan.)

    Garry and I were in the office when we saw the end product, and both despaired.

    So it goes…

  21. Chris Hero says:

    Mr. Skinn,

    I’m really happy you stopped by because it gives me the opportunity to ask you a question that has been burning in my mind for a while:

    (Keep in mind, I’m an engineer who went to law school, but not a lawyer or someone who knows what he’s talking about. Just a curious mind.)

    What was the due diligence you did in regards to the rights before you published Marvelman in Warrior?

    My understanding is at the time, no one reasonably believed Mick Anglo had the rights. So, did you contact the person reasonably believed to have the rights or did you ask a lawyer and the lawyer’s advice was “looks like you’re good?” Because it seems to me a lot of people look at Warrior and think that’s where the rights become muddied. I’ve never seen someone ask you directly what you did diligence wise before publishing.

  22. Why is MIRACLEMAN so great? I have one or two issues in the middle of the story. Looked great, but I couldn’t hold interest long enough to read much.

  23. Read it and form your own opinion?

  24. jaroslav hasek says:

    sounds like mcfarlane’s claim rests on whether the Right of Transfer clause in the contract between skinn and leach with eclipse can be enforced enforced during chapter 7. if a judge says it’s more important to sell the equity (specifically the miracleman IP in this case) to the highest bidder to get the creditors as much money as possible than those transfer rights on the equity may be declared void (which is my understanding of US bankruptcy laws, but i could easily be mistaken). in which case mcfarlane owns 2/3 of miracleman. if that clause IS STILL enforceable, however, than i believe the miracleman IP would revert to gaiman/buckingham or skinn/leach (not really sure which).

    thats of course assuming that skinn et all had the marvelman IP rights free and clear to start with. but the more actual lawyers and such who can comment on this (and correct me!) the better. im just a fan speculating!

    i think everyone should get together over some beers and just settle this. we can start a kickstarter campaign to raise money to bring everyone to the table. say we raise 100,000 bucks and will donate to charity IF everything can be resolved. considering it all started over $25,000 worth IP i’d hope thats enough motivation for everyone to just get something done.

  25. First of al, thank you all very much for all your kind words. Because I am a picky soul (you might have got that from my piece), I’m going to go through this to address various things brought up by various people. So…

    #although it only skims the details of the Marvelman deals of the ’80s…‘ That’s because this particular post was not specifically about Marvelman. There are other posts on the blog about MM, and there will be more posts in the future about MM, never fear.

    We here at Stately Beat Manor have no personal beef against Austen, but we would agree that his stripped-down art style was probably not the best choice to follow Gary Leach.‘ I have no beef against Chuck Austen either, but I have to say, hand on heart, that that’s some god-awful art he did in #6 & #7. And who he was following was Alan Davis, not Garry Leach, who was in earlier issues (and that’s Garry with two Rs, not Gary with one).

    @Chris Hero: ‘Marvel spent millions of dollars on the rights‘ – If you have any sort of documentary proof of how much they spent, I’d love to see it!

    The best part is they keep insisting we’ll see Marvelman any day now.‘ There’s a brief history of their pronouncements on the forthcomingness of MM here.

    Pádraig Ó Méalóid always does a phenomenal job every time he steps up to the plate.‘ I blush!

    @Torsten Adair: ‘The “Marvelman” trademark is owned by Marvel.‘ If you have actual proof of their ownership in a trademark on MM, I’d love to see it.

    @Chris Hero: ‘It’s widely believed Skinn never owned any rights in the first place… ‘Widely believed’ is not the same as ‘true.’

    Miller & Sons (the original publisher)‘ It was Miller & Son, in the singular. Leonard Miller and his wife, Florrie, had one son, Arnold, and one daughter, Doreen. Arnold was certainly still alive about two years back, when I was corresponding with him.

    the question was whether or not Mick Anglo owned the rights and if not, did Miller & Sons (the original publisher) or someone else own them.‘ I’ve yet to have anyone explain to me how, in the 1950s comics business on either side of the Atlantic, a studio owner like Mick Anglo, working on a character on a work-for-hire basis, ended up magically owning the rights to that character. And not to any *other* character he worked on over the years, just that one.

    @Dean Mullaney: Thanks for the clarification. I’ll add an addendum to my piece, quoting yourself and Dez Skinn on this. Do you have any idea why Alan was so keen to have Beckum onboard? And, Moore he was so keen, how come Beckum was given the heave-ho after only two issues?

    @Torsten Adair: ‘given that the original copyright is registered in the UK, and was thought in the public domain when Miller went bust.‘ Any chance you could point me at somewhere where I could see that ‘the original copyright is registered in the UK’? And L Miller & Co never went bust, but rather had the company wound up.

    Hmmm… what about the Warpsmiths? Does that make this murkier?‘ A very interesting question…

    @larrymarder: If you feel like talking to me about this, I’d be all ears!

    @BobH: Thanks for quoting from that old interview I did with Alan!

    … we don’t know if Anglo’s people got anything in writing from Moore at the time.‘ I’m pretty sure he has told me that he did put various things in writing. I did at least one interview with him about this that hasn’t actually seen the light of day yet. When the book comes out, all will be revealed.

    @Chris Hero: ‘I’ve heard and read numerous times there are two stumbling blocks … Stumbling block #1 is Dez Skinn didn’t have the rights when the stories were originally published.‘ It’s one things to hear and read it, but have you seen any proof? One way or the other? One of the reasons I write the kind of stuff I write, both on that blog and elsewhere, is to try to cut through all the ‘I’ve heard‘ stuff, and find the verifiable facts.

    @Dezskinn: ‘I just wish he’d received some of the money Marvel shelled out for his perceived rights, but I believe he’d already signed away anything he may have owned as an editorial packager/letterer/whatever for a far smaller sum a while before then.‘ Yes, I believe you’re completely right here.

    @Chris Hero: ‘What was the due diligence you did in regards to the rights before you published Marvelman in Warrior? … I’ve never seen someone ask you directly what you did diligence wise before publishing.‘ Dez can of course speak for himself, but I would like to say it is my firm opinion that, yes, Dez did look into this, and did speak to lawyers and copyright specialists about this, and formed the conclusion that MM was in fact in the public domain, and he acted both legally and honourably at all times in regard to this. Far from somehow ripping off Mick Anglo, as is sometimes said, he included Anglo in his preparations for publishing MM, and Anglo was behind him all the way.

    And I think that’s everything I can find to comment on. Thanks again for all the useful comments, folks. Information is power!

  26. Pádraig, thanks for stopping by and the clarifications.

    >>>‘the question was whether or not Mick Anglo owned the rights and if not, did Miller & Sons (the original publisher) or someone else own them.‘ I’ve yet to have anyone explain to me how, in the 1950s comics business on either side of the Atlantic, a studio owner like Mick Anglo, working on a character on a work-for-hire basis, ended up magically owning the rights to that character. And not to any *other* character he worked on over the years, just that one.

    I have wondered that one myself.

    Dez Skinn: “He’s like another Hernandez brother.”

    Austen/Bekcum was drawing in a very clean, stripped down Hernandez-inspired style at the time, if I recall. And 80s creators WORSHIPPED the Hernandez Brothers. (As do 90s, 00s and 10s creators). So, at least that part is explained.

    Looking forward to your continued explorations. (And I’ll fix my mistakes, as well.)

  27. Hopefully this is not too irrelevant a question, but I always wondered about the many creators involved in the short lived MM Apocrypha series. Specifically, and aside from Gaiman and Buckingham, were they all work for hires? Who exactly signed their checks?

  28. Chris Hero says:

    Pádraig

    Wow, I *truly* appreciate you taking the time to thoughtfully and thoroughly go through all the inaccuracies and questions we had. I know any knowledge I have of the situation is entirely from your tireless efforts. I’m sorry for any and all inaccuracies.

    I find it really good to know Mr. Skinn did do his best due diligence. I think it’s very heartening to know there was not only no foul play, but a real effort at trying to do right by everyone.

    That was really, really cool of you, Pádraig. *HUGE* thanks!

  29. >> Hopefully this is not too irrelevant a question, but I always wondered about the many creators involved in the short lived MM Apocrypha series. Specifically, and aside from Gaiman and Buckingham, were they all work for hires? >>

    Yes.

    >> Who exactly signed their checks? >>

    Whoever signed Eclipse checks. Dean Mullaney, I think, but I could be misremembering.

    kdb

  30. Makes me want to go dig out my first three issues of Warrior and reread them. Wish I’d bought more of them, but it was the 80s and those were a little difficult to get back then.

  31. I just hope in my lifetime, to finally see a proper MM omnibus, with everything (including Apocrypha) all under one glorious package. Regardless of publisher.

    (A new series would be swell as well, but I think this is such a tangled mess that there will likely always be a disgruntled party somewhere. A truly sad casualty of the industry.)

  32. Our yearly reminder on this story. Thanks. Now someone post on update on the Superman lawsuit. We all need to know about non-news.

    thanks

  33. Comics is in big trouble -we are still debating the 1980s stuff done by hairy Alan.

  34. It’s funny to read these posts proclaiming with certainty that the Miracleman stories from Eclipse will never be reprinted. Here in the future, in 2014, reprints from Marvel comics are well underway! It looks like they managed to sort out the legal trouble. Thank goodness these stories are back in print!

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