Poisoned Chalice Part 16: Who Own Marvelman? Part II

[Previous chapters: 1 to 8 – 1953 – 1985 Roundup, 9 – The Dawn of Eclipse, 10 – Alan Moore at Eclipse, 11 – The Twilight of Eclipse, 12 – All About Angela, 13 – More Angela, More Courtrooms, and Much More Todd, 14 – Back to Marvelman, 14.1 – Updates and Clarifications on Marvelman, 15 – Who Owns Marvelman? Part I]

At this point I want to re-examine Mick Anglo’s part in the creation of Marvelman. To quite an extent Anglo’s involvement in this has become mythologised, and I want to try to find a more balanced version of events. Much of what I’m going to quote are his own words, from various interviews quoted earlier in this book. As I’ve mentioned a few times previously, however, his recollection is sometimes vague, particularly in relation to dates, and he does appear to have the perfectly forgivable habit of making himself the hero of his own stories.

Mick Anglo’s set up was as a comics packager, producing a finished periodical to specifications from a publisher. All of his work for those publishers appears to have been what we would now call work-made-for-hire. This work was generally produced by a large number of different people under his supervision at his Gower Street Studios, and it seems likely that the vast majority of the actual writing of individual stories was left in the hands of the artists, with some tweaking done by Anglo later on, at the lettering stage, which he usually insisted on doing himself. Don Lawrence said,

I went to see a man called Ted Holmes at Amalgamated Press who gave me a tryout, which I failed!! […] Anyway he paid me for the art and he said, ‘Well look, why don’t you try Mick Anglo,’ who was the bottom of the bottom, you know, you can’t get any lower than Mick Anglo. So I did and he paid me a pound a page for black-and-white and he gave me a tryout and he said okay, and that’s how I started.

He just sort of said ‘off you go’ and he gave me a few scripts to start with, but after a while they dried up and I started writing my own stories. […] I did everything except the lettering. I mean I pencilled in the word balloons and the lettering, but Mick would ink the lettering. We would agree on the story and I would write it out, then Mick would rub out my lettering and put something totally different in his own language when he got it back.

Anglo was more interested in turning out work in quantity to the publishers’ specifications that in anything like the rights to what he was producing, as far as I can make out. In any case, concepts like creators’ rights were still a long way in the future, back in the early years of the nineteen fifties. In Kimota! he says,

I employed a pretty large staff of freelancers: script writers and artists. […] All I was interested in was producing the stuff and getting paid on the nail, and that’s how it worked out.

Although Anglo was probably the only person in Britain running that kind of American-style comics’ art studio, he was more in the style of studios like Harry Chesler’s than Will Eisner’s. Like Chesler, Anglo got the credit, but in general the work was produced by other – probably more talented – artists for small amounts of money.

8479276660 6b236d5a41 m Poisoned Chalice Part 16: Who Own Marvelman? Part IIThe first work Anglo did for L Miller and Son Ltd seems to have been Ace Malloy of the Special Squadron #50 in August 1952, published under Arnold Miller’s Arnold Book Company imprint. He produced more work for them after that, but not necessarily a huge amount, at that. Up to the end of 1953, he also did work on Illustrated Bible Tales, Pete Mangan of the Space Patrol, and Space Comics, but those are the only titles I can find a record of him doing for them at that point. And it’s probably worth bearing in mind that Miller had been publishing Captain Marvel comics for quite some time before Anglo did any work for him. So, with what appears to have been a comparatively small amount of work produced by him for L Miller, this was where things stood when Fawcett were forced to stop supplying Miller with material for their Captain Marvel reprints. Anglo’s version of events is told in a few different places, starting in his own Nostalgia: Spotlight on the Fifties, where he says,

Among Len Miller’s most successful series were the Captain Marvel titles, reprints of Fawcett’s of New York. One day Len phoned and said he wanted to see me urgently. Fawcett’s were involved in some legal trouble with Superman over Captain Marvel; an injunction had been slapped on them, and Len said it looked as if his supply of American material for Captain Marvel would be cut off. Had I any ideas? I had, and for my trouble received a regular supply of work for the next six years.

In Alter Ego #87 he says,

One day in late 1953, I think, the Millers rang me to say, ‘Come over, Mick – urgent – very urgent!’ I went to the warehouse premises, and much consternation! Len was in a right old mood. It seemed that in the USA Fawcett had lost a court fight with Superman comics, etc, and could no longer market their Captain Marvel character; thus Miller, in turn, wouldn’t receive further supplies of the comic plates to print Captain Marvel. They held the license to reprint the comics in Britain, and he was one of their very lucrative lines. This created big problems! […] So boss Len needed a substitute real fast and could I come up with something?

I went back to Gower and […] I gave it considerable thought and eventually came up with the idea of a Brit clone. I worked out a storyline, and so it was that Micky Moran, a teenage copy boy at The Daily Bugle, becomes Marvelman by shouting the all-power-producing word KIMOTA which of course is ATOMIC spelt backwards, using K for a stronger sound.

In Kimota! he says,

Miller was left with no material to publish Captain Marvel. So what happened is that he created his own character through me and it was very successful. It wasn’t exactly the same thing, but similar, so one could take over from the other easily.

And later on he says,

I was courted to do something to resuscitate that material. We did it for seven or eight years.

He also says, when asked about the ownership of the character,

I don’t know; that was Miller’s sort of thing. I knew nothing about those sorts of things.

Arnold Miller denies that the dramatic meeting between Miller and Anglo ever actually took place. He says,

It seems as though Mick Anglo has a vivid imagination that extends far and above drawing. His meetings with Len Miller my father did not occur.

The real story as I remember is this, Mick Anglo was employed by L Miller and Son Ltd to write and draw story lines for Marvelman and the Marvelman Family comics, the rights to use the titles were given to L Miller and Son Ltd by Fawcett Publications. Mick Anglo has no copyright on the title Marvelman or Marvelman Family.

Fawcett were aware of L Miller and Son Ltd publishing and using the name Marvelman, Marvelman Family, etc.

Although, of course, there must have been some sort of meeting between Anglo and Miller to sort out the details of how to create a character to step into Captain Marvel’s shoes, just not quite as melodramatic as Anglo’s version would have us believe, I imagine.

The thing is, nowhere in any of the interviews Mick Anglo gave does he ever say, ‘I own Marvelman.’ Rather, he says, in different places,

Miller was left with no material to publish Captain Marvel. … I was courted to do something to resuscitate that material. … Miller … created his own character through me … I went back to Gower … and eventually came up with the idea of a Brit clone. … It wasn’t exactly the same thing, but similar, so one could take over from the other easily.

And on the subject of ownership he says,

I don’t know; that was Miller’s sort of thing. I knew nothing about those sorts of things … All I was interested in was producing the stuff and getting paid on the nail.

Everything he ever says about the character tells the same story, in the same chronological order: He spoke to Miller about a replacement for Captain Marvel, then gave it some thought, then came up with essentially a more or less direct copy of the character, with enough details changed to give it the appearance of being a different character, which character was created specifically for and subsequently wholly owned by L Miller and Son Ltd. Mick Anglo wasn’t some sort of comics visionary, he was just a man trying to make a living in the best way he knew how. There’s no reason why he would have somehow owned the rights for one comic he produced for a client, out of all his output. That’s not how it worked at the time, on either side of the Atlantic.

8457332862 be44b9aeb5 m Poisoned Chalice Part 16: Who Own Marvelman? Part IIOn the other hand, Anglo did sometimes act very proprietorially towards Marvelman. He produced a few different comics that were apparently direct copies of old Marvelman stories, with just enough changed, once again, to give them the appearance of being different characters. There was Captain Universe, AKA The Super Marvel, who was a man called Jim Logan who said the magic word GALAP to be changed into his alternative incarnation, published for one issue in 1954 by Arnold Book Company; Captain Miracle, a man called Johnny Dee with the magic word El Karim, published for nine issues by Anglo Comics starting in 1960, just after Anglo ceased working for the Millers; and Miracle Man, a man called Johnny Chapman with the magic word Sundisc, published for thirteen issues by Top Sellers in 1965. The last two are said to simply be redrawn Marvelman stories, but I haven’t actually seen any of these, so can’t vouch for that directly, although I’ve no reason to doubt it, either, particularly as my source for this, Loki’s excellent InternationalHero.co.uk website, is generally very accurate.

So, Mick Anglo seems to have felt that it was OK for him to do what were apparently direct copies of Marvelman, at least three times in the dozen years after the Millers first published the character. Although, of course, if they were copies of Marvelman, they were also copies of Captain Marvel, and he was really only doing what the Millers had done before him. None the less, and for whatever reason, Anglo did this three times, and only seems to have been pulled up short once, in 1954, when the Captain Universe comic only ran to one issue. It is a shame none of his interviewers asked him why he did this, and it is too late now, as he died on the 31st of October, 2011. Like a lot of things, it seems to be tantalizingly close to pointing to something, but the last fact that will join it all up just isn’t there.

None the less, Mick Anglo never claimed ownership of Marvelman, anywhere I have ever seen, then or now. Yet we are now given to understand that the ownership of Marvelman was apparently always his, according to both Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore, but are never told how this came about, just that it turns out that the rights were Anglo’s all along. So I’m now going to try to present a series of circumstances where at least some of this might be possible.

Before I move on to that, though, I want to briefly address Don Lawrence’s relationship with Marvelman, which appears to have been considerable. In Nostalgia, Mick Anglo refers to him as, ‘Don Lawrence, the first of the Marvelman artists.’ On the Don Lawrence website, there was an admittedly somewhat jumbled entry, now changed, that said,

Don started his career with drawing superheroes. In his case it was Marvelman, a comic based on Captain Martin [sic] and originally was called Captain Universe. But after the threat of a lawsuit, the editor changed the name in Marvelman.

Don Lawrence was one of the first artists working on Marvelman. Together with Norman Light and Denis Gifford he was involved with the creation of Britain’s first superhero. The comic was produced by the Gower Street Studio owned by the legendary Mick Anglo. The company L Miller and Son were the clients for whom comics like Daniel Boone and Davy Crocket were also produced.

And another that said,

Don is the creator of the spin-off Marvelman Family, which he had made up all by himself.

It certainly seems as if Lawrence was substantially more involved in the creation and ongoing story of Marvelman than most of the other artists who worked on it, and may indeed have been directly responsible for creating the character, under Mick Anglo’s direction. One of the people who saw the page of artwork that is allegedly being offered as proof that Anglo created Marvelman before he talked to the Millers has expressed the opinion that, to their eye, the art style looked a lot more like Lawrence’s than Anglo’s. Of course, without actually seeing the alleged page publically displayed for people to make up their own minds, this is no more than one person’s opinion, and by no means conclusive in any way. It is, however, an intriguing possibility, and one that makes an interesting conjecture if you add to it the fact that, as well as completely omitting to mention Alan Moore at any point, the Marvelman Classic Primer published by Marvel Comics in 2010 also never once mentions Don Lawrence in relation to Marvelman, either, despite his extensive connections to it.

As I said before the brief digression above, the rights to Marvelman seem to have been left up in the air after L Miller and Co Ltd was wound up in 1974. However, just three years after that, in 1977, Mick Anglo produced Nostalgia: Spotlight on the Fifties, where there is a page of Young Marvelman art reproduced, along with a copyright notice saying Mick Anglo Ltd – © down the side of one of the panels, a copyright notice that wasn’t there in the original publication of the comic in which the page appeared in 1954. Could that notice have been all it took to claim copyright on an abandoned property? If something has no owner, no copyright holder, is publication of a page that was previously published by its original copyright holder, but with a new copyright notice on it, all it takes to successfully claim that copyright? It doesn’t seem likely to me, but one thing I have learnt while writing this book is that, with copyright law, absolutely anything is possible. After all, Dez Skinn said he hoped to claim the copyright on Marvelman by publication, so perhaps that was all there was to it, and Mick Anglo Ltd became the new copyright owner of Marvelman. (Although, of course, Skinn was publishing new material which he was claiming copyright on, which Anglo had not done.)

None of this explains how the character was Anglo’s from the beginning, as is now being claimed, but it is at least one possible route for the rights to have ended up belonging to Mick Anglo Ltd. And I think there is an important distinction in the rights being owned by the company, rather than by Mick Anglo himself, which I’ll get to a bit later on. So, after L Miller and Co wound up, Marvelman may have become ownerless, and may subsequently have become the property of Mick Anglo Ltd. However, what happened next would seem to contradict any deliberate and conscious attempt at claiming the character on Anglo’s part.

8456952634 45c7b13f5c m Poisoned Chalice Part 16: Who Own Marvelman? Part IIWhat happened next was this: in 1982, five years after that copyright notice appeared in Anglo’s Nostalgia, Dez Skinn’s Quality Communications started publishing Warrior, which included Alan Moore’s radical revival of Marvelman. Dez Skinn talked to Mick Anglo about his intention to publish Marvelman, and both of their retellings of their meetings largely agree. Skinn says,

I got in touch with Mick Anglo. I met with Mick and I said, ‘Look, I know you don’t own it but if we bring the character back and it’s popular… You have thousands of pages of material’ […] because it would be nice for an old guy like Mick Anglo if we could reprint stuff that he was involved in and pay him.

And Mick Anglo says,

[Dez Skinn] contacted me and he wanted to revive [Marvelman] and I said, ‘Go ahead and do what you like,’ as far as I was concerned.

When Roger Dicken interviewed Mick Anglo for Alter Ego in 2009, and mentioned that there had been a new incarnation of Marvelman in Warrior, the only thing Anglo said was,

That’s correct, and I have to say that some of that new stuff was very well-drawn.

Perhaps more than any other person in the story of Marvelman, Dez Skinn is the one who has had the largest amount of plain and simple falsehood written about him. It is by no means uncommon to see online articles that state that Skinn somehow stole or otherwise misappropriated Marvelman from Anglo. There simply is no truth of any kind in this, as far as my considerable research shows. At the time that Skinn was putting Warrior together it appeared that the copyright to Marvelman, which had belonged to the Millers, was no longer the property of anyone. He went to talk to Britain’s preeminent comics historian at that time, Denis Gifford, just to be sure about the current situation with the rights to Marvelman, who told him to check with Anglo. It certainly appears, from both of their reports, that there was no perceived reason to believe that the rights were owned by Anglo, or indeed that any of them believed that the rights were owned by anyone at all. And, in all the three years that Warrior was in existence, the only legal correspondence that they got was from Marvel Comics UK – rather than from any aggrieved potential rights holder, complaining about their property being used.

The plain truth, as I see it, appears to be that Dez Skinn decided he was interested in the possibility of reviving the old Marvelman comic character in his forthcoming comics magazine, Warrior. He knew that the previous rights holders, L Miller and Co Ltd, had gone out of business, so he went to talk to the most knowledgeable person in British comics at the time, Denis Gifford, who perhaps reassured him about what he believed, but suggested he go talk to Mick Anglo about what he wished to do, which Skinn then did. Anglo had no objection to Skinn reviving the character – ‘I said go ahead and do what you like, as far as I was concerned,’ a statement that could be considered to be effectively a verbal contract, if Anglo actually had rights to the character at the time – so he went ahead with his plan. Just to be sure, Skinn talked to a few legal people who specialised in copyright. At the same time a young, still unknown writer called Alan Moore got wind of the fact that Marvelman was going to be revived, and, after being recommended to Skinn by Steve Moore, was given a chance to submit a story plan on spec, which was accepted. The rest, as they say, is history.

The other persistent story from this period of time is that Skinn told Moore that the Millers had gone bankrupt, and that he’d bought the rights to Marvelman from the Official Receiver. Again, I don’t think this is true, or at least not completely true. It’s easy to forget, at this far remove, that at the time we’re talking about Alan Moore was a young neophyte comics writer, still very much at the beginning of his career, and that Dez Skinn was the big name British comics editor, with an illustrious career path behind him, heading for what would be perhaps his most famous and enduring contribution to UK comics. How much would Skinn have felt he needed to explain to his new young writer? We do know that he mentioned getting the rights to Marvelman in his internal newsletters, though, so it was certainly something that was being talked about at that time. I think this is another case where something that was probably seen as reasonably trivial at the time has assumed greater importance as time has passed, and that both sides are giving their own version of what may have been a passing conversation at the time. I’m not saying anything either of them said is wrong, just that, thirty years later, it is possible that one or both may misremember the finer details of what was said. I think that, at the time, both Moore and Skinn believed they were free to go ahead with their plan to revive Marvelman, and it certainly seems that everything they knew at the time affirmed this. Even Moore hints at this, in another interview I did with him in May 2009, where he said,

All of the things that we were told when we were doing Warrior turned out to have been fabrications, you know, unwitting fabrications, but fabrications none the less.

There certainly seems to have been no objection from anyone, neither the Millers nor Mick Anglo, nor any other potentially interested party, to Marvelman being published in Warrior. It is my own opinion that Dez Skinn acted honourably, did everything he could to clarify the legal status of the character to his own satisfaction and, having ascertained that there was no copyright holder at the time, went ahead to publish it himself. He did not set out to deceive anyone, and he certainly didn’t set out to somehow deceive Mick Anglo, or to steal his putative rights to Marvelman – on the contrary, he seemed to want to put money Anglo’s way, and to keep him informed of what was being done with the character. Dez Skinn has been judged harshly by history about this, and I really hope that I can help to set the record straight here.

Did Skinn, Moore and Leach actually own the copyright to Marvelman when they published it in Warrior in 1982, though, and if not, who did? Some of the possible alternatives are: the Millers inadvertently assigned the rights to someone else when they wound up the company, but that person didn’t know they had the rights. This really doesn’t seem likely, and certainly doesn’t get us any further as, if this really was the case, then it would appear that that person still doesn’t realise they own the rights. So, the Millers didn’t assign the rights, from everything we know. Did Mick Anglo own the rights? He certainly doesn’t seem to have acted as if he did, from everything he and others said at the time, and he has never explicitly stated that he owned it, anywhere that I can find. So, if it’s not the Millers’, or belonging to some heir or assignee of theirs, and not Mick Anglo’s, that really only leaves it as an abandoned property of one kind or another, unless by some really tortuous reasoning it somehow can be seen as being claimable by DC Comics or Fawcett or their heirs, a very remote possibility indeed. So, from my own – non-legal – reasoning, I can’t see how Skinn and Moore were in breach of anyone’s copyright at that time.

Did Skinn, Moore and Leach – and subsequently Alan Davis – own the copyright in 1982? A reasonable man, presented with the facts as they are currently known, might very well say ‘Yes.’ But, as I’ve said before, there are certainly things going on in the story of Marvelman that I don’t know about, and one of those things may well be some form of documentation that clarifies the ownership of Marvelman, and which claims that ownership was Mick Anglo’s, right from the get go. If this really exists, I imagine I’m not the only person who’d like to see it.

To Be Continued…

Comments

  1. Just about to enjoy, but wondering, being cute? Or meant to be “owned” or “owns”?

  2. Chris Hero says:

    Regarding the end of your article, the thought I keep having is how ironic the whole thing is. No one would care who owns Marvelman but for Warrior’s Marvelman stories…stories that no one can figure out who actually owns them.

    I’ve mentioned before your articles, plus a correspondence I had with Skinn on a message board or comments section, completely changed my mind on Skinn’s behavior. I absolutely believe he did the best due dilligence he could at the time to secure the rights. With all the access we have with the Internet now, we can’t figure out who owned the rights then; how was he to do any better?

    It seems to me we’re never going to see the Moore/Gaiman stories reprinted. Oh well, at least I still have all the original comics….

  3. Would love to see an interview with Joe Quesada, or one of of Marvel’s lawyers, who can help comics fandom understand what the company actually bought, and from whom. They have published reprints of some of the old Marvelman stories, so it seems that they are asserting some kind of copyright. Was there any legal fallout from that? If they can pay the creators of the “new” Miracleman work (Moore, Leach, Gaiman, et al), what’s the hold up on reprinting it?

  4. That’s what I’ve been wondering. Why not go directly to Marvel and dig and find out what they know? They are the last to publish Marvelman material, they must know something important. I realize finding out what Marvel knows wouldnt have allowed you to do 12 or more of these columns and dragging out the drama…

    Or maybe you can’t get anything out of Marvel?

  5. Chris Hero says:

    I think the problem is more Marvel doesn’t even know what Marvel owns. That’s why they keep saying stuff like they’ll unveil their plans for Marvelman “soon.” They basically paid a lot of money for whatever rights Mick Anglo sold to Emotiv, but no one knows what those rights are.

  6. Darren J Hudak says:

    Marvel now has Disney behind it. With the power of the mouse behind it if Marvel really wanted to reprint it or even continue it they would and the Mouse’s lawyers could keep any claimants in court for decades. So either Marvel realized they don’t have the rights or they think they do have the rights but want to keep on good terms with some of the original creators, (some of whom still do work on occasion with Marvel). I have no info either way but I’d be willing to bet Marvel wants to be in the Clear with Allan Moore and the various other creators involved, to avoid bad publicity if nothing else.

  7. Molnek says:

    I kind of enjoy thinking marvel essentially got hussled when they bought whatever they it is they got. I still don’t understand what if anything is stopping them from printing something new though.

  8. If Anglo owns Marvelman, you won’t find documentation showing it. Under UK copyright law, and I understand this applied from 1911 and not just since the current law passed in 1988, copyright in a creative work automatically belongs to the person or body who created it, even if it was created under commission, unless it’s explicitly assigned to someone else. It belongs to your employer if you create it in the course of your employment, but contracting jobs are different. Anglo’s studio was contracted by Millers to provide them with a comic, and assuming Anglo’s studio employed the writers and artists who did the actual work, then copyright automatically belongs to Anglo’s studio. It only belongs to Millers if there was a contract in which Millers and Anglo agreed that. In the absence of an explicit contract, Anglo’s studio is the default owner. That’s how I understand it anyway.

  9. Andrew Phillip Smith says:

    Patrick, you’re spot on, and this is what I’ve been telling Pádraig for a while, though he doesn’t find it convincing for some reason. Arnold Miller stated that Anglo was an employee, but as he was a comics packager who supplied various publishers, ran a studio, and within a few months of MM being published set up a limited company, he couldn’t have been an employee.

    But Don Lawrence couldn’t have been employed by Anglo either as he said that he was paid a page rate, not a salary. (Incidentally “work for hire” is not a term in UK law.) There’s a list of guidelines as to whether someone is self-employed or an employee here: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/employment-status/#1

    For comparison we have the very relevant case of Moore and Davis’ work on Captain Britain. Even though Captain Britain was owned by Marvel, and the job was understood as standard comics work in which they gave up all their rights for a page rate, and each issue in which Captain Britain was published had a standard copyright notice, Moore and Davis retained their copyrights because Marvel UK didn’t get them to sign them away. So Anglo and the other artists retain their copyrights unless they were employees (which they weren’t) or they signed them away, for which there is no evidence.

    Marvel is claiming copyright on MM and no one has come forward (to my knowledge) with a challenge to that copyright.
    But while I don’t agree with some of your arguments this is a fascinating read, Pádraig, and your research is impressive.

  10. Pedro Bouça says:

    Patrick Brown is right. This is not the United States! The PUBLISHER is required to prove that it has the rights, else it belongs to the creator. That’s the whole claim Grant Morrison has on Zenith, by the way.

    I very much doubt such proof still exists (if it ever did, I understand much of that early stuff was done without regular paperwork…), so the character belonged to Anglo at the time unless Miller can produce the documents.

    As far as I know, in UK and other civilized countries the copyright owner isn’t required to protect (i.e. sue) his copyright from violations to mantain it, unlike the US, so the Skinn Marvelman doesn’t mean that the Anglo copyright was “abandoned” or anything. So, yes, the Marvelman (character) copyright DOES belong to Marvel unless the fabled Miller documents exist.

    I can’t say who owns the Skinn Marvelman/Miracleman however. An actual british lawyer needs to sort that out…

  11. Andrew Phillip Smith says:

    But Don Lawrence couldn’t have been employed by Anglo either as he said that he was paid a page rate, not a salary.

    Not necessarily. It’s possible to be employed on “piece work“, i.e. paid per unit produced. But I did say “assuming” – if Anglo contracted the work out to his various writers and artists that rather complicates things.

  12. with all due respect to the work of Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, John Totleben, Rich Veitch and….uh…Chuck Austin…Why is this so worthy of attention as to require the whole ‘Poisoned Chalice’ series? WHO OWN MARVELMAN??? –WHO CARE WHO OWN MARVELMAN!

  13. majorjoe23 says:

    “I care enough to let everyone know I don’t care!”

  14. Greg Morrow says:

    Until I have a deluxe hardcover reprint, published fairly and legally with appropriate recompense, of the Moore run on my bookshelf, I care very much who owns the rights.

  15. Stephen Schumacher says:

    Another great article and series of comments. I was totally sold on Padraig’s conclusions (especially about the bum rap against Skinn) until the wrinkle in the comments appeared about British law assigning copyrights to contractors but not employees, which is the only possible way it could be claimed that Anglo’s company always held the copyright. Even if true, it’s complicated by (1) confusion whether Anglo was an employee when he first started providing MM to the Miller company; (2) confusion whether Lawrence was an employee when he first started drawing MM for Anglo; (3) confusion whether Anglo’s never-asserted copyright was abandoned or orally assigned to Skinn; (4) confusion whether an admitted rip-off of Captain Marvel (created intentionally to evade a legal judgment) could ever be copyrighted in the first place.

    However, the MAJOR confusion I see is between “copyright” and “trademark”. In my opinion, it’s clear that the copyright to the Skinn/Moore/Leach/Davis pages was held by Skinn/Moore/Leach/Davis, while the copyright to the Anglo studio pages is a mystery… maybe abandoned, or held by the British crown, or held by Lawrence, or held by Anglo & sold to Emotiv & then to Marvel. But few give a fig about the Anglo studio pages, as evidenced by Marvel’s failure to sell nearly any copies of them. The only relevance of the Anglo studio pages is if that somehow establishes a TRADEMARK on the MM property which the Skinn et al pages were violating.

    But Skinn’s research and approval form Anglo demonstrate that Skinn was NOT violating any existing MM trademark, so there seems to be no impediment to Skinn/Moore/Leach/Davis holding the copyright to the pages they created under British law.

    But what about the continuing trademark to MM? I have no idea what the deal is under British law, but under American law this abandoned trademark would have been secured by Skinn when he started using it in 1982 – in the same way that M. F. Enterprises followed by Marvel picked up the trademark to “Captain Marvel” after Fawcett abandoned it. Note that owning the CM trademark did not include any copyrights to previously published material, which was owned by Fawcett and sold to DC.

    On this basis, since Marvel was the last to publish MM materials, I suppose it owns the MM trademark so long as Marvel continues to periodically publish MM material.

    So to answer Padraig’s closing question: “Did Skinn, Moore and Leach – and subsequently Alan Davis – own the copyright in 1982?” I would say that Skinn et al held the trademark to MM in 1982 and owned the copyright to their own pages, but the copyright to the Anglo studio pages were owned by someone else or nobody. But as Padraig says, there does seem to be a piece missing here that we don’t know about.

  16. Stephen Schumacher says:

    I now realize there’s a third point (beyond “copyright” to the actual pages and “trademark”) that’s more relevant to this case – namely the “copyright” to reuse characters & concepts such as “Mike Moran”, MM’s origin & powers, etc. That’s why Marvel’s trademark to CM allows it to publish a “Captain Marvel” title, but only one about a different character than shazam-shouting Billy Batson. So I suppose the copyright to the Anglo studio “creations” such as “Mike Moran”, “KIMOTA!”, etc. might be relevant to whether Skinn could reuse them in his 1982 Warrior stories. But since these were never legitimate creations, instead pseudo-legal derivative works ripped off from Captain Marvel… I don’t see how they could be any more eligible for copyright protection than the “Captain Marbles” character in MAD Magazine’s “Superduperman” parody.

  17. Molnek says:

    So if Anglo was the owner according to UK copyright laws, then everyone else owns their pages wether they drew or wrote them, especially seeing as it’s a pretty easy argument Skinn got permission.
    I’m guessing Marvel just doesn’t want to pay those involved with the issues we’re interested in after they thought they had it all and realised they only got Anglo’s pages.

  18. “Did Skinn, Moore and Leach – and subsequently Alan Davis – own the copyright in 1982?” It seems to me they owned, or Skinn owned (depending on the contract) all the new work they created, but they could not own the Marvelman character, who was either a lapsed property owned by nobody, or was still owned by Anglo (or Miller, or Don Lawrence or whoever “really” created him). And Anglo may have given his blessing to the revival of the character, but he never signed over copyright, probably because he never imagined he owned it.

    Fascinating series! It’s 3am, I really need to sleep now.

  19. jaroslav hasek says:

    another question about the already published Moore/Gaiman stories: does anyone NOT want them republished? I imagine there will be plenty of people claiming a piece of the profits, but none of the creators involved are saying they absolutely don’t want the material sold again, ever, correct? maybe Moore wants his name taken off it?

    so assuming that everyone wants to see 4, $50 hardcover volumes back in print, I say Marvel should sack up, re-release Marvelman vols 1-4, put all the profits in escrow, then let whoever wants to take them to court speak now or forever hold their peace. they should also say whatever piece they’re left with (Marvel that is), will be donated to the Hero Initiative (for vols 1-4).

    Then, when they settle with all the claimants, either in or out of court, they can then go about the business of having Gaiman and Bucky et al finish up the series.

    There’s money on the table and there are new, quality stories to be told. There’s a deal to be made somewhere.

    or maybe it’s naive wishful thinking on my part. afterall, its not called the poisoned chalice for nothing!

  20. Excellent series, just caught up and read it. Of note and interest to all I’m sure, I see that Mick Anglo’s 1965 Miracle Man is excerpted and commented on at:

    http://superitch.com/?p=18162

    I haven’t actually read any of this material having just found it from Googling during the reading of Part 16 of Poisoned Chalice here.

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  2. […] up to last week’s announcement, I strongly recommend this excellent series of posts (here’s an alternate link, to one of the posts in the series with links to the rest in the first […]

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