by The Beat and Pádraig Ó Méalóid
At last weekend’s C2E2, the Rebellion/2000 AD crowd was out and represented by marketing man about town Michael Molcher. Snapping a pic of him and his fellow boothworkers you could not help but notice that they were wearing T-shirts bearing the logo of Zenith, which is, after Marvelman, perhaps the greatest “lost” superhero of UK comics. Created by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell, with original character designs by Brendan McCarthy , it first appeared in in 2000 AD #535 in August 1987, and ran for four story arcs, or ‘phases,’ which finished up in 2000 AD #805 in October 1992. It ran in about 80 issues of the comic; the first three phases were collected in five volumes by Titan Books between 1988 and 1990. Phase Four has never been reprinted.
Lost Grant Morrison, you say? So what’s the hold up? Well I wrote to our expert on all thing esoteric in UK comics contracts expert Pádraig Ó Méalóid for the details. It seems this is yet another contract dispute from the olden days of “we’ll draw it up later.”
There are lots of interesting parallels between the careers of Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, and although a lot of people know Moore has a long out-of-print British superhero series, it’s possible that not as many people know that Morrison also does. However, unlike Marvelman, the story of Zenith is comparatively uncomplicated. It was co-created by Grant Morrison and artist Steve Yeowell for UK comic 2000 AD in late 1987, and ran there on and off for five years, over four story arcs, or ‘phases.’ Titan Books, who regularly published collection of various strips from 2000 AD, published five collections of Zenith between 1988 and 1990, although this only covered the story to the end of Phase Three. These have never been reprinted.
The problem is this: According to Grant Morrison, he and Yeowell own the rights to the strip, not 2000 AD. The powers that be at the comic feel otherwise. 2000 AD, although it broke all sorts of new ground for comics creators in the UK in the late seventies and onwards, is still old-fashioned enough that they own all the rights to everything that they publish. However, Morrison says that they have no contract with him that proves that they own the strip. It’s possible that this is actually true: in a conversation with a friend of mine who worked as a writer for 2000 AD in the 1990s, he told me that he had created work for them without ever having seen a contract, and that this was not unusual in the business. Everyone understood where things stood, and nobody cared enough to make waves.
However, according to unofficial Zenith website Seizing the Fire, Rebellion – the current owners of 2000 AD and their properties – have got copies of Zenith Phase One printed and ‘held unreleased in warehouse due to on-going legal issues.’ So, who knows?
Hm. Who knows indeed. One would guess that Rebellion employees wearing Zenith t-shirts for all the internet to see would be an indication that something is up. Asked about it, Molcher smiled.
So yeah, developing.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.