Much has been made in the past week of a statement by Marvel Comics’ editor-in-chief Axel Alonso about Marvelman. Speaking to Albert Ching on Newsarama.com on Monday the 8th of April, there was this exchange:
Newsarama: Axel, not sure how much you can speak to this right now, but given the recent Angela news, fans are naturally wondering about another character in a seemingly similar situation, Marvelman — is there any progress involving that character?
Axel Alonso: There has been progress. Considerable progress. And we’ll be making an announcement soon.
I’m a huge fan of Marvelman. I’m very excited about seeing him being published by Marvel.
On the face of it, this sounds hopeful. However, this is not the first time a representative of Marvel has said that ‘Marvelman is coming soon.’ In January 2012 I compiled this list of all the times they had said so, since the announced they had bought the property back in July 2009. I’ve got sixteen different instances there, with answers ranging from the ubiquitous ‘Marvelman is coming soon’ to the more interesting ‘As for Marvelman, one fan’s various questions about the property were evaded for legal reasons, with Quesada simply assuring the audience that “it is coming.”‘ in May 2012. So, is this just one more instance of Marvel’s man talking about Marvelman? Possibly.
But it really does look like things are happening now. Marvel have covered a lot of ground since that initial announcement in July 2009. I speculated a few weeks ago about what they might now own, and it does look as if they’re finally close to having everything they need to proceed. So, if they really do start to publish the 1980s Alan Moore and Garry Leach created version of Marvelman, what can we actually expect to see from them? There are three things we can expect, it seems to me.
Firstly, we can expect to see them reprint the Moore-penned stories that were originally published in Warrior and subsequently re-published and continued by Eclipse in their lamentably titled Miracleman title. Alan Moore has stated publicly a few times now that he has signed over publication rights on these to Marvel, on the understanding that they don’t use his name. There are going to be some difficulties encountered by because his run had five different artists on it – Garry Leach, Alan Davis, Chuck Beckum, Rick Veitch, and John Totleben – but I believe that Marvel are working their way through these, and I don’t think there’s any doubt that they will inevitably get what they want. And, somewhat reluctantly, I think this will be a good thing. At least all the rights will be in one place, for the first time in a very long time. Whether Marvel will have any or all of these redrawn by a single artist, or simply relettered and recoloured, remains to be seen. For myself, I’d like to see the original work re-presented, with the possible exception of Chuck Beckum’s work, which didn’t really sit well with the rest. And that’s me being tactful…
After that, there’s the much more straightforward task of republishing Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham’s stories, and they possibly slightly less straightforward task of having these stories finished. In theory issue #25 is written and drawn and more or less ready to go, leaving three more issues of The Silver Age to be written, before the six-issues of The Dark Age. In George Khoury’s Kimota! The Miracleman Companion, Gaiman said,
The idea of The Dark Age is that it would have been set another 300 or 400 years on, maybe even as much as a thousand years on, and a lot of things changed. The children have gone. All the Miraclechildren grew up one day and left. You would have somebody who was claiming to be Mike Moran, who may or may not be, who has turned up a thousand years later. And then things get from bad to worse when Bates comes in. It’s strange; I know generally how The Dark Age would have gone exactly, how the very last episode would go. The way I figured out writing Miracleman was that I knew the point I was heading to from the very, very beginning, which was going to be the very final episode called “Two Voices.” And it’s two people having a conversation on a fairly ruined planet while they wait for the last sun to come up.
The thing is, after all the money they’ve spent, and all the time and the heartache we’ve all gone through, are Marvel going to want to let that happen? Again, we shall have to wait and see.
The third thing I think is going to happen is that Marvel are going to want to create new stories involving Marvelman. There’s actually plenty of precedent for this. Early on in his run in Warrior – probably in September 1982 – he sent this letter to Dez Skinn, which is worth quoting in full:
Here’s the invoice I said I’d send. I made it out for £180, but since Warrior didn’t arrive in the post this morning* [footnote: *you cunt] I didn’t get a chance to count up and see just how many pages I had in No. 5….. I know there was that four pager and I think there were fourteen pages total of V and Marvelman but I might be wrong. If it is wrong, if there is only seventeen pages or something total, then please adjust the invoice accordingly.
If you could get this in the post to me by next Tuesday (the 24th) at the latest, bank account permitting, I’d be very grateful.
Regarding those three page/four page ideas… I haven’t had much time to think about them yet, but I did have a couple of ideas:
“VIGNETTES”… these would be stories set in the London of 1997 which would not involve V at all… they may involve the supporting characters perhaps, but basically I see them as being little Eisneresque stories about ordinary people living in a very tough world. You remember all those Spirit stories like “Barbering” and “Ten Minutes”….. that’s the sort of thing I’m after.
Untold Tales of the Marvelman Family….. not the real title, obviously. These could deal with the various blank areas in the Marvelman legend. Maybe one tale could feature a story of Johnny Bates in 1965, when he was just starting to begin his ruthless climb to stardom. Another could deal with Mike Moran in the years immediately following the blow up of ’63. If we wanted to go really over the top we could do a story about Gargunza… maybe one describing how he came to build the FATE computer. Speaking of which….
“FATE” (I’M GONNA LIVE FOREVER, BABY REMEMBER MY NAME etc:)
Me and Steve have worked out a chronology for fate that stretches millions of years into the future and details lots of interesting periods in the history of the universe. The Warpsmith takeover of Earth, the Rebellion against the Warpsmiths and their subsequent destruction, the Golden Age of Earth, the Superhero purges, the Exodus of the Marvelmen, the war between FATE and the Rhordru Makers and so on and so on. Many of these stories probably won’t get told in the regular strips since they’re so far out of the time frame. Tales of FATE would plug some interesting holes.
Tales of the Warpsmiths, in which we can run individual stories and maybe also short little info pieces… the building of the artificial planet Hod, the war with the Chronarchy (back in 1700 our time) tales of the black Warpsmiths etc. etc. etc.
Later on we can run things like schematics of Warpsmith’s orbiting spacehome, diagrams of Marvelman’s Citadel of Silence and so on.
Best-Untold Tales of the Bojeffries…. how Jobremus invented civilisation when he thought he was inventing Monopoly, how Jobremus caused the explosion at Tungunska [sic] while repairing his bicycle (he turned over two pages at one in his repair manual and accidentally transformed it into a cyclotron.) How Podlasp Bojeffries was the first lifeform up onto the dry land… you get the drift.
Pressbutton: The Wilderness Years. In this we could cover some of the period in Pressbutton’s life which hasn’t been dealt with in either ‘Stars’ or ‘Laser Eraser’. Namely, what did he do in the five years or so between parting company with Mysta and joining the Space Marines on Zutzbaa. This one’s Steve’s, I figure, although since I do have an interest in the character I wouldn’t mind an odd fill in job myself.
The[n] of course we get down to the real good stuff… Father Shandor’s conjuring tricks, the ‘V’ Home Terrorism course (how to make a Molotov and so on), What is Zirk doing to Lemanya? Join the Dots and See! I’m sure you get the idea. The possibilities are endless.
Anyway, that’s enough to be getting on with. I gotta go and do some work.
See you soon.
As well as this, Eclipse Comics had an idea of their own for at least one new Miracleman title. They announced a title called Miracleman Triumphant, which was to be written by Eclipse editor Fred Burke, and illustrated by Mike Deodata Jr, which never actually appeared – although a certain amount of the work from issue #1 can be seen on the excellent Miracleman.info website.
It seems likely that we will see something similar coming from Marvel. The other important question, then, is who is likely to be doing the writin’ and drawin’? Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham are likely to be kept busy for the next while finishing their own work on the primary title, but it shouldn’t be hard to figure out who else are top of the list to want to do this. In fact, it does look like there is a certain amount of positioning being done at Marvel, so that it’ll all be in place when the time comes to make the announcement. We’ve already heard the news that the now-wholly-owned-by-Gaiman Angela is due to make her entrance in Age of Ultron #10, and that Gaiman himself will be attached to this as a writer. Also attached to this are two top Marvel creators: writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Joe Quesada. And Age of Ultron #10 is due in June this year, which brings it almost exactly up to this year’s San Diego Comic Convention on Thursday the 18th of July to Sunday the 21st of July, four years almost to the day after their original announcement that they owned Marvelman there back in 2009.
So, will we see a panel of Axel Alonso, Neil Gaiman, Mark Buckingham, Brian Michael Bendis and Joe Quesada at SDCC finally announce that Marvelman is ready to go? I really don’t know, but I’ll be eagerly waiting for news to come across the Atlantic to me…
Pádraig Ó Méalóid is a middle-aged Irishman who spends far too many of his waking hours speculating on Marvelman. Witness his ongoing Poisoned Chalice series on this very site, m’lud.