The original contract between Quality Communications Ltd and Eclipse Comics called for Quality to provide enough material for twelve issues, but this ran into trouble, as Dez Skinn explained in Speakeasy #57:
According to our contract, Quality has to supply material to Eclipse up to issue #12, hence we should be responsible for the new material. Eclipse have said that if the stories aren’t written by Alan Moore they won’t run it, something which is not expressly stated in the contract. Alan Moore, however, seems unwilling to work with Quality on this project.
In the end, Eclipse themselves contracted Moore to continue to write the title, and ultimately to finish the story he had started telling, back in March 1982. So, besides finishing off the chapters that had previously been published, Miracleman #6 also included the introduction of some new creative talent, as this was the first time that Eclipse were responsible for organising the entire production of the strip, rather than simply having the previously published work coloured and occasionally relettered. Although, having said that, talent wasn’t something incoming artist Chuck Beckum was often accused of, at least for his work here. It’s fair to say that both at the time and in hindsight, his artwork is, of all the work that would appear on the title, right up to the present day, the most reviled. This is perhaps a little unfair: Alan Davis was always going to be a hard act to follow, and maybe the kindest thing that could be said about Beckum’s art was that it wasn’t really suited to the title.
Another new member of the team was letterer Wayne Truman, who again didn’t really seem to follow on well after Annie Halfacree’s lettering, which had gone before. None the less he probably qualifies as the person who worked on the title the longest, remaining as letterer from that issue until the very last issue of Miracleman to see print, issue #24 in August 1993. There was only one chapter from Warrior in Miracleman #6, the one that finished on the cliffhanger ending in August 1984, and expectant readers, a year and a half later, finally got to see what happened to Mike Moran: unsurprisingly, really, he survived. Issue #6 was also the last issue to carry the Quality Communications logo on the cover, and to have Dez Skinn’s name listed as co-editor, alongside catherine yronwode’s.
It is at this point that the copyright division of the character comes up again. The indicia in Miracleman #1 states Miracleman is © Alan Moore / Garry Leach / Alan Davis / Dez Skinn. This, or a variant of it, appears for the next two issues, then is absent for a while. All along there are notices that the story is copyright to Alan Moore, and the art is indicated as being copyright to whoever the artist is in that particular issue, but there’s a difference between owning the copyright to work on individual chapters, and owning the rights to the original character itself, and its associated supporting characters and settings. This aspect of the ownership of Marvelman, and his subsequent incarnation as Miracleman, had already become vastly complex, and would continue to be so. The next time we would see any indication as to the ownership of the character would be in issue #8, where the indicia included the words, Miracleman TM Eclipse and Alan Moore. This would eventually change to Miracleman® Eclipse Enterprises Inc. and Alan Moore. These indicate trademark, which is of course not the same as copyright, and owning the trademark to Miracleman was certainly not the same as owning the copyright to the original character of, or trademark to, Marvelman. Once again, as with Warrior’s copyright notices, there seemed to be a gap in what the publishers were stating, a reluctance to definitively state who owned the copyright, and how much they each had.
How Eclipse came to own rights that were once owned by Garry Leach, Alan Davis, and Dez Skinn is comparatively simple. Alan Davis no longer wished to be involved with the character in any way, so he simply gave his share in its entirety to Garry Leach, rather than give it back to the people who had originally shared it with him. Leach in turn, along with Dez Skinn, became unhappy with the way that Eclipse were dealing with them, and in particular felt that the choice of Chuck Beckum as artist was a bad one, so both of them sold their rights to Eclipse for $8,000 in February 1986.
This sale was to have far reaching consequences, and would eventually bring about yet another complication in the already wildly complex story of rights to Marvelman. Skinn’s great experiment in copyright ownership for creators had come down to a point where the character rights were once again almost wholly owned by a publisher, instead of by its creators.
Although incoming artist Chuck Beckum’s work was, for the first time since the title launched, on previously unseen chapters of Miracleman, it was still being presented in eight- or nine-page segments, as had been the case in Warrior. The reason for this is undoubtedly that Moore had been well ahead on his writing duties on Marvelman, and Beckum would have been working from scripts that had originally been written for the eight-page slots in Warrior, rather than for the longer page count of an American comic. There were only three more of these short chapters scripted, it would seem, and Beckum would only get to do 25 pages of work on the title in all, between issue #6 and #7, only about the length of a normal single comic issue. In the third of those chapters, The Wish I Wish Tonight, on the page where Miracleman confronts his creator, Dr Emil Gargunza, we see a book flying through the air in one of the panels. This is a copy of Philip Wylie’s Gladiator – erroneously called The Gladiator here. Six months after Miracleman #7 was published in April 1986, we would get to see another copy of this turn up in Moore’s work, this time on a shelf in Hollis Mason’s home in the pages of Watchmen #1.
Originally Miracleman #8 was supposed to be drawn by Beckum also, and was advertised as such, but something happened between the end of the publication of #7 and the imminent publication of #8 which caused this not to be the case. In fact, perhaps two things happened. On the 18th of February, 1986, the Russian River flooded. This in itself was not unusual, but the flood in 1986 – which peaked at 49.5 feet, and remains the severest recorded flooding on that river – flooded homes and businesses in Guerneville, including the offices of Eclipse Comics. Writing in Miracleman #7, cover-dated April 1986, catherine yronwode said,
It all started with some rain, you see. A little bit more rain than we usually get up here in northern California. To tell the truth, it turned out to be a hell of a lot of rain, and it didn’t have anywhere to go but downhill. Downhill, in this case, meant our house, our office, our town – in fact, the western half of our entire county.
We all got out with our lives, but not much else. Sean Deming (our stalwart assistant editor), Dean Mullaney, and yours truly had to watch as just about everything we owned went under the rising waters. The Eclipse office, located on the second floor of a downtown building, only took in a couple of feet of misplaced and muddied raindrops. We had to get evacuated by helicopters. We lost all our back issue comics and most of the film negatives used to reprint the stuff overseas.
Meantime, Eclipse had come to the end of the material Alan Moore had written for Warrior with Chuck Beckum’s two episodes in Miracleman #7, and were pressing him for more. However, Moore had concerns about how Alan Davis’s wishes were being dealt with. He told me,
From what I can remember, when the Eclipse thing started, I had said – they asked me if I would write more, the continuation, and I said that I was only prepared to do this whole thing if they would get me – I needed to know that the artists were happy with this. I said that if they could get me some stuff from – I think Garry Leach, who was still very thick with Dez at the time, he assured me that he was OK with it. I wanted something on paper that said that Alan Davis was OK with everything. I remember it getting closer and closer to the time when I would be supposed to be writing some new material, at which point I got a phone call from the very stroppy cat yronwode – suddenly stroppy out of the blue – saying, ‘Well, are you going to write any of these Marvelman stories you promised us?’ Right from the word go, very aggressive, and of course I don’t have to put up with that from an editor, for Christ’s sake! As far as I can see, most of the people who call themselves editors in the comics industry would be hard pushed to define the word edit.
But anyway, so she phoned up and asked me very sarcastically if I was going to be doing any work on Marvelman any time soon, and I said, ‘Right, have you got that paperwork from Alan Davis?’ And she said, ‘What paperwork?’ And I said, ‘The paperwork that I asked you to get me.’ And she was being very blustery, and trying to make out that I’d done something wrong, while not answering my questions about this paperwork. She said something else that sounded offensive and I said, ‘Well, perhaps we could just stop the entire project right here.’
At that point Dean Mullaney, who’d obviously been listening in on the extension, came on and said, ‘Oh hi Alan, it’s Dean. Yeah, look, we’re going to get you that paperwork, we promise we’ll get you that real soon’ – and other things, because he’d known that I was just about to pull out and just completely abandon the project there and then. But he continued to talk and promised me faithfully that they had got this paperwork, or they were getting it, and if I could just start writing, then they would be getting it to me. They never got it to me, because it didn’t exist, and I felt that Alan Davis had probably felt that I was party to screwing him, which was not the case, and was regrettable. I mean, as with many other points in the Marvelman saga, if I’d known the true circumstances, I’d never have got involved with it in the first place.
Moore had said much the same when he was interviewed by Kurt Amacker in September 2009:
They had made certain promises to me that I wanted to be absolutely sure that the artist at that time, Alan Davis, was happy about his work being reprinted. And, I told them that I could not commence writing any new work until they had got that affirmation. They finally left it until the last minute, and then asked me why I hadn’t got the new Marvelman work in, at which point I reiterated my request for some proof that Alan Davis was okay about the whole thing. They said that they were getting this proof – and that they really needed me to start work – that this proof existed, that it was on its way, and they would be showing it to me as soon as possible. I started work because I believed that they were telling the truth. I later found out this was not the case. So, by the time I’d finished working with Marvelman, I was pretty sick of all the publishers that had been involved with it up to that point.
Alan Davis referred to Moore’s interview with Amacker when I spoke to him, adding,
When I first read the above, I felt really sad that Alan’s work had been so badly impaired by deep concern over the legality of Eclipse publishing MY art. He was so distraught in fact, that he must have forgotten he had my address and telephone number, or if he was too nervous to call, could have contacted me via a mutual acquaintance, like Jamie Delano, rather than suffer such creatively debilitating doubts. But I suppose Alan’s recollection, for what it’s worth, proves my case. The reason Eclipse could not furnish the proof Alan required to commence work is because it didn’t exist. They, Eclipse, knew I had withheld my permission to have my work reprinted.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation, Alan Moore continued to write Miracleman episodes for Eclipse, despite what was already turning into an antagonistic relationship with catherine yronwode, and her ongoing failure to provide him with proof that Alan Davis had released his work to Eclipse. Later on in his career Moore might well have simply called a halt to his work until this was shown to him, but he was still early in that career, and probably also very anxious to continue working on – and to actually finish – the story he had started back in Warrior #1 in 1982.
Miracleman #8, which should have contained the first of the new book-length material written by Moore, was instead a fill-in issue, reprinting two more old stories from the Miller Marvelman titles, Miracleman Combats the Electric Terror and Miracleman and the Spanish Armada, once again solely credited to Mick Anglo, and with linking pages by catherine yronwode and Chuck Beckum (which would turn out to be his last work on the title), along with another story introducing one of Eclipse’s forthcoming titles. The reason given for the fill-in issue was the flooding, but perhaps their ongoing lack of paperwork for Moore also played a part in it. In much the same way Dez Skinn used the letters from Marvel UK as a smokescreen to cover up his own problems with the creators on Marvelman, it’s entirely possible that catherine yronwode used the flood to provide a handy excuse for having no more scripts from Moore at that time. In any case, despite the fact that there were longer delays waiting to happen in the future, this was the only fill-in issue of Miracleman that was ever produced.
When Miracleman #9 arrived, it was drawn by Rick Veitch, who Moore was already working with on Swamp Thing, and who would go on to be Moore’s longest-standing artistic collaborator through numerous different projects, like 1963, Greyshirt, and the forthcoming Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic. No editorial explanation was given as to why Chuck Beckum was no longer drawing the strip, and it’s possible that nobody was really that concerned about it. According to an unattributed article on the counter-x.net website,
[Chuck] Beckum was initially slated to draw Miracleman #8, which would eschew the Warrior-length chapters in favour of a single sixteen-page strip, but the work he completed was destroyed when Eclipse’s premises were flooded. Miracleman #8 instead comprised of two old L Miller and Son strips, relettered and coloured, and with a humorous (well, she probably meant it to be) framing sequence staring Eclipse CEO and raging egomaniac cat yronwode. Beckum, whose work had attracted criticism from fans used to Leach and Davis, was paid off.
Veitch’s work was of a much higher quality and, although nothing like Alan Davis’s more lyrical work, still fitted the character and his story very well, and certainly didn’t suffer by comparison to it, as Beckum’s had. In an as-yet-unpublished interview with him I asked how he came to work on the title:
Alan and John Totleben were preparing to start the third story arc which became Olympus, I think. I’m not sure what was going on with Eclipse but they needed someone to quickly finish the last two instalments of the previous arc, The Red King Syndrome. I think Alan and John decided I was a good candidate. Alan and I were already collaborating on Swamp Thing so he was comfortable working with me, and John needed time to get a jumpstart on his part of it. I, of course, had been knocked out by Marvelman going back to Warrior, and loved working from Alan’s scripts, so I happily took it on even though I was the regular penciller on Swamp Thing and had a lot on my plate at the time.
Actually, Veitch’s work on Miracleman #9 immediately caused controversy, as this was the issue featuring the abundant and anatomically correct illustrations of the birth of Liz Moran and Miracleman’s baby daughter, Winter, which caused a huge amount of uproar at the time. Rick Veitch told me,
There was a huge fuss. What we did was unprecedented and flew right in the face of certain retailers who were actively campaigning for self-censorship of comics content. Buddy Saunders of Lone Star Comics was the point man for that and I think he burst a couple blood vessels when he saw the panels of Liz’s swollen vagina.
To Alan and I, the graphic approach to childbirth made perfect sense. We were married men who’d both been transformed by witnessing the births of our own children and wanted to get that experience across. We knew the role sublimated sexuality played in the appeal of superhero comics and it seemed perfectly right and proper to point out the reason sex exists in the first place. Fortunately cat yronwode was behind us one hundred percent. In fact she sent me a photo book with graphic birth scenes that was available in any public library and said, ‘Make it look just like this.’
Editor catherine yronwode put a text box on the cover which said, ATTENTION PARENTS: This issue contains graphic scenes of childbirth, deliberately made to look like the warnings from the Surgeon General that were found on American cigarette packets. Talking to George Khoury in Kimota!, she said,
To me the anger and disgust I felt in putting a cigarette type warning on this comic should have been seen as an obviously bitter joke, but most people didn’t get the joke.
The thing is, it seems to me that this was a completely manufactured outrage on her part. First she chose exactly what images she wanted the artist to use, then decided that she was so enraged that these images would not be well received that she needed to put a warning on the cover, pointed up by the fact that she deliberately chose to make it look like the warnings on cigarette packets. As it was, the editorial piece on the inside front cover of Miracleman was usually cat yronwode on one hobby horse or another, and it seems she decided to move this into the pages of the comic itself.
Veitch’s run on Miracleman was only two issues long, but was memorable. In his two issues he created the visual side of the characters Avril Lear, Miraclewoman, and Winter, all of which he presumably still holds the visual copyright to. It was also between his two issues that the first of the long delays that were to dog the publication of the comic happened. The first nine issues appeared between August 1985 and July 1986, not quite a monthly schedule, but not far off it, even if #8 was just a ‘deadline doom,’ place-holder issue. Issue #10 wouldn’t appear until December 1986, and #11 didn’t appear until May 1987. This was to be the sort of erratic schedule that the title would have from there on in, right to the end.
The cover for Miracleman #9 was drawn by John Totleben, who was soon to become the last artist to work with Moore on the title, drawing the six issues of Olympus, the third and last book in Moore’s story. By the time Moore was writing this, he was also writing Watchmen for DC, as well as continuing to write Swamp Thing for them, which would have gone some way to explaining the delays it was experiencing. Another factor that slowed the progress on Miracleman was the fact that, while working on the title, Totleben was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that meant he was becoming slowly blind. None the less, his art is some of the loveliest on the title, and having a single artist on the entire run of one of the story arcs for once certainly made a difference to Alan Moore, who wrote to Totleben’s strengths. The six issues, #11 to #16, did however take an enormously long time to appear. Issue #11 appeared in May 1987, #12 in September 1987, #13 in November 1987, #14 in April 1988, #15 – quite possibly the single most violent comic ever published by a mainstream comics publisher – appeared in November 1988, and the last issue, #16, took until December 1989, over a year later, to finally appear, meaning the six issues took two and a half years to come out, all in all.
Even the most hardened fans of the title had been tested, having to wait so long to get to see all of the final book in Moore’s story. Finally, however, the story that Moore had started telling in Warrior #1 in March 1982 came to an end, nearly eight years after it had begun there, having in that time changed its name, its publisher, and its country of publication. In that time Moore had gone from an obscure comics-writing novice to the most famous comics writer in the world, and the works he created in that time, like Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and of course his work on Marvelman, are still held up today as being high points of the art of comics writing. By the time he was finished with Miracleman, he decided that he had said everything he had to say about superheroes, and that he was done with the genre for good. He was instead going to concentrate on more personal comics projects, like Lost Girls and From Hell, and the still unfinished Big Numbers. He turned his back on the mainstream comics industry and, like Halo Jones, he went out. Eventually he would return, but for the time being he had uncharted waters to explore.
Pádraig Ó Méalóid continues to be a middle-aged Irishman. He has been fascinated with the story of Marvelman for a very long time, and has written a book about it, which is currently looking for a publisher. He apologies for the dearth of images in this post, but he’s doing this and the next one in a bit of a rush, as he has to go spend a few days in hospital, and wants to get a few weeks ahead of himself…