This is the third and final part of a three-part interview I did with Alan Moore in October 2010 about Marvelman, and indeed Miracleman, and his experiences with that character. The first two parts are here: PART I, PART II. As ever, anything in [square brackets] is added by me, just prior to publishing this here.
Alan Moore: Nobody came and talked to me. I had a phone call, from – I’ve forgotten, you probably know the names, I’ve forgotten, I’m afraid. It was some people from a Scottish record company…
PÓM: Jon Campbell from Emotiv?
AM: Yes. Or was there another person there?
PÓM: There might have been somebody on his behalf?
AM: It might have been somebody on his behalf.
PÓM: I don’t know exactly who… and, to be honest with you, they’re not answering my emails.
AM: Somebody from Emotiv called me up and explained that they had been working with a son of Mick Anglo’s who was a musician, that this son had told them something of the Marvelman story, that they had decided to get involved, because it sounded to them as if Mick Anglo was being cheated, so they told me a few of the things – such as the fact that L Miller hadn’t gone bankrupt. As soon as I knew that the rights to Marvelman had never been with the Official Receiver, I said, ‘Well, if I’d known that, I would have never taken the job, and, yes, if I can help, I do feel bad that I must have been instrumental in taking these rights from their rightful owner, whoever that might be.’
PÓM: I would make the point here Alan that, if you hadn’t written Marvelman then, nobody would be talking about Marvelman now, nobody. Nobody would be interested in it. If anybody has made any profit of any kind out of it, it is because you worked on it, whether you may have taken Mick’s…
AM: That’s probably true but, to be absolutely scrupulous, I felt that – OK, yes, I know that it’s because I wrote Marvelman the way that I did that it became the work that it’s become, but the fact remains that I had taken somebody else’s property without knowing that that was what I was doing, because I was being assured that this wasn’t what I was doing, so I said that certainly I would, any information that would help, but also I felt that, Mick Anglo is in his nineties and has a wife who is suffering from dementia, and I just thought anything that could actually get Mick Anglo some money at this point in his life, when it sounds like he could use it – if there was anything I could help towards that with, then I was prepared to do it.
So, I had, I think someone came down to Northampton, eventually, and just filmed an interview with me where I just answered all the questions that they asked me as honestly as I could, and there may have been some other back and forth. I haven’t spoken to any of the people from Emotiv for a couple of years now. Once I’d signed all the – done the interviews and done everything else, that seemed to be sufficient for them to progress, and I haven’t really…
PÓM: I do want to clarify, I’m all in favour of Mick Anglo getting something out of this, because he definitely –he’s the other major player in the Marvelman game, I think. It was always known as Mick Anglo’s Marvelman. Before it was Alan Moore’s Marvelman, it was Mick Anglo’s Marvelman. OK, now. Did you sign over, did you sign rights off to somebody on this, or what, or not, or…?
AM: Well I’d already – I don’t remember whether I’d signed anything with Neil [Gaiman], or whether it was just a gentlemen’s agreement, which is the way that I generally prefer to do things, but I may have signed something to clarify that I was giving the work to Neil.
PÓM: Afterwards, did you sign anything to clarify that you were – with Emotiv, or Mick Anglo, or indeed with Marvel?
AM: I think that I did – one thing that I said at that time was that I was prepared to – if they brought out a collection, if somebody brought out a collection of Marvelman, then I would want all of the money from the first edition to go to Mick Anglo. This was at a time when I though, yes, I did do a lot of the work on it and it would be nice if, I don’t know, Leah and Amber, or Mel, were to profit from it in the future, but by the time that Marvel Comics were involved I just though, ‘No, let it go, give all the money to Mick Anglo,’ and – which is more tricky than it – it looked like it was going to be quite easy to do, but then I kept getting all these contracts that didn’t want me to – didn’t seem to want me to give the money to Mick Anglo, or to take my name off of it. Eventually I signed one that did state just that.
PÓM: It does seem that – as I said, this thing is tricky to get by the horns – it’s like a greased snake, trying to hold onto it. The – Mick Anglo Ltd, I think Mick Anglo seemed to have, from what I can see, vested his ownership in Mick Anglo Ltd. Mick Anglo Ltd is now owned by somebody else – again, by Jon Campbell, or Emotiv, or these people. I think they bought it from him for X amount, so they now own the copyright, and that they then went and sold it to Marvel, and there was talk about things like movies, and all that kind of stuff, which is all kinda mad, but – so, did you assign any rights to them or to someone like them?
AM: Well, I just, as far as I understood it, I did not actually have any share in Marvelman any more, I’d given mine to Neil Gaiman. We were only talking about the rights to reproduce those stories that I’d written, and I think I basically, I signed the thing with Marvel, saying that – because at that point they were saying, ‘Look, Mick Anglo’s getting a lot of money…‘, and I think they wanted me to have my name on it, but I just wanted all the money to go to Mick Anglo, just because I really wanted to distance myself from the property and all of the trail of tears that went with it.
PÓM: I can’t blame you, it’s literally a crying shame. Let me see, what am I doing? OK, you said you were interviewed for something. There’s been, online at one stage there was some advertising for a DVD called ‘Who Stole Marvelman?’ that was going to come out and tell the whole sordid tale, so I’m guessing that’s what it was that you were interviewed for.
AM: It might have been something like that. I’d got the impression that I was doing it as part of the evidence for – that was being compiled for a court case. But I haven’t got anything that was stating that that was what it was, it was just what I assumed.
PÓM: OK, I’m pretty much done here. There’s one or two other things. OK, Marvel, at the moment [October 2010] – what Marvel seem to be doing now with Marvelman is they are reprinting the old [Miller/Anglo era] black and white stuff, at – ludicrously expensive hardcover black and white reproductions, and in all the stuff they’ve done, they did this thing called the Marvelman Classic Primer, which was a little comicky thing with a few bits and pieces in it, where they give no indication of what they’re intending to do. It seems to be all about bigging up, kinda, the old black and white Marvelman, and gives no idea – have you any idea what their plan is about reproducing your work?
AM: No idea. Since I said that I wanted my name taken off of it, and signed contracts to that effect, I’ve not heard a dickey bird, so, I don’t know. It might screw up some of the film rights, I suppose.
PÓM: One of the things that – again, the internet, as you may know, is nothing but, basically, rumour – a rumour mill. One of the rumours is that Marvel were intending to take your script, get the whole thing redrawn, so they wouldn’t have to deal with all of the artists, and various people involved.
AM: There was some talk of that, but by that point I was…
PÓM: You were no longer involved?
AM: I was no longer involved. Because the first draft of the contract that I’d got said that, ‘If Marvel makes any alterations to the artwork, then Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman will have the right to take their name from the strip.’ And I got back and said, ‘No, this is irrespective or whether Marvel makes any changes to the artwork,’ and then there was talk that, ‘Oh well, it might be difficult, we might have to get some bits redrawn’ – which, again, I don’t see that – that’s the work that it originally was, and I don’t want to see – Alan Davis did great work, Garry Leach did great work, I thought that Chuck Beckum did as best he could…
PÓM: Yeah, I think that’s probably the kindest thing to say. It was a bit of a shock after Alan Davis’s work, let’s say.
AM: It probably was. But he was only there for an issue or two, and Rick Veitch did a serviceable job, did his usual good job on stuff, and of course John Totleben’s stuff was breathtaking.
PÓM: I was firing some questions at Alan Davis, who was good enough to answer some stuff for me, and I was asking him about all this, and he said that somebody, a lawyer representing somebody at some point was trying to get him to agree to a contract to get his work republished, and he said OK, as long as he was going to get paid properly for it. And they said, he’d get paid the standard reprint rate, and if he wasn’t happy with that, that they’d go and get it redrawn, so he told them to go and get it redrawn.
AM: I didn’t hear any of this, but it sounds true. They would be trying to get it done for as cheap as possible. They’ve no respect for the writers and artists involved, that’s Marvel Comics.
PÓM: Who would want to be the person who was thinking they could redraw Alan Davis’s work? That’s just disgraceful.
AM: Well, it would be a kind of career suicide. Probably one of the problems that’s holding up this whole Marvelman thing: they can’t put my name on it, they’re not going to be having – it sounds like a lot of the original artists are just going to say ‘no, get it redrawn.’
PÓM: I’ve been in touch with as few of them. I have a stalled interview with Rick Veitch that I started about two years ago that we’re going to get back to in a couple of weeks [Hah! It’s taking a bit longer than that. Sorry, Rick!], and one of the things I was asking his was, ‘By the way, have you ever heard anything from Marvel?’, and he said, except for the fact that they all got a courtesy call just before it was announced at San Diego last year [in September 2009], that’s all he’s heard. And it seems that Marvel is telling nobody nothing, and I think that’s because they haven’t a fuckin’ clue what they’re doing. [A terrible slur and calumny on my part! And one I’m now happy to withdraw, as it seems they really did know what they were doing, after all. They just weren’t telling the rest of us…]
AM: I think that’s probably true. I did hear of a comment that I didn’t really understand from Neil Gaiman that said that – I think this was after I’d said that I definitely wanted me name taking off of it, and they’d sent me another contract saying that, all right, ‘All the money will go to Mick Anglo, and Alan Moore’s name will not appear on the cover.’ So I sent that back as well, saying, ‘…or the insides, or anywhere in the advertising, or anywhere connected to this project.‘ Eventually we got that accepted, but Neil Gaiman said something to me over the phone which I didn’t really understand. He said that he’d been talking to Marvel and had said, yes, they did have the rights to publish Marvelman, but that he had been talking to them suggesting that it might not be a good idea if they did. I didn’t care one way or the other by this point, so I didn’t really register that, or understand quite what Neil meant. Maybe he would know more about it, I presume he’s in closer touch with Marvel than I am.
PÓM: Yes, I imagine he is. He did have, the whole Marvels and Miracles thing that he set up was funded by money from Marvel for a couple of things he did for them, and all that, so he’s sleeping with the enemy, Alan, God help him! OK. You know, the funny thing is, after all of that, I’m no closer to knowing anything, really.
AM: Well, that just reproduces my experience perfectly. After twenty-five, thirty years of this shit, I’m no closer to knowing anything, and everything that comes up just seems to make the matter more complicated, more murky.
PÓM: I tell you what it is, actually, it’s fractal [cue photo of fractal cauliflower…], I find that I find out something, and I agitate it a little, and it opens up and it opens up and it opens up still further. I found out that Arnold Miller was still alive, and through somebody, through somebody, through somebody else, I ended up getting in touch with Arnold Miller, and I was thrilled, I was writing back and forwards, and he’s saying that – the only thing is, is he’s saying that Mick Anglo – this legendary conversation where they rang up and said, ‘Mick, we’ve got terrible trouble, we need you to come over and rescue us immediately,’ he said that never happened, and that Mick didn’t own the rights, but at the same time…
AM: This might be true. All I’ve done is do what I thought was best with whatever information I’ve got at the time. I suspect that it’ll probably turn out that it all ended up completely unfairly for almost everybody.
PÓM: The thing is, none of the Millers own it either, because if the company was wound up, the company ceased to exist. A nonexistent body cannot own property. It’s like if you drop twenty quid on the ground, and then die? It’s ownerless. So, it’s entirely possible that by publishing it in Warrior, that reclaimed the rights, because nobody had the rights at the time. At the same time, Mick Anglo did a lot of work on it, and he was, if you like, the last honest man to have his hands on it, at that stage.
AM: That was the feeling that I was going for. That I didn’t want any of this money, because it had been polluted, that I figured that if Mick was in a bad situation, he’s getting on, and his missus was ill, then I figured that, at least, if it was going to go to him, to make himself comfortable for the remainder of his life, then that would be a good outcome.
PÓM: I do believe he has got some money, and I think Emotiv allegedly paid him four grand for the thing…
AM: Four grand?
PÓM: Allegedly they gave him four thousand for it. I don’t know what they supposedly got from Marvel, because I haven’t heard that, but he would hopefully get more money than that afterwards.
AM: He certainly would, and I would have hoped that – they were promising me and Neil Gaiman quite large amounts of money…
PÓM: Well, that’d be because they wanted you and Neil Gaiman onside, and because you are the two big names…
AM: But I made it clear, just give all my money to Mick Anglo, so he should have got that, at least, I would have hoped.
PÓM: I genuinely hope that somebody somewhere has given him some money, because there’s all of this talk, but one hopes that it has actually happened.
AM: True, and it is difficult to actually trust anybody in the equation.
PÓM: OK, I think that’s us done with that.
… and then we talked about other, non-relevant stuff, sent our best wishes to each other’s wives, and we were done.
Gary Lloyd, Alan Moore, and the late Iain Banks, about to enter their Tardises. (Tardi? Tardes? Who knows?)
I hold forth at much greater length about all things Marvelman / Miracleman-related in the series of articles called POISONED CHALICE, on this very website, which this interview is technically part of. And one of these days, I’m definitely going to actually finish it. No, really.