Zenith was co-created by Grant Morrison and artist Steve Yeowell for UK comic 2000 AD in late 1987, and ran there over four story arcs, or ‘phases,’ for the next five years, on and off. Titan Books, who regularly published collections 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. Until now, that is.
Today, at noon in the UK, Rebellion have announced that, on the 1st of December 2013, they will be publishing THE COMPLETE ZENITH, in a 480-page limited edition hardcover, for £100 (which is about 150 of your puny Earth Dollars), with the book containing all four ‘phases,’ as well as later stories by Morrison and Mark Millar. And, to make it all just that bit more exciting, this ‘never-to-be-repeated format’ is limited to 1000, and will only be available for pre-order through the 2000 AD online shop. Wait, though! Don’t go clicking that now, as you can’t pre-order it until the 1st of July.
And if you’re not sure why this is such a big deal, go read this piece that the lovely Ms McDonald and I put together at the beginning of this month, after Rebellion staff were spotted wearing Zenith t-shirts at C2E2, and then meet the rest of us back here. Botom line: the ownership of Zenith is in dispute, with Morrison claiming that he and Yeowell own it due to no signed contracts existing.
The thing is, while it’s always great to see something as important as Zenith back in print after far too long, there are some unanswered questions about the property. The Press Release says that ‘both Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell have been informed of the exciting plans for The Complete Zenith’, which in itself is as odd and convoluted a bit of phrasing as I’ve ever seen. I did ask Michael Molcher, Rebellion’s PR Coordinator, what Grant Morrison’s position was on this, and he told me that ‘We have informed Grant of our intention to republish, but we maintain that we own the rights to reprinting the series.’ Which does not appear to be indicative of lovehearts and roses all ‘round, I have to say.
So, I did what any sane person would do, which was to ask someone who knows more about it than I do. Laura Sneddon is, amongst other things, a regular writer here on The Beat and elsewhere, a good friend of mine, and both a fan and friend of Grant Morrison. This is what she said when I asked her about this:
The news that Rebellion is to reprint Zenith is, on the surface, fantastic news for not only Grant Morrison fans but also comic fans in general. Aside from Marvel/Miracleman, Zenith is one of the largest gaps on many a comics shelf after a rights dispute between Morrison and publisher put paid to the collected editions being republished and Phase IV being collected at all.
As a fan then I’m delighted that Zenith is going to be made available again, and perhaps even attract new fans despite the hefty price tag. However, as someone who respects Grant a great deal – and let me be quite clear that I’m not speaking on his behalf here – I’m quite worried about the fact that the press release comes with no statement from Grant himself.
The world of comics is, regrettably, full of disputes between creators and publishers over the attribution of creator rights. If a collected edition of Zenith is the result of long-awaited resolution between Morrison and Rebellion then it is cause for huge celebration. If that is not the case – and I believe silence from Morrison would be damning on this count – then it is a rather sad day, regardless of my feelings as a fan.
Personally I will be singing the praises of the comic as I have always done, and be pleased that Zenith is getting attention once more. But I’m not sure it’s the happy day that Morrison fans have been waiting on.
…All of which, taken together, does seem to indicate that this collection is being published without the blessing of at least one of its creators. Which is a truly sad thing.
None the less, this collection, despite its hefty price tag, is sure to sell out in pretty short order, and can only increase in value, because it seems that, once it’s gone, it’s gone. It’d just be that much better, at least for me, if I knew that the creators were happy about it.
Heidi Here: We emailed Morrison, but he has not responded.