Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
Marvel on Tuesday released the first preview of its remastered Miracleman #1, dividing fans with its modern coloring. Some of the comments come from newer comics readers still wondering what the big deal is about this series; surely, the “mehs” are already being prepared for the issue’s Jan. 15. debut.
Despite the updated coloring, it probably isn’t fair or even realistic to hold the series up against contemporary comics, despite Miracleman‘s significant influence on a good deal of them. Instead, it’s best to view these stories in the context of the times, which makes it easier to see why Miracleman (or Marvelman, if you prefer) is the natural stepping stone to Watchmen, and established many of the themes Alan Moore and many creators that followed him would explore in subsequent works up through the present day.
Among the relatively few fans who have read these stories, Miracleman is often held in the same regard as seminal works like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. Both of those revered miniseries debuted in 1986 and caused a seismic shift in how superhero comics, and mainstream comics in general, were created and received. It’s worth noting then that a good amount of what Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns later touched upon and accomplished had been done four years earlier with Marvelman. If it weren’t for the legendary rights quagmire that prevented those stories from being reprinted, Miracleman would almost surely be just as celebrated and commercially successful as its successors.
We’re living in an age where increasing aspects of our comics heritage is being protected, with all manner of work coming back into print in fittingly deluxe packages. However, we can all think of great comics that will probably never be reprinted, for various obscure reasons. For example, all manner of great work published by Marvel and DC in the 1970s and ’80s will never see the light of day again due to lapsed licensing deals. Other titles, other creators, simply fall from fashion, to await rediscovery by another generation. Others still end up in complicated rights battles and litigation.
One field of comics-related work that seems to be just lost to the unrelenting march of time and progress is that of the pre-Internet fanzine. Many significant figures in comics history contributed text and art to this near-dead medium, and it’s hard to see any organization having the will to invest in researching, reprinting or digitizing this lost legacy.
Colin Smith is a blogger and the author of Sequart’s “Shameless? The Superhero Comics of Mark Millar,” and as a critic has written about comics for some of the United Kingdom’s top magazines. He has a secondary blog where he has been recently sharing some great art from old U.K. fanzines and convention booklets.
“After much thought and internal discussion, we felt that between the two, ‘Miracleman’ was the coolest name for the project. I wish I had a more scientific answer for you, but that’s kind of how it went down. A bunch of us sat around at the editorial meeting and talked about it. We all remember it fondly as ‘Miracleman’ and just felt that the name was by far better than Marvelman. That’s not to say that the name Marvelman isn’t in play for something else down the line some day, but when asked to choose between the two, well …”
— Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, in an interview with Comic Book Resources, explaining why the company chose to go with the name “Miracleman” over the original “Marvelman”
Because this space is normally reserved for DC Comics and its stable of characters, you might think a post on Miracleman goes a little outside the lines. However, Miracleman was based on Captain Marvel, who is a DC character in the same way that Miracleman is now a Marvel character: the wonderful world of intellectual-property rights. That’s just one of several traits the two features share, so today I’ll be comparing and contrasting. I’ll also consider whether Marvel’s upcoming Miracleman revival could affect DC’s latest version.
Miracleman (under its original name of Marvelman, but you knew that already) started out as a way to hold onto British readers of Captain Marvel when the latter closed up shop in the mid-1950s. In that form, the series lasted until 1963. In 1982, writer Alan Moore headed up a revival that started by updating familiar elements, but ended up going off in a decidedly different direction. As reprinted, renamed, and subsequently completed in the United States, Moore’s Miracleman (from Eclipse Comics) filled 16 issues, give or take some reprints, and came out over the course of about four and a half years (cover-dated August 1985 to December 1989). Moore’s artistic collaborators included Garry Leach, Alan Davis, Chuck Austen (under the name Chuck Beckum), Rick Veitch, and John Totleben. From June 1990 to June 1993, Eclipse published eight more issues, written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by Mark Buckingham, and an anthology miniseries (Miracleman Apocrypha) came out from November 1991 to February 1992. For various reasons, though, no new Miracleman has seen the light of day for over twenty years.
That’s all about to change, starting with January’s reprints from Marvel. It remains to be seen whether today’s readers will be interested in 20- to 30-year-old stories from a writer whose popularity isn’t what it once was, and which will apparently be reprinted initially in a somewhat-pricey format. Additionally, Miracleman has turned into much more of an “Alan Moore book,” as opposed to a Captain Marvel parody. Therefore, its return doesn’t strike me as the sort of thing which will automatically generate more interest in Captain Marvel; but their similarities (and even some of their differences) can be instructive.
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Graphic novels | France 24 examines the Thursday release of Asterix and the Picts — the first album by new creative team Jean Yves-Ferri and Didier Conrad — from a political perspective, noting that the story, in which Asterix and Obelix journey from ancient Gaul to Iron Age Scotland, has already become part of the current debate about Scottish independence. [France 24]
Creators | Chinese cartoonist Wang Liming, who spent a night in police custody last week on charges of “suspicion of causing a disturbance,” spoke to the press this week. Liming, who has more than 300,000 followers on his microblog account, first ran into trouble two years ago for one of his cartoons, but police told him that China has freedom of speech and he could continue drawing. Nonetheless, another of his cartoons, depicting Winnie the Pooh (a frequent cartoon stand-in for Chinese President Xi Jinping) kicking a football was deleted and suppressed by censors. “For them, drawing leaders in cartoon form is a big taboo,” the cartoonist said. “I think the controls on the Internet are too harsh. They have no sense of humor. They can’t accept any ridicule.” [Reuters]
These last few days, the good burghers of the Essential Sequential agency have been posting sketch after sketch by Italy’s Matteo Scalera to their Instagram account. Scalera might not be the biggest name in their stable of artists (which includes Dave Johnson, Andrew Robinson and Dan Panosian), but he’s producing stylish work, redolent of another couple of Essential Sequential artists, Eric Canete and Sean Gordon Murphy. I’d throw Declan Shalvey and Robbi Rodriguez in as another couple of touchstones, too. A little further digging reveals Scalera’s blog and his DeviantArt page are the places to find better-quality, less ruthlessly cropped, versions of these illustrations. His DeviantArt account reveals him to be an absolute sketch machine — he’s numbering them, and has reached 533.
Conventions | Last week’s Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo drew 53,000 attendees, the largest crowd yet for the Chicago-based show, which is in its fourth year. Reed Exhibitions Group Vice President Lance Fensterman talks about the high points of the show and plans for the next couple of years. [ICv2]
Graphic novels | Heidi MacDonald tracks the rise in popularity of graphic novels among librarians, whose support has been integral to the growth of the industry. Her well-researched article includes interviews with public librarians, school librarians, and academic librarians, as well as publishers and others in the field. It’s a comprehensive overview of one of the most important, and least reported-on, areas of our world. [Publishers Weekly]
Comics | Alex Hern looks at three comics that have long been out of print but are now back, or possibly on their way back: Flex Mentallo, Marvelman and Zenith. [The New Statesman]
In “By the Numbers,” ROBOT 6 takes a look back at the events of the past five days … in numbers.
With Thursday’s announcement that Neil Gaiman is returning to the Marvel Universe and bringing with him Angela, the character at the center of his eight-year legal battle with Todd McFarlane, we’re left to wonder about the whereabouts of Marvelman. We also look at the surprise departures at DC Comics, and what the right price is when you name your own.
Marvel’s turning over a new leaf, so to speak, as it enters the Marvel NOW! era. But in that amid the flurry of new titles, new line-ups and new creators, we’re finding some notable absences — notable to us at least. While some missed heroes like Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Mockingbird have popped up in cameos here and there, there are still a significant number of popular players waiting to be brought onto the field. In this installment of “Six by 6,” we suss out six such characters and zero in on their last whereabouts, and where some of them might show up next.
This is going to be another “we liked it the old way” type of post. I take no particular pleasure in these, because there are only so many ways to rail against change, especially changes involving decades-old characters and concepts.
Nevertheless, the latest charges of Crimes Against Tradition are against the new Earth 2 and “Shazam!” features. The original Earth-Two came to represent generations of superheroes active since the late 1930s, but the current one is apparently “five years of supers, give or take”; and the new don’t-say-the-M-word “Shazam” is apparently also something called the Third Sinner. So yes, DC, I try to be open-minded, I will give these things reasonable chances to win me over, and no one has destroyed my treasured old comics — but wow, you don’t make it easy.
Therefore, today I want to look at why the old versions might still matter, but just as importantly why they still matter to fogeys like me.
Okay, all the way back to December of last year, the Marvel solicitations for March 2010 had information about the exciting new two-issue mini-series, BREAKING INTO COMICS THE MARVEL WAY! I talked about it last week and, while it was not exactly what I was looking for, it was a fun little book that was more like a ‘Broke Into’ than a ‘Breaking Into’ book. No matter, says I! There’s always issue #2 and who knows, maybe they saved all of the, and I quote, “step-by-step submission information and a sample Marvel Comics script” for the next issue!
Yeah, not so much. No script, some important but pre-twittered intel on how submissions are handled, four tips big font and a ‘go get ‘em, Tiger!’ letter at the end from Mr. Cebulski. I’m not saying this wasn’t useful, but it’s not exactly the step-by-step guide they promised. Maybe after they realized they hired 114 new freelancers, they decided to keep the best secrets for themselves.
Anyhoo, that’s in the past and this week’s present, let’s talk about the future! June 2010 solicitations are out, so let’s remember this all now so when June rolls around and there’s any disappointment, we can all say we told ourselves so.
Okay, that was mean. Let’s go enjoy some comics.
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“I think I just wrote a Robot 6 article,” Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort said via his Twitter account yesterday evening. Right you are, Tom! This blog’s official Top Tweeter of 2009 kept the magic alive yesterday with an impassioned defense of the controversy du jour, Marvel’s offer to swap unsold DC comics for a Deadpool variant (more on that later). But perhaps even more notably, he posted some revealing comments about the status of Marvel’s recently acquired Marvelman.
On another note, attended a cool Marvelman meeting today where Neil Gaiman told us how his last 2 unfinished storylines will end. Been waitin something like 17 years to find that out!
Brevoort’s followers were soon popping the champagne, but the editor was quick to point out that he was not saying Gaiman would necessarily return to finish the stories, and that future plans for the title have yet to be confirmed:
Legal | An Egyptian court on Saturday officially banned Metro, considered that country’s first graphic novel, and found author Magdy al Shafee and publisher Mohammed al Sharqawi guilty of printing and distributing a publication infringing public decency. The two were fined the equivalent of about $916; they could have received up to two years in prison. Shafee has vowed to fight the ruling.
Shafee and Sharqawi were arrested in April 2008 after police raided the publisher’s offices and confiscated all copies of Metro, which centers on a young software designer in a modern and corrupt Cairo who turns to bank robbery to repay underworld loan sharks. Retailers were immediately ordered to remove the book from their shelves. You can read a translated excerpt of Metro here. [Zawya]
Legal | President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines last week signed into law the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009, which bans real and “virtual” child pornography, including comic-book depictions. [Anime News Network]
While currently this is nothing more than pure conjecture, a quick Google search has led this part-time blogger to believe that the much-hyped, super-secret, forthcoming Mark Millar/Steve McNiven project for Marvel is in fact a Marvelman series.
Millar announced Friday that he and McNiven – his collaborator on Civil War and “Old Man Logan” – are joining forces on Nemesis for the House of Ideas with an expected launch date of March 2010.
“Nemesis” just so happens to be the subtitle of Miracleman #15 , written by Alan Moore and penciled by John T. Totleben.
Considered by many to be the most “shocking,” “disturbing” and “sought-after” appearance of the Mick Anglo creation, the issue features an epic battle between Miracleman and his “nemesis” Kid Miracleman.
Did Millar land the ultimate gig to be the man responsible for folding the classic British hero into the Marvel Universe?
Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada has apparently been listening to pitches since the publisher announced at Comic-Con International that it had purchased the rights to the property. Who better than the Glaswegian scribe to reintroduce Marvelman?
Again, nothing but a late-night musing here, but what do you think?
In an interview with Kurt Amacker for Mania, Alan Moore discussed in detail his feelings towards Marvel’s purchase of the Marvelman character and the chance of ever seeing his own version of the character in print again. In a nutshell: He’s fine with it all as long as his name is kept off the credits and the character’s original creator, Mick Anglo, gets to keep all the money:
After being initially informed by Neil’s lawyer, I had to think about it for a couple of days. I decided that while I’m very happy for this book to get published—because that means money will finally go to Marvelman’s creator, Mick Anglo, and to his wife. Mick is very, very old, and his wife, I believe, is suffering from Alzheimer’s. The actual Marvelman story is such a grim and ugly one that I would probably rather that the work was published without my name on it, and that all of the money went to Mick. The decision about my name was largely based upon my history with Marvel—my desire to really have nothing to do with them, and my increasing desire to have nothing to do with the American comics industry. I mean, they’re probably are enough books out there with my name on them to keep the comics industry afloat for a little bit longer. I left a message to that effect with Neil. I’ve since heard back from the lawyer upon another issue, and he said that he was certain that would be the case—that Marvel would accede to my request. That looks like the way it will be emerging. And, Neil will be able to finish his Marvelman story because he has a completely different relationship with Marvel than I have with them—or rather, don’t have. The main thing is that I will feel happy to know that Mick Anglo is finally getting the recompense he so richly deserves. And, I will have distanced myself from a lot of the deceit and ugliness that surrounded the relaunching of Marvelman as a character.
Moore also has a few nasty words for former Warrior editor Dez Skinn and Eclipse Comics, and goes into great detail about how he came up with his own unique take on the character. Go read the whole thing.