Yes, we can call him Marvelman again!
Marvelman was, of course, originally a comic character created by Mick Anglo in the early 50s to replace the Captain Marvel strips being reprinted in Britain, after Fawcett Comics discontinued the popular Captain Marvel series due to legal challenges from DC Comics (DC claimed that Captain Marvel ripped off Superman!!!!) Marvelman was basically a British version of Captain Marvel and the series hit it off with British kids and its publication lasted till 1963.
In the early 80s, writer Alan Moore with artists Garry Leach and Alan Davis revived Marvelman in the pages of Warrior magazine (which also included a strip called V for Vendetta) and was an unprecedented re-invention of the superhero genre, which Moore would perfect with Watchmen a few years later.
Enter: Marvel Comics, who objected, of course, to the use of “Marvel” in the character’s name. No one at Marvel bothered about the fact that when Mick Anglo created Marvelman, the company that would eventually be called Marvel, was called Timely Comics! When faced with such legal threats, Warrior magazine folded. Marvelman ended up in the USA with indie publisher Eclipse Comics but had to change its name to Miracleman. The first couple of Miraclemen issues were re-sized, re-formated and colorised reprints of the Warrior magazine stories and then Alan Moore together with artists Chuck Beckum (aka Chuck Austen), Rick Veitch and the magnificient John Totleben, created amazing, groundbreaking new stories.
One such story (Miracleman #15) concerned Miracleman’s final battle with the evil Kid Miracleman in probably the darkest, grimmest superhero tale ever. This comic book is probably my favourite of all time, its denouement still moves me even after all these years. At the end of this story arc, Miracleman and his superhero cohorts take over the world and rule as benevolent gods, in possibly the only logical conclusion for a world where a Superman exists.
Moore called it quits after that and the creative reins were handed over to Neil (Sandman) Gaiman and Mark Buckingham. Gaiman developed Moore’s premise in eight thought-provoking issues before the bankrupcty of Eclipse Comics brought the series to a premature end in 1994.
Since then, the character has been the subject of legal disputes as several parties viz. Mick Anglo, Dez Skinn (publisher of Warrior), Neil Gaiman, Alan Davis and Image Comics co-founder and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane (who bought over the rights to some Eclipse characters) claimed ownership.
Well, at the recent San Diego Comic Con, Marvel announced that they had acquired the rights to Marvelman from Mick Anglo’s representatives! Which certainly brings the character full circle in a sense and Alan Moore – who was upset about Marvel’s legal challenges in the 80s – will probably have a wry chuckle over this news.
In light of the unresolved disputes (especially with Todd McFarlane), I’m sure there’s still some work to be done before we see reprints of the existing material and (hopefully) new material from Neil Gaiman – well, finish off the Silver Age and Dark Age arcs to begin with – BUT with the financial clout that Marvel possesses, I’m sure that these outstanding issues will be resolved sooner than later. Certainly, Marvel has no doubt about who owns Marvelman as the new Joe Quesada drawn MM poster (see above) attests.
… after all that, can a Marvelman film be far behind? The mind boggles…