Today when Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada announced that legendary British superhero Marvelman had been purchased by the publisher, some fans cheered, some asked aloud who the character was, and some simply sat slack jawed and stared at the screen projecting Quesada's interpretation of the character.
But one face in the crowd viewed the announcement with a little more glee and a lot more shock: Mark Buckingham. "Let me put it like this: I was just told, 'It would be a good idea if you came along to the Cup O Joe panel,' and that's about as much as I knew," laughed the artist of his discovery of the final deal. Buckingham was the last artist to draw the original Marvelman character (then called "Miracleman" due to the fact that Marvel would not let the original name be used then) in the U.S. for Eclipse Comics, and he and writer Neil Gaiman's magnum opus stalled due to Eclipse's financial failure as it had just begun the second story in a planned trilogy of Miracleman stories.
"Obviously, for Neil and I this is a wonderful opportunity for us to finally get the material that we were doing back in the early '90s back in print again because it's been 16 years since our last issue hit the stands," he told CBR moments after the panel ended. "Beyond anything else, we can get that stuff back in print now. There's material that was produced that's never been published, so from a fan's point of view that's fantastic. There's more Gaiman and Buckingham just waiting for printing already."
As for whether the creative team will complete the last four parts of their "Silver Age" story and move on the proposed "Dark Age" finale, Buckingham simply said, "This is all very sudden and in its early days, but it would be wonderful if we had the opportunity to return to complete the story that we started. You'll have to wait and see. I'm just very excited that the character is back and that a new generation will get to enjoy it."
Gaiman also made a brief public comment, posting on his Twitter account "Re Marvelman: I think it's great news that Mick Anglo's creations is going to be seen again, and hopeful that my work & Bucky's will be back."
As revealed at the panel, Marvel purchased the rights to the character from British cartoonist (and Marvelman creator) Mick Anglo after the property had languished in seemingly intractable legal battles for the better part of the last 15 years. Originally, the character's rights seemed to be partially split amongst Gaiman and Buckingham (after they took over from original "Miracleman" writer Alan Moore, who drafted a legendary tale that established the "real life superheroes" voice he later used on projects like "Watchmen") and possibly Eclipse. Things got much harder for the creative team after Image co-founder Todd McFarlane purchased the Eclipse catalogue of characters and made claim to owning Miracleman outright. McFarlane even used a version of the hero called "The Man of Miracle" in the Spawn story he drew for the long-delayed Image Comics tenth anniversary book. Of late though, word circulated that Anglo had always owned the true rights to the character thanks to Moore making note of that in several high profile interviews.
When asked if he'd had the chance to speak to Anglo, Buckingham said, "Sadly, no, I've never met him, although I do admire his work greatly. So I hope that opportunity will arise." However, the Marvel panelists had much to say on the subject during the Cup O Joe presentation, starting with Quesada saying, "Marvelman belongs to Marvel. Marvel has purchased the rights to Marvelman from Mick Anglo, who is the creator of Marvelman. He is arguably the J.D. Salinger of comic book characters. It is arguably one of the most important comic book character in decades."
Publisher Dan Buckley went on to describe the process behind the purchase, saying, "I'm pretty sure if you go on the internet right now, within the next five minutes you'll hear every rumor associated with this character from the 1950s through the '80s to the '90s. We started talking to Mick Anglo's people in 2007 about this, and it was a very exciting prospect. I first became aware of it through our relationship with Neil Gaiman. I really didn't know much about Marvelman at that time, but the conversation started about how we could get involved with the character and bring him back. Mick Anglo and his folks are great to work with. John Campbell who represents Mick Anglo – I want to mention him because he's done a great deal to bring him back here. He's not going to get all the kudos because he's got to do all the negotiations with me.
"But it's very exciting for us to get this character that has so many great stories attached to it. We're working. We don't have a lot to say on the publishing right now. We will be publishing some Marvelman material next year. We are talking to all, besides having Mick on board – who by the way is 94 years old, and I spoke to him Wednesday for an hour and a half. It was a pleasure. We're talking to all the people who were involved in the '80s and '90s material – Alan [Moore], Neil, Garry Leach, Alan Davis – we've reached out to all these folks. Mark Buckingham, who is also in the house..."
"The impact of this story that the character had on the industry is akin to what happened with 'Watchmen,' and we're very excited about it. We'll have a lot more details in the near future."
The publisher has already struck fast to exploit the deal, selling Marvelman T-shirts at http://shop.marvel.com and announcing plans for Quesada's image to be released as a poster in comic shops on September 2.