MORE FROM SAN DIEGO: Gaiman talks about filmmaking, Miracleman and '1602'

Thu, July 24th, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Rob Worley, Columnist

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New York City, guns, skyscrapers and explosions. These are the things Neil

Gaiman wanted to avoid putting in the Marvel comics series that he began

developing almost two years ago. Addressing fans at Comic-Con International, the

writer said he agreed to do a Marvel book just before September 11th,

2001.

"There's something about Marvel that automatically makes me think: New York

and skyscrapers and people with guns and things that explode," Gaiman told

fans. After the terrorist attacks of that day, he was unsure what the new book

would be like. "I wanted to do something that had all of the fun of the Marvel Universe, but

had no skyscrapers, no planes, nothing exploding and no guns."

Shortly

after the terror attacks, Gaiman traveled to a convention in Venice and it was

there that he found inspiration. "I thought, 'Oh, I know what my story is,' and '1602' was there in my

head."

"1602", due out next month, looks to be the uniquely

Gaiman look at the Marvel Universe. Although it has been in the works for almost

two years, Marvel and Gaiman managed to keep mum about it until just a few

months ago. The creator was concerned about hyping the book too far ahead of its

release.

"The Internet exists in mayfly time anyway...you know: a half an

hour on the Internet is like several years in the real world," Gaiman said

of his reasons for keeping the project quiet. "The veil of secrecy has now been lifted. The veil of secrecy on '1602'

was something that just sort of...what's that wonderful 'Simpsons' word...embiggened.

"The premise of '1602' is as follows: It's 400 years ago and the Marvel

universe, for reasons that we do not know when we begin, has started occurring

400 years early," Gaiman said.

"It's not an Elseworlds. It's not a 'What If.' It's actually

happening and it will have some spillover into the real Marvel Universe,"

he said, adding that the series would make some alterations to the universe.

"Sir Nicholas Fury was the head of Queen Elizabeth's

intelligence service. The court physician was a magician named Stephen Strange.

Fury's assistant is a young man named Peter Parker who has an obsession with

spiders. His top agent is a man named Matthew Murdock, who is a blind, Irish

ballad singer who turns out to be this very mysterious figure of the night.

"We have the witchbreed who are these persecuted kids with peculiar powers.

"There's the mysterious hand of Otto Von Doom, known as 'the

handsome,'" he revealed, getting big laughs from the crowd.

Gaiman told fans that the book has been enormous fun to write and that it's

given him a hint of what Stan Lee and Jack Kirby might have felt like when they

created the characters. While the book was designed to be a diversion from real

world events, Gaiman found that life often imitates art.

"The initial vision was not to be topical, but

by the time I'm writing issue

number five, and have a number of people heading into a small European country

to try and rescue potential weapons of mass destruction," Gaiman said,

noting how his story inadvertently dovetailed with world events.

Asked about the length of "1602" Gaiman told the crowd, "It's definitely going to be eight issues, unless it's nine."

The writer initially agreed to do the series to help fund his "Marvels

and Miracles" campaign to free his "Miracleman" stories from a

copyright battle with comic creator Todd McFarlane. The pair battled in court

and Gaiman reported that his side won every single count against his former

employer. McFarlane is, of course, appealing the court's decision.

"Todd's appeal goes like this," Gaiman explained. " 'Yes, I said to Neil that he was not signing

away his copyright. No there was no indication he was signing away his

copyrights. He didn't sign his copyrights away in 1993.

"'Yes, in 1996 I falsely

filed copyright papers claiming that I had written the 'Angela' book and 'Spawn'

#9. But, in the subsequent three years, the statue of limitations on copyrights,

Neil didn't find out that I had done this and so his winning the case should be

thrown out.'"

Gaiman said he still feels secure that his side will win out on appeal.

"I'm not a betting man but I would not put a lot of money on Todd's appeal as

he's going with the 'Ah ha! Tricked you!' defense."

Further, Gaiman said it's looking as if McFarlane's hold on the books was

practically non-existent to begin with. McFarlane thought he acquired the

property from the now-defunct Eclipse Comics. However, Gaiman said, Miracleman

creator Gary Leach's agreement with that publisher allowed that the rights to

the material would revert back to him should anything happen to Eclipse. Given

that, it seems McFarlane may never have had a legitimate claim on the character

to begin with.

"I know that I have rights to Miracleman. I know I have rights to the stories

I wrote. We plan on getting them back into print," Gaiman said. "What rights Todd has, I don't know. He did that peculiar statue of Miracleman

where he's clenched."

So that the constipated Miracleman statue won't be the only representation of

the character on the market, Gaiman is working with Randy Bowen on a new statue.

Gaiman touched on his recent forays into filmmaking. He just made his

directing debut on with "A Short Film About John Bolton" which was

screened at the con. He wrote the script for "Mirrormask" which

collaborator Dave McKean is directing. He plans on directing the feature film

"Death: The High Cost of Living" next.

Gaiman also debuted his new spoken-word CD "Telling Tales" at the

con. "It has strangely cool drummy noises by Robin Adnan Anders,"

Gaiman said.

His book (another collaboration with McKean) "The Wolves in the Walls"

is due in stores this week.

"We've got another children's book coming out in about a year, in theory,

called 'Crazy Pair,'" Gaiman revealed. He added the "in theory"

qualifier as McKean has taken on a tremendous workload and Gaiman is skeptical

about how quickly he'll be able to clear it.

One final project Gaiman announced is a children's book called "The Graveyard Book" which is like "The Jungle Book" only

set in a graveyard, where the protagonist was raised by dead people.

 
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