As with most of its big initiatives, Marvel Comics is pressing its incoming Marvel NOW! relaunch of titles not only amongst its core readership but amongst comic shop retailers as well. In the latest enticement to store owners, the publisher has unveiled a new teaser through Diamond Comics Distributor's retailer site, and while it's much more vague than most of their new series previews, the image may hold the key to a long-awaited revival.
Unlike some previous teasers that carried creative team names, Marvel's latest simply says "Superior." The word has a few specific meanings for Marvel publishing, including being the title of writer Mark Millar and artist Leinil Francis Yu's Icon series inspired by the Superman trope as well as the indicator of the scientific name for the mutants of the X-Men.
However, yesterday comics legal super blogger Daniel Best at 20th Century Danny Boy uncovered a surprising development that could shed some light on the manner. Apparantly, Marvel now has sole trademark on the names for the Marvelman/Miracleman hero that has long been tied up in legal battles. As Best notes, the recent settlement between creators Todd McFarlane and Neil Gaiman may have been the final barrier in allowing Marvel to fully capture the rights.
"Only two days ago the case was resolved with the opposition being withdrawn and the case closed, but there was more. In addition to the opposition being withdrawn, McFarlane has had to abandon his claim on the Miracleman name for all time. As if that wasn't good enough, only last week a new trademark application was lodged for Miracleman, this time by Marvel Comics," he wrote.
As CBR readers are likely well aware, the question of whether Marvelman – a legendary UK superhero whose status was raised in modern times by work from Gaiman and Alan Moore before him – would reappear at Marvel has been tantalizingly close for years now. The publisher first announced that it had acquired the rights to Mick Anglo's original Marvelman work just over three years ago – a move that led to classic UK reprints but no reprinted work from Moore, Gaiman and their artistic collaborators. In recent years, Marvel representatives have played coy about the possibility of Gaiman and artist Mark Buckingham finally finishing the Miracleman epic they began in the early 1990s under the original Marvelman banner.
Last summer, Marvel SVP of Publishing Tom Brevoort told retailer Jud Meyers, "Things move slowly, particularly because we’re trying to make sure everything is done right and above board and everyone involved is satisfied. So have patience. We're getting to it. It is coming. We will get there." And at the recent Emerald City Comicon, Marvel's C.B. Cebulski promised news was coming soon on Marvelman.
The idea of a "Superior" superhero definitely fits the Marvelman concept, and in a recent column on Diamond's retailer site, Marvel Sales VP David Gabriel promised "a top secret guest—the writer behind the most shocking comic book of 2012 that will lead into the BIGGEST new launch of 2013" would appear at a retailer breakfast at New York Comic Con in October.
Of course, the idea of the "most shocking comic book of 2012" doesn't quite fit Gaiman (though who it does reference is open for debate), and as noted above, "Superior" could mean many things to the Marvel Universe. In the end, fans and retailers both may be waiting a long time before Marvelman makes his Marvel debut.
UPDATE: Matthew Meylikhov over at Multiversity Comics cites an unnamed source pointing him in the direction of "Superior" being a Spider-Man relaunch. With the evidence on hand, it's as strong a possibility as any.
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on the teaser and Marvelman as it develops.