Reading the Tea Leaves: Marvelman Returns, Kind Of

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There was a bit of a surprise in this morning’s Marvel solicitation announcements: they’re finally going to be publishing Marvelman comics. They’re just not the ones people actually want to read.

Marvel announced last year that they’d acquired the rights to Marvelman, the superhero created by Mick Anglo back in the ’50s as a British knockoff of Captain Marvel. The reason that anyone cares about him, though, is the early-’80s revival written initially by Alan Moore and later by Neil Gaiman. Serialized at first in Warrior in the U.K., it was reprinted and continued in the U.S. by Eclipse Comics (under the name Miracleman, since selling a non-Marvel comic with “Marvel” in its title in the U.S. is not a bright idea), and the series ended on a cliffhanger when Eclipse went under. The rights issues around Marvelman/Miracleman have been a don’t-get-anyone-started knot for many years, and the original issues and collections go for relatively astronomical prices these days.

Gaiman has made a point of wanting to finish the story he started 20 years ago, and the fact that he’s being interviewed for the Marvelman Classic Primer that Marvel is publishing in June–a collection of pin-ups and text pieces, it appears–suggests that he’s still on board one way or another. Moore, on the other hand, more or less washes his hands of the whole thing; he suggested, last year, that he wouldn’t mind if his work on the series were reprinted as long as his name didn’t appear on it.

The upcoming titles Marvel has announced are a series called Marvelman Family’s Finest (“reprinting Marvelman’s greatest adventures for the first time in the US”) and a hardcover collection of the earliest Marvelman stories, Marvelman Classic Vol. 1. At first glance, it might be a good sign that no creators’ names have been mentioned in conjunction with Marvelman Family’s Finest–because maybe one of those absent names could be Moore’s. But that “for the first time in the US” bit suggests that it’s not the material Eclipse published in the U.S., meaning the sweet, dopey, bland ’50s-era adventures that almost nobody cares about. If Marvel had secured the rights to the Moore and Gaiman material, it’s a sure bet that they’d be publishing that first; the fact that they’re publishing the “classic” material instead of the actual classics suggests that they haven’t yet.