Comic Book Legends Revealed #443
Welcome to the four hundred and forty-third in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and forty-two. This week, did Marvel and DC both TURN down buying Marvelman in the early 1980s? Plus, was there really a supervillain powered by…cocaine? Finally, was John Byrne’s X-Men: The Hidden Years a finite series or what?
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: Marvel and DC Comics both passed on Marvelman in the 1980s.
One of the biggest announcements at the most recent New York Comic Con was the news that Marvel Comics would officially be reprinting the original Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman Marvelman comic books from the 1980s (only calling the character by the name Miracleman, which was coined when the comics moved to Eclipse Comics in the mid-1980s because Marvel took issue with the name Marvelman)
However, did you know that Marvel had the opportunity to do Marvelman stories roughly thirty years ago…and PASSED on the chance? As did DC Comics, as well!
To set the scene, Marvelman was the lead feature in the British anthology series Warrior (published by Dez Skinn). Originally written and drawn by Alan Moore and Garry Leach, it soon became Alan Moore and Moore’s acclaimed Captain Britain artist partner, Alan Davis.
The series was a success in England and was admired in the United States, as well. Eventually, though, Moore and Davis split up over some philosophical differences (as written in a past Comic Book Legends Revealed, Moore took issue with Marvel Comics reprinting some of his work without his permission and his response was to tell them that they could not reprint any of his work in the future. That included all of the Captain Britain stuff he did with Alan Davis. Davis, on the other hand, thought that Moore should have taken a different approach with Marvel. In the end, Davis decided to leave the Marvelman feature with Warrior #21.
Without its star feature, Warrior was in trouble, so Skinn began searching out American publishers who he could sell the rights to the various characters for the American companies to reprint the Warrior stories and, depending on whatever deals the American companies cut with the creators, continue the original series (Davis, for his part, agreed to let Marvelman continue without him if that’s what everyone else wanted to do).
To put this into perspective, time-wise, Warrior #21 came out the same month as Alan Moore’s eighth issue of Saga of the Swamp Thing…
So while Moore had certainly gained a lot of attention for his early Swamp Thing issues (“Anatomy Lesson” in #21 was a bit of a critical sensation), he was not yet ALAN MOORE, to the point where you likely were not revolving a series just around the fact that Alan Moore was writing it. Not like you would just a couple of years later.
So if a comic book company wanted to bring over Marvelman, they’d pretty much have to be making the decision based on the work in Warrior less than the star power of Alan Moore. And when Skinn made the offer to DC Comics, they passed on buying Marvelman because they had recently worked out a deal with Fawcett for Captain Marvel, the character Marvelman was originally based on. DC at the time wasn’t quite sure how to work Captain Marvel into the DC Universe, so they were not particularly interested in trying to work in Captain Marvel AND a character so similar to Captain Marvel.
DC did, though, purchase another Warrior feature, V for Vendetta.
Marvel, too, decided to pass. Jim Shooter was a big fan of the series, but he just didn’t see the character working for Marvel.
So eventually Pacific Comics bought it but then they went out of business before printing an issue and then Eclipse Comics took over and the series finally saw print under the new title Miracleman in 1985 (reprinting the Warrior material before going to new material by Alan Moore and Davis’ first replacement, the artist later known as Chuck Austen)….
Imagine how different things would be if either Marvel or DC had bought Marvelman. I presume Moore would not have written it for Marvel at the time, so what would have happened there?
Thanks to George Khoury for all of this great information, courtesy of his excellent book, Kimota!: The Miracleman Companion. Go read it, people! Lots of fascinating interviews about Marvelman/Miracleman in there.
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On the next page, learn of the DC Comics supervillain powered by cocaine!