Cleveland Plain Dealer article

Sangiacomo, Michael, “Miracleman in good hands with new owner-writer Gaiman”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12 May 2001, p. 6E

ON COMICS

Miracleman fans who have been holding their collective breath since 1996, when “Spawn” creator Todd McFarlane bought all rights to the character and announced a revival, can exhale.

The news is better than we thought.

McFarlane gave all rights and ownership of the character to Neil Gaiman, a quality writer who gets things done.

Gaiman said he owns Miracleman lock, stock and flowing cape. And he doesn’t have a clue what to do with it.

“Todd transferred ownership of Miracleman, and all the films to each of the comics, in compensation for my work on ‘Angela,’ ” said Gaiman from his home in Minneapolis, which he finds frighteningly cold compared to his former home in Great Britain. Angela was a character Gaiman created as an adversary/ally for McFarlane’s “Spawn.”

Neither McFarlane nor any of the minions at his company offered a comment on the deal.

“He sent me all the films [for the entire 24-issue series] and they are sitting in my basement,” Gaiman said. “I’m not quite sure what to do with them.”

What to do?

Now let’s see, Gaiman has the complete rights to one of the most sought-after series of the last 20 years. Fans are paying up to $100 each for the long-out-of-print trade paperbacks that collected Gaiman’s run on the series (issues 17 to 24) and Alan Moore’s earlier run (issues 1 through 16.)

Presumably, Gaiman also has the legendary 25th issue that he wrote and Mark Buckingham illustrated, but that never came out because the publisher, Eclipse Comics, went belly up.

So, what should Gaiman do?

Here’s a crazy idea so off the wall it might work: Release the whole series in trade paperbacks!

Gaiman could release the last eight issues and throw in the Holy Grail 25th issue as a hardcover book and fans would pay $50 for it without batting an eye. I might pay that much to read it. Gaiman ended his run on the series with the cliffhanger of all cliffhangers.

With Miracleman, Moore took the concept of a superman to its logical extreme. Actually it was more the extreme version of Fawcett’s “Captain Marvel,” as Miracleman (originally called “Marvelman”) was based on British versions of “Captain Marvel.” The “Captain Marvel” in question is the really silly one from the 1940s and ’50s who changed from a young boy into a musclebound superhero every time he said “Shazam.” There have been a half-dozen other comic characters by the same name over the years.

By the end of his stint on the comic, Moore had Miracleman defeat his nemesis in a horrific battle that almost destroyed London and killed thousands of people. What was next?

Miracleman created paradise on Earth. He set himself and fellow superheroes up as gods and eliminated war, crime, disease, poverty and death.

Then Moore handed the writing over to Gaiman.

Gaiman concentrated on little stories. Instead of immediately tackling the lead character, he wrote about life in Eden through the eyes of ordinary citizens. Only toward the end of the series did Gaiman plant the seeds of what was to come: Miracleman resurrected his dead junior partner and the young man was horrified to see that his mentor now ruled the Earth. But what could he do?

That’s where the series ended.

Gaiman said he would consider releasing the works as trade paperbacks, but first wanted his lawyer to make sure that the transfer was proper. To say there’s a bit of bad blood between Gaiman and McFarlane would be like saying Captain Marvel and Dr. Sivana had a bit of a falling out.

Gaiman coming

You can ask Gaiman about it yourself. He’s on a national tour to promote his novel, “American Gods” and may be coming to a city near you.

In Cleveland, he’ll be signing books at the Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Shaker Square at 1 p.m., June 23, four days after the release of the novel. The event will be easy to find – just look for the line of people winding around the block.

He will also be signing in Huntington, N.Y.; Evanston and Skokie, Ill.; Lexington, Ky.; Seattle; San Diego; San Francisco; and other cities. Visit Gaiman’s Web site, www.americangods.com, for a complete list of appearances and some interesting musings.

Now that the novel is soon to come out, Gaiman said he has been fondly remembering how much fun it was to write comics. He said he wanted to stop writing them because he enjoyed it so much.

“When you work on something you love for too long it becomes a job and you lose that love,” he said. “I got out before it got to that point.

“I have not written ‘Sandman’ for five years and now, I find there are huge areas that I miss,” he said. “When I was writing ‘Sandman,’ everyone knew what I was doing. But writing ‘American Gods’ took me 24 months and people were getting worried, thinking I had stopped writing. So it is a relief to be done.”

Gaiman’s next project will be a hardcover collection of new stories featuring the godlike brothers and sisters of the deceased Sandman: “The Endless.”

“DC will bring it out as a hardcover book first and then later as a paperback,” he said. “It will be equal to about six or seven monthly comics and will be mostly comic-type illustration and story, though there will be some parts of it that are text only.”

Gaiman said comics were heading in an “interesting direction” for a time when Bill Sienkiewicz and others were creating stylized paintings.

“Comics should have continued on in that direction, but have not,” he said.

“Everyone became more concerned about making comics fun again. People are so busy putting the fun back into comics that the serious stuff is lost.

“Comics have become like an endless supply of bubble gum. Sure there are different flavors and it tastes good, but after a while it is too much of the same.”

E-mail: mikesang@aol.com Phone: 216-999-4890