Thursday, August 13, 2009

If every leaf on every tree could tell a story

I think it was about six years ago when I stopped giving a shit about the legal issues over the rights to Miracleman. (I never knew him as Marvelman, so that’s the name here.)

It is a fascinating story and one that everybody who gives a shit about Miracleman knows backwards. It’s been exhaustively documented and it would take you ten seconds of hardcore internet searching to find a dozen different variations of the same old tale.

It’s a story that is unclear and some sympathy has to go to everybody involved, to Mick Angelo, who didn’t know what he had; or Alan Moore, who attracts this weirdness and shit; even Todd McFarlane, who apparently didn’t get what he thought he’d paid for.

But somewhere around 2003, in the middle of another protracted period of legal wrangling, I stopped caring. I still followed the story, bit was disconnected to any emotional feeling on the case. It didn’t matter who had the rights or who owned the logo or who had the international rights to the fucking lettering. The entire case, bogged down in the legal quagmire for decades now, had gone beyond absurdity into pure tedium and was stuck there.

The trouble was, the legal wrangle became the story and the inaccessibility of the comics began to build up impossible expectations. Any essay or blog post or magazine article that mentioned the comic had to waste half its time lamenting the fact that it’s out of print or cursing one of the participants before getting to the meat of the actual story.

There are always exceptions, and you can always rely on writers like Tim Callahan to focus on the good stuff, but even then, the legal issues have to be mentioned, if only for context.

And now that Marvel has made another one of those balls-laden moves that has characterized Joe Quesada’s time at the top and that gets all the attention. (The man is so bloody good at hitting the right buttons, even if the end results are never quite as big as his claims. Quesada makes an excellent editor in chief and of all the fine editors who have filled the job since Stan fucked off to Hollywood, he might just be the best at spinning the company line.)

So Marvel tells everybody they’ve got the rights, even though nobody is sure what that means and what’s going to be reprinted first and whether Todd still has a say and Dez Skinn is still banging on about the fucking lettering rights and oh god, I can’t take it any more.

* * *

It would be good if the two dozen issues of Miracleman produced by Moore, Leach, Davis, Beckum, Veitch, Totleben, Gaiman and Buckingham get reprinted. They’re bloody good comics. The themes and set pieces have been picked to pieces by lesser talents over the years, but few have the deft touch that Moore brought to his superhero apocalypse and the rebuilding of an entire society that followed.

Moore’s last issue remains one of my favourite comics of all time, as Miracleman and his chums get rid of nuclear weapons, destroy the concept of money, give people everything they want, offer to turn people into superheroes and creates a world of wonder.

The purple prose of Alan Moore has never been more keenly heartfelt than the monlogoeue that covers the climax of his story. Miracleman’s final lines under Moore’s pen still resonate, as the man of miracles marvels at the wonders he has brought on the world.

He knows it’s not perfect, but that imperfection gives this new society life and vitality and wonder.

He knows there are those left behind and Miracleman’s inability to connect with lost loved ones is the biggest tragedy of the series, as poor Liz is left behind.

But Moore’s story is a grand, sweeping, organic epic that becomes something that still feels new and different, two decades on. It deserves an audience and it would be nice to see it reprinted in some form or other.

It would also be bloody brilliant if Gaiman and Buckingham were given the chance to finish the story they started so long ago. His first arc showing the lives of ordinary people in this extraordinary world took a kicking at the time for excessive tweeness and the crime of Not Being Alan Moore, but it was the first Mircaleman book I ever read and I fucking love it. It makes narrative sense and gave this world and its astonished inhabitants much-needed added depth. He went back to the main story with the first two issues of the second arc and there were the first signs of trouble in paradise when the entire story got struck down by the legal bullshit.

It would be interesting if Gaiman keeps to his original idea, or moves away from that conversation on a beach at the end of time that he has had in his head since the start. A future timeline of the Miracleman world has been around for a long, long time and shows that Golden Ages never last, even with the greatest of intentions and technology.

* * *

But that’s all a long way away yet. There will still be legal shitstorms and crude accusations and the usual confusion and wake me when it’s all over.

There is a chance of new Miracleman comics produced, ones that continue a fascinating narrative that still has a lot of meat left in it, and that is a miracle in itself. It would just be nice if all the usual pettiness and sniping and feuding could be left out of a legal case involving the intellectual copyright value of a comic character. Just once. It would be nice if it didn’t overshadow a lovely little comic that punched well above its weight.

It would be nice.

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