Whither Miracleman?

Or; How Miracleman Was the Least of Problems for Eclipse Comics by December 1993…

See, the comics scene was crazy in 1993. Really, crazy.

Amid all the craziness, I don’t think many folks gave a rat’s ass at that moment about who owned Miracleman, other than Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham, who had just recently been left dangling (for some time) by their publisher concerning the fate of their own ongoing collaboration on the title.

And, at the time, while Australian playwrights were trying to get Alan Moore‘s attention about doing a Miracleman theatrical adaptation, nobody knew who, exactly, actually owned Miracleman/Marvelman. Frankly, Alan had passed that “poison chalice” (his words) to Neil Gaiman, and didn’t want to know or care—and the powers-that-be at Eclipse Comics, the US publisher of Miracleman, had other fish to fry.

What fish? Well, I’ll tell you.

Here’s a portion of the full-page ad Eclipse ran like clockwork in The Comics Buyer’s Guide, circa September 10, 1993 (pg. 9); specifically, Cat Yronwode‘s ongoing “Fit to Print” column.

Cat had surfaced in fandom as an outspoken critic, and “Fit to Print” had gone from being a CBG column to being the centerpiece of the Eclipse advertisement page (once Cat became editor, then Eclipse co-founder Dean Mullaney‘s partner, then editor-in-chief at Eclipse Enterprises/Eclipse Comics):

My file copy is torn, and is missing the bottom tier of this fateful, historic “Fit to Print.” But there’s enough of it intact to decode the secret message Cat wove into this bizarre text piece. By reading the first letter of each line vertically, Cat‘s real message was easily read—and the future of Eclipse clearly hinged on something more than business:
Now, look closely at the first letter of each line…

…well, you get the idea.

The rest named names, and added a cruel bit of medical information to the revelation.

Needless to say, this got tongues flapping among the comics communities, confirming rumors and fanning speculation as to Eclipse‘s fate as a publisher.

Meanwhile, in the same ad page, Eclipse was still banging the gong for their latest product line—what was, in fact, the last of their product line.

It was Eclipse‘s fifteenth anniversary, and despite the fact that Eclipse succumbing to market forces and internal friction that would prove terminal in short order, the CBG promo copy surrounding Cat‘s threnody-in-code would seem to indicate everything was hunky-dory, Lori.

The same full-pager ballyhooed “the phenomenal new Eclipse 1993 Mail Order Catalogue, a 40-page extravaganza” (which I’d love to get a copy of today), featuring a special historical overview and listing of Eclipse‘s publishing history.

And then, there was this—harbinger of the next strange turn of events for Miracleman, and the creative dynamo who never once played a part in the creative life of Marvelman/Miracleman, but who was about to play a major role in further complicating and compromising that character and creative property’s “life”…

Even as Eclipse was intent on hitching their caboose to Todd‘s runaway train in the wake of the 1992-1993 Image Comics rise to unprecedented creator-publishing visibility and market power, and Todd‘s pivotal (indeed, catalytic) role in that turn of events, and touting their tentative link via that “Spawn SPOGZ fame,” McFarlane was concerned about this dangling legal tie with Eclipse.

See, Todd doesn’t like loose ends.

Much less loose ends with sinking ships; much less loose ends on the very creative property he’d kept clear of all legal ties to any publisher other then Image Comics

—and, alas, Eclipse.

Surely, there was nothing to worry about. What claim could Eclipse possibly have on Spawn from doing the SPOGZ?

Then again, Eclipse‘s track record wasn’t particularly sterling in the contracts department.

When Eclipse imploded, Todd was quick to act—buying the whole of the Eclipse inventory lock, stock, and barrel in the Eclipse bankruptcy auction with a single bid, effectively closing the auction before it even began. I know, because I was among the former Eclipse-published creators who had been informed by the legal firm handling the auction when I might have a chance to bid on anything of interest to me concerning my own properties (in my case, the films/negatives and backstock for Bedlam! and Fearbook, the two collections of collaborative work I’d co-edited and co-packaged with/for Eclipse years before). When I called the number I’d been given at the appointed time, I was informed there was no auction: a silent, secret bidder had snapped it all up in the opening seconds.

I soon found out that silent, secret bid had been placed by Todd, intent on making sure nobody but nobody got their hooks into whatever shred of Spawn proprietary rights might be attached to those Spawn SPOGZ.

And in the bargain, Todd “acquired” Miracleman—in his mind, if nowhere else—thereby consigning Marvelman/Miracleman to something much worse than legal limbo…

See, the comics scene was crazy in 1993.

And it only got crazier.

Discussion (3) ¬

  1. Roger Green

    Here’s a mundane sidebar:
    When Eclipse put out their 15th anniversary publication, one publication was missing: Fred Hembeck’s Best of Dateline, which I believe was their second book, after Sabre (Don McGregor & Paul Gulacy). After that first collection, Eclipse took forever to confirm or deny that they’d do a second one with Fred. Ultimately, the second collection was put out by FantaCo, as was the third. Then the fourth and the reprinted first, with eight extra pages were printed simultaneously, as I recall. So Fred was redacted from Eclipse’s history, as noted in Fred’s omnibus tome.

  2. srbissette

    THANKS for that bit of info, Roger; I seem to recall this as early evidence (to me, at any rate) of Eclipse’s sometimes shoddy treatment of creators. I know I got the warning flag early, and proceeded with caution as best I could; you never knew, especially with Cat, what might happen… or what “side” you’d end up at after a project was completed.

  3. Joe Ryan

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