Neil Gaiman and Marvels and Miracles, LLC (which has been assigned the Miracleman rights by its creators) have filed a suit in Federal Court in Madison, Wisconsin against Todd McFarlane Productions. In an accompanying press release Neil Gaiman said, 'This suit is not about the money, it's about respecting the rights of the creator and keeping promises.' One of the leaders of Gaiman's legal team, Kenneth F. Levin stated that Gaiman was filing the suit reluctantly after other avenues proved fruitless, 'We did everything we could to get this solved outside the courts.'
The nine-count suit alleges copyright infringements in regards to three characters created by Gaiman--Angela, Cogliostro, and Medieval Spawn-- and breaches of agreements between Gaiman and McFarlane in 1992 and 1997. The dispute centers on Miracleman (originally 'Marvelman'). Gaiman and the other creators of Miracleman are arrayed on one side with McFarlane, who acquired 'rights' to Miracleman when he purchased the remains of Eclipse Comics, on the other.
Marvels and Miracles was created to manage the Miracleman rights and to benefit comic charities with their proceeds. Marvel is donating its profits on the new Gaiman Marvel miniseries to Marvels and Miracles, which will undoubtedly help fund its share of the litigation costs (see 'Marvel Snags Neil Gaiman').
Retailers do have a stake in this dispute. There is already solid demand for Miracleman, and now the publicity will increase it. Marvel has expressed an interest in publishing the Miracleman backlist and even restoring the 'Marvelman' title, which, with the right creative team, has blockbuster written all over it. The long out of print Eclipse Miracleman trades are in demand, and the completed, but unpublished issue #25 has piqued the interest of comics fans. Retailers and fans alike would benefit from a speedy resolution of this dispute and a swift return of Miracleman to the racks.
Ironically Todd McFarlane, who was in the forefront of the movement for 'creator's rights' when he led the Image revolt against Marvel Comics, is now viewed by some comics fans as being the 'corporate bad guy' using his money and legal power to usurp the rights of the creators of Miracleman. Some fans would be happy to see McFarlane, who has been less and less involved in the creation of his own comics, beaten in this dispute, but for retailers McFarlane remains a key supplier, especially on the toy side where his company's willingness to take chances on projects like Clive Barker's Tortured Souls (see 'Toys For Adults') and Akira have led to big sales in pop culture stores.