Neil Gaiman took part in today's Marvel press conference, at which Editor-in-chief Joe Quesada announced that Marvel would publish a six-issue mini-series written by Gaiman. Marvel has agreed to donate all of its profits from the mini-series to Gaiman's Marvels and Miracles, LLC, a company that Gaiman has created to clarify the incredibly murky legal rights to the Miracleman property, and to use profits from those rights (after compensating creators) to benefit comic-related charities. Gaiman, who wrote the extremely popular Sandman series for DC and the recently published New York Times best-selling novel American Gods (see 'Neil Gaiman'), returns to Marvel for the first time in seven years. While Marvel's Quesada stated that he was 'fanboyishly giddy' at the prospect of working with Gaiman, the Sandman scribe seemed equally pleased to be writing for the characters that inspired him as seven-year-old boy living in England and reading black-and-white (and red) reprints of the original Marvel comics. Gaiman allowed that in addition to the popular 'Stan and Jack' characters, which form the core of the Marvel Universe, he would undoubtedly dredge up some more obscure Marvel heroes ('from Tales of the Unexpected #97') as well as possibly create new characters for what he described as a 'cool little project.' More details about the Gaiman/Marvel mini-series will be available in Wizard #124, which ships on November 21.
The status of the Miracleman books remains unclear, though the funding from the Marvel project should eventually pave the way for the reprinting of the critically acclaimed series. Marvel CEO Bill Jemas made the point that Marvel was not funding Gaiman's Marvels and Miracles in order to get back at Todd McFarlane, who purchased Eclipse and thus has some claim to the rights for Miracleman. In fact it was clear that Gaiman hoped that he could settle the rights conflict with McFarlane with a handshake, though this is not the only hurdle he will have to clear in order to publish Miracleman. Gaiman pointed out that when he is finally able to clear the rights and publish Miracleman, he will donate all the profits, beyond those needed to make sure that the original creators are being properly paid, to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and ACTOR. Gaiman also wants to complete the Miracleman series, something that could involve additional comics (not including issue #25, which was completed, but never published). While Marvel is clearly interested in reprinting the Miracleman series, and is willing to allow the use of the original Marvelman name, at this point nothing concerning the future of the Miracleman property is certain except that Gaiman will have funding for the extremely costly process of clearing the rights for the property.
Although Marvel is donating all the profits from the Gaiman-penned mini-series, this move could pay off for the publisher in a number of ways. Certainly bringing Gaiman, clearly the most popular writer working in comics today, back to Marvel is a major coup, and if this experience goes well, the author is also ready to entertain the possibilities of other projects at Marvel (though not a monthly comic). Gaiman fans that have previously become acquainted with his work for Vertigo or as a novelist would thus be drawn to the Marvel universe, perhaps for the first time. Reprinting the Miracleman saga would be another feather in Marvel's cap -- and this deal, while not assuring that, makes it much more likely. Finally this gesture makes it clear that the new Marvel is a much more creator-friendly company than its past incarnations, and this change in perception could pay big dividends down the road.