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Marvel Announces ‘Marvelman Classic’ Reprints

Ending almost a year of speculation, Marvel have finally announced what they’re doing with Marvelman: Reprinting his adventures in a new ongoing series. So why do the words “Marvelman Classic” worry us so much?

A press release this morning from the House of Ideas explains that July will see the launch of “Marvelman Family’s Finest#1, a new ongoing series that’s described as “reprinting Marvelman’s greatest adventures for the first time in the US” — which, apparently, means it’s not the Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman stories that everyone wants to read and have already been reprinted over here. That’ll be accompanied by “Marvelman Classic Vol. 1 Premiere HC,” launching a new chronological reprinting of the character from creator Mick Anglo’s first efforts ripping off Captain Marvel, all of which is teased in something called “Marvelman Classic Primer,” a $3.99 beginner’s guide to the character that’s described in the press release a little something like this:

Who is the mysterious Marvelman? And just why is he one of the most enduring super heroes of all time? The answers arrives in this commemorative one-shot featuring interviews with creator Mick Anglo, superstar Neil Gaiman and more who contributed to this character’s history over the years! Plus, get all-new pin ups of key Marvelman characters by superstar artists Mike Perkins, Doug Braithwaite, Miguel Angel Sepulveda, Jae Lee, Khoi Pham and Ben Oliver! This landmark issue features two covers-one with the timeless art of Mick Anglo and another with the now-iconic rendition of Marvelman by Marvel Editor-In-Chief-and superstar artist-Joe Quesada!

Here’s what’s concerns me:#1: Almost no-one cares about the Mick Anglo work. It’s brutal, but true. Pre-Alan Moore, Marvelman was a forgotten Captain Marvel rip-off (literally — the character was created as a way for a British publisher to continue a successful line of Captain Marvel reprints even though the original American publisher had stopped making original material) for a reason. The only reason anyone is interested in the character is because of the revisionist work Moore did in reviving him… So why launch the character in the American market with an ongoing reprint series of 1950s material that’s almost certainly doomed to failure?

#2: Marvelman Classic? Usually, Marvel uses that C-word describer when they’re issuing old material in trade paperback while planning on reviving the property for a brand new series (See: “Deadpool Classic,” “New Mutants Classic,” “Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch Classic” and so on). On the one hand, if this means we’ll eventually have affordable collections of the original Moore (and, later Neil Gaiman) stories, then great. On the other, if this means that Marvel are planning on continuing (or worse, rebooting) the character in brand-new stories by today’s hottest talents and superstar artists… I’m not so convinced that’s a good idea. I’m worried that any new Marvel take on Marvelman will be one that tries to take the character to the “next level” from the same people who thought that Civil War, Dark Reign and the Sentry were also taking superheroes to the next level.

(Also, from the official solicitation: “Marvel has stepped up to the plate to deliver on the promise of Anglo’s incredible characters”? Really, Marvel? Really? Because, what, Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman weren’t delivering enough with two of the most highly-regarded takes on superheroes in the medium’s history? I know this is really just marketing speak for “Now we own the character,” but still, surely they could have phrased it slightly more respectfully? Mind you, I may be expecting too much from a solicit that manages to use the word “mysterious” twice in the first three sentences.)

Don’t get me wrong; Marvel bought Marvelman fair and square — or, at least, as close as anyone who isn’t Todd McFarlane can see — and he’s theirs to do with as they want. But as someone who hoped that the extent of their plans would be to reissue the Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman runs and let Gaiman and Mark Buckingham finish what they’d started more than a decade ago, and then let it end like “Watchmen,” “V For Vendetta” or any of the other 1980s watermarks for the genre, the newly-announced plans are pretty much a sign that such hopes and dreams, like Evelyn Cream’s sapphire teeth, were made to be broken.

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