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Saturday, March 28, 2009

More on Gaiman and PRINCE OF STORIES

Well, as long as I still got Gaiman on the brain(and I want to write something about THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, which is as of right now my favourite of his novels. And he has a new book with drawings by Charles Vess that I need to read), there was some discussion recently over at Steve Bissette's site about how little notice some of the noteworthy bits revealed in PRINCE OF STORIES have gotten in the comic press. Here's a bit more about two of them [later edited to add some names and numbers now that they've been posted elsewhere online].

Regarding Miracleman, there are actually several bits I didn't know revealed in the discussion of the legal situation regarding the character, but the most important is the identity of a heretofore unrevealed player in the game, a company named Emotiv which has recently (in 2007) signed a deal with Mick Anglo for his rights to the character and which is working to untangle the situation, and Gaiman's statement that he's talked to them and "wish[es] them well", which reading between the lines you'd have to assume means he can see working with them to at least reprint and maybe continue the series at some point.

So that's good news. I long ago decided that, absent anyone being able to produce signed paperwork saying he isn't, Anglo is the only one with a clear claim to Marvelman/Miracleman (with the individual writers and artists having claim to the rights of the actual pages they worked on), so hopefully something that affirms that will stand. The actual dollar figure (or rather, pound figure) that Gaiman quotes Anglo as selling for (£4000) seems a bit low for the value of the franchise, so hopefully Anglo also has some continued participation in future profits, and hopefully there will be such future profits.

Anyway, that's the first real good news on that front in a while, and while a resolution may still be some distance away, it's a light in the tunnel.

(Steve Bissette indicates he's less optimistic, knowing more than he could include in the book. So it's possible I read things between the lines that weren't there, or that I just assume people will behave in a rational way, never a good assumption with some of the people with skin in this game. And my completely unfounded speculation on the nature of Emotiv over here)

Less good news comes in the long interview with Gaiman in the back of the book, where he discusses the continued absence of a "Sandman issue zero" comic book series he was hoping to write, which builds on the backstory of what Morpheus was doing before the first issue of the series to be so exhausted that he could be captured as he was. Gaiman's made a few brief public statements before about the series not being done because he couldn't work out a deal with DC, but this is the first place I've seen him go into detail on that, which is a fascinating, if frustrating, look behind the curtains of the backwards world of comics.

In simple terms (and with some commentary and wisecracks by me), Gaiman figured the work to do the series would be about the work he'd do to write a full-length novel, so wanted to make a comparable amount of money (after having already accepted a pitifully low advance and royalty for ENDLESS NIGHTS as a "charity project" a few years before), while DC seemed happy to stick with their 1987 rate and royalty plan, from back when the market was completely different, when the idea of comics staying in print in perpetuity was crazy talk. Not expecting DC to actually pay the kind of advance that's routine in other publishing for such a high-profile almost guaranteed hit, he tried to come up with a deal that would increase his royalties (from 4% to 6%) on the whole SANDMAN library enough so that over the next 16 years, if sales held up at their current pace, he'd get as much extra as he would have for a prose novel, to justify taking the time from other projects to write it (note the 6% is still small compared to what he gets for his prose books, even considering the artists' share). DC countered with an offer considerably less than that (the same numbers Gaiman was asking, but only for 18 months, so effectively less than 10% of what Gaiman proposed), and thus we didn't see the book last year, and won't until enough key people at DC change their minds or depart (and to be fair, Gaiman mentions that several people at DC were willing, but some weren't, and he still gets along with them fine).

Which is a shame, since that's a book I kind of want to read. Maybe it's for the best, since it would be hard for it to be as good as I'm imagining, so it would almost by definition be a disappointment, but that's a chance I'm willing to take.

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