Comic History 101: 1602

By BearSleuth

Neil Gaiman has always had an interesting relationship with the world of comics. In the days of the late eighties and nineties, Gaiman rocked the world with his first fully solo series, Sandman, and then he pretty much vanished from the industry, most likely to focus on other writing endeavours.  Then in 2001 Neil Gaiman found himself in the middle of one of the biggest lawsuits in comic book history as he attempted to fight for co-ownership rights to Miracle Man. The case is much too complicated to explain here but essentially Gaiman had to form a company, Marvels and Miracles, to clear up the ownership rights in the long term. Unfortunately, that company needed funding. However, Gaiman knew exactly how he wanted to fund his company, he would simply create a new bestselling comic book that would go on to change not only how people think about writing superheroes but also how people approach the medium as a whole. Gaiman would write 1602.

Neil Gaiman And 9/11


It did not take long for Joe Quesada, the new editor in chief at Marvel comics circa 2001, to approach Gaiman with the opportunity of writing his own series. Gaiman had showed off his writing chops recently and it was no secret that he was looking for a new project with a view to funding Marvels and Miracles. Early in 2001 Gaiman accepted the offer to write for Marvel comics, regardless of the fact that he had little to no idea what he would write for them, he asked to take some time to think of a story and Quesada was gracious in turn. Gaiman put the Marvel script on the back burner and continued to pursue some other creative endeavours. Then 9/11 happened and shook the world like never before. As comic books are one of the truly American Mediums the events of 9/11 had a profound effect on many aspects of the industry, including the writing of Neil Gaiman. Gaiman said that he wanted to write a new type of comic book, one without buildings crashing or guns firing, with this aim he began to think about how you could write a super hero story with less violence and conflict.

A Super Hero Story Unlike Any Other


Two years after its original inception, November 2003 saw Neil Gaiman’s 1602 hit shelves, there is really no way to adequately summarise the entire piece so my best advice is to go out and buy a copy. Essentially Gaiman decide to take ask the question ‘what if the Marvel heroes we know and love had popped up four hundred years earlier than they did  in the reign of King James?’ This question provoked a story of mystery and intrigued as Gaiman played Stan Lee to the entire Marvel Universe, working with almost every major hero and super team in a story spanning the globe across only eight issues. There was still fighting and combat but intrigued, political dialogue and fantastical powers took the forefront of the plot. The story ran with extreme speed and elegance, striking a chord with many readers the world over. When combine with the amazing art work of Andy Kubert and the Scott McKowen’s brilliant cover art, it’s no wonder that the series had a resonating impact.

The Legacy Of King James Reign


Upon release the series was received with extremely mixed reviews, with some reviewers simply branding it as an average ‘What if?’ storyline while others claimed it to be one of the greatest retellings of the Marvel Universe and yet others pronouncing it the worse comic of 2003. This was all down to Gaiman’s alternative approach which was a great departure from the norm of marvel Comics. Personally, I think this book is a modern classic for the industry but there are many that would disagree. Nevertheless, the book’s presence can be felt in many Marvel series on the shelves right now as there is certainly more of a place for books that place fighting in the background, whether that’s the quirky Patsy Walker A.K.A Hellcat or the Vision series I can’t stop plugging. Gaiman’s work left an impact on the industry, especially with Marvel comics, and for that alone his work deserves merit. Next week I’ll be looking at Superman For Tomorrow, the day that the Man Of Steel killed himself.

…That was this week’s Comic History 101!!! Check back on Friday for a new Covert Coot Article!!!

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