The WTF moment Marvel Comics almost got the rights to Superman

Contributed by
Dec 15, 2012

Jim Shooter, one of Marvel's most controversial editors, recently revealed a major secret from the archives—Marvel almost bought Superman! In fact, they very nearly gained the rights to ALL of the major DC heroes. Yes, really.

The comic book landscape was considerably different in 1984. To say that DC was in a bit of a rut back then would have been the understatement of the millennium. Marvel, meanwhile, was dominating the market. While that may not feel terribly different from the present day at first glance, what very nearly came to pass proves otherwise.

While flagging sales are currently causing DC to completely relaunch 52 of their titles, in 1984 the much more drastic solution of licensing Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and others to Marvel was on the table, and Jim Shooter was very, very interested.

Bill Sarnoff, who was the "big cheese" handling much of publishing at Warner during that time, contacted Shooter about the arrangement. Shooter spoke with then Marvel president Jim Galton, and, after a bit of back and forth, it was agreed that the arrangement was worth exploring.

After running the numbers, Shooter said, "I projected that we would sell 39 million copies the first two years generating a pre-tax profit (gross revenues less cost of goods sold, royalties, staff, SG&A, etc.) of roughly $3,500,000."

At the time, that was some serious green for people making funny books. While not everyone agreed with those figures, the powers that be at Marvel's Sales and Circulation concluded that the venture was more than worthwhile. The writers at Marvel were excited (John Byrne especially), Shooter was thrilled, there was money to be made for everyone involved, and negotiations were underway.

So what happened? We all know that Superman never joined the stable of Marvel characters. Why not? In this case, the kryptonite in question was a little something called "antitrust." First Comics filed a lawsuit against Marvel. Marvel was already teetering on having a monopoly in the comics industry, so, with the threat of litigations galore, they decided it was best not to effectively devour their major competition. Go figure.

It's nearly impossible to imagine what the world of comics would be like now if all this had come to pass. Even though many in the Marvel bullpen would go on to work for DC shortly thereafter, the idea of having all those characters under one umbrella is equal parts exciting and terrifying.

Was it all for the best, or would you rather live in the parallel world where Supes and Spidey sometimes fight crime together?

(via Jim Shooter's Blog)

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