The Story Behind How Marvel Very Nearly Ended Up Taking Over DC Comics!

The Story Behind How Marvel Very Nearly Ended Up Taking Over DC Comics!

Did you know just how close Marvel came to taking over DC Comics and publishing comics featuring characters like Superman and Batman? Well, it really happened, and here is the fascinating story from Jim Shooter himself...

Former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter has taken to his blog to reveal the fascinating story behind how Marvel very nearly ended up publishing DC characters thanks to a deal with Warner Bros. back in 1984. It's amazing just how close this deal came to happening, and interesting to wonder just how different comic books as we know them today would be had it all gone through. For the whole story, click on the link below. For now, here are some excerpts.

Sometime in February, 1984, my secretary (it was okay to say "secretary" in those days) the wonderful Lynn Cohen told me that Bill Sarnoff was on the phone. Not his secretary, Bill Sarnoff himself, holding for me.

Bill Sarnoff was the Big Cheese, I forget his exact title, of the publishing arm of Warner Communications. Among the operations under his purview was DC Comics. Bill introduced himself, as if that was necessary. What he wanted to talk about was licensing the publishing rights for all DC characters to Marvel Comics.

Bill said, more or less, that Marvel seemed to be able to turn a substantial profit on publishing comics, as opposed to DC, which consistently lost money, a lot of money, and had for a long time. On the other hand, LCA (Licensing Corporation of America), Warner’s licensing arm did very well with the DC properties, while Marvel "didn't seem to do much licensing."

I told him I thought Marvel would be very interested, and that I would discuss it with Marvel’s President, Jim Galton.

It took me about three days to put together a presentable plan.

The first part of the business plan was the publishing plan. I decided that we should launch with seven titles and build from there, if all went well. The titles were:


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.

That was huge money for a comic book publisher in 1984.

Somebody leaked. Rumors spread.

My first clue was when John Byrne showed up in my office one day with his cover for...

It wasn’t a sketch. It was a cover. Might even have been inked, I forget. I don’t have a copy of the thing, but I’ll bet Byrne still has the original. Somebody should ask him to display it on his site if he hasn’t already.

He had a story worked out, too, as I recall. He reallyreallyreally wanted to do Superman. I think I remember Byrne telling me once that he had watched the first Superman movie over 1,100 times.


Very soon thereafter, First Comics launched a lawsuit against Marvel Comics and others, alleging anti-trust violations, among other things. I think it’s safe to say that when you’re being sued under anti-trust laws, it’s a bad time to devour your largest competitor.

On the other hand, there is the "we-have-a-clue-and-they-don’t" or "superior acumen" defense. We considered arguing that defense and pressing on with the deal. But, no. Ultimately, the suits and lawyers decided to play it safe and backed away from the DC deal.

Net result, no SUPERMAN –First Marvel Issue! Too bad. It would have been fun.

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Posted By:
Josh Wilding
Member Since 3/13/2009
Filed Under "Marvel Comics" 8/26/2011 Source: Jim Shooter
DISCLAIMER: is protected under the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) and... [MORE]
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PaulRom - 8/26/2011, 5:39 PM
That would've been cool. Maybe we would've see film crossovers if a studio owned characters from both brands.
darkknightlegend - 8/26/2011, 5:44 PM
It actually would be pretty neat to have a happy eco system of comic book bunnies. But oh where will I be with out the fanboys who report me every time I insult their precious characters?
nuck82 - 8/26/2011, 5:46 PM
naw im ok, marvel doesnt want that shit
Dev - 8/26/2011, 5:50 PM
I wouldn't have mind if Marvel had bought DC back in 1984. Marvel would have taken over DC's characters and made them relatable as well as relevant.
nuck82 - 8/26/2011, 5:51 PM
what would we fight about if they did?
Cerebro - 8/26/2011, 5:58 PM
Would this mean they shared a universe or just a publisher. oh and Wolverinsfury your mom is a skittle, your dad in twilight, you have wet dreams of Gusto and nuck82 as the bread of your wolverinesfury sandwich. Report that you little runt. grif/teabag for president!
Mechagino - 8/26/2011, 5:58 PM
It's bad enough Joe destroyed 3 beloved characters and or their Marriage (One More Day, The Wasp, and Jean dying again) so imagine what he would of done now? D:
alexi52 - 8/26/2011, 5:59 PM
that would have been awsome and would have ended all this fanboy fighting
superotherside - 8/26/2011, 6:00 PM
it would've been interesting at any rate... :) lol... besides maybe we wouldn't have had waited until now for the chance of getting a good Superman film... lol
BigK1337 - 8/26/2011, 6:00 PM

Possibly between Image and Valient Comics, that is like the next best rivalry if Marvel and DC were to join.
Ethic - 8/26/2011, 6:00 PM
Na, they wouldn't be what they are today, and without knowing for sure whether it would've been better all round, I like the way things went.
Jilani77 - 8/26/2011, 6:01 PM
It was after that time DC actually made a bit of a comeback *hint hint* Crisis on Infinite Earths. AND John Byrne did Man of Steel. AND Frank Millar's The Dark Knight Returns came, things came back to normal. Till the 'soft' reboot we are getting next week.
BigK1337 - 8/26/2011, 6:03 PM
I'm not sure, us fanboys might find another 2 comic book company to fight over. And I think it most likely be Image and Valient since these are comic book companies that debuted in the 90s and be a good substitute to Marvel and DC in terms of rivalry.
SageMode - 8/26/2011, 6:06 PM
Please, Marvel is too MARVELOUS for DC comics (Pun Intended). That just wouldnt seem right if that happened. Only Flash (Wally West), Deathstroke, and Bane are of Marvel caliber. Everyone else can lick monkey nads. :-)
AUSSYACE - 8/26/2011, 6:07 PM
Thank God that never happened !!!
BooYah - 8/26/2011, 6:09 PM
This would end almost all the arguements on this site.
batmitedimension - 8/26/2011, 6:09 PM
Absolutely not! That would have been terrible! I can't imagine a world where the Justice League an the X-Men or the Avengers co-exist, or where there is Green Arrow and Hawkeye, and all the superheroes with duplicate powers in the other universe all in the same universe. The only good thing would probably be that Captain Marvel might finally get his name on his own comic book title...but other than that, I would've killed Marvel, and then killed myself.
AxlKomix - 8/26/2011, 6:11 PM
The weird thing is that at one point in the early 60s DC actually owned the company that published Marvel and placed a publishing restriction on them. So, the reverse scenario would work, but mixing the two universes at that point would be disasterous.
NeoBaggins - 8/26/2011, 6:13 PM
Ah, more logs for the flames I see.

JULEZ13 - 8/26/2011, 6:16 PM
That would have been interesting but I'll pass. I like them separate. There are two many differences between the two; if Marvel were to have control of DC characters they would be drastically changed to the point of them being completely different characters altogether and I wouldn't like that.

What they should do is create a what if comic, or short series presenting what direction Marvel would have taken the seven characters. It would be a win win situation for both characters! I would pay to buy that book!!
CaptainTall - 8/26/2011, 6:20 PM

WorldsGreatestdetective - 8/26/2011, 6:21 PM
Yeah but marvel almost went bankrupt in 1998 so the tides are always shifting between the two comic heads
Cosmo - 8/26/2011, 6:23 PM
You'd "pay to buy that book?" Sorry, gotta laugh at that one.
FredBroca - 8/26/2011, 6:40 PM
Funny thing is that a few years back, DC Comics(Warner Bros.) was rumored to have been interested in purchasing Marvel Comics... before Disney.
FredBroca - 8/26/2011, 6:57 PM
Well, the 'New-52' and 'Earth-616' proves that DC and Marvel are both clueless.
Nicolas - 8/26/2011, 7:08 PM

ICStoopedPeople - 8/26/2011, 7:14 PM
I'm with Froggy.
murf - 8/26/2011, 7:21 PM
Marvel would of done a much better job of it then dc
reverendjonnynemo - 8/26/2011, 7:36 PM
Oh yea..... well then maybe Marvel would have avoided it's near miss with Chapter 11 in '97.

There are ups and down with this notion, but I miss the old days when Marve jabbed at DC by noting the initials as the "Distinguished Competition".
SCURVYDOG619 - 8/26/2011, 7:45 PM
The funny thing is,there was` a six-month period in the early '60's when DC was publishing Marvel titles.....
Checkmate - 8/26/2011, 7:47 PM
I'd like to see it, just to see how different things would be.
jaycr - 8/26/2011, 7:47 PM
If they had finished the deal, probably we wouldn't have comics today. Don't forget that the 80's were DC's golden age and around that time DC had the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Watchmen, the Dark Knight Returns, the seeds of Vertigo were planted in the 80's.

This monopoly had FAIL written all over.
reverendjonnynemo - 8/26/2011, 7:51 PM

source please? i'm curious
reverendjonnynemo - 8/26/2011, 7:53 PM

been done;

JackDexx - 8/26/2011, 8:00 PM
Batman on the avengers
lol Hulk in the GL core
ahh what could have been
JackDexx - 8/26/2011, 8:05 PM
i know i'd throw shit off, but come on. some of the stuff would just be to good.
skullboy - 8/26/2011, 8:10 PM
Huh. Well these days, DC is turning out to be like Marvel with the whole reboot and Bob Harras as the new EIC. The end has come.
Triptheorist - 8/26/2011, 8:25 PM

Good ol' Amalgam Comics, better off forgotten.
SCURVYDOG619 - 8/26/2011, 8:30 PM
Marvel had signed a distribution deal with DC duirng a period of duress for the company that lasted until 1969...
meatbag - 8/26/2011, 8:38 PM
I could totally dig the Joker being a villain for Spiderman...but we've already seen DC and Marvel team Ups like Batman and Captain America. No, things worked out they way they should've.
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