The Story Behind How Marvel Very Nearly Ended Up Taking Over DC Comics!
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.
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...
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:
LEGION OF SUPER HEROES
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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