It’s safe to say that anyone who calls themselves movie fans – or just anyone who has been conscious for the past decade – knows a whole lot about Marvel. They’re the company that created our favorite heroes, the braintrust that made our favorite films, the corporation that we’ve given hundreds of dollars of our hard earned money to over the years. With the monumental leaps Marvel has taken in the comic book, TV, and film space over the past few years, it’s easy to forget that Marvel has actually been around in one form or another since 1939.
So while everyone knows something about Marvel, like any company that’s been around for eight decades, Marvel has a rich history filled with unique facts that aren’t widely known. In the interest of appeasing Marvel die-hards who want to know absolutely everything that’s occurred while their favorite heroes are off saving entire planets from destruction, we’re excited to present 10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Marvel.
10. They Own The Rights to What Words?
While Marvel was creating every character they could think of in the ’70s (including Dazzler, a disco inspired character) they were also apparently working on copyrighting words and trying to be the only ones who could use said words. Marvel must have thought there was big money in this idea, as from 1975-1996 Marvel actually owned the rights to the word “zombie.” While everyone at Marvel HQ must’ve been giddy about this fact as they roamed the halls in their bell-bottom jeans and perms, eventually they realized that it just wasn’t possible to enforce such a trademark.
While the idea of a Marvel-controlled Walking Dead or Zombieland is an interesting one, perhaps even more interesting is the word that Marvel still owns to this day; “superhero.” Yes, one of the most ubiquitous words in pop culture is actually trademarked by Marvel, along with DC. So while Batman and Superman can be called superheroes along with Spider-Man and Iron Man, indie publishers and other media – like NBC’s Heroes – actually can’t use the word. And if you think this is a trademark Marvel doesn’t care about, think again; in 2013 they sued indie publisher Cup O Java Studios for using the word. More like sue-perhero, right? No? Okay, but still, be careful when using the word superhero in case Marvel is right behind you.
9. Spider-Man or Spiderman?
How do you spell Spider-Man? Spiderman? SpiderMan? Man-Spider? Okay, well, certainly it’s not the last option, but despite the fact that Spiderman is many people’s go to spelling, the official spelling is actually Spider-Man; and there’s good reason for that.
When Stan Lee created Spider-Man, he wanted to differentiate him from a man who would soon be his biggest competitor; Superman. In order to make Spider-Man different when read in print, Stan Lee included the hyphen, thus making history as Spider-Man eventually went on to become Marvel’s flagship hero and eclipsed Superman as the hero of a generation; and every generation after that.
8. Marvel Could’ve Owned Who?
Imagine for a second a world where no one debates the merits of Marvel comics vs. DC comics. Imagine we couldn’t spend countless hours discussing what’s better; the grounded melancholy of the DC Universe, or the candy-colored fun of the Marvel Universe. Imagine that Batman inhabited a world with Iron Man, and the two billionaires worked side by side in the panels of Marvel Comics; because that’s exactly what could have happened.
We’re not talking about an alternate universe, but rather the very real fact that Marvel had the option to control publishing rights to the DC Universe at one time… Before turning them down. Back in 1984, comics were in the dumps and not many people were buying them, and certainly no one cared about seeing them on the big screen. Noting that Marvel was doing better commercially than DC at the time, Bill Sarnoff – head of Warner Communications’ publishing – approached Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter about licensing the rights to the DC universe. Shooter declined, claiming that the DC characters wouldn’t sell because they just weren’t very good.
7. Spider-Man’s Black Suit Cost How Much?
Of all the superhero costumes in Marvel’s history, perhaps none are as recognizable and well-regarded as Spider-Man’s black suit. Representing a turning point for the wall-crawler towards a darker and more nuanced arc, Spider-Man’s black suit – caused by the alien symbiote that would go on to create Spider-Man’s most well-known villain Venom – was a huge success for Spider-Man and Marvel as a whole.
As it turns out, the great idea didn’t come from Stan Lee, any of the various writers or artists of Spider-Man over the years, or even anyone at Marvel; it came from a fan. While Marvel eventually latched onto the idea and offered the fan, Randy Schueller, $220 and a chance to write the story himself, Schueller’s version of the story didn’t quite work out, and Marvel ended up taking the black suit idea and running with their own version. With numerous appearances in the comics over the years and the spawning of multiple storylines and characters – including a big spot in 2007’s Spider-Man 3, it’s safe to say that the idea of the black suit was a good one; and certainly worth all $220 Marvel paid for it.
6. Michael Jackson’s Marvel In The Mirror?
It’s been said that Michael Jackson – yes, that Michael Jackson – lobbied hard to play Professor X in the first X-Men movie. But as strange as that may have been, Professor X wasn’t Jackson’s ultimate dream role. That dream would have only been fulfilled by playing Spider-Man, and it’s a dream that almost came true.
In the 1980s when Michael Jackson was the King of Pop and basically the king of the world, he wanted to buy everything he loved, and he basically did, spending $47 million on the Beatles catalog, and trying to buy Marvel Comics. While his intentions were clear – he wanted to make a Spider-Man movie and he wanted to play the title role – Jackson originally went to Stan Lee to obtain control of the company. While Lee agreed to help Jackson run the company and make the film, he wasn’t actually in control of Marvel, and Jackson and a team of lawyers had to go to Toy Biz (then the owners of Marvel) and CEO Ike Perlmutter to buy the company.
However, Perlmutter declined Michael Jackson’s offer and came back with an absurd $1 billion, far more than the company was worth at the time. This forced Michael Jackson to walk away from the deal and, as a result, his dreams of ever playing Spider-Man.
5. Marvel Was the Joke of the Movie World?
It may now look like Marvel Studios knows exactly what they’re doing in the movie world, with every film they release being a massive critical and commercial hit, but it wasn’t always like that. In the days before X-Men, Marvel – and the studios that owned the rights to their characters – had no idea how to make a great superhero movie, and were often scrambling to film anything just to retain those rights.
While Roger Corman’s unreleased 1994 version of The Fantastic Four may be the most well-known Marvel flub (although we’ll never know if the three Fantastic Four films that came after it were any better), it was far from their first. In 1944, Captain America was released as a serial film in 15 chapters; a cinematic fact that you’d be forgiven for not knowing considering how not one person mentions this film ever. Marvel followed Captain America up with 1986’s infamous Howard the Duck, a strange comedy film produced by George Lucas that is often cited as the biggest punchline in film history.
Not to be outdone by 1989’s The Punisher, a direct-to-video film that we didn’t even know existed until we looked it up just now, Marvel shouldn’t be looked at as the flawless movie experts they’re seen as now, but rather as a company that made massive mistakes, quit for a while, and eventually came back better than ever.
4. Marvel: Creator of Heroes… Filer of Bankruptcy?
Sure, Marvel is one of the most successful entertainment companies on the planet right now, but as early as two decades ago success was a more ridiculous concept than that of Paul Rudd playing a man who can shrink down to the size of an ant with the help of Gordon Gekko. In the early 1990s, Marvel was benefiting from a comic book golden age – brought upon by collectors who were starting to see riches materialize from their parents’ comic book collections from the 1960s and 70s. With sales of Spider-Man and X-Men soaring, many worried that the comic book bubble would burst; and that’s exactly what happened.
From 1993 to 1996 Marvel’s stock plummeted from over $35 a share to around $2. No one was buying comics anymore, and other revenue streams were drying up. Marvel’s solution was to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, a prospect that left Marvel so strapped for cash that they resorted to selling their own filing cabinets for money. Eventually, Marvel merged with Toy Biz and pulled out of their money problems by turning their attention to movies; and the rest is history.
3. Human Torch’s Bitter Custody Battle?
1978’s The New Fantastic Four animated TV show wasn’t really the The Fantastic Four, but was more like The Fantastic Three thanks to a blunder that may explain why the show lasted only 13 episodes. Believe it or not, The Human Torch never appeared in the show, and was actually replaced with a robot named H.E.R.B.I.E. because, you know, the 70s.
The actual reason Johnny Storm wasn’t in the series is because Universal owned the TV rights to the series and was being a dick about it, supposedly adapting the character for his own pilot on NBC. While that show never materialized, this wasn’t the last time the rights to Marvel’s First Family were tied up in a vicious custody battle, as just last year Marvel stopped publishing all Fantastic Four comics just to spite Fox Studios and their ultimately doomed Fantastic Four film.
2. Captain Marvel, I guess?
While a Captain Marvel movie is coming in 2018, you could be forgiven if you’ve never seen or even heard of the character until then. Despite the character existing since 1967, Captain Marvel seems to exist more for the sake of existing rather than because it’s an interesting character that people care about.
Captain Marvel’s journey started when DC sued Fawcett Comics for breach of copyright, claiming that their character Captain Marvel was too similar to Superman. So, obtaining the rights to the character, DC started using him – their version being a guy with a cape – until Marvel eventually obtained the trademark, thus forcing DC to call their character Shazam.
The character’s journey then continued, all because if Marvel was to retain their trademark, they would have to continue publishing a Captain Marvel title every year or two in perpetuity. Thus, Captain Marvel was born, continuing in various iterations until the current one; a character named Carol Danvers who has assumed the title and is now getting her very own movie. While Danvers is popular in her own right among Marvel fans, it could hardly be argued that she’s as popular as Marvel’s biggest heavy-hitters.
1. Marvel: Enemy of Its Creator?
When Stan Lee and Jack Kirby co-created the most recognizable superheroes in the world, no one had any idea just how big these characters would get. As a result, the two Kings of Comics invented Captain America, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Hulk, and X-Men while working as employees of Marvel Comics, and thus it was claimed that they had no rights to these characters. When the characters started taking off and eventually became worth untold billions of dollars, Lee and Kirby wanted their fair share; but Marvel didn’t want to pay.
The result was bitter legal battles lasting years between the creators and those in charge at Marvel. While at one point a new Marvel CEO screwed Stan Lee out of everything he had negotiated with Marvel over the years, eventually Lee worked something out and is now involved – in some capacity – with Marvel and the characters he created.
Kirby’s arrangement with Marvel, however, wasn’t resolved so easily. As Kirby died in 1994, his family and estate ended up fighting Marvel for years, going back and forth through various courts, unable to come to a resolution. As of just last year, their battle was set to go to the Supreme Court, until days before Marvel and Kirby’s family reached an undisclosed settlement, with Marvel releasing a statement acknowledging Kirby’s immense contribution to the history of Marvel and the characters he helped create.
Did you know any of these facts about Marvel? Is there anything hidden deep between the lines of Marvel Comics that you know and we don’t? Let us know in the comments!