10 Weird Things About Marvel You Probably Didn’t Know

Before recent years, the comic industry could sometimes feel like the Wild West as it lived alongside other mediums without the popularity that creates intense scrutiny. Because of that, the 77 year history of Marvel Comics is riddled with some fascinating stories that might change the way you look at your favorite comics or inspire you to imagine what the current superhero landscape could have looked like today. Here are 10 weird things about Marvel that you probably didn’t know.

1. Michael Jackson almost bought Marvel to play Spider-Man

Moonwalker

Moonwalker | Source: Warner Bros.

Have you ever wondered what it would have been like if the late pop legend, Michael Jackson had played Marvel’s Spider-Man in a movie? We can’t blame you if you haven’t, but back in the ’90s when Marvel was mired in financial hardship, comic book sales were experiencing a downturn, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe was still only a glimmer in Kevin Feige’s eye, that nearly happened.

As talks of a Spider-Man film with James Cameron began to swirl in the mid-’90s, Jackson was apparently so high on wanting to play Spider-Man that he considered purchasing Marvel Comics entirely — something that would essentially give him the green light to do whatever he wanted with the superhero. Stan Lee of Marvel explained Jackson’s relationship to the studio:

Michael and I had met a number of times […] He wanted to do Spider-Man. I’m not sure whether he just wanted to produce it or wanted to play the role. He thought I’d be the one who could get him the rights to make a Spider-Man movie, and I told him I couldn’t. He would have to go to the Marvel company.

It got to the point that Lee and Jackson were aligned and Jackson was hiring a financial firm to set up the deal, but it fell apart when bad blood caused Marvel to push the company past its worth (at the time). Another additional weird side note: Jackson had apparently pushed hard to be cast as Professor Xavier in Bryan Singer’s first X-Men film. Imagine that.

2. Leave it to Damage Control

Damage Control

Marvel’s Damage Control | Source: Marvel

You know how recent DC films have gotten flack for the immense destruction its heroes done to their cities? Well, in Marvel there’s actually a construction team named Damage Control whose job it is to go in after its superheroes make a mess and return the setting to normal before the next fight. It’s been a very tongue-in-cheek relationship within the comics and there’s actually been rumblings of it becoming one of ABC’s new Marvel television series.

3. Mark Gruenwald’s oddly beautiful request for his ashes

Squadron Supreme

Squadron Supreme| Source: Marvel

Comic writer Gruenwald died unexpectedly in 1996 when a heart defect lead to a heart attack. But despite dying young at only 43, he had apparently made his wishes known regarding his ashes. His wish? To have his ashes mixed into a comic. His family obliged by mixing them with ink in the first printing of the paperback compilation of Squadron Supreme — the comic he believed to be his greatest work.

4. Captain Marvel was kept as a character for rights purposes for decades

Captain Marvel in Marvel Comics

Captain Marvel | Source: Marvel Comics

Through the years Marvel and DC have had a ton of squabbles ranging from big to small, but the story behind Captain Marvel showcases how the petty fighting has led to some big repercussions. Comics Alliance outlines the interesting story in great detail, but the short version is that when DC went to court over a Captain Marvel character from a Fawcett Comics that was suspiciously similar to Superman, DC eventually won but allowed the trademark of “Captain Marvel” to become available. Marvel picked up the rights to the name, but didn’t use it until DC decided they might want to bring back the character after licensing it.

What follows will feel very familiar to fans of Marvel and the current state of Hollywood properties: Marvel was forced to publish a comic using the name or lose the rights. This forced Marvel to put out a Captain Marvel comic every couple of years, most of which were terrible and came in various forms until 2008’s Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel came around — the subject of the recently announced film.

5. Wonder Man vs. Power Girl

Wonder Man

Wonder Man | Source: Marvel

Another example of the silly squabbles between Marvel and DC goes back to 1964 when Lee introduced Wonder Man to the Avengers before quickly retiring him after DC threatened litigation due to the similarity to Wonder Woman. Then in 1972, Lee introduced Luke Cage/Power Man followed by DC introducing a character called Power Girl four years later. So Lee, being understandably annoyed at DC’s hypocrisy, did what any level-headed adult would do: he re-introduced Wonder Man to the Avengers.

6. Marvel could have owned DC

The Justice League - DC Comics

The Justice League | Source: DC Comics

It’s almost unfathomable to imagine a world where the DC and Marvel characters interact with each other consistently, but that could have been the world we live in today. In 1984, the Warner Bros.-owned DC was suffering a major decline leading them to offer the entire stable of DC characters to Marvel. But Marvel ultimately walked away, supposedly using the reasoning that the reason DC was falling apart was the weakness of its characters rather than its management.

Ironically, 10 years later DC had experienced a resurgence with the Tim Burton-directed Batman films while Marvel then found itself in dire straits — which nearly led to that infamous Michael Jackson takeover.

7. The idea for Spider-Man’s black suit was purchased via a competition

Venom in Marvel Comics

Venom | Source: Marvel Comics

In 1982, Marvel ran a contest for writers and fans to explore new ideas for their comics. One of those ideas was the black Symbiote costume that would eventually lead to the creation of Venom. Marvel purchased the idea for $220 from Randy Schueller, who was also given a shot at scripting the comic, which ultimately fell back to Marvel.

But the interesting part of this whole story might be what came after. Fans initially balked at the new black suited look for Spider-Man leading Marvel to write-in a way a for Peter Parker to want to remove the costume. This then led the way for the Symbiote to find its way to Eddie Brock, creating Venom.

8. Asbestos Man and Asbestos Lady rolled with the wrong material

Asbestos Man

Asbestos Man | Source: Marvel

Back before asbestos was widely recognized as dangerous, Asbestos Man and Asbestos Lady were two villains whose application of the material led them to successfully go to blows with the Fantastic Four. But decades later it was built into their stories that the suits ultimately gave them cancer, with each dying while imprisoned.

9. George R. R. Martin was (is?) a Marvel superfan

george r.r. martin

George R.R. Martin | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Before George R. R. Martin was at the helm of the most popular contemporary fantasy book series around, A Song of Ice and Fire and the subsequent Game of Thrones HBO show, a young Martin was a huge fan of Marvel comics, writing to them and even criticizing them. A Vanity Fair article highlights one letter he wrote that was published in Fantastic Four, Volume 1, Issue 32. Martin wrote:

I regret to inform you that I found one flaw in this otherwise perfect masterpiece, a flaw that is, regrettably, very common with you. When we last saw the Red Ghost in FF #13 he was stuck on the moon being chased around by three super-powered apes livid with hatred and waving Mr. Fantastic’s paralyzer ray at him. Now suddenly you bring him back in full control of his apes without one single word of explanation.

That being said, Martin also praised Lee and Jack Kirby, writing that he could, “rave all day and still not run out of words.”

10. The Hulk is green because it was easier to print

Hulk in Marvel Comics

The Hulk | Source: Marvel Comics

Forget all the comic origins of the Hulk’s famous green skin because the real reason is far simpler: the color was easier to print. While Lee originally envisioned the Marvel character as grey (and he appears as that color in first issue), when it came to printing, the grey color would come out in inconsistent and varying shades. Lee then studied what colors were least utilized by Marvel’s characters and ended up on green, which was added in the second issue and has stuck ever since.

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