Movies & TV / Columns

What if Michael Jackson Had Bought Marvel?

May 11, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Michael Jackson Marvel

Before we jump into the column this week, I understand some of you would rather listen than read so in an attempt to better serve you, the 411mania reader, I’ve gone above and beyond by doing a Steve’s 411mania Read-a-Long podcast that’s…me reading the column. Listen and head to the comments to complain. About something.

Recently Taj Jackson, the late Michael Jackson’s nephew, did an interview and shared that not only was Jackson a movie buff but that he wanted to buy Marvel and play Peter Parker/Spider-Man on the big screen. While that presents a number of interesting possibilities, I’m more shocked that Michael buying Marvel comes as a surprise to anyone since this has been public knowledge for quite a while.

Even before Stan Lee’s interview at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2009, where he talked about Michael wanting to produce and star in what would have been the very first Spider-Man movie in theaters. 

Some quick background on the events that transpired that almost brought this to pass. Marvel filed for bankruptcy in 1996 and merged with the now-defunct ToyBiz in 1998. It was later acquired by Disney at the cost of $4 billion in 2009.

It was a turbulent time and there have been books written about the behind-the-scenes dealings that are worth checking out. What I want to talk about is Jackson’s interest in buying Marvel Entertainment in partnership with Stan Lee. “He wanted to [buy Marvel] with Stan Lee, and they had been talking and discussing that. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. They were shut down from doing that. I don’t know the reasons why, but they were adamantly in the process of doing that,” Taj claimed to Popcorned Planet.

Lee said pretty much the same thing after Michael’s death in 2009. “I’m not sure whether he just wanted to produce it or wanted to play the role. Our conversation never got that far along,” he said.

Originally I was going to do a detailed “What If…” column that took a look at what we could expect if Jackson and Lee pulled off the sale. Once I started writing it, it wasn’t as interesting as I thought and really it would have had a horrible outcome. 

If you look at Jackson’s life at the time he was interested in buying Marvel, he was in the midst of a massive creative output, along with a second marriage, and kids. We’ll start in mid-June of 1995 and Jackson’s release of his double album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I

Jackson ended 1995 with a trip to the hospital from exhaustion/stress related panic attack, after collapsing during rehearsals for a televised performance. It’s interesting to note that Jackson had just merged his ATV Music catalog with Sony’s music publishing division, creating Sony/ATV Music Publishing, of which he retained ownership of half the company, earning $95 million up front as well as the rights to more songs.

A nice chunk of change that could be used to buy some cool toys. Like Marvel. 

1996 was filled with awards for Jackson and promoting HIStory with the HIStory World Tour. That would include 82 concerts in five continents, 35 countries and 58 cities. It was during the tour that Jackson married Debbie Rowe, who was six months pregnant with his first child.

In 1997, Jackson released Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix, which contained remixes of singles from HIStory and five new songs. And this is where I’ll stop and focus on why Jackson’s buying Marvel would be bad for everyone.

While Jackson and Lee’s teaming on paper looks creatively interesting, the partnership would be short lived. Jackson’s interest was solely on obtaining Spider-Man and bringing him to the big screen. We can only speculate what kind of story he’d come up with, as he would want total creative control. Jackson’s interest in the project would come and go as he’d have to juggle this along with recording, touring, and promoting. It’s a safe assumption that after a number of years with an even greater number of script changes, casting switches, and delays, Jackson would give up on becoming Peter Parker on the big screen. 

As far as Stan Lee, he’d do his best to work with Jackson but it would be obvious to the comic book icon that Jackson works on his own time and Marvel would flounder as Lee would be left to work with Jackson’s lawyers and managers to recreate a Marvel that reflected Jackson’s vision. With so much on Jackson’s plate, Marvel would very well ended back up for sale after a few years but by then the damage would have been done and who knows who would have picked up the flailing publisher?

The Marvel we know today wouldn’t exist. The Marvel Cinematic Universe we know today wouldn’t exist. 

What do you think?