Happy Fourth of July, geeks. Just a quick article to keep the #SpideyWeek celebration kicking. Spider-Man has always been one of Marvel’s most reliable properties, since his first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 in August 1962. Yep, Spidey made his first appearance before I did in Herr Kids #1 August of 1964. Here’s a few facts about that business side of Spider-Man that you may not have known.
1. Spider-Man helped drive Marvel to bankruptcy in 1996 – It wasn’t a great time for the comics business in general, but it definitely wasn’t a great time for Marvel. Maybe it was because the world was changing and the internet was on the rise, or maybe it was because of the creative decision making that was going on at Marvel HQ. Spider-Man had just finished a TWO YEAR story arc, that, by the end, fans almost universally hated. It was called “Clone Saga” and was a confusing, convoluted mess that was built on the premise that Spider-Man found clones, including one of himself, and believed that he wasn’t the real Peter Parker, so he gave up being Spider-Man. Toss into that pot lots of other clones and a pregnant Mary Jane, and did I mention that it took TWO YEARS to come to a close? Yeah, Marvel took a beating, and the result was Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December of 1996. “Clone Saga” also made Screen Rants list of The 13 Worst Marvel Plot Twists of All Times. Interestingly, of the 13 that Screen Rant lists, 5 are Spidey plots. Ouch.
2. James Cameron wrote a raunchy, rated R Spidey film – In the early days of Marvel having sold off the movie rights to the webhead, Spider-Man the film became mired in legal wrangling, tying up production for years. In the mid-1990’s, James Cameron entered the process and was tapped to direct the film. The “scriptment” (is that really a word?) that he submitted included some dialogue and some narration. In it, Spidey screams F-bombs, threatens to eviscerate his foe, and Spider-Man and Mary Jane do the deed on top of a bridge tower in some weird lecture on spider mating rituals. Want to read the whole thing? You can read it here. At the end of the day, it wasn’t very good, nor was it at all in the spirit of the web-slinger we know and love. We should all give thanks it was never made.
3. Michael Jackson wanted to buy Marvel so he could play Spider-Man – There is probably no doubt in pop culture that MJ (the King of Pop, not the apple of Peter Parker’s eye) was a decent businessman, well sometimes. He managed to end up with ownership of the Beatles catalog of music in 1985, and he wanted to purchase Marvel in the 90’s. I’m trying to imagine Spider-Man in a bejeweled costume with one white glove and a melodic high voice. Then I just shudder.
4. Spider-Man was/is an ENORMOUSLY successful movie franchise – When looking at the financials of both Spider-Man and other superhero franchises a few things stand out. Spider-Man 3, which is in the running for the worst of the five Spider films, was also the most financially successful. Of the Spider-Man films, it had the highest grossing opening weekend at $151 million domestically and $381.7 million worldwide, both of which set records at the time. Spider-Man 1, is also on the list of best opening weekends. Hard to believe that SONY/Columbia didn’t see some financial mandate to get a Spider-Man 4 made with the team that was already so successful.
Over the life of the franchise to date, the 5 films made $3.96 billion worldwide and $1.58 domestically. To put that in perspective, Batman, which is an 11 film franchise has made $4.9 billion worldwide and $2.4 billion domestically, the entire DCEU, which has 4 films, has made $2.99 billion worldwide and $1.29 domestically and the three films in the Captain America franchise have made $2.2 billion worldwide and $844 million domestically. Those films are mostly solo films. Marvel’s 2 Avengers films did $2.9 billion worldwide and $1.08 billion domestically. While not always apples to apples in the comparisons, it goes without saying the Spidey is a nice profit center, even if critically there were complaints about the films.
There’s a lot of things that led us to next weekend’s opening of Spider-Man: Homecoming. A lot of interconnected webs, if you will. The above four are certainly among the most important. Of those four, I think I am most grateful for the lack of success of both James Cameron and Michael Jackson. Who knows where we would be now had those fortunes gone the other way. Just thinking of it makes my Spidey sense buzz like a 5-alarm fire.
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Pete Herr is The Grumpy Geek and The Geekiverse’s biggest Spidey fan (despite what Seth might think… Grumpy outweighs him by half a person, so he is, in fact, the biggest fan). Follow Pete on Facebook, Twitter,and Instagram . If you don’t he gets Grumpy. You don’t want to see him Grumpy.
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