R.I.P. Michael Jackson: Comic Book Fan, Collector — And Almost The Owner Of Marvel Comics

According to late-breaking reports, pop icon Michael Jackson died today after suffering cardiac arrest. While various outlets have already posted remembrances of the star’s prominent place in the worlds of music, movies and so many other elements of pop culture, it’s worth noting that Jackson was also known to have a fondess for comic books that rivaled even the most obsessive fanboy.

From trips to the comic shop to a collection of some of the most impressive comics-related memorabilia around, Jackson made no secret of his affinity for comics — going so far as to almost buy Marvel Comics in the late 1990s.

Those looking for proof of Jackson’s love for comics need look no further than some of the items from his personal collection that were recently put up for auction. Along with a life-size, molded rubber Batman costume (fitted over a life-size replica of Jackson himself), Jackson’s personal stash of comic book swag included a massive Superman statue, numerous life-size Spider-Man statues and a variety of other items die-hard comics fans would likely give up a limb to own.

Late last year, Jackson even dropped by Los Angeles comic book shop Golden Apple with his three children to pick up a pile of issues to add to his collection. Hidden behind a pair of massive sunglasses and veil, Jackson had his children wear masks on their way into the store to hide their identities — including one mask designed to look like Mike Allred’s “Madman” character. His appearance prompted a bit of a commotion, but reports claimed that both he and his children happily left with a stack of comics new and old.

Of course, if Jackson wasn’t filling in spots in his collection during that trip to Golden Apple, he might’ve just been picking up a few more copies of the various comic books in which he appeared over the years. The pop star made cameos at various times in the parody magazines “MAD” and “Spoof,” but also had cameos in a 1990 issue of “Disney Adventures,” as well as in a 1985 issue of the “Longshot” miniseries published by Marvel Comics.

Possibly the most notable connection between Jackson and the comics world, however, is how close the star came to owning Marvel, one of the industry’s “Big Two” publishers, in the late ’90s. As chronicled by The Comics Journal in an August 2005 article, Jackson met with Stan Lee and Peter Paul of the newly formed Stan Lee Media to investigate the possibility of buying Marvel Comics.

“After we built SLM into a public company with a market cap almost twice Marvel’s, we talked with Michael Jackson about teaming up to buy Marvel,” the article quotes Paul. “I have a videotape of Michael in our offices for over two hours, seeing what we were doing.”

Jim Salicrup, a former Marvel editor who was a writer-editor for SLM during the Jackson meetings, told TCJ that at one point, Jackson asked Lee, “If I buy Marvel, you’ll help me run it, won’t you?”

While the deal eventually fell through, it certainly offers an interesting “What If?” scenario for comics fans — and an indication of exactly how close the worlds of Jackson and comic books often overlapped.