Marvel Comics and the Money They Made off Hulk Hogan

One of the most interesting pieces we’ve covered recently was an article on the bizarre relationship between Hulk Hogan and Marvel Comics over the ownership and use of the name ‘Hulk’. In that piece, we uncovered that Marvel was able to negotiate a monetary agreement resulting in them benefiting from Hulk Hogan’s success. This got us thinking, just how much did Marvel actually make from Hulk Hogan? We’ve done some light-hearted research and have come up with some interesting figures!

Ca-ching! Marvel Comics negotiated a 20-year deal where they were able to benefit financially off of the success of Hulk Hogan during the height of Hulkamania. We did some number crunching and were able to work out how much they made off Hogan's name.
Ca-ching! Marvel Comics negotiated a 20-year deal where they were able to benefit financially off of the success of Hulk Hogan during the height of Hulkamania. We did some number crunching and were able to work out how much they made off Hogan’s name.

Marvel Comics made bank from the Hulk Hogan contract agreement and it revealed staggering numbers.

There were countless ways Marvel Comics made money off the Hulk Hogan name between the years of 1984 and 2004. During that twenty-year span, Hulk Hogan hit the peak of his popularity and brought professional wrestling to the forefront like no other wrestler before his time. Marvel was able to capitalize on that due to a legal agreement they won with the then-WWF due to the similarity in name to “The Incredible Hulk”. We won’t be going into many details of that agreement in this article as we covered it deeply in our piece, Hulk Hogan versus Marvel Comics | The Fight for His Name. Instead, the purpose of this piece is to answer the ever-important question: How much money did Marvel Comics actually make off of Hulk Hogan?

Hulk Hogan versus Marvel Comics | The Fight for His Name

While finding the number of sales behind every little piece of Hogan merch is impossible, with some deep digging and a bit of time on our hands (let’s face it, we’re nerds for things like this!), we found an approximate number of sales and it poses quite a fascinating discussion.

One of the financial agreements listed in the contract between Marvel Comics and Hulk Hogan, which can be read on Scribd, noted that Marvel was paid .90 of 1% in royalties on merchandise (including toys) or on projects involving the name Hulk Hogan. Meaning they were paid 90% of whatever the 1% total was.

In 2011, past sale figures behind the top five selling WWE video games, home videos, and merchandise began floating around on wrestling forums. The source behind these numbers came from a now-defunct website, welovewrestling.net. While the validity of the sale numbers can’t be confirmed, for the sake of this theoretic financial research, we will take it as an approximate factual amount. The numbers certainly provided interesting discussion amongst forum members at the time members who believed the sales figures to be true.

Not surprisingly, Hulk Hogan was a name that popped up more than once among the “top seller” brackets. The pop culture wrestling icon ranked fourth on the top five selling Home Videos list, with the 1989 Coliseum Home video “Hulk Hogan Real American” selling 202,496 copies. This tape was an hour in length and composed of Hulk Hogan matches. For curiosity purposes, the full top five are listed below. The number one selling Home Video pleasantly surprised a number of people. God bless, Eddie.

  1. Viva La Raza: The Legacy Of Eddie Guerrero – 276,411 copies sold
  2. Cause Stone Cold Said So – 267,786 copies sold
  3. The Rise and Fall of ECW- 216,052 copies sold
  4. Hulk Hogan Real American – 202,426 copies sold
  5. Hulk Hogan: The Ultimate Anthology – 190,407 copies sold

It’s worth establishing that number 5 on the list, a Hogan DVD, isn’t valid as it was released in 2006 two years after Marvel Comics and Hulk Hogan severed ties over name ownership. The same can’t be said for number 4.

The Real American VHS tape would fall under the category of a Hulk Hogan project, so there’s no doubting Marvel made money off a simple collection of matches released in the form of a tape. It’s hard to say what the exact price would be for 1989’s Coliseum Home Videos ‘Hulk Hogan Real American’  tape with prices differing from country to country, video store outlet to video store outlet, and inflation over the years, but most new VHS tapes came out at around a $19.95 price point by 1989.

To dig into this further, we look to James Dixon, the critically acclaimed author behind the Titan series [Titan Sinking, Titan Shattered and Titan Screwed]. He touches on the affordability of this tape in comparison to other Coliseum Home Videos in the book ‘Tagged Classics: Just The Reviews‘ before reviewing the tape itself.

“This is the first from a set of tapes that began coming out in 1989. Like their 1985 predecessors, they were also called Coliseum Collector’s Series. They were similarly short in length, and thus more affordable than the two hour plus releases.” Dixon wrote in the Tagged Classics book. The book has been described as being a fun mixture of facts, opinions, and previously unknown information. Highly recommended for all fans of ’80s and ’90s wrestling.

With this Hulk Hogan Real American VHS being only an hour-long, thus more affordable as James Dixon mentions, a good average price around the time of release could be $20, right around the price point of new Hollywood releases at the time.

Now after coming to a conclusion on an average price, the fun part begins. How much did Marvel approximately make from this particular avenue of pay? Remember, Marvel make .90 of 1% from this. Here’s the method we used to go about looking at it:

$20 x 202,426 copies = $4,048,520

1% of $4,048,520 = $40,485

.90 (90%) of $40,485 = $36,436

There you go, Marvel made a rough estimate of $36,436 from the Hulk Hogan Real American tape alone. A fascinating stat.

Coliseum Home Video's 'Hulk Hogan Real American'
Coliseum Home Video’s ‘Hulk Hogan Real American’ [Photo: Pinterest]

How much money did Marvel Comics make off Hulk Hogan matches?

One of the more intriguing parts of the contract between Marvel Comics and Hulk Hogan was that Marvel received $100 for every match Hulk Hogan wrestled during their 20-year agreement. At first glance, it really doesn’t seem like a lot of money for a giant company like Marvel… but it’s more than you’d think.

As stated in the contract, “For each wrestling match that Hulk Hogan appears in subsequent to the execution of this agreement, Marvel will be paid $100.”

Cagematch.net has great in-depth stats showcasing how many matches Hulk Hogan wrestled each year. You can look up the same for any of your favorite wrestlers, too. Thanks to Cagematch, I was able to find out that from 1984 until the termination of the Marvel agreement in 2004, Hogan wrestled in 1,250 matches – quite a staggering amount. That said, some of those matches from 1984 need to be taken off. The agreement was made official on July 9, 1984, so the 63 matches Hogan had between January 1st, 1984 until July 9th, 1984 pushed the total of matches back to 1,187.

Then it gets tricky. After one of the biggest moments in wrestling history took place during Bash at the Beach 1996 where Hogan turned to the dark side and joined the nWo, he was referred to as Hollywood Hogan and not Hulk Hogan any longer. This was smart by WCW because they weren’t billing him using the name “Hulk”, so it saved them not only those $100 match fees but future new merchandising fees that Marvel would have collected, undoubtedly saving them a lot of money.

The Story Behind HULK HOGAN’s Shocking Heel Turn at Bash at the Beach ’96

It was a grind of a task scrolling through Cagematch to cancel out the matches where he was wrestling under the name Hollywood Hogan but in order to find the accurate amount that Marvel made from the Hulk Hogan matches, this wacky research had to be done!

Here’s what I found:

7 matches in ‘96 as Hollywood Hogan + 18 matches in ‘97 + 38 matches in ‘98 + 17 matches in ’99 + 2 matches in 2002 in the WWE, the last of those perhaps the most electrifying crowd atmosphere in any match ever, versus The Rock at WrestleMania X-8. Oh, and you can’t forget the 3 matches in 2003 under the mysterious and very well disguised Mr. America (trust me, sarcasm, but it was a fun gimmick for a brief period) makes the final amount of these matches under different personas 85. Minus 85 from 1,187, got it.

The total number of matches ‘Hulk’ Hogan had during the contractual years with Marvel was 1,102!

Hollywood Hogan and Mr. America, two personas of Hulk Hogan.
Hollywood Hogan and Mr. America, two personas of Hulk Hogan.

Those 1,102 matches earned Marvel over one hundred grand. $110,200, to be exact. While not a lot, it’s not chump change, either.

Some highlights from the general statistical viewing through Cagematch were that Hulk Hogan wrestled the majority of the matches during those contracted Marvel years in 1987 with 159 matches. The most matches Hogan ever wrestled in a year, however, was before those golden years, in 1980 with 200 matches. There was only one year where Hogan didn’t wrestle at all during the 20 years of the Marvel name ownership, and perhaps not ironically, this was the final year of the contract in 2004. With the contract nearing its end, there is always the possibility that Hulk decided to wait it out. He returned to the WWE in 2005 having ownership over his name for the very first time.

He was also very close to not wrestling a single match in 2001, the year that WCW demised. He wrestled just the one match that year, against Curt Hennig at an XWF show that November. This match was actually the catalyst for his WWF return at No Way Out in 2002. It was a successful test run for Hogan, following a layoff from knee surgery and WCW’s demise.

WCW – The Failure and End of Monday Nitro

Hulk Hogan’s Saturday morning cartoon show, Rock ‘n’ Wrestling

In the agreement between Marvel and Hulk Hogan, it made clear that if Titan were to derive a management fee from Hogan, Marvel would receive 10% of that.

The contract stated, “Marvel shall be paid 10% of the monies Titan derives from the monies received by Terry Bollea in his role as Hulk Hogan, for a particular project. For example, under the proposed animated television series with Dic, if for a particular episode Terry Bollea is paid $5000 and, assuming Titan derives a 15% management fee from Terry Bollea, Titan would be paid 15% of $5000, or $750, and Marvel would be paid 10% thereof, or $75. However, if in the foregoing example, Titan did not derive a management fee from Terry Bollea, then Marvel would be paid 10% of $5000, or $500.”

The proposed animated series the Marvel contract was referring to would become “Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling” produced by the now-defunct DIC Animation City, airing on CBS on Saturday mornings. It premiered on September 14, 1985, which was one year into the contractual agreement.

Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling, a Saturday morning cartoon on CBS which ran from 1985-1986.
Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling, a Saturday morning cartoon on CBS which ran from 1985-1986.

The name of the show was a take on what was dubbed the “Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection” a crossover of wrestling going into the mainstream and into pop culture helped largely thanks to Cindy Lauper and Lou Albano who met on a plane flight on the way to Puerto Rico. The two struck up a friendship, and Lou Albano would star in the huge hit song “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” music video as Lauper’s dad.

Watch: Lou Albano stars as the father of Cyndi Lauper in the “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” music video

Cindy Lauper and Lou Albano would capitalize on the crossover the two had going on and got into a feud with Albano portraying a despicable sexist, leading to a match between Wendi Richter with Cindy Lauper in her corner versus The Fabulous Moolah with Lou Albano in her corner. The match was broadcast live on MTV and dubbed as “The Brawl to End It All”. Wendi Richter ended up defeating The Fabulous Moolah for the WWF Women’s Championship marking the first time the Women’s Championship changed hands in almost three decades!

The event is attributed to catapulting wrestling into the mainstream. It was the most-watched MTV program at the time and the momentum led to the success of WWF’s inaugural WrestleMania, a worldwide success that it otherwise may not have had.

Wrestler Cameos in Music Videos

Cyndi’s popularity was huge at the time. In 1984, she won the MTV Music Video Award for Best Female Music Video for “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (the video that starred Lou Albano and started this whole connection off) and in 1985, she won a Grammy for Best New Artist. The timing was great and it was the beginning of WWF moving into pop culture, gaining many new fans in the process, many of whom are still fans of wrestling to this day.

‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, who worked with Cyndi by setting up the feud with Lou Albano on his interview segment ‘Piper’s Pit’ was adamant that Cyndi was incredibly influential in the success of WrestleMania and catapulting the WWF into the mainstream. From KC’s Timeline: The History of WWE 1984, Piper said, “[Cyndi] doesn’t get enough credit. She was instrumental, she was huge to the winning of WrestleMania.”

Despite Cyndi Lauper’s massive influence and role in the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection, she is still yet to be inducted into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame which is honestly bizarre and raises further questions over the Hall of Fame.

Sami Zayn, upon learning for the first time that Cyndi hadn’t yet been inducted, expressed on Twitter, “I only today realized that Cyndi Lauper is not in the WWE Hall of Fame celebrity wing. As part of the ‘rock n’ wrestling connection’ with MTV in the 80’s, she was CRUCIAL to WWE crossing over into mainstream. Arguably no celebrity more deserving.”

All the popularity surrounding the WWF and its many superstars made ambitious cartoons like Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling possible. The animated series ran from September 14, 1985, until October 18, 1986, with 2 seasons and 26 episodes taking place during that time frame.

The two examples that Marvel presented WWF and Hogan used the example of Hogan earning $5000 for each episode* but the first example was that Titan would derive a 15% management fee from Hogan per episode, $750, and Marvel would earn 10% of that amount, $75. If that were the case then Marvel would’ve earned $1,950 in total from all 26 episodes from the Saturday morning cartoon.

On the other hand, the second example would see Marvel earning a lot more than that, and for the sake of this narrative, we are going to say that this is how it eventuated. If Titan didn’t derive a management fee from Hogan whatsoever, Marvel would earn 10% directly from the $5000 per episode, $500. This would earn them over $10,000 for all 26 episodes.

$500 x 26 episodes = $13,000.

*Now, it is very likely that Hogan earned more than the $5000 set out as an example in his contract with Marvel, but for the sake of this wacky narrative and due to the fact his actual earnings from that show aren’t known from, these numbers are all we have to go off of.

Wacky and weird Hulk Hogan merchandise that somehow made the shelves

As you can see, these avenues of pay are already stacking up and the surface has barely been touched in terms of the sales information that isn’t accessible. There was a lot of random merchandise put to shelves during those years from Hogan badges, lunch boxes, backpacks, and more. Just look at the weird Hulk Hogan merchandise that hit the shops. Maybe you’ll remember these, and maybe even you still have some of these at home (if so, share it with us on social media and we’ll give it a share)!

Bizarre WCW 'Hero Heads' merch featuring Hulk Hogan and Sting
Bizarre WCW ‘Hero Heads’ merch featuring Hulk Hogan and Sting [Photo: WCWworldwide.com]
Circa 1994, fans were blessed with the forgettable WCW Hero Head! The purpose of this item of merchandise was that it could be used as a melee weapon for some form of play fighting, I believe? Our thanks go out to WCWworldwide for the discovery of this foam-headed greatness!

The Hulk Hogan Hero Head looking less than impressive compared to his advertised counterpart.
The Hulk Hogan Hero Head looking less than impressive compared to his advertised counterpart.

Prepare to be disappointed with the reality of the merch, too. You know how food always looks so good on TV yet when you prepare it at home it looks nowhere near as aesthetically pleasing as the advertised product? Well, the same cruel reality applies to WCW Hero Head merch. According to WCWworldwide, they were sold at Toys ‘R’ Us for $15 in 1994. If you wanted them now, you’d be looking at paying more than $300 unless you find yourself a good deal online.

Two more wacky pieces of Hulk Hogan merchandise, a plastic chair and a candy dispenser.
Two more wacky pieces of Hulk Hogan merchandise, a plastic chair and a candy dispenser.

But wait, it gets weirder than the Hero Head merch. Did you know that you can sit on Hogan’s lap in the form of a plastic chair? It appears he is winking too, so if you feel uncomfortable about that then maybe the Hulk Hogan candy dispenser will be a better choice for cheering you up!

The popularity of the iconic ‘Hulkamania’ T-shirt

The real money though was made through the traditional merch the Hulkamaniacs all know and love in the form of the Hulkamania t-shirt! Earlier we looked at the top five selling WWF/E Home Videos which saw a 1989 Hogan VHS tape poll in at position number 4. The last avenue of pay for Marvel we’ll be looking at today is in the top five merchandise sellers of all-time for WWE.

Hulk Hogan’s infamous Hulkamania shirt ranks in second place with 1.9 million units sold. Assuming most of these sales figures were sold in the midst of Hogan’s heyday, we will calculate all 1.9 million sales just to get an idea of how much Marvel would have made from this. It can’t be entirely accurate but it gives a good enough idea to the powerful nature of the contract.

For those interested, the full list of number one selling WWF/E merchandise items of all time is as follows

1) Stone Cold Steve Austin – No surprise to see The Rattlesnake at the top of the list. Any merchandise record before Austin 3:16 was smashed during the Austin era. The Austin 3:16 was the highest-selling piece of Austin merchandise with sales currently at 2.3 million units.

2) Hulk Hogan – The power of Hulkamania remains powerful as the Hulkster sits at the number two spot. During the early nineties, Hulk Hogan merchandise was all that mattered to wrestling fans with the Hulkamania t-shirt selling 1.9 million units.

3) John Cena – The Cenation is going from strength to strength as merchandise sales fly out for the Master of Thuganomics. With each version of Cena t-shirt means huge sales with Cena’s Orange Never Give Up t-shirt being the most popular.

4) The Rock – The great one remains electrifying as merchandise sales have picked up since his 2011 return. Despite many t-shirts from Hollywood’s highest-paid actor finding merchandise success, it is the Brahma Bull t-shirt that sold the most.

5) Triple H – It is a surprise to see The Game in the top 5 because of the many stints he had as a heel, but he pipped Rey Mysterio off the list by scraping into the top 5. Due to The Game’s popularity, his t-shirt sales far outstrip the 619. (not including DX merchandise)

With sales dating back to the ’80s, inflation plays a huge part here as the value of the dollar is always changing with time. Today’s price for the shirt on WWE.com rounds off at $30.50, so that would make it the most appropriate price to use for the sake of this “research”.

When messing about with the previous calculations on the Real American Home Video sales, the method to get the final price was shown, so we shall use that same method but skip showing you the step-by-step way of getting there since you now know the drill!

The final and approximate amount Marvel made from the Hulkamania T-shirts alone was $521,550. Over half a million!

The Hulkamania shirt, which sold so well over the decades, helped Marvel pocket over half a million dollars.
The Hulkamania shirt, which sold so well over the decades, helped Marvel pocket over half a million dollars.

Combining the four avenues of earning for Hogan highlighted in this piece, we come to the calculation you all have come to this article for, the amount Marvel made off of Hulk Hogan (drum roll, please…):

$36,436 Real American VHS sales + $13,000 CBS animated series + $110,200 match fees + $521,550 Hulkamania shirt sales = a total of $681,186.

And this is only using the four examples we could find. Almost $700,00 pocketed just from Hulk Hogan’s Hulkamania t-shirt, Rock n Wrestling cartoon, the Hulk Hogan Real American VHS tape, and a few merchandise items! This is only four out of thousands of ways they pocket money of Hogan for twenty years. When you factor in ALL of the avenues ranging from things like wrestling figures, video game appearances, movies, etc, Marvel made millions off of Hulk Hogan.

Disclaimer: Light-hearted research went into this article. The purpose of this piece was to illustrate the sheer magnitude of Marvel’s ownership over the name “Hulk” for 20 years. These numbers are not meant to be looked at as legitimate but only estimates based off of the four examples broken down in this article. What an odd yet fascinating part of wrestling history this was!

If you enjoyed this piece, be sure not to miss the following recommended article on our site:

Human Oddities: The Most Bizarre Wrestling Attractions of All Time

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Braeden Farrell is a long-time contributor for Pro Wrestling Stories and can be reached on Twitter @braedenfazza.