Suit Against Stan Lee and Marvel Dismissed

The suit filed by two Stan Lee Media shareholders, alleging that Stan Lee improperly transferred rights to Marvel characters back to Marvel, was dropped by a federal judge.

It's kind of confusing, but here's how I think it works.  When Stan Lee started Stan Lee Media, the shareholders thought he owned the rights to the big Marvel characters.  The shareholders of SLM decided Stan improperly transferred his rights to those characters to Marvel in 1998.  Stan Lee Media imploded in 2001, and now some of the shareholders thought they were due the profits (big profits) from the slew of successful Marvel movies based on characters Stan created, to the tune of $750 million.

But the judge says they get nada.  Now Marvel turns their sights on the suit from the Kirby family, who want control of the characters created or co-created by Jack Kirby, such as the X-Men, The Hulk, and Iron Man.

Hey, if you're in the mood, why not take a stroll down iFanboy memory lane, and watch our Stan Lee show again?


  1. Not really confusing, just inconsequential. Does anyone give a crap about "Stan Lee Media?"

  2. I love that Stan Lee show.  Mr. Cannata did a fine job filling in.  You guys should do more crossovers.

  3. The Stan Lee Media story is a fascinating tale of fraud, deceit, hype, intrigue, and the era. Nothing quite sums up the entire pre-millennial internet bubble as SLM. It’s like The Industry Standard +, as managed by boy band impresario Lou Perleman.

    Seriously, look it up.

  4. Well, I am gald that is over. I am sorry to hear about the suit with the Kirby family. I just want to know, when people make characters in the marvel universe, don’t they know that it stays with them? Don’t they give over the rights once they go in? I know about Superman with DC, but I thought that was the only superhero that DC didn’t own. I thought that Marvel owned all of their characters.

  5. @SamIAm:  The rights to a character automatically go to the company when the character was created by an employee of the company acting within the scope of employment or was commissioned by the company, i.e., the company paid the creator and told the creator what to do.

    The Kirbys argument is that Jack Kirby was not an employee of Marvel Comics at the time those characters were created but was a freelance artist and came up with the characters (or I guess the elements that he contributed to the characters) on his own.  In which case his share of the copyrights would revert back to the estate .  Marvel does own those characters at the very least because Stan Lee assigned all of his rights to them.  The issue is whether they have to share ownership with Jack Kirby’s estate.

  6. Okay. That’s clears things up a bit.

  7. This means I’ll never have to parse the headline "Stan Lee Media Sues Stan Lee" for anyone ever again, so let’s chalk it up in the "Win" column.

  8. @gaffergamgee That’s not completely correct what you are saying…. Kirby was never truly a ‘Freelance artist’ as you say, he was a Marvel employee but he never had a written contract.  The source of contention is that his work was under an implied ‘Work for Hire’ which simply means (like you said) what you create belongs to the company.  But as said that was only ‘implied’.  In 1978 laws changed and made such assumptions to be put in writing in a contract and Kirby refused to sign such things and quit working for Marvel. 

    Since he never signed anything saying Marvel owned what he created his estate may have a legitimate beef at some copyright control.  Not to mention Martin Goodman actually promising Joe Simon and Jack Kirby part ownership of their Timley creations like Captain America.  Of course we all know Martin Goodman flat out stabbed both Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in the back about that one.

  9. @Hawkboy: I disagree.  Under the statute, copyrights for the creations of an employee automatically go to the employer.

    The situation you’re describing is for commissioned works of an independent contractor.  The contract between the company and the commissioned artist has to stipulate in writing that the work is a work for hire.  So I was a bit off on that part.  The Kirbys argument is that Jack Kirby was a independent/freelance artist that was commissioned to make those creations and not necessarily an employee.  You are correct that the old presumption that such works were "implied" works for hire no longer applies.

  10. Also, whether someone is an "employee" for purposes of determining a work for hire is determined on a number of factors, including the presence of a written contract.


  11. @gaffergamgee You can disagree all you want… I’m sure Marvel agrees with ya!  😉 Kirby never signed anything saying work for hire…..and that is the real basis of the Lawsuit.  We are kind of arguing semantics and both get the gist of the complaint.  I guess we just disagree whether Mr. Kirby deserves anything!!!  😉  Interesting that the lawsuit only covers from 1958-1963.  After that I guess Kirby was a true blue Marvel Employee.

     I have to figure at some point in this lawsuit the fact Martin Goodman promised Kirby everything he had coming to him up until the day Kirby left, will be somehow used. I mean Joe Simon has the same lawsuit going for Captain America.

    Some interesting reading staring about Page 6 or so.

  12. Law Fight on the internet! SCORE!

  13. @Hawkboy:  I don’t know and don’t have an opinion on whether the Kirbys should win or not.  I’m just saying that in order to win, they have to establish that Jack Kirby was not an employee of Marvel Comics at that time but was an independent contractor that worked for them as a commissioned artist.   Paragraph 22 on page 6 of the Complaint alleges that Jack Kirby was not an employee of Marvel Comics’ predecessor.

    You can work for someone and not be an employee in the legal sense.  If he was an employee, then he did not need to sign anything that said work for hire, it’s automatic.  If he was a commissioned contractor, then a written agreement that it was work for hire would be needed.

  14. I am so photoshopping this image and re-coloring the rings on Stan’s fingers.

    "Stan Lee … you want it all. Welcome to the Orange Lantern Corps."