Marvel Suing To Retain Full Control Of Characters

Yet another lawsuit has come Disney’s way in the wake of settling their legal battle with Black Widow actress Scarlett Johnasson. This time, however, the claim is coming from the comics writers and creators themselves.

Larry Lieber, longtime writer at Marvel and brother to Stan Lee, along with heirs of legendary comic creators Steve Ditko (Spider-Man, Dr. Strange), Gene Colan, Don Heck, and Don Rico (Iron Man, Falcon, Black Widow, Hawkeye), have come together to seek copyright termination to these iconic characters. Marvel, owned by Disney since 2009, is counter suing, stating that the characters were not “original work,” but in fact “work made for hire,” much like how companies hire others to draw them new logos.

Now before anyone starts freaking out, the creators are not trying to put a stop to everyone’s favorite blockbusters. Rather, they would like comic writers and illustrators to get the recognition they deserve for their work and a share of the billions upon billion dollars worth of profits the major studios make because of them. Under the Copyright Act of 1976, authors can cancel the copyright they’ve granted for original work after a period of time and can renegotiate for a better deal. If Disney loses the case, they simply lose full ownership of the characters, meaning they become co-owners and will share the profits (this does only apply to the United States, however, so they will retain full control in foreign markets).

Sadly, this is not the first copyright termination case between major corporations and comic creators. Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, the minds behind Superman, lost theirs against DC Comics. Coincidentally, the heirs are being represented by Siegel and Schuster’s same lawyer, Marc Toberoff, with Marvel being repped by DC Comics’ same lawyer, Dan Petrocelli.Jack Kirby, famous for the Fantastic Four, also filed a similar lawsuit against Disney and Marvel that almost made it all the way to the Supreme Court before they finally settled. There was also the Sony/Disney dispute in 2019 over Spider-Man renegotiations, where, yet again, fans became angry at the wrong party. 

Marvel’s litigation will focus mainly on the “Marvel Method,” which is what the company describes as a working atmosphere where the company and creators discuss initial ideas before the writers/illustrators work out the details. This “Marvel Method” is what has won them disputes in the past, including those above and one famously involving Ghost Rider a decade ago.

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