January 17, 2010

Marvel Snapshot: Heirs Due Compensation for Creation?

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Written by: Billy
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Hello everyone and welcome back to another edition of Marvel Snapshot. This week I’d like to talk about the recent trend of Marvel being sued. If you haven’t heard, Marvel has been in court a lot lately (again) to try and rebuff claims by a couple of different entities. I can’t wait to hear some of your opinions on this matter because I know how I would feel if I was on either side.

First off, the heirs to Jack Kirby’s estate are trying to sue Marvel for what they claim are their fathers creations and his property. Basically what they want is for Marvel to turn over the rights to certain characters Kirby is credited with creating: The Fantastic Four, X-Men, and The Hulk most notably. Marvel is countering with the logic that these characters were never Kirby’s property as they were works made for hire and therefore property of the company. It’s going to get interesting because I think Marvel will hold out as long as they can but in the end I think there will be a payoff of some sorts.

Next up is a lawsuit specifically aimed at royalties from Marvel’s big movie moneymakers. The company Stan Lee Media, is suing Stan Lee, Marvel Entertainment, Avi Arad and current CEO Isaac Perlmutter for royalties it says the stockholders of the company are due from the huge profits made from those movies. The lawsuit is for the amount of $750 million just in case you were wondering. Personally, I think this lawsuit is going to be harder for Marvel and ‘ol Stan to get rid of but I guess only time will tell.

It would seem to me that years ago things like contracts and lawyers were just not thought of in this line of work. Should a creator or his/her heirs not seek out monies for their hard work? I think when you’re hired things like this should all be made very clear. I know it is nowadays but I think back when Kirby and others started doing comics it was more for the love of comics than a big payday down the road, don’t you? I know one thing about the industry; when it’s necessary to have benefits and organizations to help people from the industry who are retired but can’t pay the bills, something is wrong with this business. Just look at the profits these companies make, or at how much other companies are willing to pay for them. Does the number $4 billion ring a bell? How would you feel if you were one of the people involved, not just an on-looker? If you think every artist or creator that’s been in the biz and is now retired is living high on the hog think again. Ever heard of The Hero Initiative? I’m not claiming that Kirby’s family is broke, I just think it’s a more encompassing subject that some people just don’t think about. Give a click on the link and read about it.

That’s it for this week but I really would love to hear a lot of feedback about this subject from the masses so leave those comments and start the debate!

Billy Dunleavy

Links to reference material
1 Kirby heirs
2 Stan Lee Media



  1. Eli

    I think that even though there weren’t always clear written agreements in place, many creators are due much MUCH more compensation than they ever received. I’m not too sure about today, but back when guys like Kirby started out, the comic business had plenty of publishers and businessmen involved who were… lacking in a sense of fair play and ethics.

    In cases like these, the right decision isn’t necessarily going to be the same as the legal judgment. I think in certain cases, what’s legally established could, and sometimes should, be overturned in favor of what is clearly the right thing to do. I’m not saying that I think Marvel should give Kirby’s family whatever they want, but a hardline stand where they don’t give anyone anything… that’s not a good idea.

  2. …so wait a second, Stan Lee is suing…Stan Lee!?


    Anyway, interesting subject here Billy. As usual, I side with the underdog here and think that the creators are due a slightly larger payout than what they’ve received to date. The Hero Initiative is a great cause, and is making things easier on lots of ex-creators, which is fantastic.

    However, I think it also needs to be held in consideration that a decade ago Marvel was almost bankrupt. They aren’t now, but I wonder if they’re still recovering from that time or if they are, if they’re taking precautions to prevent it from happening again with their recent cash haul!

    Oh, and one of the most evil lawsuits: Gaiman vs. McFarlane. Sorry Todd, but Neil created Angela and Cogliostro. ‘Nuff said.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by, said: Marvel Snapshot: Heirs Due Compensation for Creation? #comics […]

  4. infinite speech

    My question regarding the Kirby family is are they only seeking restitution for the Marvel properties which are pumping out $$$$ by the @$$ load or are they also going after the DC characters as well.

    I wouldn’t automatically side with the underdog because of how much money is involved here and that much money brings out the greed and selfishness in people plain and simple. But we all know how crafty and selfish a business can be while assuming the guise of “protection” they will screw the people that help make them the money making machine they are.

    Oh Andy isn’t it funny how in that instance McFarlane resembled what he fought against at Marvel?

  5. Uh, if you’re an HEIR, and not the original creator, you don’t deserve anything but what they’re kindly willing to give you. Unless your parent left the copyrights to his characters to you in his will. And I’m pretty sure copyright laws don’t work like that. And that’s what it is; it’s all copyright and ownership. If you own your deceased parent’s estate, and the rights to such things fall into that, then yes, you should be compensated. It’s all what the contracts say.
    Though it is likely true that the original creators weren’t properly compensated to begin with, which is unfortunate. And that’s the only way to argue it, in any sort of honest way. To say that “hey, my dad got screwed over, so pay up.” But…and not to be crude…he’s dead. In the end, THEY want the money. Unless they want to donate it all to a charity in his memory or something.

  6. Unfortunately, back in the day, if an artist wanted to work in comic books they had to sign the ‘work made for hire’ contract. There wasn’t a choice in it. Even today, unless you’re doing a creator owned property (and I’d love to know what percentage of sales you get for that) you’ll still sign a ‘work made for hire’ contract.

    It would be nice if the big two would amend the ‘work for hire’ contracts to add that if a creator (be it writer or artist) creates a character they get name credit whenever that character is used and also a percentage of sales whenever that character is used.

    I’d like to see ‘work made for hire’ stricken from the books all together in favor of a more honest and shared mechanism where all parties get to benefit from the creative process that is comic books.

  7. […] Marvel Snapshot: Heirs Due Compensation for Creation? […]

  8. billy

    @Eli-Well said!
    @Speech-It’s my understanding that this is a pre-emptive strike at aquiring the “rights” to the characters Kirby is given credit for creating.

  9. Billy

    Just an FYI- The Stan Lee Media case was thrown out on Wednesday 3/31. Here’s a link…

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