The shell company of brigands and con men that is left at Stan Lee Media is suing Disney for the rights to the Marvel characters Lee co-created. Deadline has the complaint here. Their basis for the claim? A 1998 contract Stan signed saying he was giving the rights to his character to SLM. In typical forgetful Stan fashion at the same time he signed a DIFFERENT contract giving the rights to the characters to Marvel.
In its suit, SLMI says that Lee signed over the rights to comic book characters that he created or would create to its corporate predecessor in October 1998. The comic writer and publisher was paid for the rights in shares in Stan Lee Media, Inc. The shares later proved worthless when the dot-com bubble burst at the end of the 1990s, leaving the company to unsuccessfully seek bankruptcy protection in 2001. In its complaint today, SLMI says an amended version of that October 1998 agreement was filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in March 2000, clearly indicating its rights. “Oddly, in November, 1998, Stan Lee signed a written agreement with Marvel Enterprises, Inc. in which he purportedly assigned to Marvel the rights to the Characters. However, Lee no longer owned those rights since they had been assigned to SLEI previously. Accordingly, the Marvel agreement actually assigned nothing,” the suit notes. Disney bought Marvel for $4 billion in August 2009 with the deal confirmed at the end of that year. Stan Lee Media Inc. is represented by John McDermott of Denver’s Brownstein Hyatt Faber Schreck and Robert Chapan and Jon-Jamison Hill of Beverly Hills’ Eisner, Kahan & Gorry.
Stan Lee Media is an early “interactive” company that flourished at the height of the dotcom boom, and then dissolved into bankruptcy leaving many many colorful stories and in its wake, and a legacy of lawsuits out the wazoo. SLM has been trying to enforce this contract since 2009; a 2011 attempt to claim the rights to Conan have already failed (as did the last movie so no big loss.) Stan has also been suing Stan Lee Media in recent years over something to do with shady financier Peter Paul, who once fled to Brazil to avoid legal actions involving the Stan Lee Media implosion.
So on the one hand you have Jack Kirby’s heirs suing for the Marvel characters (although only on appeal at this point.) On the other you have a discarded skin that Stan Lee shed over a decade ago claiming the same. A sane observer could only wonder exactly WHAT Stan thought he was signing over to his new company?
Failure is an orphan but success has many fathers, as they say.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.