Comic to film adaptations areat an all time high in quality and popularity, and one of the most famouscomic book creators has decided it is time to reopen the issue of creator'srights. None other than Stan "The Man" Lee, co-creator of a multitudeof the key players in the Marvel Universe has made it official that he wants royalties from licensing ofhis creations. And if Marvel doesn't comply, they may be sued by Lee.
The DowJones Business Newswire reported "According to a Form 10-Qfiled Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Marvel Enterprisessaid it received a written claim for the profits from Lee and 'the threatof litigation' against the company if it doesn't pay him the profits."
This issue had recently come to the fore during last week's 60 MinutesII, in which the news magazine profiled Marvel Entertainment, and someof it's main players - most prominently Lee. During the interview withLee, 60 Min. correspondent Bob Simon repeatedly queried Lee about his lackof compensation in light of the Spider-Man movie's nearly $1 billionin world-wide profits. Lee was hesitant to discuss the issue, but finallysaid it was a painful subject.
However, Simon failed to note that Lee had an executive producer credit onthe film. Lee did mention in the interview that he still loves Marveland it's employees, and that he still draws a check from the company. ButMarvel Entertainment also addressed the issue of Lee's recent claim for profits,noting that Lee is paid "an annual salary of $1 million," and that the companybelieves his claims are without merit.
The issue of creator's rights is a recurring theme in the world of comicbooks. Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster's fight for creator'srights became well known to the general public when the Superman The Motion Picture hit theatersin the late 1970s. The creators were destitute, having sold the rightsto the character decades previously, for a paltry 200 dollars. DC Comicswon the lawsuit, but with stories circulation of the famed creators of Supermanon disability or bagging groceries at a local supermarket, DC began compensatingthe creators, avoiding a public relations nightmare.
Interestingly, it is unlikely that Steve Ditko - co-creator of Spider-Man- will also come forward with a similar suit. Apparently, Lee's claimfor profits stem NOT from his creating the character in 1963, but from hiscontract with Marvel that Lee signed in 1998. The contract seemed togive Lee royalties for the licensing of his creations, but not the actualcomic book sales. Though Lee's claim did not mention specific royaltyrequests, one could assume that Marvel Productions subsequent to 1998 wouldbe vulnerable to Lee's royalties. That would theoretically includethe X-Men, X-Men: Evolution, Hulk, and Spider-Man films and TV shows.
For more information on what current comic book creators and fans are doingto support disadvantaged golden age comic book creators, check ACTOR,the recently founded organization rallying to provide a safety net for the folkswho have contributed so much to American culture.