This lawsuit from the heirs of the great comic artist Jack Kirby has been a looong time coming. The legal ramifications of this case are immense, considering the billion dollar value of these corporate trademarks. Comic artists often signed away rights to their creations during the “Golden Age” of the industry, putting their signatures on contracts measurably worse than the ones signed by blues musicians.
From the New York Times:
When the Walt Disney Company agreed in August to pay $4 billion to acquire Marvel Entertainment, the comic book publisher and movie studio, it snared a company with a library that includes some of the world’s best-known superheroes, including Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk and the Fantastic Four.
The heirs of Jack Kirby, the legendary artist who co-created numerous Marvel mainstays, were also intrigued by the deal. Mr. Kirby’s children had long harbored resentments about Marvel, believing they had been denied a share of the lush profits rolling out of the company’s superheroes franchises.
They spent years preparing for a lawsuit by enlisting a Los Angeles copyright lawyer, Marc Toberoff, to represent them. When the Marvel deal was struck, Mr. Toberoff — who helped win a court ruling last year returning a share of Superman profits to heirs of one of that character’s creators — sprang into action.
Pow! Wham! Another high-profile copyright fight broke out in Hollywood, and this one could be the broadest the industry has yet seen.
A Supersized Custody Battle Over Marvel Superheroes (New York Times)