Specifically, the estate of Jack Kirby, co-creator of Captain America, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, The Avengers, Iron Man, Hulk, The Silver Surfer and Thor, has sent notices terminating copyright to publishers Marvel and Disney, as well as film studios that have made movies and TV shows based on characters he created or co-created, including Sony, Universal, 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures. That’s the news from the website bleedingcool.com, which covers all things comic book. Normally these kinds of lawsuits are run of the mill for Hollywood. But not when they’re litigated by Marc Toberoff, who is the bane of Big Media. He’s had so many victories they’re hard to count, especially in he comic book arena on behalf of Superman creator Jerry Seigel against DC Comics and Warner Bros. Like that case, Kirby’s estate is looking to regain his share of copyright in the characters and their use in comics and other media. “Such claims, if found valid, would begin from 2014 and, as always, it’s worth noting that Marvel/Disney will still own the trademarks of the characters in comics, and the studios in movies. The likelihood is that, if successful, the Kirby estate would enter into negotiation over terms to continue publishing comics based on his work,” the website wrote. Other recent cases which Toberoff has won or settled lawsuits on Lassie, Get Smart, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Wild Wild West, and Smallville. On the Superman case, Warner Bros could have been draped in black mourning the loss of a shitload of Superman dollars because of U.S. District Court Judge Stephen G. Larson’s ruling: “After 70 years, Jerome Siegel’s heirs regain what he granted so long ago — the copyright in the Superman material that was published in Action Comics, Vol. 1. What remains is an apportionment of profits, guided in some measure by the rulings contained in this Order, and a trial on whether to include the profits generated by DC Comics’ corporate sibling’s exploitation of the Superman.” Think about it: Siegel sold the rights to the action hero he created with Joseph Shuster to Detective Comics for $130, and his heirs got back ownership of the character in 1999 and could possibly lay claim to $50+ million of Warner Bros’ and/or its DC Comics’ cash. Can that happen in the Kirby case? The iron is that Disney CEO Bob Iger’s ties to Marvel go back two generations to Kirby himself. That’s because Iger’s late great-uncle (his grandfather’s brother) was illustrator/cartoonist Jerry Iger, who partnered with illustrator/cartoonist Will Eisner back in the 1930s to create the comic book packager Eisner & Iger Studios. And their first hire was Jack Kirby, who as you know later became the co-creator of many of Marvel’s best known characters with then Marvel editor-in-chief Stan Lee. Lee, meanwhile, has been supportive of the Disney/Marvel deal (though he is fighting lawsuits of his own on other fronts.)
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