Marvel, and the comics industry in general, has gone from a failing enterprise to one of the most profitable types of business in the past decade. A string of smash hits in Hollywood, like Spider-Man, Iron Man and The Avengers have revitalized characters that were badly in need of new blood and made a lot of intellectual property household names.
Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time before labyrinthine legal documents came out and threw ownership into question.
Rolling Stone has reported that a company called Stan Lee Media has filed a lawsuit against Disney, which currently controls many of the characters Stan Lee created over the years through its ownership of Marvel, for more than a billion dollars. The suit alleges that prior to signing the rights to his creations over to Marvel Inc., Lee made an agreement with the internet start-up, which went bankrupt in 1998.
To be clear, this organization is not affiliated with Stan Lee in any way at present. However, the validity of the contract will be called into question, and Lee will certainly have to make some statement on the matter — though he hasn’t yet.