Marvel Settles Battle Over Rights to Spider-Man and Doctor Strange
Marvel’s longstanding battle over the rights to some of its most popular characters has finally ended.
The saga began when Marvel received copyright termination notices from Larry Lieber and the estates of Gene Cola, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, and Don Rico.
At issue were the rights to a slew of classic Marvel comic series, including Amazing Fantasy, The Avengers, Captain America, Daredevil, Iron Man, Journey Into Mystery, Marvel Super-Heroes, Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish, Tales of Suspense, and Tomb of Dracula.
In addition to the specific art and stories in the comics, Lieber and the estates of his fellow former Marvel animators were targeting “any character, story element, or indicia reasonably associated with the Works.”
Marvel Sued in 2021
In response to the termination notices, Marvel filed suit. As the U.S. Copyright Law that gives authors and their heirs the ability to gain back copyrights after a certain period of time does not apply to works made for hire, Marvel argued that the classic Marvel comics did not fall under the proper copyright stature.
Among the characters at stake were Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, and Scarlet Witch.
Things seemed to be heading for an amicable resolution in June when Marvel, Lieber, and the estates of Colan, Heck, and Rico settled the suit out of court.
Marvel and the Ditko Estate Settle
There was, however, one exception to the settlement — the estate of Steve Ditko.
Ditko, who died in 2018, co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, among other classic Marvel characters. The late animator’s estate was not part of the initial settlement, meaning that the rights to Amazing Fantasy (where Spider-Man debuted), and Strange Tales (the debut of Doctor Strange) were still up in the air.
Now, six months after the initial settlement, attorneys for Marvel and the estate of Ditko notified the court on Wednesday that they have reached a settlement. The two sides now expect a stipulation of dismissal with prejudice to be filed in the coming weeks.
Heading into 2024, Marvel will now have one less headache to worry about. Hopefully, the estates of the late animators will receive their due, and all parties can move forward.