Say what you will about the shareholders of Stan Lee Media, but despite suffering one loss after another in their decade-long battle for the rights to Marvel’s best-known characters, they’re still unwilling to concede defeat.
In papers filed Tuesday in federal court in Philadelphia, and first reported by Deadline, the failed dot-com now seeks a declaratory judgment that it, and not Disney or Marvel, owns Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men, Thor and other superheroes.
The move, which comes just three months after an annoyed federal judge dismissed their multibillion-dollar claim against Disney, springs from a lawsuit filed in September by the media giant against the American Music Theatre, which is accused of using elements of Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King in a stage revue without permission. In a surprise twist, the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based theater responded last month that it has a license to use Spider-Man and numerous other Marvel heroes — through an exclusive agreement with Stan Lee Media. Somewhat conveniently, American Music Theatre filed a third-party counterclaim against Stan Lee Media, opening the door for Tuesday’s filing.
Retailing | Fans of the Fall River, Massachusetts, retailer StillPoint Comics, Cards & Games kicked in $5,000 in a GoFundMe campaign to keep the store in business. The shop, which opened in 1997, had to close for 10 days last month after its power was shut off. [The Herald News]
Publishing | Following confirmation last month of a Space Mountain graphic novel series, Heidi MacDonald talks with executives from Disney Publishing Worldwide about the expansion of the new Disney Comics imprint. [Publishers Weekly]
Events | Sean Kleefeld reports on Day 1 of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum Grand Opening Festival of Cartoon Art in Columbus, Ohio. [Kleefeld on Comics]
No matter how hard they try, Disney and Marvel can’t seem to shake the specter of Stan Lee Media: Just two months after a federal judge dismissed a multibillion lawsuit against Disney for ownership of the Marvel characters co-created by Stan Lee, the failed dot-com has emerged in another, seemingly unrelated dispute.
In September, Disney, Marvel and Cameron Mackintosh Ltd. sued Lancaster, Pennsylvania-bases American Music Theatre, saying it violated copyrights and trademarks by using elements of Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King in its musical revue Broadway: Now and Forever (Disney and Mackintosh jointly hold the copyright to the Mary Poppins stage production).
On Monday the theater responded with an eye-opening claim of its own: that Disney doesn’t own Spider-Man. Instead, the counterclaim states, the character belongs to Stan Lee Media, which licensed the rights to the American Music Theatre.
LEGO and Marvel are re-teaming for LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Maximum Overload, an online series launching today on Disney.com, the Disney YouTube channel and the Roku and Xbox Live TV apps. All 10 episodes will premiere simultaneously.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series finds Loki discovering “a way to put the ‘super’ in super-villain” as he assembles an army to conquer Earth, leaving S.H.I.E.L.D. and Marvel’s most popular heroes to face old foes who suddenly possess new powers.
Disney Publishing Worldwide has acquired Zodiac, an illustrated novel by Stan Lee, Stuart Moore and Andie Tong.
Based on the Chinese zodiac, the book follows a Chinese-American teenager who’s drawn into a global conspiracy after he and other youth around the world are suddenly bestowed with magical powers.
Lee already has a relationship with Disney, dating back at least to a 2007 first-look deal with the legendary creator’s POW! Entertainment. In 2009, just as Disney completed its purchased of Marvel, the entertainment giant expanded that agreement and acquired a 10 percent equity stake in POW.
In the spirit of Halloween and awesomeness, Tumblr user David J. Prokopetz commissioned some of the most intriguing crossover pieces to date: Wolverine as Disney Princesses.
Indeed, Prokopetz has already posted 14 different images of the best there is at what he does — and apparently, what he does is wear the crap out of a dress. While some of the drawings are clearly meant to evoke specific Disney Princesses, many are simply what Wolverine would look like were he designed from the top-down as a Disney princess. Perhaps the best one comes from Larbesta, who incorporates aspects of Wolverine’s costume and accentuates it with a pretty pink parasol.
Marvel, take note: these would be some of the best variant covers you could ask for during Halloween 2014. Seriously.
Be sure to check out the rest of Wolverine is the Best Disney Princess on Prokopetz’s blog.
Disney, which has long fought against the expansion of casinos in Florida, is bringing to an end some licensing deals that have been viewed as hypocritical to that anti-gambling stance: slot machines, online slots and lottery tickets featuring Marvel and Star Wars characters.
The New York Times reports the announcement, made over the weekend, comes as the Florida legislature again prepares to address whether Las Vegas-style casino resorts should be permitted to open in the state. The Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista attracts 52.5 million visitors annually; the entertainment giant argues that gambling hurts the state’s family-friendly brand.
Although Disney is so opposed to gambling that it doesn’t even casinos on its cruise ships — that’s an oddity in the industry — Marvel continued to sign slot machine agreements after it was purchased by the corporation in 2009 for $4.6 billion. But a Marvel spokeswoman told The Times the last deal was made two years ago, and the company has “discontinued plans to initiate or renew slot machine licensing arrangements as part of its integration with Disney.” Those that remain will be allowed to expire.
Marvel heroes like Iron Man and the Avengers have appeared on scratch-off lottery tickets in several states, but the company said there are no active licensing deals.
A spokeswoman for Walt Disney World attributed the lag to the complexities of aligning corporate policies following a merger.
With just nine words — “It is hereby ordered that the petition is denied” — the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday seemingly ended a four-year effort by the children of Jack Kirby to gain a copyright stake in many of the characters their father created or co-created for Marvel.
As Deadline reports, the Kirby heirs had petitioned for rehearing, either before a panel of the Second Circuit or the full bench of judges, of whether they had the right to file 45 copyright-termination notices in 2009 for some of Marvel’s best-known, and most lucrative, characters, including the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk.
Quickly responding to those notices, Marvel (later joined by then-new parent company Disney) sued to invalidate the heirs’ claims, arguing that Kirby’s creations for the publisher were work for hire, made at the company’s direction and expense, and therefore weren’t eligible for copyright termination. A federal judge agreed, ruling in July 2011 that, as works for hire, the copyrights to those characters belong to Marvel.
The Kirby family appealed, but in August 2013 a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit upheld the district court’s decision, reaffirming that the heirs had no termination rights. The judges also upheld the lower court’s exclusion of expert testimony offered by John Morrow and Mark Evanier on behalf of the Kirby heirs, agreeing that “their reports are by and large undergirded by hearsay statements, made by freelance artists in both formal and informal settings, concerning Marvel’s general practices towards its artists during the relevant time period.”
Largely overlooked in the hustle and bustle of New York Comic Con was Disney Press’ official announcement of Space Mountain, a 176-page graphic novel based on the theme-park attraction. News of the project was surfaced in August.
Written by Bryan Q. Miller and illustrated by Kelley Jones and Hi-Fi Design, the book will be released May 6 under the Disney Comics umbrella. Disney Press also released a two-page preview and promotional poster for Space Mountain. Here’s the synopsis:
The year is 2125 and the Magellan Science Academy has given two lucky cadets ‘golden tickets’ to join a team of space explorers on a special field trip to journey 24 hours into the future. But when their mission goes unexpectedly wrong, the two kids must band together with a miniature flying saucer sidekick to save themselves and their crew — and return to Space Mountain — before time runs out and the universe is destroyed!
The first book in a planned trilogy, Space Mountain will be followed by Return to Space Mountain (2015) and Battle for Space Mountain (2016).
Just like the Avengers might call in Iron Man for air support, Disney is counting on Ol’ Shellhead to rescue its struggling Hong Kong theme park.
The entertainment giant has announced the 2016 opening of the Iron Man Experience at Hong Kong Disneyland, the first ride based on a Marvel character since Disney purchased the company in 2009. According to The New York Times, analysts place the project’s price tag at about $100 million.
Located in the Tomorrowland area, it will be based within part of the Stark Expo, which will apparently feature something akin to the Hall of Armor on display at Disneyland in Anaheim, California (although presumably more robust). There will also be a gift shop and photo pavilion, but the big draw is the thrill ride that employs next-generation simulator technology to send visitors into action with Iron Man.
Director J.J. Abrams will undoubtedly receive a lot of unsolicited advice about Star Wars: Episode VII, on which hangs the future of the blockbuster franchise and the hopes and dreams of countless fans, but none will likely be as succinct and stylishly rendered as “Dear J.J. Abrams” (or, “4 Rules to Make Star Wars Great Again”).
Produced by Prescott Harvey with the creative agency Sincerely, Truman, this love letter to A Galaxy Far, Far Away manages to capture much of what made the first three films so special, why the others were so … well, terrible, with just four rules. However, there was at least one more that didn’t end up in the video.
A federal judge on Thursday dismissed Stan Lee Media’s multibillion-dollar lawsuit against Disney, potentially ending its long and confusing legal battle to claim ownership of the Marvel characters co-created by Stan Lee. The failed dot-com has had no connection to its co-founder and namesake in more than a decade; in fact, the two have sued each other on a few occasions.
As Deadline reports, in granting Disney’s motion to dismiss the 2012 copyright-infringement complaint, U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez didn’t attempt to hide his annoyance with the litigious Stan Lee Media, whose tangled web of lawsuits began it at least 2007, just months after the company emerged from federal bankruptcy protection.
“Plaintiff has tried time and again to claim ownership of those copyrights; the litigation history arising out of the 1998 Agreement stretches over more than a decade and at least six courts,” Martinez wrote in his 11-page order. “Taking its cue from the Southern District of New York and the Central District of California, this Court holds that Plaintiff is precluded from re-litigating the issue of its ownership of copyrights based on the 1998 Agreement …” He said it would be “futile” to permit Stan Lee Media to amend the lawsuit.
Publishing | Although there’s been no official announcement beyond an Amazon listing, Fantagraphics is set to publish a Don Rosa Library line, beginning next summer with the 248-page hardcover Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: “The Son of the Sun.” That was the title of the cartoonist’s first Scrooge McDuck comic, released in 1987. [The Comics Reporter]
Creators | Writer and editor J.W. Rinzler talks about adapting George Lucas’ initial draft of the Star Wars screenplay into the Dark Horse comic The Star Wars: “This is not something you could film. Here’s a giant city and then here’s a giant vista filled with huge spacecraft. (Lucas) was doing his blue sky version of what he wanted to do. He knew this was not going to be filmable.” [The Associated Press]
Business | The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved Disney’s plan to build a 58-acre television and film production facility on the sprawling Golden Oak Ranch, near Santa Clarita, California. Located less than an hour north of Los Angeles, the 890-acre ranch has been owned by Disney since 1959, serving as the backdrop for projects ranging from Little House on the Prairie to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Pirates of the Caribbean: The World’s End. ABC Studios has been producing more series than Disney’s Burbank facilities can handle, requiring additional sound stages to be rented. The new facility is targeted for completion in 2016.
Marvel Animation opened a new studio early last year in Glendale, just minutes from Disney’s Burbank lot. Marvel Studios later followed suit, moving from Manhattan Beach to new offices in Glendale. [TheWrap]
In anticipation of the release of DuckTales: Remastered video game, Mondo is returning to Duckburg with six limited-edition posters featuring everyone’s favorite characters from Disney’s beloved 1987-90 animated series.
The prints will be available on Wednesday, and as usual you have to follow Mondo on Twitter to find out on-sale times.