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.
Publishing | Radical Studios has secured $3 million in its first round of fundraising to further develop its catalog, expanding its digital publishing efforts and licensing capabilities. The publisher, which ultimately hopes to raise $9.5 million, has two comic-book adaptations in development at major studios: Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise, at Universal Pictures, and Hercules: The Thracian Wars, starring Dwayne Johnson, at Universal Pictures. [Variety]
Retailing | Dave and Adam’s Card World, billed as the largest online seller of baseball cards, has branched out, with an eye toward becoming the largest online seller of vintage comic books by 2014. “We were somewhat shocked and surprised that vintage comic books are more popular than vintage baseball cards. As a card collector, that just hurts,” c0-founder and CEO Adam Martin joked. [Lockport Union-Sun & Journal]
Following the sudden cancellation of two appearances this week in Ohio and talk of “a very serious circumstance,” many fans began to express concern about the health of legendary creator Stan Lee. But this afternoon the 89-year-old writer released a statement to announce he’s recuperating after having a pacemaker implanted.
“Attention, Troops! This is a dispatch sent from your beloved Generalissimo, directly from the center of Hollywood’s combat zone!” Lee wrote on the POW! Entertainment website. “Now hear this! Your leader hath not deserted thee! In an effort to be more like my fellow Avenger, Tony Stark, I have had an electronic pace-maker placed near my heart to insure that I’ll be able to lead thee for another 90 years. But fear thee not, my valiant warriors. I am in constant touch with our commanders in the field and victory shall soon be ours. Now I must end this dispatch and join my troops, for an army without a leader is like a day without a cameo!”
Lee, who turns 90 in December, of course ended the statement with “Excelsior!”
In yet another legal blow to Stan Lee Media, a federal judge in California has dismissed its lawsuit against namesake and co-founder Stan Lee seeking billions in profits as well as ownership of the writer’s most famous co-creations.
Law 360 reports that while attorneys representing Lee, his POW! Entertainment and its subsidiary QED Productions had argued that the shareholder lawsuit was barred because an identical action filed in New York was dismissed in 2010, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson didn’t explain his decision to dismiss on Monday. A written order is expected later this week.
The failed-dot com has long claimed Lee improperly transferred rights to such characters as Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, the Avengers and Thor from Stan Lee Media to Marvel. The lawsuit is only part of a many-tentacled legal monster that was spawned in 1998, when Marvel CEO Isaac Perlmutter used bankruptcy procedures to end Marvel’s $1 million-a-year lifetime contract with Lee, negating Lee’s assignment to the company of his rights to his co-creations. It also freed Lee to form Stan Lee Entertainment (which later merged with Stan Lee Media) with now-infamous entrepreneur Peter F. Paul. The company filed for bankruptcy in February 2001, and emerged from protection in November 2006.
This lawsuit, like the one that came before it, hinged on a sequence of events that took place between August 1998, when Marvel terminated Lee’s employment, and November 1998, when Lee entered into a new agreement with the company and signed over his likeness, and any claims to characters. Representatives of SLM previously have claimed that on Oct. 15, 1998, Lee transferred to that company rights to his creations and his likeness.
Wilson had permitted Stan Lee Media to renew its claim in February 2011, with the plaintiffs hoping a loss three months ago with the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals would help pave the way for the California action. Apparently it didn’t.
Stan Lee has reached an agreement ending a legal dispute with two former shareholders of POW! Entertainment that threatened the future of his company, Hollywood Esq. reports. The terms of the deal are confidential.
POW! was formed in 2001 following Lee’s departure from bankrupt dot-com Stan Lee Media, and went public three years later through a reverse merger with Arturion Entertainment, a shell corporation controlled by public relations consultant Valerie Barth and UltaVision Inc. director Ron Sandman.
All seemed to go well, with Barth even working as Lee’s PR representative (she asserts she was instrumental in the creator receiving his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame). But then last year POW! sued Barth and Sandman for breach of contract and fraud; the two struck back in May with a counterclaim accusing Lee and POW! executives Gil Champion and Arthur Lieberman (who passed away May 1) of conspiring to inflate the worth of the media company at the time of the reverse merger. They alleged Lee and his partners misrepresented POW!’s assets and provided documents demonstrating that the company controlled Lee’s intellectual property, including his name and likeness, and downplayed threats of litigation. (That same intellectual property forms the core of Lee’s complicated ongoing legal fight with Stan Lee Media.) In addition to $3.6 million in compensatory damages, Barth and Sandman sought the removal of POW!’s board of directors, and the transfer of shares.
According to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, POW! Entertainment generated just $24,628 in net income in 2011; the previous year, the company saw a $1.1 million net loss.
Legendary writer and editor Stan Lee, seemingly a magnet for lawsuits, has been drawn into yet another legal battle, one that could leave the future of his POW! Entertainment in question.
According to Hollywood, Esq., Lee and POW! executives Gil Champion and Arthur Lieberman, among others, have been sued for $3.6 million by two people who claim there was a conspiracy to inflate the worth of the media company’s assets at the time of a reverse merger in 2004 that allowed POW! to become publicly traded without slogging through the lengthy registration process.
Making the lawsuit more complex, or at least more dicey, is that one of the plaintiffs, Valerie Barth, worked for years as Lee’s public relations representative, and asserts she was instrumental in the creator receiving his star last year on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The claims are rooted in Lee’s departure in 2001 from the bankrupt dot-com Stan Lee Media — that company has its own winding history of lawsuits involving, at various times, its namesake, Marvel and Conan the Barbarian, among others — to form POW!, which in the past decade has struck deals with such companies as Disney, Archie Comics and BOOM! Studios. Three years later a reverse merger with a shell corporation called Arturian Entertainment allowed POW! to immediately go public.
Awards | Big Questions by Anders Nilsen has won the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize for 2012, the second such award given by the Pennsylvania Center for the Book. The organization also named four honorees: Freeway by Mark Kalesniko, Habibi by Craig Thompson, Life with Mr. Dangerous by Paul Hornschemeier and Zahra’s Paradise by Amir and Khalil. The awards will be presented during a ceremony at Penn State later this year. [Pennsylvania Center for the Book]
Publishing | IDW Publishing has promoted Dirk Wood to vice president of marketing. Wood joined IDW in 2010 as director of retail marketing. [IDW Publishing]
Conventions | Misha Davenport previews this weekend’s Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo. [Chicago Sun-Times]
Stan Lee Media, which just last month lost its bid to reclaim the rights to Conan the Barbarian, has been dealt another setback as an appeals court upheld a lower court’s decision preventing the failed dot-com from intervening in Stan Lee’s decade-old lawsuit against Marvel as part of an effort to gain control of the writer’s most famous co-creations.
However, Hollywood, Esq. reports the company hopes today’s ruling by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals will pave the way for pending action in California against its namesake and co-founder, whom it claims improperly transferred rights to such characters as Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, the Avengers and Thor from Stan Lee Media to Marvel. A judge had stayed the lawsuit last year pending the 2nd Circuit decision.
Lee sued Marvel back in 2002, claiming the company breached a conditional assignment of his copyright in Spider-Man when it failed to pay him 10 percent of profits from Columbia Pictures’ Spider-Man movie. He received a partial summary judgment before entering into a confidential agreement with Marvel. Stan Lee Media attempted to intervene in the dispute as the real party of interest, but was rejected by the judge because the company had gone into bankruptcy the previous year, and none of the shareholders could demonstrate they had legal standing or the authority to represent SLM.
A federal judge has dismissed a bid by Stan Lee Media Inc. to reclaim the rights to Conan the Barbarian, which the failed dot-com briefly held before going into bankruptcy in 2001. However, a bigger legal brawl still lies ahead, when the company appears before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on March 8 to argue it should be allowed to pursue the rights to Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, The Avengers and other lucrative Marvel properties.
Stan Lee Media, which operates independently of its namesake and co-founder — in fact, it’s suing Stan Lee — has struggled since emerging from bankruptcy in November 2006 to regain some of the money and glory from the heyday of the Internet bubble, primarily through lawsuits claiming the improper transfer of intellectual properties.
In the Conan lawsuit, filed in August even as Conan the Barbarian 3D arrived in theaters, the company claimed, in part, that when Conan Sales Co. bought back the rights to the Robert E. Howard characters in 2002, shareholders weren’t notified, and SLM’s interests weren’t properly represented. The complaint also alleged that Arthur Lieberman, Lee’s longtime attorney, committed fraud during the proceedings, and failed to report conflicts of interest. As a result, SLM argued, the transfer of the rights to Conan Sales Co., which subsequently sold them to Paradox Entertainment, should be annulled.
Creators | Any Empire and Swallow Me Whole creator (and our special guest this weekend for What Are You Reading?) Nate Powell appeared at the United Nations earlier this month with several teen-fiction writers who contributed to What You Wish For, a benefit book to fund libraries in Darfuri refugee camps in Chad. Video of the event can now be found on the U.N. website. [Top Shelf]
Business | Details on the collaboration between Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment Inc. and former Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s Vuguru have emerged: The two companies will work on a YouTube channel called “Stan Lee’s YouTube World of Heroes.” The channel is one of the 100 online video channels announced by the Google-owned video site, which seeks to add “professional, high-quality programming” to its site. [Los Angeles Times]
Business | They might move slow and eat people, but MSNBC estimates that zombies are worth about $5 billion to the economy. [MSNBC]
Publishing | As the fallout mounts from the revelation that former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child more than a decade ago with a member of his household staff, plans to revive the Terminator star’s acting career have been put on hold — a move that now extends to The Governator, the comics and animation project co-developed by Stan Lee. “In light of recent events,” representatives announced last night, “A Squared Entertainment, POW, Stan Lee Comics, and Archie Comics, have chosen to not go forward with The Governator project.” However, Entertainment Weekly notes the statement was revised two hours later, putting the project “on hold.”
Unveiled in late March, on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, no less, The Governator features a semi-fictional Schwarzenegger who, after leaving the governor’s office, decides to become a superhero — complete with a secret Arnold Cave under his Brentwood home that not even his family knows about. “We’re using all the personal elements of Arnold’s life,” Lee said at the time of the announcement. “We’re using his wife [Maria Shriver]. We’re using his kids. We’re using the fact that he used to be governor.” But even before the couple’s separation became public, producers had backed off depicting Shriver and their children. [TMZ, Entertainment Weekly]
Little more than a week after one judge had seemingly ended a decade-old dispute between Stan Lee Media and Stan Lee and Marvel, another court is reviving it.
THR, Esq. reports that U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson is allowing the new board of failed dot-com Stan Lee Media to file a new consolidated complaint against Lee, alleging that he improperly transferred rights to such characters as Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, the Avengers and Thor from SLM to Marvel.
The original $750-million lawsuit — that was about half of the estimated proceeds from Marvel’s movies — was filed against Lee and Marvel in January 2009 by two SLM shareholders who were later determined to lack standing. An appeal was dismissed in December 2010, followed early this month by a ruling that the plaintiffs’ motions were time-barred, as they come a decade after the alleged injury. But now a newly elected board of directors has successfully petitioned Wilson to permit the complaint to move forward, this time only against Lee, QED Productions and POW! Entertainment. Marvel and DC aren’t named in the lawsuit.
As confusing as the case’s journey through the courts has been, it’s nothing when compared to the complicated backstory: In 1998, Marvel CEO Isaac Perlmutter used bankruptcy procedures to end Marvel’s $1 million-a-year lifetime contract with Lee, negating Lee’s assignment to the company of his rights to his co-creations. It also freed Lee to form Stan Lee Entertainment (which later merged with Stan Lee Media) with now-infamous entrepreneur Peter F. Paul. The company filed for bankruptcy in February 2001, and emerged from protection in November 2006. The lawsuit — and the $5-billion one that came before it, in March 2007 — hinged on a sequence of events that took place between August 1998, when Marvel terminated Lee’s employment, and November 1998, when Lee entered into a new agreement with the company and signed over his likeness, and any claims to characters. Representatives of SLM previously have claimed that on Oct. 15, 1998, Lee transferred to that company rights to his creations and his likeness.
Stan Lee Media is seeking unspecified punitive or exemplary damages, a declaration of the company’s rights and an injunction against further infringement.
Awards | Jeff Lemire’s acclaimed Essex County was the first finalist eliminated Monday in the Canada Reads literary debates to select the essential Canadian novel of the decade. Despite a defense by musician Sara Quin, the graphic novel was voted down by the five-person celebrity panel after the first hour, not because of content but because of format: Four of the judges just couldn’t get past Essex County‘s “lack of words.” This year marked the first time that a graphic novel had been a finalist for the prestigious Canada Reads program.
“Well, I was the first book voted off of the Canada Reads competition today, and I’ll admit that it stings a bit more than I thought it would,” Lemire wrote on his blog. “But, in the end I am really proud of the accomplishment of making it to the final 5. It’s a great sign for the future of graphic novels in this country, and their continued acceptance mainstream literary circles on a whole.” [Afterword, CBC News]
Per Deadline Hollywood, Lee and Terry Douglas will write the first one, Romeo and Juliet: The War, which sets William Shakespeare’s famous lovers in a futuristic setting. Skan Srisuwan will provide the art, and the book is due out in the spring.
Here’s the description of the project provided by Deadline: “Two groups of superhuman soldiers turn the Empire of Verona into the most powerful territory on earth. The Montagues (powerful cyborgs made of artificial DNA) team with the Capulets (genetically enhanced humans with super speed and agility) to destroy all threats to Verona. When they succeed, they turn on one another in a race for total dominance. In this volatile backdrop, a young Monague boy and Capulet girl fall in love and plan to marry in secret.”
Bleeding Cool reported last month that 1821 Pictures is getting into the comics game with Stan Lee, in addition to working on a documentary called Stan Lee: True Believer. The production company previously worked on The Invention Of Lying, The Box and Swing Vote.
The news of Lee’s newest project follows closely on the heels of his other newly announced project, that he’s creating superheroes for the National Hockey League.
Update: You can find more information in the official press release.
As you’ve probably heard, comics legend Stan Lee has three new titles he’s created with Mark Waid, Paul Cornell and Chris Roberson for BOOM! Studios. Above is a marketing video from YouTube featuring “The Man” reaching out to retailers.