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Stan Lee Media fires back at Disney in fight over Spider-Man

spider-manFighting an effort to end its persistent claims to Spider-Man, the tenacious Stan Lee Media Inc. insists it’s up to Disney to prove ownership of the Marvel superhero.

In documents filed Tuesday in federal court in Philadelphia, the failed dot-com again argued that none of the previous cases over the past decade — and there have been many — has directly addressed the merits of its ownership claims. “No judge has decided that Disney actually owns the Spider‐Man copyrights or, for that matter, that SLMI does not own the copyrights,” the papers state. “[...] That issue has never been decided, and Disney has now placed it directly before the court in this case.”

“This case” is a copyright- and trademark-infringement involving the use of elements from Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King in a musical revue staged by the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based American Music Theatre. What Disney’s lawyers thought would be “a simple case” took an unexpected turn in November when the theater responded that it had licensed Spider-Man, from Stan Lee Media, which was named in a third-party counterclaim (the license was obtained after Disney filed suit). That opened the door for the company, which no longer has a connection to Stan Lee, to sue Disney, seeking a jury trial regarding ownership of Spider-Man, and, presumably, the other Marvel characters it’s sought since emerging from bankruptcy in 2006.

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Disney seeks to end Stan Lee Media’s pursuit of Marvel heroes

disney-marvel-logoAfter being pursued in court over the past seven years by Stan Lee Media, Marvel and its corporate parent Disney have had enough: On Valentine’s Day, the companies asked a federal judge to put a stop to the failed dot-com’s dogged claims of ownership of Spider-Man, the Avengers, the X-Men and other lucrative characters.

Filed Friday in federal court in Philadelphia, and first reported by Hollywood, Esq., the motion to dismiss comes as part of what began in September as a seemingly straightforward copyright- and trademark-infringement lawsuit involving the use of elements from Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King in a musical revue staged by the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based American Music Theatre.

However, as Disney states in its filing, that “simple case” was “transmogrified” with the surprising assertion in November from the theater that it had licensed Spider-Man … from Stan Lee Media, which was named in a third-party counterclaim (it should be noted the license was obtained after Disney filed suit). That conveniently opened the door for the company, which no longer has a connection to its co-founder and namesake, to sue Disney on Feb. 7, seeking a jury trial regarding ownership of Spider-Man, and, presumably, other characters co-created by Stan Lee.

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Quote of the Day | Clancy Brown on comic adaptations

cowboys and aliensCowboys & Aliens was a completely manufactured myth of a comic book. They went in and sold the idea of Cowboys & Aliens based on a one-sheet of what they thought the cover of a comic book might be, then sold it as a movie, then created as a comic book. They backed in to the comic book part of it. The book itself isn’t actually very good. It’s worse than the movie.

I did another one like that — Hellbenders was an idea that J.T. Petty had, and he wrote it as a script. One of the producers got the idea to pitch it around as a comic book. As soon as something is a graphic novel or a comic book or has another life in a another medium, people sit up and take notice and are more willing to write the check.

I don’t know why that is — well, I think it’s obvious why that is: Because the traditional properties like Superman and Batman and the Marvel characters — Spider-Man and so on — they’re all money machines. So, people are trying to create that. [...] Everything is being optioned now to be turned into franchises because of the success of Walking Dead and a few that have made the transition. Mostly, people walk into a room and pitch a movie — and the first question if they don’t say it in the original pitch is, ‘Is this a graphic novel or comic?’ and of course you say, ‘Yes’.”

– actor Clancy Brown, who has a good deal of experience with comic-book adaptations, discussing Cowboys & Aliens Hollywood’s continued attraction to comics

Stan Lee Media steps into licensing dispute, sues Disney

marvel superheroes

Continuing its long, and so far wholly unsuccessful, fight for ownership of many of Marvel’s best-known characters, the tenacious Stan Lee Media has sued a Walt Disney Co. subsidiary, seeking to join a dispute about licensing Spider-Man for the stage.

In September, Disney Enterprises, Marvel and Cameron Mackintosh Ltd. sued Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based 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). The theater responded in November with the surprising claim that Disney doesn’t own Spider-Man. Instead, the counterclaim stated, the character belongs to Stan Lee Media, which licensed the rights to the American Music Theatre.

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Quote of the Day | Tom Brevoort on character ‘oversaturation’

Art by Paolo Rivera

Art by Paolo Rivera

“If you’d asked me several years ago, I likely would have spoken about some tipping point where you have too much and everything crashed. Part of that is that I grew up in a world where there was one X-MEN book, one AVENGERS book and, well, three SPIDER-MAN books (counting MARVEL TEAM-UP.) But today, I think that, while there is a tipping point potentially somewhere out there on the horizon, it’s nowhere near as close as we sometimes like to think (or fear.) What matters is the quality of the work. How many BATMAN books are there at this point, every month? How many WOLVERINE books? And still, those characters are more likely to sell better than, I don’t know, THE FLASH or STORM. The audience likes what it likes, and so long as what you produce is good, they will always be content to have more. It’s when the quality goes down that you have a problem — but you have that problem with there being only one book as well.”

Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, responding to a question on his Formspring about how to address character “oversaturation,” if it’s even an issue that exists

Jake Parker takes on Hulk, Spider-Man, other Marvel heroes

HulkParker-banner

A few months back Utah-based freelance designer and comics artist Jake Parker revealed a series of Marvel characters he drew–Captain America, Wolverine and Iron Man among them — for his followers to enjoy. At that time, he asked readers to suggest other characters to add to the series. The past week and this week he revealed Spider-Man and Hulk pieces he completed in response to feedback.

It is particularly interesting to see how Parker uses one dominant color to tie each piece together with the respective characters’  costumes.

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Batman and Robin vs. Spider-Man in world’s nerdiest MMA match

batman-vs-spidey

As we’re unlikely to get another Marvel/DC Comics crossover any time soon, this video of the dorkiest MMA match ever may be the best opportunity to witness Spider-Man go toe-to-toe with Batman and Robin.

At first blush, you may think the highlight of the fight is the introduction of the World’s Scrawniest Detective or the early exit by the injured Boy Wonder, but I would argue it’s the hilariously straightforward play-by-play from the British commentators. For instance, “Nice mobility from Spider-Man. I mean, I noticed he was at a disadvantage initially because he didn’t have his web-shooters — he wasn’t allowed those, which I think is a bit unfair given the circumstances that he’s against two of them.” Or, “That’s a Superman punch there, Will, which is ironic seeing as how he’s Spider-Man from Marvel Comics.”

Clearly, the announcers were in Spider-Man’s corner from the start …

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Adorable ‘power couple’ souvenirs from Andie Tong’s wedding

andie tong9

It wasn’t that long ago that we showcased Paolo Rivera’s amazing Herge-inspired wedding invitation, and now we have some terrific souvenirs from the ceremony of Andie Tong.

The artist, whose work ranges from Spectacular Spider-Man (U.K.) to The Batman Strikes! to the upcoming Zodiac with Stan Lee and Stuart Moore, drew adorable “power couples” from comics and film for cards that were given to his wedding guests. Fans may quibble with Tong pairing Superman with Wonder Woman, rather than Lois Lane, but I imagine the guests were pleased with the favors.

With Tong’s permission, we’ve posted all of the illustrations below.

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Stan Lee Media takes another stab at Marvel character rights

Spider-manSay 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.

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Comics A.M. | ‘The Dandy’ artist Charles Grigg passes away

Korky the Kat

Korky the Cat

Passings | Lew Stringer reports that British artist Charles Grigg died Wednesday at age 97. Grigg is probably best known for drawing Korky the Cat, whose adventures graced the cover of the weekly comic The Dandy for decades, and he drew a number of other strips for The Dandy and The Topper as well. After he retired he had a second career drawing naughty postcards. [Blimey!]

Retailing | The direct-market trade organization ComicsPRO has announced its annual membership meeting will be held Feb. 26-March 1 in Atlanta. [ICv2.com]

Creators | Art Spiegelman talked to students at Lakeland College recently and then sat down to answer some questions about his love of comics, how his depression affected his work, and whether he has any regrets about the way he portrayed his father in Maus. [The Lakeland Mirror]

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Chris Panda dons X-ray specs for an inside look at superheroes

chris-panda-3

It seems every comics fan wants superpowers, but artist Chris Panda has pulled back the curtain to show the seedy side of X-ray vision in these comic book drawings from kids’ coloring books with the heroes’ skeletons drawn in. Panda drew three superheroes — Batman, Iron Man and Spider-Man, as well as prominent cartoon characters from Disney and Looney Tunes lore. Check out those other two superheroes below, and go to his website for more.

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Blog saves classic fanzine art from the ash heap of history

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We’re living in an age where increasing aspects of our comics heritage is being protected, with all manner of work coming back into print in fittingly deluxe packages. However, we can all think of great comics that will probably never be reprinted, for various obscure reasons. For example, all manner of great work published by Marvel and DC in the 1970s and ’80s will never see the light of day again due to lapsed licensing deals. Other titles, other creators, simply fall from fashion, to await rediscovery by another generation. Others still end up in complicated rights battles and litigation.

One field of comics-related work that seems to be just lost to the unrelenting march of time and progress is that of the pre-Internet fanzine. Many significant figures in comics history contributed text and art to this near-dead medium, and it’s hard to see any organization having the will to invest in researching, reprinting or digitizing this lost legacy.

Colin Smith is a blogger and the author of Sequart’s “Shameless? The Superhero Comics of Mark Millar,” and as a critic has written about comics for some of the United Kingdom’s top magazines. He has a secondary blog where he has been recently sharing some great art from old U.K. fanzines and convention booklets.

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‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ could lose $60 million

spider-man musical

Already the most expensive production in Broadway history, when Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark closes on Jan. 4, it also will have racked up historic losses that The New York Times pegs as high as $60 million. That’s compared to the $5 million to $15 million usually lost by “flops,” which, granted, typically cost far, far less than the $75 million musical.

Several investors tell the newspaper they’ve not been repaid any of the money they’ve put into the show, and producer Michael Cohl concedes some of them may lose all of their investments unless Spider-Man is profitable in Las Vegas, where it’s expected to re-open in 2015.

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‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ to close on Broadway

spider-man-turn off the dark

After a tumultuous three years on Broadway marked by cast injuries, public feuds and, lately, dwindling ticket sales, the $75 million musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will close in January, with plans to reopen in 2015 in Las Vegas.

Although the show has been popular, routinely grossing $1 million or a week in ticket sales (at least until recently), it’s the most expensive musical in Broadway history, costing $1.2 million a week to produce. Spider-Man pulled in just $742,595 last week, with The Wall Street Journal reporting that it’s been running below the break-even point for some time now. The production has grossed $703 million since performances began in November 2010, but because even sold-out performances barely cover running expenses, investors have seen little return.

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‘Marvel Universe Live!’ adds Spider-Man and his foes to lineup

mu-live-rhino-cropped

Marvel and Feld Entertainment revealed the addition of Spider-Man and five of his deadliest foes to the Marvel Universe Live! arena show.

The wall crawler and villains Doctor Octopus, Electro, Rhino, Lizard and Green Goblin will join the previously announced Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Incredible Hulk, Hawkeye, Falcon, Nick Fury and agents of S.H.I.E.D. when the tour launches in July.

Announced in March, Marvel Universe Live! will bring Marvel’s most iconic heroes and villains to 85 cities across North America in the show’s first two years. The live-action production will integrate a character-driven storyline with state-of-the-art special effects, pyrotechnics, aerial stunts and martial arts for what producers say will “redefine the live show experience.”

The design for the Rhino debuted this morning on the Marvel Universe Live! Facebook page, while the other new additions were unveiled at BuzzFeed.

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