Marvel Files Copyright Lawsuit Against Superhero Artist's Heirs

By Joel Zand on January 08, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Marvel Entertainment sued the heirs of Jack Kirby, a former Marvel artist who drew superheros like the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and The Incredible Hulk, challenging their claims that copyrights assigned by Kirby to Marvel will revert back to them starting in 5 years.

Marvel's lawsuit seeks to put a stop to challenges by Kirby's heirs to notices they sent to the U.S. Copyright Office last year purporting to terminate copyrights that Marvel has in the superheros, and for which Kirby was paid as 'works for hire.'

Kirby collaborated with fellow comic artisan Stan Lee for nearly a decade. 

A 2007 op-ed piece by New York Times editorial writer Brent Staples described a strained relationship between Kirby and Marvel:

Marvel took his talents for granted and denied him the credit and compensation he clearly deserved. Worse, he was overshadowed by his loquacious and photogenic collaborator, Stan Lee, who became the public face of an enterprise that depended heavily on Mr. Kirby's skills. Mr. Kirby eventually quit, leaving behind characters like the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the Silver Surfer,...His long and ugly battle with Marvel over the rights to his original artwork galvanized the artistic community and raised his public profile.

The timing of the claims filed by Kirby's heirs is not insignificant. Kirby died in 1994, but his heirs filed their claim coming less than a month after Disney agreed to pay Marvel $4 billion to purchase their superhero conglomerate.

The combined Disney-Marvel enterprise has the potential to generate the largest entertainment licensing revenue that the world has ever known. 

You can read Marvel's lawsuit here:


The New York City Law firms representing Marvel in the federal lawsuit are Weil, Gotshal & Manges and Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker.

The Los Angeles firm of Toberoff & Associates represents Kirby's heirs in their attempts to claim control of their late father's works.


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