Marvel Comics, after making billions and billions of dollars based on the works of Jack Kirby, appears to have become magnanimous to the Kirby family, who have now achieved at least a small victory in its intense legal fight with Marvel and their owners at the Walt Disney Company. Just as the case looked to be heading to one final trial at the Supreme Court of the United States, both sides have come out today to say that their differences have been settled and all systems are go for comics, movies and other media to me made about the characters co-created by Kirby at Marvel during his legendary Silver Age run at the publisher.
In case you don’t keep up with the legal news concerning comics, the estate of Jack Kirby first filed suit against Marvel as well as Walt Disney Studios, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, and Sony in 2009, filing a notice to those studios who all were invested in making movies based on Marvel Comics characters. The Kirby family wanted to cancel all copyright claims to characters created and co-created by Kirby such as the Fantastic Four, Thor, Hulk, the Inhumans, and the original X-Men.
Marvel, obviously, didn’t like the sounds of that. They sought to invalidate those claims in court, prompting the Kirbys to file another suit at Marvel to “terminate copyrights and gain profits from [Kirby’s] comic creations.” After decisions by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit both ruled in favour of Marvel, the Kirbys submitted their case to SCOTUS for review earlier this year. The Court was to announce in just a few days whether or not they would hear the case.
But all that is cancelled now with the announcement that the estate and Marvel have come to terms. No details were announced, just a joint statement between parties:
“Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes, and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history.”
Although its a compromise, its another legal victory for Marvel and Disney who managed to fight off an attempt by Stan Lee Media last fall to claim copyright ownership on the Marvel Comics characters created by SLMI’s namesake, even though The Man himself has nothing to do with the company that bears his name anymore. Meanwhile, Marvel Entertainment was sued just last month on a complete different matter, an intern who worked at the company in 2008 is suing for unpaid wages saying he was wrongly classified given the expectations and work he was doing for the company. That legal matter is still ongoing.
In the case of the Kirby lawsuit though, they join several suits from creators like Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and even Stan Lee himself, who have all sued publishers of comic books they created to get residuals they believe are owed to them thanks to all the money being made on comic book films. It’s a sad reminder that as movies based on comic book creations make hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, many of the guys that either created, or contributed, to the legend of these characters and made them beloved are living hand to mouth, or died barely seeing even a nickel for their hard work.