A Look At Creativity and Ownership

Who Deserves the Credit (and Cash) for Dreaming Up Those Superheroes?

When a federal judge ruled recently that Stan Lee, a co-creator of many Marvel Comics characters, was entitled to 10 percent of the profits from Marvel Enterprises film and television productions, he renewed a long-simmering debate in comic book history: How much credit does Mr. Lee deserve for creating characters like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four and how much was due to his collaborators?

“It’s amazing that he walks away with all the credit and all the money for some of the creation of these characters,” said Robert Katz, a nephew of Jack Kirby, the illustrator who worked with Mr. Lee on the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, the X-Men and others. “The artists who did the lion’s share of the creation have walked away with absolutely nothing.” Mr. Kirby died in 1994.

[…] Lisa Kirby, Mr. Kirby’s daughter, agreed. “I don’t know how they live with themselves,” she said. “The estate gets no compensation from Marvel at all.”

[…] “The Stan Lee dispute is really a dispute about an employment agreement that’s very specific to Stan Lee,” said John N. Turitzin, executive vice president and general counsel at Marvel. “It’s not an agreement about his role as a creator of Marvel’s characters.”