And, while this is a look at a specific case, the general issue of just how much rent one should get for an incremental contribution pertain for almost any creative work — where does the public domain end and personal creativity begin? Marveling at Marvel: You Say Spider-Man, but I Say the Thing
Mr. Lee could yet make mountains of money from the federal court ruling in January, which entitles him to 10 percent of the profits from Marvel films and television productions based on characters he had a hand in creating. But the case has reignited an ugly debate about how much credit he deserves for the comic books that changed the world – and how much should go to artists like Jack Kirby, who collaborated with him.
Many of those who worked with Mr. Lee have passed from the scene. But the biographers Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon made what sounds like a reasonable judgment when they wrote, in “Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book,” that the work was mainly a group effort, and that “Stan’s contribution to new characters was sometimes little more than a name on a piece of paper or an allusion to a popular movie actor.”