Marvel settles dispute over superhero rights with Jack Kirby estate

Sept. 26, 2014 | 11:11 a.m.
1950 kirby family long island Marvel settles dispute over superhero rights with Jack Kirby estate

Long Island, 1950. Rosalind and Jack Kirby with their children, Neal, 2, and Susan, 6. Credit: (Kirby family collection)

1961 kirby family neals bar mitzvah Marvel settles dispute over superhero rights with Jack Kirby estate

1961, Neal Kirby's Bar Mitzvah. Left to right in rear: Neal Kirby, Rosalind Kirby, Susan Kirby and Jack Kirby; Barbara Kirby in front. (Kirby family collection)

1965 touching up iron man marvel Marvel settles dispute over superhero rights with Jack Kirby estate

Jack Kirby touching up an Iron Man page in 1965 at the Marvel offices. (Kirby family collection)

One of the most contentious court battles in comics has come to an end.

Marvel and the members of Jack Kirby’s family issued a joint statement Friday to announce that the long-running legal case over royalties related to characters created or co-created by the legendary pioneer has been settled out of court.

The short statement read in full: “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.”

During his decades in comics, Kirby created or co-created Captain America, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Iron Man, Doctor Doom, the Silver Surfer, Magneto, the Black Panther, Ant-Man, the Red Skull, Galactus and dozens of other comic book characters, helping define Marvel Comics during the Silver Age.

The issue had been whether Kirby, who died in 1994, created the characters under work-for-hire deals, in which case he would not be entitled to any profits from the toys, video games or blockbuster movies starring them. In the 1960s his longtime partner Stan Lee became the public face of Marvel, and the once-close collaborators became estranged over creative credit — resulting in Kirby’s defection to rival DC Comics in the early 1970s.

He later returned to Marvel for a two-year run near the end of that decade.

After Disney purchased Marvel for $4 billion in 2009, Kirby’s four children served  45 “notices of termination” to Marvel, Disney, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures, seeking to regain copyright control of certain characters.

Since then, the legal wrangling has wound its way through many decisions and appeals, even as Marvel has gained footing in Hollywood as a blockbuster hit factory.

The company’s most recent film, August’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” is the highest-grossing domestic release of 2014. Its April film, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” ranks second.

While his characters enjoy a robust cinematic life, Kirby’s legacy has continued to thrive in many ways — his granddaughter, Jillian Kirby, began a campaign two years ago, at the age of 16, to honor  her late grandfather.

Titled Kirby4Heroes, the charitable venture was launched to generate donations for the Hero Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping comic book creators in need, offering assistance to artists and writers.

— Gina McIntyre

Follow us on Twitter: @LATherocomplex


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7 Responses to Marvel settles dispute over superhero rights with Jack Kirby estate

  1. Keif Savage says:

    JACK KING KIRBY, followed his all my life..Creator of New Gods, Forever People and Darkseid and many other notable characters for DC Comics as well as Marvel Comics…His is what we would call the KING OF COMICS..Glad they have settled this matter, JACK KING KIRBY resided in Thousand Oaks, California until his untimely death in 1994.

  2. david says:

    I always suspected Stan Lee took more credit than what he deserved. A lot of the artists that made Marvel what it is have already passed away so we may never know what characters were created by them….we only hear from Stan Lee’s point of view.

  3. @scottwcoon says:

    I like how Marvel is getting any credit for this. No one stop to consider that now that Marvel is owned by Disney, that Disney isn't behind finally putting this to rest. I get trying to make the Marvel name look better but don't think it isn't Disney at the helm. Give Disney the credit they deserve for this. Cleaning up Marvels messes shouldn't have to fall on Disney, but they are taking care of it anyway. Good for them.

  4. andrew says:

    Hey…thats what Hollywood is known for…you create…we rip off…Best advice get everything in writing and have lawyers present…

  5. Whitman DuJames says:

    I have been a Marvel comics fan for over 50 years. I still own many comic books that I bought back in the early 1960's, which include Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spiderman, and my personal favorite, Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos (I have #1-100). Jack Kirby and Stan Lee really had it together to put out so many super hero comics that are bigger than ever today.

  6. Nelson says:

    It's great to see Kirby's input finally come to the attention of the public regarding these key Marvel characters and that the family will in some way be compensated regarding their current success. Stan Lee might be the figurehead of the Mighty Marvel Machine today but Jack certainly helped kickstart the company with his creativity and groundbreaking style of art.

  7. Claus Talon says:

    Waaay back when I was a youth reading comics and discovered Marvel-There were two names that were ALWAYS credited on the introductory page. Those of Stan "The Man" Lee AND Jack "King" Kirby. Thus it was-thus it SHOULD have ALWAYS been. Its good that this matter has been settled, but it comes quite late for the dearly departed. He deserved recognition for his works while he was still here in the physical world. His influence on other aspiring illustrators of that time was also a great contribution to the genre. He 'll not be forgotten by those of us who reveled in his storytelling visuals! "Nuff Said"

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