Disney-owned Marvel is now suing the relatives of Steve Ditko, as well as other Marvel comics creators, to keep control of classic characters like Iron Man, Daredevil and Spider-Man.
The lawsuits were reported by The Hollywood Reporter in New York and California. They were filed against Don Heck, Gene Colan, Steve Ditko's heirs, Gene Colan, Don Rico, Don Heck, Gene Colan, Stan Lees brother, and Marvel collaborator Lawrence Lieber. They request that courts declare that Disney owns all comics such as The Avengers, Iron Man and Amazing Spider-Man, Strange Tales and Tales of Suspense, including the characters and story elements that form the basis of Disney's lucrative Marvel Cinematic Universe.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the suit follows Lieber and other senders of termination notices seeking to reclaim a portion of the rights on many Marvel characters. These suits are an attempt to prevent any litigation from following the notices.
These notices allow creators and their heirs to share in the publisher's profits. However, Disney's lawyers argue that Marvel was the sole creator of the comic books and characters in question. They claim that Marvel paid artists and writers on a work-for hire basis which precluded any rights to the books. Lieber's suit claims that this case involves an invalid attempt to acquire certain rights to the iconic Marvel comic book characters.
Multiple legal battles have been waged by authors and artists, as well their families, for rights to comics characters. These efforts have not been successful. The lawsuit was settled by Disney and Jack Kirby's children in 2014. An appeals court ruled in Disney's favor. Kirby had been hired on a for-hire basis. An appeals court also affirmed the victory of DC parent company Warner Bros over Joe Shuster's family. In Marvel cases, the comics company has used its collaborative Marvel Method to support its case. It makes it difficult for an author or artist to claim ownership.