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Jack Kirby Vs. Disney (or The King Goes After The Magic Kingdom)

Discussion in 'Marvel Comics and Collectibles' started by Jeff Harris, Sep 20, 2009.

  1. Jeff Harris

    Jeff Harris Creator/Webmaster, TXB

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    You know how the families of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster pretty much all but completely own all elements of the Superman character and franchise?

    Well, imagine if it was more than one character. Imagine if these characters also created the cornerstone of an entire comic universe. Imagine if the creator was an iconic one who created his own style and considered the father of the modern comic.

    Well, according to Nikki Finke, Disney's going to have a monster fight on their hands with the estate of Jack Kirby for the rights to many of the characters he co-created for Marvel Comics.

    If you have to ask who and what The King co-created, hi, welcome to Marvel Comics. Spider-Man, Daredevil, and Wolverine as well as every major Marvel character since 1970 is safe.
     
  2. Shawn Hopkins

    Shawn Hopkins TZ Member of the Year 2013

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    I wouldn't worry about this having too much impact on the comics. It seems like something that could be made to go away with lots and lots of money, and fortunately for Disney they have some lying around.
     
  3. suss2it

    suss2it Active Member

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    I'm pretty sure he didn't create Wolverine.
     
  4. Jeff Harris

    Jeff Harris Creator/Webmaster, TXB

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    Which is why I said he, Spider-Man, Daredevil, and every character made since 1970 are safe.

    Yeah, it's always about money. I just wonder if the Kirby estate will have the same kind of victory the Siegel and Shuster estates received for Superman.
     
  5. dth1971

    dth1971 Active Member

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    Does this mean the Disney/Marvel merger could be called off because of the Jack Kirby lawsuit?
     
  6. Shawn Hopkins

    Shawn Hopkins TZ Member of the Year 2013

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    No.
     
  7. Ed Liu

    Ed Liu That's 'Cause I ATE IT!!!
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    This is actually a lot bigger than Jack Kirby vs. Disney, since the Kirby estate filed requests for copyright termination with a lot of other studios as well. Interestingly, I don't see DC Comics or Time-Warner in the list of studios who got notices sent to them. I know that DC treats the Kirby estate very well whenever it reprints his stuff (vs. Marvel, which is happy to slap his name everywhere but not compensate his estate for the privilege), so I expect they're already giving the Kirby estate their due for the characters he created for them (like Darkseid and the rest of the Fourth World characters).

    I also wouldn't say that the Siegels "own" all the elements of Superman. Between the copyrights and the trademarks and all the other fun legalese that only an intellectual property lawyer could love, the situation is a whole lot more complicated than that, but I'd sum it up by saying that they share Superman with DC in all the ways that matter, where DC owned him exclusively in the past.

    Almost certainly not. Depending on how generous or stingy Disney wants to be, this could be settled out of court or it could drag out for years, but I don't think it significantly affects the Disney/Marvel deal. I'm sure folks at Marvel were watching the Siegel case to see whether they needed to worry about their own properties. I can't believe that nobody saw this coming, so odds are that it's in one of those subordinate clauses that is part of the agreement.
     
  8. marvelfan101

    marvelfan101 Member

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    I hope all these Company can get this all settled out of court soon and not have to have a long and drawn out court battle :)
     
  9. Rick Jones

    Rick Jones Hero Fan
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    I can't imagine that they'd want Marvel to stop doing the things that they do. I'm guessing that they just want their rightful cut.
     
  10. Lighthammer

    Lighthammer Bringer of the Light

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    This has been festering up inside of me all day since I read the news on G4.

    I HATE AMBULANCE CHASERS!

    For those who don't know the term, an Ambulance Chaser is a Lawyer who basically follows-up with people who have been transported by an Ambulance in hopes that there is a lawsuit he/she could possibly earn a lot of money on.

    This case isn't exactly an Ambulance Chaser, but its damned close enough. It's more like "Ambulance Chaser 16 years after the fact".

    The established laws in this case is any work done for that company while you are employed or contracted by that company is the sole property of that company.

    All they are doing is trying to get money out of the fact Disney and Marvel have now merged and Disney has *A LOT* of money in their till.

    The only person this is ultimately going hurt is the consumer. Thats it!

    Disney is on a venture to build a venue we haven't had for a while. This Law Suit is only going to ultimately hurt that!

    This really sucks :-\ ​
     
  11. TMC1982

    TMC1982 Active Member

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    This is kind of off topic, but how come Bill Finger and his estate has never received full/proper credit for helping Bob Kane create Batman (and a lot of the more notable mythos)?
     
  12. Ed Liu

    Ed Liu That's 'Cause I ATE IT!!!
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    There's a few flaws in your theory, but I'll just point you to Nat Gertler's debunking of common perceptions about this story rather than repeat what he says better and better-researched than I could manage anyway. He also points out why they're not filing for copyright reclamation from DC/Time-Warner and it's not the reason I suspected, although rumor has it that they've been taking care of business quietly with creators and creators' estates ever since the Siegel estate filed their original suit.

    Also, I don't think this is going to affect anything at all from a consumer's perspective as far as these properties are concerned. If the companies settle, Jack's estate goes away and lives happily ever after and we still get our comics and TV shows and movies. If the companies don't settle, then they have to come up with their own intellectual properties they can exploit free and clear on their own, and we'll all be happier when they come up with the NEXT Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, and X-Men rather than constantly rehashing the same characters over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and OVER again. Sounds like a win-win to me. How is the consumer hurt by this?

    Mostly because all the people involved are dead now and Finger had no documentary evidence -- it was mostly he said/he said between him and Kane, but Kane had the foresight to get legal rights at the time, often at the expense of his collaborators. Kane was still getting sole credit in the comics well after they were being written and drawn by other people, for example. Also, I don't know that Finger has an estate to fight for his rights as a creator now.
     
  13. Lighthammer

    Lighthammer Bringer of the Light

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    That blog entry only reconfirms the exact problem here.

    They saw the Siegel case end 'promisingly' and decided "Hey, I want money too".

    I still hold that this is a case where someone is sniffing money and saying "Hey, I want a piece of that".

    I work for a company that constantly deals with intellectual property. ANYTHING and EVERYTHING I bring to the table for that company belongs to that company. No Exceptions. If I walk away today, I have no claim on that work.

    That's how the industry works. The moment you bring it to the table, it's no longer yours. The only way that's *NOT* true is if you have a copyrighted, registered item and you walk up to a company and say "I'd like to market this idea with you". If you do that, the odds of you getting any of your work published in any way, shape or form immediately drops to ZERO unless you have some major, major street cred associated with your name already.

    It's not going to take Marvel too much effort (assuming they kept their documentation from contracts) to procure a signed documented from Jack Kirby disclosing intellectual property.

    The Seigel Case was only won because of the period in which Jerry Siegel started his work with Superman. There wasn't the same robust understanding of IP there is today.

    I do need to point out that when the Siegel case was won, we got one abortion of Superman Movie.

    I'm not going to claim I know the intent of the Kirby Estate, but I do see this causing a massive mess.
     
  14. Weibart

    Weibart Intercept Now!
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    If there was ever a lawsuit that deserves winning, it's the Kirby Estate Vs. Marvel. Absolutely no question to me. If it wasn't for Jack Kirby, moreso than anyone else, including Stan Lee, Marvel Comics wouldn't be Marvel Comics. If the Siegals could win back their rights with the aid of this lawyer, then all the power to him to win back to Jack Kirby the retribution he deserves for contributing such monumental, financially vital characters to Marvel, without which Marvel wouldn't even have been able to option out as films and profit on.

    It's common knowledge how insultingly poor Marvel treated Jack Kirby regarding the reclamation of his artwork. Its awful treatment like that that was rectified by Marvel and other companies so artists could be able to have their artwork given back to them as they rightfully should. It's sad he was given such a hard time over the tip of the iceberg that was him simply having artwork returned to him, let alone the heaps of money he deserves in helping to prop up Marvel into what it is today.

    This case goes way beyond, long before even, the "massive mess" of movies or television series being haulted. This is a major corporation that is long overdue to repay a hallmark talent of theirs the money he deserves, even if he isn't with us today.
     
  15. Ed Liu

    Ed Liu That's 'Cause I ATE IT!!!
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    This is probably because you signed an IP agreement when you walked in the door as a condition of employment. Kirby signed no such thing. Marvel's stance on his work was that he created work-for-hire (which is a very specific, legally defined thing), but the 1976 revision of the law specifically addressed things like that. Gertler articulates that specifically.

    There are also open questions of whether the IP agreements people sign are legal or enforceable. If you read what you signed carefully, the language is probably broad enough that if you created something entirely independently and without any company time or resources, the company could still claim that they own 100% of it. Write a novel? Belongs to the company. Cure cancer? Belongs to them. Invent a time machine? Thanks, we'll love the profits off that one, but you aren't entitled to any of it.

    Companies keep putting these out there because nobody's called them on it yet.

    My first problem with this statement is that there is more than one Siegel case and neither one is settled yet. As I understand it, one is to reclaim the copyrights to Superman and one is to address the ownership of Superboy. They are related but, as far as I know, separate, and the Siegels have lost a few of the judgments handed down so far as well. Besides, the motion to reclaim the copyrights to Superman is established statute in copyright law. Why should the rights of the company in this case supersede the rights of an individual?

    My second problem with this statement is that you're declaring a causal connection between the Siegel cases and the crappy Superman movie. The Siegels have had nothing to do with Superman creatively since even before Jerry passed away, and I don't see any mention of their name other than the contractually obligated statement "Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster." It seems to me that Warner Bros. created that crappy Superman movie all by themselves. I can't even entertain the conspiracy theory that they deliberately sabotaged it because of the Siegel cases without laughing out loud. If that is what happened, then that would mean that Time-Warner spent $200+ million and several years deliberately making a crappy movie and sabotaging the far more lucrative merchandising cash and sequel opportunities when they could have spent a tenth of that amount to settle and make everything go away forever. I think Time-Warner puts the "fun" into "corporate dysfunction," but even they aren't that stupid.

    I agree that someone probably smelled money around this, but it's not recent. Kirby didn't smell the money while he was alive -- he probably saw it firsthand as Marvel raked in millions and then billions on the characters and concepts he created while he got nothing. Again, maybe legal, but just not Right.

    Finally, I'm still having a hard time seeing how any of this affects the consumer.
     
  16. wonderfly

    wonderfly Shaking things up a bit
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    I think the fear on the part of fans is emphasized by the news out of DC last week: DC says they still don't have plans for a new Superman movie. Plus, they now openly declare why we're not getting any Superman love:

    From the article:
    I can see Marvel taking the same route: "Sorry, we had an Avengers movie planned, but now you the fans have to miss out. Blame that pesky Jack Kirby and his relatives."

    Over at CBR, they carried the same news story, but added this interesting bit:

    If this were some sort of game of chicken with the Siegel's estate, it may very well backfire if DC looses the rights...
     
  17. kow626

    kow626 Member

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    what's goin' on with these copyright suits, man? this isn't something that's coming out of nowhere. maybe the kirby estate doesn't want disney to whore out the characters which we all know is gonna happen and the kirby's want to protect the integrity of their characters? as if marvel didn't do a bang up job already. i don't know...
     
  18. Ed Liu

    Ed Liu That's 'Cause I ATE IT!!!
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    More from Steven Grant on this, including the notes that Kirby was not an employee of Marvel at the time when he created the FF, the Hulk, and most of his more popular creations (he was, apparently, a freelancer); "work-for-hire" is only WFH if both parties agree to it ahead of time; Marvel probably has a lot less documentary evidence to what Jack agreed to because of business practices of the era and because, well, nobody ever asked; and that Kirby's estate is merely doing what the law allows, just as Marvel is. When there is a conflict between two people doing what the law allows that are contradicting each other, the remedy is that the two parties sit and hash it out or they go to court. It's how the system works.

    Grant also notes what I've thought about this for a while, which is that this is going to add up to a great big nothing from our perspective, no matter what happens. He also makes the assertion that DC could survive now without Superman if it had to, which I'm a little sad to say that I agree with.

    The last note Grant makes is the same one that Jack made even during his lifetime. He didn't want the FF and the Hulk and Thor to live forever, or have people honor what he did by working on those characters. He wanted people to make their OWN FF and Hulk and Thor. He led by example for his entire career doing that, and it's a bit of a shame that so few in the industry are willing to follow his lead.
     
  19. wonderfly

    wonderfly Shaking things up a bit
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    I read that article last night. Best part was this:

    The part of the article about how Superman could eventually be removed from the DC Universe was scary though. I wish the Kirby's the best, as long as their lawsuit doesn't prevent us the fans from getting our Avengers movie.
     
  20. Shawn Hopkins

    Shawn Hopkins TZ Member of the Year 2013

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    It's true. Once the Marvel Universe got to a certain point creativity seemed to stagnate, although to be fair that's happened with DC, too. Quick, name five completely new Marvel characters with longrunning series that were created in or after 1990. There's Cable and Deadpool and the New Warriors to some extent (huh, I just realized Nicezea and Liefeld were sort of the Bizarro 1990s Lee and Kirby). The Runaways are great but they're a little too new to count as longrunning. And after that I'm kind of drawing a blank. Even if you go back to the 1970s you could only add a few more, notably Ghost Rider, Punisher and Wolverine.

    It would be good if people would accept new heroes, but you can't blame the company for continuing to publish something that is profitable. It's also not even all their fault, many major creators would rather "play in the sandbox" and do an X-Men run than create something new. And when Marvel does try to launch a new concept the buying public usually ignores it and pushes it aside for familiar faces like Spider-Man. Only a few creators try to buck this trend while working at Marvel, like Millar with Kick Ass and Bendis with Alias and Brian Vaughn with Runaways.

    But you can find that stuff at other companies. Say what you want about the Image guys, but they created a whole new stable of characters. And they made a place where some of the best superhero comics could eventually be published, like Powers and Invincible. There are some fantastic characters that have been published over the years by Dark Horse Comics, too, like Concrete.
     

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