The home of superheroes including Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men sued one of its most successful artists Friday to retain the rights to the lucrative characters.
The federal lawsuit filed Friday in Manhattan by Marvel Worldwide Inc. asks a judge to invalidate 45 notices sent by the heirs of artist Jack Kirby to try to terminate Marvel’s copyrights, effective on dates ranging from 2014 through 2019.
The heirs notified several companies last year that the rights to the characters would revert from Marvel to Kirby’s estate.
The lawsuit said Kirby’s work on the comics published between 1958 and 1963 were “for hire” and render the heirs’ claims invalid. The famed artist died in 1994.
The lawsuit was dismissed by Kirby’s attorney Marc Toberoff, who issued a statement saying the heirs were merely trying to take advantage of change to copyright law that allows artists to recapture rights to their work.
“It is a standard claim predictably made by comic book companies to deprive artists, writers, and other talent of all rights in their work,” the statement said of Marvel’s lawsuit.
“The Kirby children intend to vigorously defend against Marvel’s claims in the hope of finally vindicating their father’s work.”
The statement claimed Kirby was never properly compensated for his contributions to Marvel’s universe of superheroes.
“Sadly, Jack died without proper compensation, credit or recognition for his lasting creative contributions,” the statement said.
Comic book characters such as Spider-Man and the X-Men have become some of Hollywood’s most bankable properties in recent years.
The lawsuit said the comic book titles in the notices to which Kirby claims to have contributed include “Amazing Adventures,” “Amazing Fantasy,” “Amazing Spider-Man,” “The Avengers,” the “Fantastic Four,” “Fantastic Four Annual,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Journey into Mystery,” “Rawhide Kid,” “Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos,” “Strange Tales,” “Tales to Astonish,” “Tales of Suspense” and “The X-Men.”
John Turitzin, a Marvel lawyer, said in a statement that the heirs were trying “to rewrite the history of Kirby’s relationship with Marvel.”
He added: “Everything about Kirby’s relationship with Marvel shows that his contributions were works made for hire and that all the copyright interests in them belong to Marvel.”
Marvel Entertainment, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Co., sought a judge’s order that the Kirby notices have no effect.