Within days of company stockholders approving Disney's acquisition of entertainment giant Marvel for $4.3 billion, it was full-steam ahead for Marvel Worldwide Inc., a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Co., to seek a judge's order, filed against the heirs of iconic illustrator Jack "King" Kirby, co-creator of "Captain America", "The Mighty Thor", "The Incredible Hulk", "The Fantastic Four" and "The X-Men" among numerous Marvel, character-driven, comic book titles.
The federal lawsuit filed Friday in Manhattan by Marvel Worldwide Inc. asked a judge to invalidate 45 notices sent by the heirs of the artist to terminate Marvel's copyrights.
The heirs notified several companies last year that the rights to the characters would revert from Marvel to Kirby's estate. Marvel claims that Kirby's work on Marvel comic books published between 1958 and 1963 are fully owned by them, as Kirby was an artist "for hire", with no further rights to individual copyright or ownership. According to Marvel, under US federal copyright law, works that were created at the "instance and expense" of Marvel during the time Kirby was a creator for Marvel were "works made for hire" and solely owned by Marvel, which was 'standard practice' in the comic book publishing industry.
Comic book titles in the notices 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."
"Everything about Kirby's relationship with Marvel shows that his contributions were works made for hire," said John Turitzen a lawyer for Marvel.