Stan Lee, in my mind, has to be one of the all time most recognizable individuals in the
“Comic Book Industry”. Most lovers of comic books have known his name all their
collecting lives. For those of you who don’t know his name, I am sure you have heard of
his creations. The X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, and the
very well known Spider-Man are all from the mind of Stan Lee. For the last forty years
or more and as an employee of Marvel Comics, he has entertained us through the art of
comic book imagination.
Well, by now you would think that an individual of this caliber would be taken seriously
and treated with respect from his employers. Apparently not! In 2002 Stan Lee decided
he had to file a lawsuit against the comic giant, Marvel. It appears the agreement between
Lee and Marvel was that 10% of the income generated from TV and movies using Lee
characters, was to be his. Seems Marvel didn’t see it that way. Typical of conglomerates,
isn’t it? The boys in the suits seem to want to make all the rules. Stan at one time had
even been a suit. Among other positions held at Marvel, Lee had even been president of
the company for a while.
Years ago when Stan Lee had created most of his characters, he had done it through a
write-for-hire agreement, so he doesn’t own the characters. Stan was then, just a “meat
and potatoes” kind of guy, trying to put meat and potatoes on the table. But over the
years, he was very instrumental in putting Marvel Comics on the map.
When the 10% deal was formally put together, apparently most individuals involved
didn’t realize the windfall that comic book character movies would become. Now is that
any reason to hold back Stan’s piece of the pie? I think not. Just corporate bigwigs trying
to increase their lot in life. Now this is just my opinion so don’t rant back at me as being
As luck would have it, a federal judge agreed and ruled in favor of Lee. How much
monetary compensation does this mean? Well to put it in perspective, the two Spider-
Man movies thus far, have reaped on the order of 800 million dollars apiece, in world
wide ticket sales. This settlement could mean tens of millions of dollars for Lee, but the
battle is not over. Marvel, will quite probably appeal the verdict and the case may be tied
up in the courts for years.
Now don’t go feeling too badly for Stan Lee. He is still pulling down a salary from
Marvel on the order of a million dollars. Still not to shabby in my mind. And Lee has
mixed feels because he has been loyal to Marvel for 60 years. To have his lifelong
employer trying to, shall we say, stiff him, for being so loyal, I’m sure, does hurt. Had it
not been for Lee, Marvel may not have been in the financial position they are today.
At 82, Stan Lee does have a comfortable and successful life. And if even his settlement is
held up in the courts for years, Stan won the first round. He didn’t bow down to the
corporate hammer. Just another “Joe working class hero” yelling out, hey guys, let’s play
by the rules.