Marvel Settles Lawsuit Over Rights to Spider-Man and Dr. Strange
Nearly all of Marvel’s great characters are fully owned and controlled by Marvel (and, by extension, Disney), but they were created by writers and artists who worked for the company on its comic books. The comics industry of the time when Marvel was introducing characters like the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the X-Men, and so on, was such that the people who created these works did so as freelancers; they were paid for their work, but at that work became the property of Marvel to use as it saw fit.
As time has gone on, and Marvel (and, by extension, Disney) has made billions of dollars off these creations, the artists who first brought these superheroes and villains to life have sometimes sued to try to reclaimed some of their rights (and reap some amount of financial benefit from their almost literally invaluable work).
The estate of Steve Ditko, the artist who co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange with Stan Lee, for example, filed suit several years ago against Marvel, trying to reclaim the rights to his characters. Marvel responded with a suit of its own, attempting to assert full control of Ditko’s characters and other famous Marvel heroes, claiming that because these characters were made as works for hire, by law they own them in perpetuity. Several other notable Marvel creators and their estates followed with suits of their own.
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Most of the other cases were resolved, but the Ditko suit lingered on. Several years later, Marvel has finally resolved the dispute with Ditko’s estate. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “attorneys for the company and the estate of Steve Ditko on Wednesday notified the court that they’ve reached an amicable settlement and expect a stipulation of dismissal with prejudice to be filed in the coming weeks.” The two sides offered no comments and gave no details about the terms of the settlement.
Hopefully, though, this means that the Ditko estate is receiving some sort of meaning compensation for his work. Ditko had a notoriously strained relationship with Marvel, and with his own creations, in later years, but that does not change the facts of what he did, or how enormously important it was to the history of Marvel — and the present and future of the company as well.