Marvel Sues Kirby’s Heirs Over X-Men, Spidey

Battle steps up over control of the comic company’s iconic characters

Last Updated: January 8, 2010 @ 5:57 PM

Marvel filed suit Friday in federal court seeking to keep the rights to superheroes including Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and X-Men.

Marvel’s suit is a response to notifications sent by the heirs of comic-book artist Jack Kirby that said rights to the characters would revert from Marvel to Kirby’s estate as early as 2014. Kirby has been credited as co-creator of characters and stories behind Marvel stars such as the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.

The suit filed Friday in Manhattan asked a federal judge to invalidate those notices, saying Kirby’s work on the comics was "for hire," thus rendering the heirs’ claims invalid.

In September, Kirby’s heirs sent 45 notices of copyright termination to Marvel, Disney, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures and others who have been making films and other forms of entertainment based on the characters.The heirs claim that between 2014 and 2019, various rights transferred to Marvel will revert to them.

Marvel disputes that, saying Kirby’s contributions to Marvel publications, like those of his contemporary comic book writers and artists, were works made for hire. That, Marvel says, makes it the sole owner of the copyrights.

Kirby died in 1994.

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