Sunday, 20 September 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #374: Kirby Strikes Back

Welcome to the show folks...

The estate of comic book legend Jack Kirby are suing the new Marvel-Disney conglomerate over the characters he co-created, and have hired copyright and intellectual property pit bull Marc Toberoff to head their fight.

Now the comic geeks know Kirby, but to
those of you who don't know Kirby, the man was a legend. He started out working as an assistant for Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) and Jerry Iger (great uncle of Disney Boss Robert Iger) at the Eisner-Iger comic strip studio. Over the next decades he worked with just about every major publisher, but he was most famous for his work with Marvel Comics where he developed his unique visual style and co-created characters like Captain America, The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, and The Hulk.

Those creations are why he's suing, because despite their success and continuing popularity, Kirby was royally screwed by his bosses, and he got an amount somewhere between jack and shit.

This was because that the old school comic book companies were pretty much run like fly-by-night operations whose business model consisted of screw everybody out of everything no matter what the cost in the long run, because we'll probably declare bankruptcy by then. Even when the big two publishers became major forces, they pretty much maintained this model to some sort of degree, doing everything legal and extra-legal to keep the original creators from having any share of their creations. Hence the regular litigation over just about everything in the industry.

Naturally Marc Toberoff is saying that his case will be the be all and end all of the company, but I doubt that. What it will be is a Hulk sized pain in the ass to the new Marvel-Disney company, at what is the best time for the Kirby estate to strike, but the worst time for Marvel-Disney.

Right now superhero movies are hot, Marvel superhero movies are particularly hot, and that is where the trap lies.

Superhero movies have great profit potential, but they are extremely expensive to make. The last thing the makers of any big-budget movie wants are millions in legal fees slapped onto the overhead of their movies. That increases the costs, shrinks the profits, and raises the risk factor.

They do not want that, because that is bad.

I'd advise figuring out some sort of reasonable settlement, like a sensible royalty scheme, and putting this thing to bed, because Marvel-Disney would be very hard pressed to find a sympathetic ear, let alone a sympathetic jury, and Toberoff has a fearsome reputation. However, Disney tradition is to litigate, litigate, and litigate again until all who oppose them are financially and physically crushed. So we could be in for quite a fight.

Let's keep an eye on this one true believers!

UPDATE: Marvel has made a statement to the press about the Kirby lawsuit, and it's pretty lean. It's lacking the usual "this case has no merit" and "we'll be vindicated in court" kind of boilerplate that's standard issue in all statements about lawsuits in Hollywood. This signals a lack of confidence on the part of Marvel to win this case. This could get very interesting kiddies.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds more like "toss the idiots 10 mill and be done with it" to me. If Kirby's estate had a claim, why is it showing up now, instead of when Marvel was cranking out one Hulk remake after another?

    Yeah, Kirby got screwed, and so did a lot of other comics creators. But you know what? They willingly signed their contracts and they got paid for the work.

    Show biz is funny. If an engineer designs a bridge, he doesn't get 10 cents for every car that passes over it. Only in Hollywood does the writer/creator get that kind of a residual pay off. Maybe they deserve it. But I'm not so sure.