There’s no denying that comic book characters – and superheroes specifically – have become a great source of profit for movie and television studios. Every year sees more blockbusters featuring DC and Marvel characters, and the list of new, upcoming television shows reads like a ‘who’s who’s’ of comics’ most popular titles. Yet, while comic book movies and TV shows flourish, the actual comic book industry suffers.
Nowhere is that impact felt more than with the writers and artists responsible for creating these characters in the first place. DC Comics/Warner Bros. and the families of Superman creators Joe Siegel and Jerry Shuster fought much of the past few years over rights to the Man of Steel. And if you’ll recall, only earlier this year when Guardians of the Galaxy was opening to a cool $94 million, many were asking fans to consider donating to help cover the ongoing medical expenses for Rocket Raccoon’s creator, Bill Mantlo.
The reason for this disparity in what companies earn versus creators is the contracts the writer or artist were under when working for the publisher. Yesterday, however, saw an unexpected turn of events in the ongoing dispute between Marvel (and now Disney) and the estate of Jack Kirby – easily one of comics’ most influential figures, having played a role in creating The Fantastic Four, Captain America, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, the original X-Men, The Avengers, and more.
Deadline is reporting that the two parties have come to an agreement and have settled their rights dispute ahead of an impending appearance at the Supreme Court. Here’s the statement that was released:
Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes, and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history.
As of now, the terms of the settlement have not been made public, nor how (if at all) this deal could affect Marvel’s future plans for any of Kirby’s characters. It’s likely Marvel chose to settle with Kirby’s estate in order to avoid a possible Supreme Court ruling in favor of Kirby’s families regaining the rights, which could have proved a huge financial blow for Marvel.
This out-of-court settlement also mean other companies currently in control of Kirby created or co-created characters – like Sony or Fox – can rest easy knowing they’ll retain the rights to use those characters in the future.
Still, whether the settlement came from a savvy business call or a change of heart, the effect of this decision will reverberate through the comic book industry.
Are you happy to hear Marvel and the family of artist Jack Kirby are finally on good terms? How do you see this affecting comic book-inspired movies or TV from now on? Let us hear what you think in the comments below!