Marvel sues the inventor of Spider-Man over a copyright dispute.
Prepare yourselves, genuine believers: A contentious legal struggle is raging over who owns the rights to New York’s most renowned wall-crawler and a couple of his super buddies.
On Friday, Marvel Comics sued the estate of Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko, arguing that the business owns the copyright to the web slinger, not the man who first designed Peter Parker and his red and blue spider costume.
The dispute between the corporate titan and the reclusive artist’s estate has enormous financial ramifications, with the most recent Spider-Man film, “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” grossing $185.1 million during a six-day holiday weekend in 2019.
Marvel’s complaint, filed in Manhattan Federal Court, follows a barrage of legal efforts by Ditko’s son to assert a claim to Spider-Man and Doctor Strange’s copyright. Ditko was instrumental in developing both characters, who will appear together in December’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
“Marvel assigned Steve Ditko stories to illustrate, retained creative control over his contributions, and compensated him on a per-page basis,” Marvel’s lawyers claimed in the case. “As a result, any contributions made by Steve Ditko were at Marvel’s direction and expense, deeming them work for hire.”
Ditko co-created Spider-Man with writer Stan Lee in 1962, introducing comic book readers to the adolescent who develops abilities after being bitten by a radioactive spider. Since then, the Spider-Man series has grown into a global media behemoth, spawning eight feature films in addition to a slew of television shows and video games.
Ditko died in his upper Manhattan apartment in 2018 at the age of 90, where he maintained a low profile in the years preceding his death.
His estate is following in the footsteps of another renowned comics artist/creator, Jack Kirby, who co-created a slew of iconic Marvel characters with Lee – Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Hulk, the Avengers, and Thor, to name a few.
Kirby’s family contested Marvel’s copyright rights to his heroes in 1976, using the same legal framework that Ditko’s estate is now attempting to deploy.