Disney’s Marvel Settles With Hulk Co-Creator’s Family

Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Entertainment settled its copyright dispute with the children of the late comic book artist Jack Kirby, who helped create the Incredible Hulk and X-Men characters.

“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,” the company and the Kirby family said in a joint statement today.

The family in March petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case after both a federal judge in New York and a federal appeals court had agreed with Marvel that their father’s drawings were work-for-hire and the family couldn’t terminate the publisher’s copyright to the characters.

Disney acquired Marvel for $4.2 billion in 2009. Since then, characters such as Iron Man and Thor have proved box office gold for the Burbank, California-based company.

“Marvel’s The Avengers” was the top-grossing film of 2012. This year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” based on lesser-known Marvel characters, also led the domestic box office with $315 million in tickets sold since its August release.

Spider-Man Fees

Licensing fees from merchandise tied to Marvel characters such as Spider-Man have boosted the results of Disney’s consumer-products division.

In 2009, Kirby’s adult children sent 45 notices to Marvel to terminate license renewals for the characters in comics published from 1958 to 1963. Marvel sued in January 2010, seeking a judgment that the termination notices were invalid.

Kirby, who died in 1994, also created or co-created the Fantastic Four and the Avengers. His heirs said their father was a freelance artist paid by the page who received no benefits from Marvel. Stan Lee, who worked for Marvel as an editor, is credited as co-author of the Hulk.

Marvel said in court papers that Kirby granted the company rights to the characters in 1972 and that his children waited too long to make their copyright claims.

The case is Marvel Worldwide Inc. v. Kirby, 10-00141, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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