Another thing that is bothering me is: Why now? The last time Kirby had any legal action pending against Marvel was 1987 and that was more or less settled to some degree. Since that time, Marvel moved to the top of the comic book ladder and has put out more than a dozen movies grossing more than $1 billion dollars worldwide. Yet, we didn’t hear anything from the Jack Kirby Estate in that time – could it be the combination of the Superman/DC/Seigel/Schuster rulings, and the fact that “deep pockets” Disney now owns Marvel that has brought out the legal buzzards?
I can’t help but think that Kirby’s Estate is using the greed bat to whack money out of the belly of the Disney piñata; I have to say, the move on hiring Toberoff screams “ambulance chasing lawyer” to me. For all we know, Disney/Marvel has much better lawyers than WB/DC and this whole issue will resolve itself over the next few years – but what does it all mean for the upcoming movies based on Kirby’s characters? We already have a Fantastic Four reboot announced, Thor has been cast, X-Men 4 is now on the table, Screen Rant‘s Kofi Outlaw just wrote a great article on Who Should Play Captain America and Iron Man 2 releases next year with an almost guaranteed third installment to follow.
So what happens to those projects if Jack Kirby’s Estate wins the suit and regains copyright control of those properties?
It’s a very speculative answer, but I wonder if Disney would just say “Screw you” to Kirby’s heirs, give back all the properties Kirby created, stop publishing any of those characters via Marvel Comics and put a halt to all productions involving Jack Kirby’s characters. Disney would still have 4000+ characters to choose from and then Kirby’s heirs would be left with no way to make money on the future use of their newly regained copyrights. Sure they would make royalties off past uses, and that could net them at least $10 million or more, but where would they go from there?
It’s going to be an interesting bumpy ride for all parties involved – Kirby’s Estate, Disney/Marvel and the fans. It took ten years for the a ruling to come down on the Superman debacle, so I would expect at least that much time before we hear something definitive regarding Marvel and Kirby.
What do you think about Jack Kirby’s Estate suing Disney/Marvel to regain rights to Kirby characters after all this time?
More news as it develops.