Stan Lee Fans Accuse Disney Of ‘Exploiting’ Late Marvel Comics Icon

Former Marvel Comics editor Lee will “live” in Marvel movies and Disney theme parks again with a new licensing deal.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is resurrecting Stan Lee through a new licensing deal – and fans are voicing their criticisms.

On May 19, Marvel announced a 20-year deal with Stan Lee Universe, a venture between Genius Brands International and POW! Entertainment, to license the late Marvel Comics editor’s name and likeness for use in future feature films and television productions, as well as Disney theme parks, “experiences” and merchandise as part of a ” general agreement” with his estate.

Lee passed away in November 2018 at the age of 95, and fans are asking that the beloved writer and Marvel Comics editor’s memory be buried.

Vulture review Alison Willmore compared with the deal for a “Weekend at Bernie’s” program and Red Letter Media co-founder Jay Bauman slammed the deal, writing, “Stan Lee was taken advantage of for the last years of his life and now he can’t even rest in peace. Shit. Disabled.”

RLM Cast Member Jack Packard tweeted“Now that doesn’t mean they’re going to make Stan’s corpse a cameo in future Marvel movies…but it does mean they’re willing to.”

Another fan added“Watching Stan Lee become an IP by his estate is grim as hell, but it’s the logical extension of how he was treated while he was alive.”

More Marvel lovers wrote, “They’ll never stop selling his name, and it’s sickening,” as well as “Stan Lee is no longer a person. He’s now a Marvel character who will say and do whatever Disney will order.

Lee was the writer and editor of Marvel Comics in the 1960s and later became the public face of the company with cameos in Marvel films, with his final screen appearance in “Avengers: Endgame.” Lee co-created Spider-Man, Avengers, and Hulk, and co-founded POW! with Gill Champion and Arthur Lieberman.

Genius Brands President and CEO Andy Heyward assured the deal would be a “steward of [Lee’s] legacy.”

“It really guarantees that Stan, through digital technology and archival footage and other forms, will live in the place that matters most, the Marvel movies and the Disney theme parks,” Heyward continued. “The public revered Stan, and if it’s done with taste and class, and respectful of who he was, [uses of his likeness] will be welcome. He’s a beloved personality, and long after you and I are gone, he’ll remain the essence of Marvel.

The deal allows Marvel to use Lee’s name, voice, likeness and signature in film and television projects, as well as theme parks, cruise lines and in-park merchandise. His likeness will not be used in virtual reality or video games.

And this isn’t the first backlash from Lee’s legacy management. Lee’s estate has been embroiled in lawsuits for years. Prior to Lee’s death, as his health declined, the former Marvel Comics editor and his team filed a billion-dollar lawsuit against POW! Entertainment, alleging that executives took advantage of this by allegedly tricking him into signing documents under fraudulent pretenses or forging his signature. The lawsuit sought to recover name and likeness rights and opposed the transfer of assets to Hong Kong-based Camsing International. The lawsuit was later dropped.

Lee’s daughter, JC Lee, as trustee of the Lee Family Survivor’s Trust, filed a new lawsuit against POW after Lee’s death to continue the intellectual property battle. POW replied that the costumes were “nothing more than family drama”.

Last year, Disney sued the families of the late Lee, Steve Ditko, Don Rico, Don Heck, Larry Lieber and Gene Colan to stop them from claiming the copyrights to Marvel characters like Iron Man and Doctor Strange. Disney filed the lawsuits in response to receiving copyright termination notices from some families, who claimed that the rights to MCU characters should revert to the creators’ heirs.

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Lisa M. Horner