Comic Giant Sues Marvel Entertainment

Stan Lee, 79, creator of comic-book franchises such as "Spider-Man," "The Incredible Hulk" and "Daredevil," smiles in his office in Santa Monica, Calif.
AP (file)
The creative force behind Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk and Daredevil has filed a $10 million lawsuit charging that his old comic book company is cheating him out of millions of dollars in movie profits.

Stan Lee, who crafted a menagerie of superheroes with very human flaws, now claims Marvel Entertainment Inc. has tried to shut him out of the "jackpot" success of this summer's "Spider-Man" movie.

Lee's attorneys filed court papers in Manhattan federal court Tuesday, claiming that Marvel signed a deal to give their client 10 percent of any profits from his characters used in films and television shows.

"Spider-Man" has been the year's biggest hit, grossing more than $400 million domestically - but the 80-year-old Lee says he hasn't seen a penny.

"Despite reaping enormous benefits from Mr. Lee's creations, defendants have failed and refused to honor their commitments to him," the lawsuit charges.

Marvel has reported millions of dollars in earnings from the film but has told Lee the company has seen no "profits" as defined by their contract.

Lee hopes a judge will intervene and make sure he gets a percentage of profits from the Ben Affleck movie "Daredevil," scheduled for release in February.

He also seeks a share of profits from the upcoming movie "The Hulk," and the sequels to "X-Men" and "Spider-Man."

The lawsuit demands damages and a court order forcing Marvel to turn over Lee's share in any profits from movies about characters he created.

Marvel issued a statement saying Lee "continues to be well-compensated" for his contributions to the industry. It said the company is "in full compliance with, and current on all payments due under, terms of Mr. Lee's employment agreement."

"Spider-Man" stars Tobey Maguire as the teenage superhero, Willem Dafoe as the villainous Green Goblin and Kirsten Dunst as love interest Mary Jane Watson. A sequel is due out in 2004.

By Devlin Barrett