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“This is funny”
So, Stan Lee Media has filed a lawsuit against Marvel Comics for about $5 Billion dollars. Now, here’s the thing that had me confused at first: “Why would Stan Lee sue Marvel, if he wanted to settle that sort of crap, couldn’t he have done it years ago?” I mean he started with Marvel (in it’s previous incarnation as Timely Comics) back in the 1940s. Then I found out it’s not Stan Lee suing Marvel it’s Stan Lee Media, which hasn’t had anything to do with Stan “The Man” for several years. As I read more I discovered this is all part of an on-going saga that includes Lee’s relationship with a man whose story stinks of con-man and opportunist, and the late 90s bankruptcy of Marvel Comics.
The West Australian says:

Stan Lee’s association with Stan Lee Media was brief and turbulent.

He initially founded the company in the late 1990s with Miami businessman Peter F Paul in an attempt to move some of his comic-book creations onto the web.

The company was briefly a dot-com darling. Its publicly traded stock soared, then abruptly crashed, wiping out hundreds of millions of investment dollars.

The company filed for bankruptcy in 2001. Paul pleaded guilty in 2005 to improperly manipulating the company’s stock price.

Lee was never implicated in the scandal. He went on to sue Marvel himself for a share of its movie revenue. He eventually settled the case and has been back on good terms with the company since 2005.

Stan Lee Media was formed in 1998 right around the time Marvel was dusting itself off from Bankruptcy. For those who don’t know, when you file for Bankruptcy you get to renegotiate your existing contracts (at least some of them, I’m not sure what the threshold is exactly). So, Marvel got bought by ToyBiz and the new man in charge happened to find out that Marvel had a contract with Lee to pay him $1 million dollars a year. Part of the reason they paid him that was so that he would remain a spokesman for Marvel, part of it was so that he wouldn’t sue Marvel for ownership of the characters he co-created for the company (like Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four etc.). The new guy in charge of Marvel wasn’t too keen on paying out a million dollars a year to a guy who didn’t even really work for the company so he made another offer to Stan that was, a bit less than he was getting before. Several Marvel folks turned around and explained to the new guy what’s what and that offering Stan a better contract would be better for the company long-term, because the prospect of Stan Lee suing Marvel for his rights to the characters really wouldn’t help them in their recovery from Bankruptcy.
What’s being claimed now is that Stan Lee signed over the rights he had as of that new deal to Stan Lee Media. Stan Lee Media crapped out under some pretty shady looking circumstances and had been more or less gone until a new fella named Jim Nesfield showed up, got the company (which is only associated with Stan by name at this point) back on it’s feet (sorta kinda). Who’s Jim Nesfield?
Red Herring says:

Mr. Nesfield is a self-described whistleblower who assisted New York Governor Eliot Spitzer in his investigation of market timing by mutual funds when Mr. Spitzer was the state’s attorney general. He has also testified before the U.S. Senate, he said, about market-timing abuses, and appeared on 60 Minutes.

While he was not initially involved with Stan Lee Media, he said he has been a long-time observer ever since the company filed to go public in 2000. “I’ve been following the company since its initial flotation and its demise, and I specialize in bankrupts in distress,” he said. “I’m what they call a vulture.”

And this guy is the one who is filing the suit against Marvel for the rights Stan supposedly signed over to Stan Lee Media years ago. Stan and Marvel are both saying the suit has no merit, but that’s not really surprising.
I find myself wondering if it does have merit. I mean sure any rational person would look at this bizarre series of events and say: “that company screwed Lee over, they shouldn’t have any claim on his rights to those characters.” But, what if there is a piece of paper out there with Lee signing over his rights to the company? As much as I don’t like to think it, in that case, if there is a legitimate, legally binding document that says Stan Lee Media owns Stan’s part of those characters, then, damn … they probably are entitled to the licensing money they’re suing for (something that I’m not too keen on saying, believe me).

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