LOS ANGELES (CN) - The children of comic book artist Jack Kirby, who helped create Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk and the X-Men, sued Marvel Entertainment and Disney over rights to the characters. Disney bought Marvel for $4 billion last year. The Kirby clan says their notice of termination will give them rights to the characters in 2014.
Lisa, Barbara, Neal and Susan Kirby sued Marvel and Disney in Federal Court in response to Marvel's Jan. 12 lawsuit, contesting the children's claim that the Kirby estate will soon assume ownership of Kirby's many iconic characters, including Iron-Man and The Avengers.
The Kirbys say their father "was not an employee of any of Marvel's predecessors and was not paid a fixed salary or wage by any of them."
They say "Kirby worked solely on a freelance basis out of his own home, with his own instruments and materials and thereby bore the financial risk of creating his copyrighted materials."
Marvel claims the works were "works made for hire" made specifically for Marvel's predecessor, Magazine Management, making Marvel the effective author. The company claims it had the right to exercise creative control over the creations and that the work was done at its expense, not Kirby's.
When Kirby was creating his comic masterpieces, Marvel's predecessors "had a tiny office, very few employees, and fed the printing presses of related entities with comic book material purchased for publication from 'freelancers' to which they had little or no obligation," according to the complaint.
"Marvel's predecessors were not financially obligated to Kirby, kept their options open, and thus never committed to any written agreement pursuant to which Kirby was to create his works," Kirby's family claims.
Jack Kirby died of heart failure on Feb. 6, 1994. He was 76.
His children seek a declaration confirming the validity of the termination notices, an injunction and damages for conversion and profits from the exploitation of jointly owned copyrights.
They are represented by Marc Toberoff.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.