Judge rules: Stan's the man
Cartoon creator is owed a percentage of profits form Marvel's income since 1998.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Stan Lee, the legendary cartoon hero creator who gave Spider-Man his powerful "spidey-sense," is feeling a tingling of his own -- in his wallet.
A Manhattan federal judge has ruled that Lee is entitled to a potential multimillion-dollar payday from Marvel Enterprises off profits generated by the company's TV and movie productions -- particularly the box-office smash "Spider-Man," which earned more than $800 million worldwide, and its hugely successful sequel.
"It could be tens of millions of dollars," Howard Graff, attorney for Lee, said Wednesday. "That's no exaggeration."
The Monday ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Sweet found that Lee was entitled to a 10 percent share of the profits generated since November 1998 by Marvel productions involving the company's characters, including those created by the prolific cartoonist.
"I am gratified by the judge's decision although, since I am deeply fond of Marvel and the people there, I sincerely regret that the situation had to come to this," Lee said in a statement.
Sweet's decision didn't mention a dollar figure, although Graff was anticipating a windfall since the ruling also included DVD sales and certain merchandise. "The court essentially ruled in our favor virtually across the board," Graff said. "This is a sweeping victory for Mr. Lee."
John Turitzin, general counsel for Marvel, promised an appeal. Turitzin noted that Sweet ruled that Lee was not entitled to money from certain movie-based merchandise, and that the judge withheld judgment on money from joint-venture merchandise sales linked to the Spider-Man and Hulk movies.
"We intend to appeal those matters on which we did not prevail, and to continue to contest vigorously the claims on which the court did not rule," Turitzin said in a statement. The remaining issues could go before a jury if the two sides can't reach a settlement.
The lawsuit marks an acrimonious final chapter in the long and productive relationship between Marvel and Lee, who spent the last six decades working for the company. During a storied career, Lee created indelible Marvel fixtures such as the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil and The Fantastic Four.
"Mr. Lee did not begin this lawsuit without a lot of thought and reservation," Graff said. "He was not pleased to do it. He was saddened by the fact that things came to the point where he had to actually start a lawsuit against Marvel."
The 82-year-old Lee filed suit in November 2002, claiming an agreement he had signed four years earlier entitled him to 10 percent of Marvel's haul from its television and movie productions, as well as merchandising deals.
He already earns a $1 million a year salary from Marvel as part of the agreement, but felt that he was getting stiffed on additional income due him under the deal.
The money involved was substantial, particularly involving the Spider-Man movie. Marvel eventually collected more than $50 million in profits from "Spider-Man" earnings.