Marvel Reaches Settlement in Legal Battle With Estate of Spider-Man And Doctor Strange Co-Creator Steve Ditko

Marvel has reached a settlement with the estate of Steve Ditko to keep full ownership of the rights to Spider-Man and Doctor Strange.
Spider-Man: No Way Home

Last week, Marvel finally reached a deal to end a years-long legal battle with the estate of Steve Ditko over copyright disagreements, The Hollywood Reporter said on Friday after both parties notified the court of an amicable solution.

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The fight may have gone unnoticed to most MCU fans, but it’s been burning in the background for a couple of years, ever since Marvel sued the heirs of some of Marvel Comics’ most notorious writers, including Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, and Gene Colan, as they were attempting to terminate the copyrights on several Avengers characters, including Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Captain America, and more.


The issue arises because of a clause in copyright law that allows authors or their heirs to reclaim the rights that would have been previously granted to publishers once a certain amount of time has passed. Should the court decide the heirs were right, Disney and Marvel would have been forced to co-own the rights to the characters, as opposed to having full ownership.

doctor strange by neil gaiman Marvel

The legal battle between the Disney division and most of the writers’ estates was resolved back in June, with Disney ensuring full ownership of the rights to most of the Avengers lineup. However, one remained in contention: the fight over the rights to Spider-Man and Doctor Strange with the heirs of Steve Ditko.

In particular, the Ditko estate wanted to reclaim the rights to some comics, including Amazing Fantasy, which featured Spider-Man’s comic introduction, and Strange Tales, which included Doctor Strange’s first appearance. In addition to the art and writing, the termination would have also aimed at gaining back the rights to any characters and story elements related to the work.

doctor strange concept art

It’s unknown what the settlement terms were, but we assume the Kevin Feige-run company, represented by Dan Petrocelli and Molly Lens of O’Melveny, wrote a big enough check to keep Patrick Ditko happy. He was repped by Marc Toberoff, a lawyer who has a deep history with lawsuits like this one between comic creators and Hollywood studios. Toberoff, for instance, litigated a similar case for Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster against DC Comics.

What Does This Mean for Marvel Studios?

The short and most direct answer is nothing. These cases seldom go any further than a check, and it almost always it’s a money issue. It’s not that the Ditko estate would have done anything with the character’s rights, other than to maybe sell them elsewhere — and therefore, becoming a money issue.


But headlines like this will probably keep appearing in the news cycles every once in a while, especially if Marvel Studios bounces back and becomes a major powerhouse in Hollywood. The comic writers and their heirs who are behind the characters that Marvel is profiting from are famously underpaid and disregarded by the studio. The next legal battle may be over the rights to some other character we don’t know much about yet, or it might be over financial compensation for minor details.

In any case, this is the least of Kevin Feige’s problems at the moment. The executive is just wrapping up Marvel’s worst year since the creation of the MCU, with two of their biggest critical flops in Quantumania and Secret Invasion, their biggest financial hit ever in The Marvels, and a lot of off-screen troubles, from the Jonathan Majors legal issues to the overall discontent that the moviegoing audience is feeling.


For those of our readers who maybe forgot, they still have one more project left to go before the new year: the second season of the animated What If…? series, which will start streaming on Disney Plus on December 22. Shortly after, on January 10, all five episodes of Echo will hit the platform.

Do you have any thoughts on Marvel’s legal battles with the comic writers’ estates? What do you think about the company’s future, and will more lawsuits like this one pop up now and then? How do you think Kevin Feige can turn this ship around? Let us know your thoughts on our social media!

SOURCE: The Hollywood Reporter

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