Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee files $1 billion suit over theft of image rights

Key Points
  • Stan Lee, former editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, has filed suit seeking more than $1billion in damages.
  • The Spider-Man and Hulk co-creator says he never knowingly gave up exclusive rights to his name.
  • Lee claims his signature was fraudulently obtained.
A still from 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'.
Source: Marvel

The man who co-created Spider-Man, the Hulk and the X-Men has filed a $1 billion suit against a company he co-founded in 2001.

Stan Lee, a former editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics, is alleging that his name and likeness were taken fraudulently so that a company called "Pow Entertainment" could be sold to another firm in China.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in state Superior Court in Los Angeles, says the defendants "forged or fraudulently obtained a signature from Lee" as part of the scheme.

Stan Lee: Special effects revitalized comics
Stan Lee: Special effects revitalized comics

Lee claims that co-founders of Pow, Shane Duffy and Gill Champion, used deception to make him sign over his name, image and likeness on a wholly exclusive basis.

The 95-year-old's signature was either forged, imposed from another document or induced by a bait-and-switch tactic where Lee thought he was signing another contract due to his failing eyesight, according to the lawsuit.

A promotion image from Marvel's 2018 hit "The Black Panther".
Source: Marvel

Camsing International, the Chinese firm that bought Pow, says on its website that in October, it had "completed the acquisition of POW! Entertainment founded by Stan Lee — Father of Marvel."

Lee added that the pair, along with former business partner Jerardo Olivarez, took advantage of his ill health and his "devastation" following the death of his wife.

In April, Lee issued a separate suit against Olivarez claiming that his former partner had transferred $4.6 million out of his bank account without authorization. He also claimed Olivarez was carrying out bogus schemes to enrich himself.

Pow Entertainment did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment from Duffy and Champion; Olivarez could not be located for comment.