Reports are coming out of Hollywood that Stan Lee Media, Inc (SLMI), the company founded by Stan “The Man” Lee, is suing the producers of the recently released ‘Conan the Barbarian’ for 100% of the film’s profits and all future rights to the Conan character.
Stan Lee Media filed for bankruptcy in early 2001. The company has been virtually dead since 2001 but started trying to reestablish itself last year with a new board of directors. It seems their latest move in that business plan was filing this lawsuit on the day that ‘Conan the Barbarian’ opened in theaters this past Friday. Lawyers for the company claim that all the company’s publishing rights, including those for Conan, which were aquired in 2000, were locked down and unable to be traded or sold until the bankruptcy was settled. The company claims that “the shares of Conan Properties and all other assets of SLMI were part of a bankruptcy estate and protected from unauthorized transfer by the automatic bankruptcy stay.”
The trouble began when former SLMI attorney Arthur Lieberman allegedly sold the rights to the Conan character to Conan Sales Co., who in turn sold them to Paradox Entertainment in 2002. Since that aquisition, the Swedish company has been trying to reestablish the Conan character as a commercial entity with a series of comic books from Dark Horse Comics, several video games and now the new movie from Lionsgate and Nu Image/Millennium Films. Leiberman is also a defendant in the lawsuit.
The film ‘Conan the Barbarian’ is reported to have cost as much as $90 million to make and, with its meager box-office take, I don’t expect that there’s much money to be made from the lawsuit. However, deciding who owns the Conan character might be the main issue.
Personally, I thought that the rights to Conan were public domain as are many of the original stories written by the barbarian’s creator Robert E. Howard. If anyone should own the character, it should be Howard’s estate and family.