Without Jack Kirby, we wouldn’t have the most iconic Marvel superheroes of all time. Let’s go down the list. Because of him and his collaborations with Joe Simon and Stan Lee, we have The Avengers, The X-Men, Captain America, Fantastic Four, and many more. However, as these characters make the jump from medium to medium, it appears that his heirs aren’t being compensated for his contributions. And while it may seem like a no-brainer to include the comic legend’s family when it comes time to pay out royalties, the courts have ruled otherwise.
According to Deadline, the Second Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that Kirby was under a work for hire deal, so he and his heirs aren’t necessarily entitled to a cut of the profits from things such as movies, TV shows, and comic books featuring the characters that he created. This decision was in line with a 2011 ruling on his employment and what that entitled him to.
Despite the judge stating that Marvel is in the clear and cannot have the copyrights to Kirby’s characters terminated, the case may not be completely closed. The report says that “in deciding its jurisdiction extends to only two of Kirby’s children, the court has allowed the possibility for Lisa and Neal Kirby to find a new legal venue for their termination orders”.
Cases like these have been popping up here and there since superhero movies have started to get popular. A similar situation emerged when the families of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who created Superman, went to court over copyright issues with WB. There is a chance that because of these suits, our favorite Marvel and DC characters could disappear overnight, but judging by the decisions made by the courts up to this point, I doubt that we’d actually have to worry about that even being a possibility.