Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes, and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history.
With that joint statement, a relative whisper that preempts a potential bang that would have been a Supreme Court hearing, five years of acrimonious statements, court cases and high-profile Hollywood mouthpieces comes to an end. The rights dispute between the Kirby Estate and Marvel over the rights to the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Thor and numerous other characters comes to an end, with Marvel retaining the rights to said characters.
The intricate details of the deal are not known, and might never be released to the public. But the surprising settlement, coming just days before the Supreme Court was to vote on whether or not to hear the case, has media observers broken into two reasons why it happened. Either Disney blinked because they thought the Supreme Court would rule in favor of the Kirbys, or the Estate blinked for the same reason.
Personally, I vote for the latter. The Kirby Estate has lost every appeal up to this point, and the Supreme Court has a reputation of favoring corporations in cases like this. And, if Marc Toberoff’s agreement with the Kirbys and attitude towards the case was the same as it was with the Siegel family, he would fight on if he had a chance of winning,but settle if the money was good enough.
Regardless, one hopes that the Kirby family has been properly rewarded for their father’s efforts, and that the agreement gives them part of the profits his characters generate in perpetuity. I also hope that Marvel has an iron-clad, completely binding ownership on the characters so we don’t have to go through this again in the future.