Marvel founder Stan Lee sues former company POW! Entertainment for $1bn

Ilana Kaplan
Stan Lee: Getty Images

Marvel creator Stan Lee has filed a lawsuit against his former company POW! Entertainment for $1bn (£740m) in damages, alleging he was duped into signing a document giving away the rights to his name.

According to Lee, POW! Entertainment executives including co-founder Gill Champion and CEO Shane Duffy allegedly made a "sham deal" to sell POW! to a Chinese company called Camsing.

Duffy also presides over Camsing as the vice president.

The lawsuit filed against POW! in California claims that Champion and Duffy "conspired" to steal the 95-year-old comic book legend's "identity, name, image and likeness as part of a nefarious scheme to benefit financially at [his] expense", The Guardian reports.

It further states that Lee has been suffering from advanced macular degeneration and he hasn't been able to read or drive by himself.

Lee's lawyers claim that the deal with Camsing went through when the Marvel founder's wife of almost 70 years, Joan Lee, was dying and he was "in a state of total devastation".

The suit claims that "Duffy and Champion were incentivised to get a deal between POW! and Camsing done because each of them would benefit financially" and that the executives "never disclosed the actual terms of the deal to Lee before closing it".

"Lee did not even grant an exclusive licence to his identity, image, name and likeness to the Walt Disney Company in a multibillion dollar deal, let alone give his name and likeness away for free to a company in China," says the lawsuit, which explains that Lee would not have knowingly signed something giving exclusive permission to use his identity.

The lawsuit further alleges that his signature was either "forged" or he was "tricked" into signing it because he thought it was a different document.

It also claims that POW! took control of Lee's personal social media channels including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

On 12 May, Lee tweeted, "Today was the first day I ever did a tweet myself. Before today, my account was done by others. I still do not have control of my Facebook. Someone else is doing it, NOT me."

He posted three days later, saying: "Help! Someone has hijacked my Facebook and Instagram. I want everyone to know whoever is writing them is a fraud and is impersonating me. How do I get them back? Can you guys help?"

Later that day he posted a video thanking fans for their help.

Last month, Lee posted a video alleging he was the victim of abuse by his daughter JC Lee.

The Hollywood Reporter published a notarised document from 13 February signed by Lee that claimed he had experienced verbal abuse by his daughter.

Lee then claimed the document was “totally incorrect, inaccurate, misleading and insulting” in a video.

However his former attorney Tom Lallas claimed he had taken the Marvel creator through the document "word by word, line by line".

In response to Lee's claims against them, POW! Entertainment issued a statement: "We have seen the copy of Mr Lee’s complaint posted on Deadline Hollywood.

"The allegations are completely without merit. In particular, the notion that Mr Lee did not knowingly grant POW! exclusive rights to his creative works or his identity is so preposterous that we have to wonder whether Mr Lee is personally behind this lawsuit.

"There is no question Mr Lee – who, along with his daughter, was and remains a substantial POW! shareholder - clearly understood the terms of the agreements he signed.

"The evidence, which includes Mr Lee’s subsequent statements and conduct, is overwhelming and we look forward to presenting it in court."