The lawyer who could squelch the Disney/Marvel deal

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Now that Disney has announced that it will take over Marvel Entertainment, the estate of Jack Kirby—co-creator of Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Avengers, Iron Man, Hulk, the Silver Surfer and Thor—has sent notices terminating copyright to publishers Marvel and Disney, as well as film studios that have made movies and TV shows based on characters he created or co-created, including Sony, Universal, 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures, Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood site reports.

Citing news from, Finke also points out that the suit is spearheaded by Marc Toberoff, the lawyer who, among other things, successfully sued DC Comics and Warner Brothers on behalf of Superman creator Jerry Siegel, regaining certain rights.

Kirby's estate is looking to regain his share of copyright in the characters and their use in comics and other media. "Such claims, if found valid, would begin from 2014 and, as always, it's worth noting that Marvel/Disney will still own the trademarks of the characters in comics, and the studios in movies. The likelihood is that, if successful, the Kirby estate would enter into negotiation over terms to continue publishing comics based on his work," [] wrote.

Toberoff has won or settled lawsuits concerning Lassie, Get Smart, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Wild Wild West and Smallville.

Finke also points out that Disney chief executive Bob Iger's ties to Marvel go back two generations, to Kirby himself: Iger's late great-uncle (his grandfather's brother) was illustrator/cartoonist Jerry Iger, who partnered with illustrator/cartoonist Will Eisner back in the 1930s to create the comic-book packager Eisner & Iger Studios. And their first hire was Jack Kirby, who created many of Marvel's best-known characters with then Marvel editor-in-chief Stan Lee.