call it Stan Lee: homecoming.
In a one-of-a-kind deal, Stan Lee, the beloved founder of Spider-Man and Avengers and Hulk who died in 2018, returns to… marvel studios.
Marvel has signed a 20-year contract with the Stan Lee Universe, a project between Genius Brands International and POW! Entertainment, to license Lee’s name and likeness for use in feature films and future television productions, as well as Disney theme parks, and various “experiments” and merchandising.
“It really ensures that Stan, through digital technology, archival footage and other formats, will live in the most important place, which is the Marvel movies and Disney parks,” said Andy Heyward, Chairman and CEO of Genius Brands. “It’s a broad bargain.”
Lee was a writer and editor-in-chief for Marvel Comics in the 1960s, when he, along with artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, began creating the superheroes that are now the basis for the world’s biggest blockbuster movies. He also became the always smiling public face of the company, a lavish position he held for decades despite changes to his actual job title and responsibilities – and even after he formally separated from the company.
Lee has once again found himself in the spotlight in 21st century pop culture due to his epic, first in Marvel-based adaptations such as Fox’s X-Men Sony Spider Man franchises, then Marvel Studios’ ever-growing hit list. By the time he passed away, audiences who had never picked up a comic book were reaching out and looking forward to the warm comic parts.
However, this new deal doesn’t necessarily pave the way for Lee’s comeback in films, at least not in the way fans traditionally know it, insiders warn. It’s unclear if audiences even have an appetite to see Lee be revived digitally, as actors like Carrie Fisher or Peter Cushing were sure star Wars Movies.
The deal gives Marvel permission to use Lee’s name, voice, likeness and signature in films and television projects, as well as to use existing photos, footage, and audio recordings that show him. The rights to use Lee’s name, sound, likeness, and signature exclusively on theme parks, cruise lines, and in-park merchandise were also included in the deal. The public and park goers can see Lee appear as figures and toys, and on clothing and stationery.
Genius Brand, a global children’s media company, has created a joint venture with POW! , a media company Lee co-founded with Jill Champion and Arthur Lieberman, in July 2020. Heyward – who described Lee as a mentor and is the former president of Dubai Internet City Entertainment, home of Tool inspector — He said he led the project because, in the wake of Lee’s death and the revelations of struggles in Lee’s later years, “a proxy was needed for his legacy.” The company is now examining Lee’s files and handling offers, all through a protective lens.
The audience revered Stan, and if it was done with good taste and respect for what he was, [uses of his likeness] He’ll be welcome,” Heyward said. “He’s a lovable character, and long after you and I are gone, he’ll remain the core of Marvel.”
May 5, 9:20 a.m. Updated to reflect Lee’s image not being used in VR and video games.