Before he sadly passed away last November, the final months of Stan Lee’s life were mired by a seemingly endless back-and-forth of legal entanglements and allegations of elder abuse as various parties sought to control the wealth and intellectual properties of the legendary comics writer. Now, those legal battles are being continued by his daughter, J.C. Lee.
The Hollywood Reporter has word that Lee has filed a new lawsuit against POW! Entertainment—the company Stan Lee founded alongside Gill Champion and Arthur Lieberman in 2001 as a holding firm for the writer’s various intellectual properties since he departed Marvel Comics in the 1990s—in California.
The new suit revives claims from a prior, billion-dollar lawsuit filed against the company on Lee’s behalf back in May 2018, which alleged that POW! executives, including Champion, took advantage of Lee’s deteriorating health in an attempt to sell his intellectual property, name, and likeness rights to Chinese holding company Camsing International. As part of the confusing status over just who was speaking on Lee’s behalf from not just a legal standpoint but even across his social media feeds, that lawsuit was dropped two months later, with POW! taking control over Lee’s social media accounts in the process.
The new suit, however, stretches back even before POW!’s formation in 2001, as Lee also hopes to gain access to parts of her father’s intellectual property stored in a self-named holding company set up in the wake of Marvel’s bankruptcy and her father’s departure from the publisher in the mid-1990s. Although in the time since his departure and the foundation of POW!, Lee rekindled his relationship with the publisher in 2005—to the tune of a reported $10 million dollar settlement, as well as an honorary Chairman Emeritus title at the company and a reported annual $1 million stipend—the filed complaint against POW! is framed by J.C. Lee as an opportunity for the Lee Survivors trust and herself to “remedy the wrongs inflicted by trusted business associates over the last two decades”:
By this lawsuit, Stan Lee’s heir and Estate seek to perform the covenant Stan Lee made with his namesake company and remedy the wrongs inflicted by trusted business associates over the last two decades. It is intended to restore the rights he assigned to the namesake company he founded when he was liberated from a 60-year career with Marvel Comics, the comic book company he founded and creatively directed to become the preeminent Superhero entertainment company in the world.
Among other things, the suit aims to collect damages and claim name and likeness rights, as well as domain names and websites.
It should be noted that this is not the first time that J.C. Lee has become embroiled in the murky circumstances which surrounded her father in his final years. As initial allegations over elder abuse of her father emerged, public court documents were released alleging that J.C. had verbally and physically abused both of her parents in the final months of their lives over access to a car leased in Stan Lee’s name.
The allegations were made all the more complex by the at-the-time confusing and conflicting information about which of several business partners and purported legal guardians of Stan Lee were representing the writer in court. One such caretaker, Keya Morgan—himself also a former associate of J.C.—ultimately had several restraining orders filed against him on Lee’s behalf, and was formally charged with five counts of elder abuse involving Lee by a Los Angeles court earlier this year.
The tragedy of Lee’s passing last November was only further compounded by the messy disarray of the final years of his life slowly becoming public. Now it seems, in the months after his passing, those suddenly public grievances are just going to continue to emerge.
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