Stan Lee Media, Inc. files suit against 'Conan'

Stan-Lee-Conan

Image Credit: Chris Hatcher/PR Photos; Brian Andrew Mendoza

Stan Lee Media, Inc., a company founded by comic book legend Stan Lee, wants a judge to rule that it is still the rightful owner of the character Conan the Barbarian. In a lawsuit filed Aug. 19 in federal court in L.A. and obtained by EW, SLMI is demanding 100 percent of the film’s proceeds. The company claims its bankruptcy in 2001 would have prevented anyone from taking the rights to the Conan character away. In the suit, Stan Lee Media, Inc. claims the company was betrayed by a former lawyer who made an illegal deal to transfer the rights to another company that would later green-light this summer’s Conan movie. The poorly reviewed remake earned $10 million on its opening weekend, barely beating the debut of the original Conan the Barbarian in 1982.

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  • Stacie

    Does he get the debts too since this movie bombed?

    • Tom

      He’s just upset that so many comicbook movies have bombed recently, he is starting to understand why. They just pump these out, and they don’t care how poorly made they are.

      • Huh

        Bombed lately??? Thor, Captain America and Xmen First Class were all hits.

      • teatroborikua

        Thor, Cap and X-Men all made some bank, yes, but none of those films made an impact. They were all assembly-line films that were polished, slick and commercial. But they were all the kind of film audiences forgot once they left the theatre. It’s benn quite a while since we’ve had a truly huge blockbuster superhero film like Iron Man (the first), TDK or Spider-Man.

      • nikkido

        He is just made that he did not get to make a cameo in the movie.

      • Dino Bravo

        The only recent comic book movie that didn’t do well was Green Lantern, which is a DC Comics property. Stan Lee is Marvel, genius.

      • gazmo

        Greedy old fart robbed Jack Kirby in life AND after death . . . . and he STILL wants more.

        He’s 100 frigging years old – how many nursing homes does one man need to afford????

      • Phil

        With the exception of the new Batman movies that are staying true to DC comic book form the rest of them from DC have kinda tanked…. All of Marvel’s comic book movies, for the most part, have held their own. Granted Daredevil is probably one that shouldn’t have been made to begin with but all the others seem to have done quite well with the X-Men and Spiderman movies setting the standard as to how they should be made.

      • The Chic Geek

        Seriously, guys, it’s the lawyers not Stan Lee doing this.

      • Long John

        Tom, your an idiot he no longer owns the rights to Marvel, Disney does.

      • Chasm

        What comic book movies have bombed? The only movie was Green Lantern and that’s a DC character.

      • soulsabr

        Sorry, niccido, but stan lee does not own stan lee media. In fact, stan lee media has sued stan lee but I don’t remember who won. Dontcha just love legal stuff?

      • The Rock-a-who?

        Um guys, “Conan” isn’t a comic…it was a series of short stories written by Robert E. Howard.

        Now, it later BECAME a comic by Marvel in 1970 and later the movie with Arnold in 82.

    • tom

      MOST comic book movies as of late have actually done well. X-men, Iron Man, SPIDERMAN, SUPERMAN , THE DARK KNIGHT (BATMAN), MOST, not all.

      • Jeremy

        actually Stan Lee is the Father of Marvel. DC has nothing to do with him. Disney owns his characters and all of those characters have done fairly well. Avengers will be disneys first Marvel movie…. im excited…

      • Harley Q

        I’d like to argue about Superman. If you’re talking about the one that came out in 2005 and bombed and made no since what-so-ever…yea that wasn’t done well at all.

      • Rachel

        And Spiderman made money, but it sucked.

      • AL

        Isn’t Superman DC, not Marvel??

      • Christine

        “THE DARK KNIGHT (BATMAN)”

        Thanks for clearing that up, buddy.

    • silkee

      Doesn’t Robert E. Howard, the original author, or his estate own the rights to Conan?

      • thin

        I think they’re just talking about the film rights, but the way it’s written does seem to imply ownership of the entire character.

      • Patrick Richardson

        Conan Properties own the publishing rights. Dark Horse Comics is the licensee for comics,graphic novels and some merchandise like statues,lunch boxes,pvc sets and the like.

      • Gosh

        This whole debate is ridiculous.

        The works of Robert E. Howard are in the public domain and have been for many years. Nobody can own the rights to the character.

      • Filthy Screw

        IIRC RE Howard’s work is not in the public domain in the US. Glenn Lord used to own it (back when I even bothered to care).

        He has been successfully adapted to tv and film but few really get the feel for his work. Most consider him racist. He was by modern standards and by his own time and place. Meaning that Howard like most men and women of the time lived in a world steeped in racism. It would be remarkable if it was not a part of his work.

        I’ve seen modern Sword and Sorcery where the characters are uncomfortable with using furs or killing any animals. This idea would have been simply incomprehensible to the average pre-industrial person.

        A good book tells you something about the characters, a bad book tells you something about the author.

    • waagtod

      Does Robert E. Howard get to sue Stan Lee for out right theft of the Conan character in the first place? Funny thing, a thief sueing another thief to get back what he stole!! And Howard was 10 times the writer Lee is, was or could hope to be.

      • kragshot

        Marvel Comics actually had legal permission from the Howard estate to produce the comic.

      • DKT

        If nothing else, I’m sure the theif suing a thief thing would make Conan laugh!

      • Gosh

        Robert E. Howard is dead. He did not have any surviving next-of-kin.

        His works are in the public domain. Anyone can adapt his works. As Howard was a lonely recluse, any claim to ‘the estate of of Robert E. Howard’ is just as suspect as Stan Lee’s claim.

      • NDLily

        Death has nothing to do with it, unless he died more than 75 years ago and did not set up provision for a trust that could continually renew the rights or specifically bequeath the rights to another person or entity. So yes legally speaking, it is not a stretch to imagine that someone or some institution still controls the rights to the original material and if they pressed the point they could get in on the fray . . . not that it sounds like there is much money to be made.

    • curtis martin

      No. He’s “just upset” that someone stole a property he owned and is going to make a lot of money off of it. Wouldn’t you be?
      And the film, made relatively on-the-cheap, will indeed make a lot money once it has played internationally and is released for home viewing.

  • Gre

    For a second I was afraid Stan Lee was bringing suit against Conan O’Brien, perhaps for his Conan Superhero schtick!

    • TQB

      me too, that’s the only reason I clicked on the story…

      • allie d

        me too. hmmm, was that on purpose?

      • steph

        they SHOULD have cast conan as conan. it would be a fantastic fish out of water comedy.

    • Ed

      I clicked for the same reason. Stan Lee vs O’Brien is not something I can support.

    • Harley Q

      You mean Flaming C? DC Comics made that character for him.

      • Harold

        Librarians routinely asssit faculty, researchers, graduate students, and (increasingly) undergraduates craft and refine their research projects. In fact, on many campuses, the subject specialist librarian is the go-to person in this area. Librarians have at least kept up with, if not been on the cutting edge of, the latest digital technologies for the production and dissemination of information. No need to imagine who will do this your campus librarian is ready to help.

  • John Platt

    It’s extremely important to note that Stan Lee has NOTHING to do with Stan Lee Media. It’s a company he co-founded in 1998 that has since gone on to be owned by other people whose primary business path is suing other people.

    • Mark Tornits

      if that is true, they really need to take his picture down-

      • Lyndsey

        It is true. They’ve even sued Stan Lee himself!!!

    • Ian

      Yeah, I wanted to point this out too

    • I_Captain Blanco

      God forbid ET should do anything so mundane as check its facts when it can go for pure sensationalism instead. Who do they think they are, E!?

      • thin

        ET, EW, they’re all the same company, right?

    • John

      Thanks for pointing that out because I was thinking that too. Now Stan is taking heat for something he has nothing to do with.

    • FD

      It’s got to sting when your name and image is constantly used to represent a group of legal vultures.

  • Leithen

    Strange….Dark Horse has been publishing Conan comics for years, and yet the folks at Stan Lee Media said nothing…only when movie dollars are involved do they poke their heads in..

    • K

      I was just thinking the sane thing. Dark Horse has been pushing out comics for years and nothing and now this

    • derek

      I think we’re just talking about film rights here, not publishing rights. Different companies can own different rights associated with a character. Like how Disney owns Marvel, but Sony owns the film rights to several characters, like Spiderman and Fantastic Four.

    • Thom

      Stan Lee has been known to work with Dark Horse comics. if you saw his reality show from a few years back on SyFy, the winner was to have their own Dark Horse Comic published.

  • Fred

    The comics license and the film license are two totally different things. EW is absolutely TERRIBLE at researching background on multimedia properties. TERRIBLE.

    • Fred

      Of course, they also failed to note that Stan has nothing to do with the company anymore either. They let readers do that. Geez.

      • wsugar

        Fred, Fred, twice the fred

    • Vinod

      I loved The Whole Wide World, eelpcialsy the scene where Renee Zellweger’s character goes to Howard’s house for the first time. She knocks at the door but gets no reply. Hearing a voice inside, she circles the place untils she sees an open window. Inside is Howard, pounding away at his typewriter and ranting the the story he’s writing aloud, sounding like a lunatic.Renee hastens back the way she came, but instead of leaving as you’d expect, she heads right back to the door and pounds on it, determined to get inside and meet this man. She understands him instinctively.Love that scene, love everything about it.

  • Gina Vera

    How much of -$$ is 100% ? They want cash for a failed movie franchise. Guess Conan 2 is dead poor Moma I really liked him, hope he gets more work.

    • Miss Suzanne

      I agree, this really sucks for Jason Momoa!
      The other thing that really bugs me is why did they wait until the movie came OUT before stepping up?! It’s like they want all the money without doing any work for it! What, they’re going to jump on the wagon after it’s all done?!
      It didn’t make all that much, but theyre still trying to step in and take 100%… Totally unfair to the cast, crew, & writers of this film. (which had hardly anything in common with the original movie!)
      I’m really relieved that Stan isn’t involved in this chicken crap of a move!

      • thin

        That’s pretty much exactly why they would wait for the movie to be released. All of the profits and none of the risk.

  • D

    Stan Lee literally OWNS the comic book, and rightfully so. He created much of it !!

    • hf

      Stan created nothing in regards to Conan. Conan was created by Robert E. Howard, and the character was licensed to Marvel in the 70′s. Roy Thomas was the writer and Sal Buscema was the main artist and collaborative partner on the comic. Dark Horse now has the license.

      • Matt

        I’m sure he owns more of the character than you think. Nobody is stupid enough to go wrongfully suing for money that’s not theirs. However there are stupid fans on the internet who like to fake knowledge

      • Matt

        I mean for all you know stan lee media owns conan

      • m

        Good points, but the main artist was John Buscema, not Sal, who I believe is John’s son. Also, Barry Windsor Smith and Ernie Chan should get a mention, but your main point that Stan Lee was never a creative force behind Conan is exactly correct.

      • Fairportfan

        Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-SMith, you mean.

        And John Buscema, not his (somewhat-less-talented) brother Sal.

      • ddoublew

        Roy Thomas was the original writer and Stan Lee the editor of Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian series. Barry Smith drew every issue from #1 through #24, with the exception of issues 17 & 18 (which were drawn by Gil Kane), and was a phenominal success at the time. John Buscema took over the artist’s helm after Smith left the title. I still own Conans #2 thru 24 with the exception of #’s 15, 17 and 18 – I just hope the new movie increases their value.

        Signed,
        Keeper of the Flame – More Power to ya Stan!

      • hf

        @matt
        I said nothing about ownership, the person I was responding to claimed that Stan Lee created much of it.
        @m
        Yes, I meant John, thanks for the correction.

    • TJ

      Correction…Stan Lee had nothing to do with Conan…PERIOD! Roy Thomas negotiated the rights to do a Conan Comic book with the estate of Creator Robert E. Howard who committed suicide in 1936. Roy Thomas wrote the conan comic and magazine for over 10 years. usually with JOHN Buscema (Not Sal Buscema, his younger brother) as the main artist. The Howard estate controls the rights to the character and Dark Horse now has the comic publishing rights

      • Swharr

        Right, but Stan has a killer mustache.

  • D Preston

    Most Stan Lee Media principals are all behind bars and shareholders lost millions. This company was a pyrmiad scheme from day one. I guess anyone can file a law suit.

    • Becky

      That’s not correct. They are not behind bars and the truth will be told soon.

  • JT

    Does anyone care that Conan was created in the 1930′s by Robert E. Howard? Stan Lee didn’t create him.

    • Daniel

      Yup i do:) And its funny how one of the reviews I saw said that the movie was to serious, most likely that reviewer didn’t know that books are alot darker than any of the movies have been.

  • Ron

    I dont care who’s sueing who they shouldn’t of even re-made this movie and I refuse to see any movie from the 80′s that is being re-made.

    • TJ

      Ron…It’s not a remake…It’s a new movie featuring the character of Conan

      • Joe

        How can you say it is a new movie it goes from the death of his family to his growth as a bad @ss sounds like a remake to me.

      • Leithen

        So is it a remake or another version of the Conan story from the Howard material?

        You don’t say multiple versions of Pride & Prejudice are remakes…

  • Elin Mattsson

    I hope they include the following characters in future Conan sequels:
    Akiro, Bêlit, Fafnir, Red Sonja, Subotai, Valeria, Zenobia
    I look forward to seeing the following villains in future Conan sequels:
    Jenna, Kulan Gath, Mikhal “the Vulture” Oglu, Rexor, Serpent Men, Thorgrim, Thoth-Amon, Thulsa Doom, Vammatar, Xaltotun, Yezdigerd, Zukala

    • Bizness

      The should actually do a Conan story like Red Nails or Tower of the Elephant. Also Thulsa Doom was Kull’s arch enemy not Conan as were the Serpent men of Valusia.

  • Nonya

    Stan needs to get a life!

    • Frank

      IT WASN’T STAN!!!

      And Stan has had a ridiculously awesome life. He wrote comics for a living, cashed in on a million-dollar-a-year emeritus deal from Marvel, and now cameos in every Marvel movie. You are posting on message boards in total ignorance. Stan wins.

  • Matt

    I could be wrong about this, but I thought the rule was that an author’s work falls into the public domain 70 years after his/her death. And since REH died in the 30s then couldn’t anyone do whatever they wanted with Conan?

    • TJ

      Matt…Incorrect. Not if you are talking about Intellectual Property rights to a character…like Conan

      • Jason

        Besides, the REH estate is actively controlled, and it’s controller(s) have the right to renew copyright under REH’s estate. So therefore, REH would still hold the copyright. I believe this is the exact same way the LOTR series’ right are handled if I remember correctly.

      • Fairportfan

        Actually, i believe that under the new law it’s 75 years after the author’s death and then the copyrights are unrenewable.

      • Roadkillarteest

        Yea, it’s like why DC can’t kill Batman and resurrect him for publicity like they did with Superman… Bob Kane’s estate still owns the character and they said “Batman will never die so long as we control the intellectual rights”. Instead, DC “broke” the bat, using Bane, which is why I have SO many questions about the new batman movie, too, even though that’s not the topic here.

    • Mateus

      Hey Pete! Just had a scan of your new blog, looks good we’re kindred tiirpss here I think the challenge is that [marketing is] unsuccessful at developing [interest] into sales is something close to our heart here. We work with small growth companies or skunkworks in larger Co’s (like good old IBM Network Computer Division!?!), so proving exactly that value is always top of the list In fact, it can’t afford not to be, or we’d get the boot PDQ So I’m sure we have a few stories to share on that score. We’re gonna blog more along these lines we have a mantra here marketing should be all about earning the right to sell’

  • Carl jacobs

    Stan is too old to file lawsuits, and Conan sucked.

  • Matt

    The movie may have bombed in the box office, but 10 million bucks is still 10 million bucks lol

    • Brad

      Ok give me $100 and I’ll give you $10. Hey…. $10 is $10 right? lol

    • Clete

      The problem is the way movie accounting is done. It is confusing as hell. A movie that grosses ten million will probably end up as losing money. Movie accountants makes real accountants want to cry.

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