- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — Stan Lee, the legendary cartoon-hero creator who gifted Spider-Man with the powerful “spidey-sense,” is feeling a tingling of his own — in his wallet.

A Manhattan federal judge ruled that Mr. Lee is entitled to a potential multimillion payday from Marvel Enterprises of profits generated by the company’s television and movie productions — particularly the box-office smash “Spider-Man,” which earned more than $800 million worldwide, and its hugely successful sequel.

“It could be tens of millions of dollars,” Howard Graff, attorney for Mr. Lee, said yesterday. “That’s no exaggeration.”

The Monday ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Sweet found that Mr. Lee was entitled to a 10 percent share of the profits generated since November 1998 by Marvel productions involving the company’s characters, including those created by the prolific cartoonist.

Judge Sweet’s decision didn’t mention a dollar figure, although Mr. Graff was anticipating a windfall because the ruling covered DVD sales and certain merchandise.

“The court essentially ruled in our favor virtually across the board,” Mr. Graff said. “This is a sweeping victory for Mr. Lee.”

John Turitzin, general counsel for Marvel, promised an appeal. Mr. Turitzin noted that Judge Sweet ruled Mr. Lee was not entitled to money from certain movie-based merchandise, and that the judge withheld certain movie-based merchandise, and that the judge withheld judgment on money from joint-venture merchandise sales linked to the Spider-Man and Hulk movies.

“We intend to appeal those matters on which we did not prevail, and to continue to contest vigorously the claims on which the court did not rule,” Mr. Turitzin said. The remaining issues could go before a jury if the two sides can’t reach a settlement.

The lawsuit marks an acrimonious final chapter in the long and productive relationship between Marvel and Mr. Lee, who spent the past six decades working for the company. During a storied career, Mr. Lee created indelible Marvel fixtures such as theX-Men, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil and the Fantastic Four.

“Mr. Lee did not begin this lawsuit without a lot of thought and reservation,” Mr. Graff said. “He was not pleased to do it. He was saddened by the fact that things came to the point where he had to actually start a lawsuit against Marvel.”

The 82-year-old Mr. Lee filed suit in November 2002, claiming an agreement he had signed four years earlier entitled him to 10 percent of Marvel’s haul from its TV and movie productions, as well as merchandising deals.

He already earns a $1 million-a-year salary from Marvel as part of the agreement, but felt he was getting stiffed on additional income due him under the deal.

The money involved was substantial, particularly when it came to the Spider-Man and Hulk movies. Spider-Man earned $114.8 million on its opening weekend, with Marvel eventually collecting more than $50 million in profits. “The Hulk” earned more than $125 million in the United States alone.

Shares of New York-based Marvel fell 81 cents to $17.42 yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange.

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