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September 26, 2014

Marvel And The Kirby Family Settle Ahead Of Potential SCOTUS Pick-Up Of Case

A billion places, like here. Their joint statement:
"Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes, and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby's significant role in Marvel's history."
I'm glad for this, and although I wish it could have happened years and years ago or in a different world never been an issue, I'm certainly happy for what sounds like a positive step.

imageI've always felt there's room for Marvel to benefit greatly moving forward by focusing on the art of what they do through their great creators. It opens up a very specific kind of market for certain publications and affiliated material, it has a generally positive PR effect, and it allows for them to remind the world that their movies and toys are grounded in some of the greatest popular art of the 20th Century. There are few stories in American arts culture better than that of Marvel Comics. I'm also happy for the family, who were criticized by a certain warped element of fandom as not having a proper interest in the material the family's patriarch created or helped create, and for lawyer Marc Toberoff, who has been savagely lambasted by those who believe he was standing between the family and a positive outcome.

I hope the settlement was a good one above and beyond its suitability in facilitating today's outcome. I doubt we'll know anything beyond broad parameters and maybe not even that. There's an argument that will be made that Marvel wins the legal principle here by avoiding this challenge, but I'm not sure of any pending legal action against which they're now better buttressed. I don't know the case well enough to know if there are other cases that were counting on a pick-up and positive legal outcome with the Kirby case to act as a spear point in terms of what they are doing.

I imagine there was some risk for Marvel in allowing the possibility that the case was going to be picked up and reviewed. While the last legal round went firmly in Marvel's direction, it seemed like there was significant momentum in terms of getting the Supreme Court to revisit what many considered an unfair set of practices and perhaps rectify them. The argument that a few people told me they found most powerful in that "realm of popular opinion" element to this whole mess was the notion of Jack Kirby being treated like an employee in this specific way that so greatly benefited the publishing company without any of the other elements present in terms of what we think an employee looks like and how they're treated. (The writer Kurt Busiek presents that argument here.) But even if there was very little risk for Marvel, or if the risk was only that some schedules might have to be delayed, I think there's enough in the set of positives that Marvel might have been able to see here that it could have seemed like the right choice just on those merits.

My hope moving forward past what I hope for the deal itself is that today's news helps us from ever giving in to the rigidity of thinking that declares that such settlements or reconsiderations of deals or rewordings of agreements is somehow a betrayal of a moral momentum afforded a limited definition of profitability. Exploitation can be mitigated. Better outcomes can be sought. Credit can be shared. The world doesn't end. Still, this wasn't easily won; this settlement came with significant personal and professional cost spread out across generations. The negative example remains.

It also strikes me that 2017 could be a lot more fun now.
posted 12:35 am PST | Permalink

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