January 29, 2009 5:45 PM
Bam! Whap! Marty Garbus Joins the Tortured Legal History of Stan Lee; Marvel
Posted by Brian Baxter
Famed trial lawyer Martin Garbus--whose notable clients have included such high-profile humorists as
Lenny Bruce and Don Imus--is back in court for a dispute with comics at its heart, only this time they're of
the superhero, not the stand-up, variety.
On Monday, Garbus filed a derivative suit in U.S. district court in Manhattan on behalf of four shareholders
of Stan Lee Media, Inc., (SLMI) against legendary comic book creator Stan Lee, Marvel Entertainment, and
several other individuals.
In the suit, Garbus claims the defendants violated his clients' copyrights, ignored their rights as SLMI
shareholders, and improperly pocketed $750 million in proceeds from Marvel-owned franchises like Spider-
Man, Iron Man, and the X-Men. (The $750 million figure represents a 50 percent ownership stake in Marvel
and Lee-held properties.)
In his complaint, Garbus accuses Marvel, Lee, Lee business partner Arthur Lieberman, current Marvel CEO
Isaac Perlmutter, and Avi Arad, a major Marvel shareholder, of colluding "to hide and misappropriate
financial interests in Lee's creations assigned to Stan Lee Media in 1998 and reaffirmed in 1999."
"Marvel says they have those rights subsequent to an agreement between Stan Lee and [SLMI] signed on
October 15, 1998," says Garbus. The problem, says Garbus, is that the same people who signed that
agreement (including Lee and Lieberman) later put SLMI into bankruptcy. "At the same time [Lee and
Lieberman] were preparing bankruptcy papers, they were taking assets out of the bankrupt estate."
Garbus gained some ammunition for his suit on Tuesday when, in a related case, U.S. district court judge
Stephen Wilson in Los Angeles ruled that Stan Lee himself may have violated U.S. bankruptcy laws.
Put it all together and you've got the latest installment in a tortured legal history--a tangled web of litigation
over issues of ownership, royalties, manage