Even though Stan Lee has been dead since 2018, a new deal between Marvel Studios and POW! The entertainment may be a sign that the legendary comic book creator is going to appear in more than a few Marvel-branded projects in the near future.
POW! Entertainment, the production company that Stan Lee co-founded in 2001 and sued in 2018 for allegedly forging his signature on legal documents, entered into a licensing agreement with Genius Brands and Marvel Studios granting the Hollywood giant the right to use Lee’s likeness in its future projects. In A press release Commenting on the 20-year deal, Genius Brands CEO and President Andy Heyward expressed feelings of pride and stewardship for “the incredibly valuable rights to the name, likeness, merchandise and brand of intellectual property of Stan Lee”.
“There’s no better place than Marvel and Disney where Stan should be for his movies and theme park experiences,” Heyward said. “As we enter the centennial year of Stan’s birthday on December 28, 2022, we are thrilled to see that his memory and legacy will continue to delight fans through this new long-term agreement with Marvel. “
In the years and months leading up to Lee’s death in 2018, his life was marked by outrageous allegations of elder abuse as well as financial problems apparently due to the fact that he was surrounded by people looking to cash in on the X-Men co-creator’s name. Lee brought an action against POW! co-founder Gill Champion and CEO Shane Duffy in 2018 for finalizing a deal – using a signature that was allegedly stolen – to use his likeness which the 95-year-old believed to be non-exclusive at the time. POW! insisted that Lee’s claims were “completely baseless” and that the lawsuit was eventually dropped a few months before Lee’s death. Champion said of Lee in today’s press release that he views the licensing deal as a way to honor him.
“As a longtime business partner and friend of Stan, I look forward to commemorating his work in this new way,” Champion said. “Connecting with his fans is important to us and it’s a privilege to be able to do so on his behalf.”
The writing has been on the wall for some time now that Hollywood is more than eager to use digital facsimiles of deceased celebrities to keep their living fans engaged and consuming content, but it’s unclear whether Lee will continue to appear in Marvel films in the future. Talk with The Hollywood Reporter, Heyward said that while he and others still come up with deals with an emphasis on heirloom protection, what will determine how audiences receive future Lee performances is the intentionality behind it.
“The public revered Stan and if it’s done with taste and class, and respectful of who he was, it will be welcome,” Heyward said. “He’s a beloved personality and long after you and I are gone, he will remain the essence of Marvel.”