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Marvel Studios Signs 20-Year Deal With Genius Brand To License “Stan Lee” For Future Media Use

While legendary comic book writer Stan Lee passed away in 2018, his name and image continue to live on — and are making a hefty paycheck while they do. POW! Entertainment has entered a 20-year agreement with Marvel Studios and Genius Brand that will let Marvel Studios use his name and likeness in future enterprises.

“We are proud to be the stewards of the incredibly valuable rights to Stan Lee’s name, likeness, merchandise, and intellectual property brand,” Genius Brand chairman and CEO Andy Heyward said in a press release.

“There is no better place than Marvel and Disney where Stan should be for his movies and theme park experiences. As we enter the centennial year of Stan’s birthday, December 28, 2022, we are thrilled to see his memory and legacy will continue to delight fans through this new long-term agreement with Marvel.”

Lee had previously run into conflict with POW! Entertainment, which he co-founded back in 2001. The production company was sued for $1 billion by Lee in 2018 for allegedly forging his signatures on legal documents. He later dropped the claim months before his passing.

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“As Stan’s longtime business partner and friend, I’m looking forward to commemorating his work in this new way,” POW! Entertainment president Gill Champion said. “Building a connection with his fans is important to us and it’s a privilege to get to do that on his behalf.”

With the deal, Marvel can now use Lee’s name, image, likeness, and signature in films and television projects, along with utilizing previously recorded footage and audio of Lee. The agreement also includes exclusive rights to use Lee’s name and likeness at Disney theme parks, cruises, and experiences, along with merchandise.

Lee, 92 at the time of his death, has long been celebrated for the creation of timeless Marvel super heroes like Spider-Man, Captain America, the X-Men, Iron Man, the Hulk, and the Fantastic Four, among hundreds of other characters. Lee — who would become Marvel’s editorial director and publisher in 1972 — is also known for his defiance of censorship and the Comics Code Authority, showing that creativity couldn’t be held down.

With today’s technology, it’s now more possible than ever to portray deceased actors in projects with the use of CGI. Disney hasn’t shown to shy away from such creative decisions, as “Star Wars: Rogue One” featured digitalized versions of Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin and Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia.

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Still, it’s unknown whether Marvel Studios will continue to have Lee cameo in the MCU, which he did for each film in the $25 billion-earning franchise from 2008 to his death. The studio has done tributes of Lee in their projects since then, however. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Heyward stated that the audience’s feedback will play a large role in how they utilize him while protecting his legacy.

“The audience revered Stan, and if it’s done with taste and class, and respectful of who he was, [uses of his likeness] will be welcomed,” he said. “He is a beloved personality, and long after you and I are gone, he will remain the essence of Marvel.”


Marvel TV To Be Absorbed Into Marvel Studios

Marvel Television will be disappearing within the next year. The television aspect of Marvel will instead be absorbed into Marvel Studios, and any TV projects that are currently in production will remain until their intended end, but any future projects will be cancelled. Marvel Television’s head Jeph Loeb stated earlier in the month that he was already departing from the company; that combined with an overall decrease in their television viewership, the decision to shut down came rather naturally, however, it still has shocked a lot of people. 

A portion of the Marvel Television staff is gearing up for the significant layoffs that are soon to come after this announcement. Deadline Magazine reports that executive heads that are bracing for impact include Cort Lane, Marsha Griffin, Mark Ambrose, Tom Lieber and Aimee Carlson. Marvel Studios executives, including Senior Vice President of Programming and Production Karim Zreik and a member from his team, will be stepping in to overlook the remainder Marvel Television productions that are still set to be released and produced. 

While sources do say that the television studio should expect a series of layoffs, they also state that many of the TV staff will be reassigned within the overarching Marvel Studios company, and will also continue working as their current positions for the remainder of the shows that need producing. This includes four previously announced animated series, a live-action version of Helstrom which will be streaming exclusively on Hulu, and the final season of ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” panel during the 2019 D23 Expo

“The decision has been made to complete Marvel TV projects that are currently in production, but not continue with any further development. This news follows months of turmoil and uncertainty at Marvel TV with a number of animated and live-action shows teetering or canned, the exit of longtime small screen chief [Jeph] Loeb and the further expansion of big screen boss Kevin Feige’s fiefdom,” A source said from the TV division Tuesday.

The “teetering or canned” programs refer to a multitude of shows that heavily lost viewership within the past year, causing many cancellations. For example, Netflix’s Marvel series including Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and The Punisher, have all been cancelled after their first or second seasons. In addition, as previously mentioned, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be premiering for it’s final season, and it was one of the most successful out of all the Marvel Television series, especially for prime time. 

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The decision also likely stems from the creation of Disney Plus; as Marvel is owned by Disney, so all future endeavors with Marvel Studios will likely be made exclusive for the streaming platform as opposed to the multitude of other platforms Marvel Television has premiered their shows on. There’s also speculation as to the many upcoming Marvel television productions that were promised from the company along with the announcement of Disney Plus. However, Marvel Studios is likely to continue to take on these projects while working through the transition. 

“New upcoming original Marvel shows on the recently launched Disney+ streaming service like WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier had already been placed under Fiege’s mandate before he was anointed Chief Creative Officer in October,” Deadline reports

Kevin Fiege is the President of Marvel Studios, and as stated above, back in October of this year he took on the title of Chief Creative Officer, meaning it’s his duty to oversee all creative and storyline initiatives in the future for Marvel Studios. This means Fiege will likely be in charge of all the television programs that are still to come from the Studio exclusively. For now, only time will tell what the massive entertainment corporation has in store for viewers.