Steve Ditko Vs Marvel. Toberoff Strikes Again

Over the past two decades and change, our old mate Marc Toberoff has been at the forefront of trying to get characters out of both Marvel and DC. I have no doubt that his heart is in the right place, but, as the Superman case showed us, part of his reasoning is to gain control the characters - he was trying to enter into a joint venture with the Siegel and Shuster heirs in order to make a Superman film, which would have seen him make a lot of cash. Good on him, he sees a chance and he takes it. 

Funnily enough, the only other high profile termination case that he wasn't involved with was Gary Friedrich and the Ghost Rider case. But, outside of the comic world and Nic Cage, that wasn't ever going to be a big money case.

If you were to study his previous cases where heirs have regained copyrights, you'll notice that, in the small print, Toberoff also gets some control. His other standard operational method is to wait until the principal dies. He then approaches the heirs and, with his aid, the heirs subsequently file suit. This is how the Jack Kirby case went down, this is how the Siegel/Superman case went down and, true to form, now that Steve Ditko is dead, his brother, Patrick, is now filing termination suits against Marvel Comics. 

His legal counsel? Marc Toberoff.

The case for Ditko is a simple one and follows the same path as the Jack Kirby case. Patrick Ditko, who is the administrator of Steve Ditko's estate, has filed termination notices focusing on both Doctor Strange and Spider-Man. Nobody would ever argue that Steve Ditko created Doctor Strange - even Stan Lee admitted that much in a number of interviews. As for Spider-Man, well that's a can of live bait that you really don't want to open. The number of fingers in that creative pie is amazing, and the truth of the matter may never really be known.

What is of interest in this case is that the termination notices cover some of the same comics that Marvel and Toberoff have already fought over and settled. In that case, Toberoff's claim was that Kirby co-authored the first seven Spider-Man issues in question, along with Amazing Fantasy #15, now he's claiming, and rightly this time, that Ditko was the co-author. In some cases, Ditko was the sole author. It's been accepted for decades that Ditko not only drew the title, but also wrote it after the first 20 issues or so. Hell, even Stan Lee admitted that.

It'll be interesting to see where this case goes. Marvel tarnished it's image with the Kirby and Friedrich cases, so a quick settlement in the Ditko case, involving future royalties and cash wouldn't be out of the questions. This case mean millions of dollars changing hands, but when you're dealing with a franchise that it making billions of dollars annually, both Marvel and Disney can afford to hand over a few million.

Now here's the kicker. From the start, back in 2002, Marvel and Sony attempted to give Ditko money for the Amazing Spider-Man movies, but he refused to take it. He also wrote essays about how he had no claim on either Spider-Man or Doctor Strange as they were done as work for hire. 

That should tell everyone exactly what Steve Ditko thought of getting money and rights out of Marvel.

In the meantime, here's the issues that the Ditko's are attempting to reclaim.

And, for those keeping score, here's the legal document, as filed by Marvel.

So, watch this space. Interesting times are afoot. The irony in all of this? Steve Ditko wouldn't have been bothered with suing Marvel. He knew what he did was work-for-hire and he always looked forward in life. To him, this case would have been a waste if time and money.,


Mark Waid said…
Yeah, this is ugly. Regardless of where you come down on the issue of who should get what, Toberoff--and I speak from personal experience--is a bottom-feeding grifter, full-stop. Ugh.
Daniel Best said…
You'd know more about Toberoff than most, having dealt with him personally. My only dealings with him was when he strip mined an interview that I did with Larry Lieber to suit his own needs, taking a few words out. But it's his practice of going after properties and attempting to attach himself as a co-owner that really burns me. If he was fighting for heirs and people to get their rights back, then great. But it seems that he has a vested interest in doing so. I've always wondered if he was approached by Gary Friedrich and told that no, Gary wanted Ghost Rider back and wasn't sharing him, and thus Toberoff walked. It'd be in character. You only have to look at his previous cases to see how many properties he now has a hand in.

As for his skills as a film-maker - ever seen Piranha 4? That's the quality of his films.

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