Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee has filed a $1 billion (£742 million) lawsuit against POW! Entertainment, the media company he founded in 2001.
He claims that the company’s president Gill Champion and its CEO Shane Duffy took advantage of his grieving state following the death of his wife Joan and also his macular degeneration when the business was sold to Hong Kong-based company Camsing International in 2017.
The 95-year-old says that he never knowingly signed the agreement for the ‘sham’ deal, and that it amounts to a fraudulent theft by Duffy and Champion of his ‘identity, name and likeness’, branding it – with a phrase lifted straight from the comic books – a ‘nefarious scheme’ involving possible forgery.
He says that the deal’s final details were not disclosed to him before he signed, and because Lee was declared legally blind in 2015, that he could not see the document, and was therefore tricked into signing away ‘the exclusive right to use Lee’s name, identity, image and likeness on a worldwide basis in perpetuity’.
Lee’s attorney Adam Grant writes in the filing (via THR): “Lee does not recall anyone reading the Illegitimate Document to him, and, due to his advanced macular degeneration, he could not have read it himself.
“While the Illegitimate Document purports to contain Lee’s signature, Lee never knowingly signed it. Either Duffy, Champion, Oliveraz [sic] or POW! (1) forged Lee’s signatures; (2) lifted Lee’s signature from another document and imposed it on the Illegitimate Document; or, (3) someone, likely one of the Defendants, induced Lee to sign the Illegitimate Document by using a bait and switch tactic: telling Lee it was something else.”
He also alleges that POW! then took control of his social media channels and started impersonating him, and is now seeking damages in excess of $1 billion.
It’s only the latest dramatic legal matter surrounding the co-creator of comic characters including Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, The X-Men and Thor.
He’s currently suing his former business manager Jerardo Olivarez for fraud, accusing him of mismanaging his affairs and embezzling millions of dollars, at the time when he was grieving over the death of Joan Lee in 2017.
Lee was also recently sued for damages by a masseur who has accused him of sexual misconduct during a massage appointment at a hotel in Chicago.
It has also been alleged that he harassed and groped nurses employed to care for him at his home in Hollywood.
He has strongly denied both claims.
A detailed exposé in The Hollywood Reporter last month alleged that Lee has been the victim of elder abuse at the hands of his daughter J.C. and others who have sought to profit from his fame and fortune.
Lee has denied those claims too.