In what is looking increasingly like a screwball comedy, Hollywood Reporter reports (ahem) that Stan Lee Media Inc. are still trying to get Conan.
In August, just as Conan the Barbarian 3D was released, Stan Lee Media Inc. filed a lawsuit in an effort to reclaim ownership on the fictional Conan character. The move by SLMI, which was founded by comic book legend Stan Lee but now operates independently, is part of a larger campaign to put back the pieces from a turbulent bankruptcy from nearly a decade ago.
SLMI believes that finally having a court-recognized board of directors will give it the necessary standing to pursue reclamation of its intellectual property, but the current owners of the Conan character say it’s too late.
SLMI went into bankruptcy in 2001 and soon thereafter, Stan Lee resolved differences with Marvel, bringing over rights to characters including Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, X-Men, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, Thor, and more.
As SLMI continues its fight against Lee and Marvel in an attempt to convince judges that rights to these characters were unlawfully transferred, SLMI also is seeking to regain additional turf in a separate lawsuit against Conan Sales Co., Paradox Entertainment, and others who aided the allegedly improper transfer of Conan in 2002.
Back then, a bankruptcy judge stopped transfer of SLMI assets, but allowed Conan Sales Co. to reclaim the character it once held per a “Settlement Approval Order.” Now, in the current lawsuit, SLMI says the judge’s order should be declared void because 1,800 SLMI shareholders were not provided sufficient notice.
Last week, the defendants moved to dismiss the lawsuit on a variety of points, but especially because the complaint was served on an “untimely” basis.
The motion to dismiss says that SLMI had an opportunity to challenge the order during the bankruptcy process and failed to do so. The defendants argue that the Bankruptcy Code doesn’t require notices to shareholders, and that the bankruptcy judge had found a notice of a hearing to be sufficient.
In order for SLMI to win, the defendants say that their adversary needs to show that a fraud on the court was perpetrated, and nothing in SLMI’s “vague” allegations meet that standard, they say.
Instead, the defendants believe that the lawsuit to reclaim Conan upon the film’s release was an “ambush” that was “intended to, and did, embarrass” defendants at a “very important time.”
A dismissal of the complaint is requested because no substantive allegations are alleged and because relief would cause the defendants, who have spent nearly a decade trying to revitalize the Conan character, “substantial undue prejudice.”
Conan the Barbarian 3D wasn’t exactly a hit, grossing less than $50 million worldwide on a reported budget of $90 million. But a good deal of ancillary revenue and future derivative works could be at stake, and of course, SLMI probably hopes to demonstrate it has regained its feet in the midst of legal battles over other characters.
Mother of Crom…
This “news” is so irrelevant I feel redundant actually posting it on the blog, but for some unfathomable reason, sites all over the internet have been passing this non-story along. Why do I consider this a non-story? Because Stan Lee Media Inc have been making a small saga out of their legal issues, none of which have really amounted to anything productive for them. Stan Lee Media have sued companies an individuals from Marvel to Stan Lee himself. The fact that they announced their plans to sue Paradox on the very same day of the film’s release suggests to me that this is nothing to do with an actual legal dispute (since they have zero legal ground to stand on) and everything to do with SLMI trying to get attention for itself. After all, if they were really interested in getting Conan back, why didn’t they do so back when Dark Horse was publishing the successful Truman-Nord Conan series, or when Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures was released, or even when the 2011 film was officially announced back in 2007? Because, good reader, Stan Lee Media Inc. is nothing short of a haemorrhoid on the fundament of the cultural landscape.
Some might think that SLMI getting control of Conan would be a good thing, that Paradox have been mishandling the license (despite actively facilitating the publication of pure Howard texts, as well as spearheading new products and merchandise that has proven much more successful than the film thus far) and that new owners are the only way forward. They might also think that the company is affiliated with Marvel, and seeing the success of the Marvel Studio movies, consider it a great idea. However, one must remember that SLMI has nothing to do with either Stan Lee or Marvel, and that SLMI’s past projects aren’t exactly the talk of the town. Be careful what you wish for.
- Stan Lee Media Inc. bought Conan Properties Inc. in November 2000
- Stan Lee Media Inc. filed for bankruptcy in December 2000
- Any assignment of rights to Stan Lee Media Inc. is terminated in 2001, on account of bankruptcy
- Said rights were transferred to various other hands
- Stan Lee Media Inc. thus had the Conan rights for a matter of weeks, producing no new merchandise or material before going bankrupt
- Paradox Entertainment bought Conan Properties Inc, in 2002
- Paradox Entertainment acquires 85% of the Robert E. Howard estate in 2006
- Stan Lee Media Inc. decides to sue Stan Lee in 2011
- Stan Lee and Marvel have nothing to do with Stan Lee Media Inc.
- Stan Lee Media Inc. is a sleazy, contemptible parasite of a company which has nothing better to do than to sue companies for properties it has lost the rights to and never actually did anything with in the first place
OK? I invite anyone more versed in legalese to correct any mistakes, but from what I can see, Stan Lee Media Inc. have no legal leg to stand on, and the only thing they’re entitled to is to be an annoyance.