The home of superheroes including Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men sued one of its most successful artists Friday to retain the rights to the lucrative characters.
The federal lawsuit filed Friday in Manhattan by Marvel Worldwide Inc. asks a judge to invalidate 45 notices sent by the heirs of artist Jack Kirby to try to terminate Marvel's copyrights, effective on dates ranging from 2014 through 2019.
The heirs notified several companies last year that the rights to the characters would revert from Marvel to Kirby's estate.
The lawsuit said Kirby's work on the comics published between 1958 and 1963 were "for hire" and render the heirs' claims invalid.
Comic book characters such as Spider-Man and the X-Men have become some of Hollywood's most bankable properties in recent years.
Marc Toberoff, an attorney who represents the Kirby heirs, said he hadn't seen the lawsuit and had no immediate comment.
The lawsuit said the comic book titles in the notices to which Kirby claims to have contributed include "Amazing Adventures," ''Amazing Fantasy," ''Amazing Spider-Man," ''The Avengers," the "Fantastic Four," ''Fantastic Four Annual," ''The Incredible Hulk," ''Journey into Mystery," ''Rawhide Kid," ''Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos," ''Strange Tales," ''Tales to Astonish," ''Tales of Suspense" and "The X-Men."
John Turitzin, a Marvel lawyer, said in a statement that the heirs were trying "to rewrite the history of Kirby's relationship with Marvel."
He added: "Everything about Kirby's relationship with Marvel shows that his contributions were works made for hire and that all the copyright interests in them belong to Marvel."
Marvel Entertainment, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Co., sought a judge's order that the Kirby notices have no effect.