NEW YORK (Reuters) - The legal war between comic book art great Jack Kirby’s heirs and Marvel Entertainment over the rights to Iron Man, Captain America and other superhero icons has ended, not with a climactic final battle but with a settlement announced Friday by both sides.
The settlement came as the U.S. Supreme Court was set to discuss whether to take up the long-running case. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
It was the latest chapter in the dispute over Kirby’s claim on rights to the popular, lucrative Marvel comic and movie characters co-created with then-editor and writer Stan Lee during the 1960s.
The wider dispute, dating back well before the court case, was what share of the credit for creating Iron Man, the Hulk and others was due Kirby.
“Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history,” said a joint statement from the heirs and the Walt Disney Co subsidiary.
Representatives of the family and Marvel were not immediately available for comment.
Kirby - who wrote some comic books as well as drew them - died in 1994 at age 76 after a career stretching back to the 1940s.
In 2009, his children, Lisa, Neal, Susan and Barbara Kirby, laid claim to copyrights for work he had created from 1958 to 1963, when he was a freelance artist and drew many of his most popular characters.
Disney bought Marvel that same year for $4 billion.
Marvel in 2010 sued the heirs after failing to reach a negotiated settlement with them over the claims.
Kirby also was present for the creation of the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and Thor, many of whom have featured in blockbuster films. Three Iron Man movies alone have grossed more than $2.4 billion in box office receipts globally, according to online movie publication Box Office Mojo.
In conjunction with Friday’s deal, the family moved to withdraw its petition asking the high court to review a lower court ruling that had decided Kirby’s creations were made at Marvel’s direction and that the company therefore held the copyrights.
U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in July 2011 ruled for Marvel, finding that the works constituted works for hire under the Copyright Act of 1909. In an August 2013 ruling, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled in favor of Marvel.
The case followed other fights by other comic book writers, artists and their heirs to reclaim rights to famed comic book characters, most notably Superman.
The case is Kirby v. Marvel, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-1178.
Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham and Jonathan Oatis