With the arc of Spider-Man’s cinematic future becoming the latest topic of conversation, everyone’s chiming in with their thoughts and opinions about the beef between Marvel Studios and Sony over the character. That includes J.C. Lee, the daughter of late Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee.
When TMZ recently asked the surviving Lee her thoughts about the multimillion-dollar Spider-spat, she made sure to mention that neither Marvel nor Disney made an effort to contact her following her father’s death, despite the studios’ having recently made sure to bank a number of cameos featuring the then 95-year-old for future movies:
When my father died, no one from Marvel or Disney reached out to me.
From day one, they have commoditised my father’s work and never shown him or his legacy any respect or decency. In the end, no one could have treated my father worse than Marvel and Disney’s executives.
While the corporations might not have reached out to J.C. directly following her father’s death, the degree to which Marvel and Disney supported Lee financially is a complicated matter.
In 2005, Marvel settled with Stan Lee, allegedly to the tune of $US10 ($15) million, after he sued the company for failing to honour an agreement to pay him 10 per cent of the profit share from productions like Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies and the first X-Men films.
Lee also served as Marvel’s chairman emeritus for decades and is said to have received an annual salary of about $US1 ($1.4) million for his duties.
It’s also worth noting that in the months leading up to Stan Lee’s passing in 2018, court documents that were surfaced as a result of his ongoing legal battles against those taking advantage of his status and wealth revealed that the legendary comics scribe’s family life — especially regarding his daughter J.C. — was at times just as tumultuous as his professional career.
In addition to claims that J.C. verbally abused Lee toward the end of his life, court documents also alleged that Lee’s daughter also physically assaulted both of her parents on at least one occasion in response to being denied access to a car leased in Lee’s name.
All of the allegations were further complicated by a period in time when Lee himself largely disappeared from the public eye, save for a series of strange social media posts in which he appeared in seemingly-coached video messages where he insisted that everything was going fine, despite how things looked otherwise.
Though the person posting from Lee’s accounts initially attempted to make it seem as if Lee was writing and sharing the messages himself, in time it came to light that was not the case, and it appeared as if Lee’s now-disgraced caretaker Keya Morgan was actually in control of Lee’s digital presence.
When Morgan was issued a restraining order to stay away from Lee last year, Morgan claimed that the accusations against him were all fabrications conceited by J.C. to drive a wedge between him and Lee.
Suffice to say that the Lee saga ended in a depressingly messy way. But, despite all of the questions surrounding J.C.’s behaviour, she did make an excellent point to TMZ about how Disney and Sony’s fight encapsulates the larger story of how IP is being concentrated in Hollywood:
Marvel and Disney seeking total control of my father’s creations must be checked and balanced by others who, while still seeking to profit, have genuine respect for Stan Lee and his legacy. Whether it’s Sony or someone else’s, the continued evolution of Stan’s characters and his legacy deserves multiple points of view.
Competition between studios that have access to valuable, popular characters that audiences want to see is how you end up with movies like Logan, Into the Spider-Verse, and Deadpool that deviate from established cape movie formulas (even if only somewhat) because they literally have to do something different in order to grab people’s attention.
But the more the megacorporations consolidate their power, the less we’re going to see of that kind of healthy, competitive innovation.