Marvel Studios and Stan Lee Universe have entered into a 20-year agreement to license the name and likeness of Stan Lee so that the late comic legend will continue to be part of pop culture.
Lee, the beloved co-creator of Marvel characters Spider-Man, Avengers and Hulk who died in 2018 at the age of 95, became a fan favourite of new-age fans who would recognise him through his funny cameos in Fox's "X-Men" and Sony's "Spider-Man" franchises and later in the several Marvel Cinematic Universe films.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the deal will allow the studio to use Lee's name and likeness in future feature films and television productions, as well as Disney theme parks, various "experiences" and merchandising.
"It really ensures that Stan, through digital technology and archival footage and other forms, will live in the most important venues, the Marvel movies, and Disney theme parks. It's a broad deal," said Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO of Genius Brands.
"The audience revered Stan, and if it's done with taste and class, and respectful of who he was, (uses of his likeness) will be welcomed. He is a beloved personality, and long after you and I are gone, he will remain the essence of Marvel," he added.
However, this new deal does not necessarily spell the return of Lee cameos in movies, at least not in the way fans traditionally knew them. Lee's last cameos were for "Captain Marvel" and "Avengers: Endgame" which released just months apart from each other in 2019.
Apart from his name and likeness, the agreement allows Marvel to use Lee's voice and signature in movies and television projects, as well as to use images, existing footage and existing audio recordings featuring him.
The rights to use Lee's name, voice, likeness and signature exclusively in theme parks, cruise lines and in-park merchandise were also included in the deal. Audiences and park goers could see Lee turn up as figures and toys, and on apparel and stationery.
Stan Lee Universe is a venture between global kids media company Genius Brands International and POW! Entertainment, a media company co-founded by Lee along with Gill Champion and Arthur Lieberman, in July 2020.
Lee filed a USD 1 billion lawsuit against POW! Entertainment in 2001 for allegedly forging his signature on legal documents, but later dropped the claim.