Starstruck Struck

Marvel/Disney Hammers Creator-Owned Starstruck Creators With Cease & Desist Letter

Starstruck™ and all characters, concepts, and likenesses trademarks and  © Elaine Lee and Michael W. Kaluta—Marvel/Disney, take note!

Look, I told everyone once the Marvel vs. Friedrich judgment was cast, we’d be seeing Marvel/Disney going after every creator that emerged in their legal department bullseye.

Case in point: last week, Marvel/Disney issued a “Cease and Desist” letter against ELAINE LEE & MICHAEL KALUTA for their creator-owned, Epic-published STARSTRUCK.

Elaine Lee wrote, this morning, on Facebook:

“Look, I’ll say it now. Kaluta and I, just week before last, received a letter from a Marvel/Disney attorney, challenging our rights to Starstruck, a project that was briefly with Marvel/Epic, supposedly their creator-owned imprint, almost three decades ago. Since then, we’ve been published by Dark Horse and IDW. This has sent us rummaging through 30-year-old documents, looking for proof that we own what we own. We’ve found several letters that back up our claim that the rights were returned to us, and things seem to have quieted down, but we are still looking for more “just in case.” You don’t screw around with The Mouse.

I’m currently doing an interview for a new book on women in geeky professions. They asked me to give advice to young women starting out. My advice is do your own thing. Keep the rights to your work. If you sell your work, make sure you get Hollywood money, not comic book money.”

Got that? Marvel/Disney, attacking the creators of the only creator-ownership line they’d launched, post Comix Book.

The Marvel/Disney legal machine is capable of anything in the name of “we own it ALL.”

I’m willing to bet it’s a trademark issue for the legal dept. at Disney: they made a teen movie entitled Starstruck in 2010—of course, the two “Starstruck” properties have nothing to do with one another.

But Marvel/Disney is absolutely defined by its greed and avarice, if nothing else, and this shoe dropping before the end of 2012 should be sending shockwaves through everyone who ever did ANYTHING at Marvel, ever. (To spin off from Starstruck movie star Sterling Knight‘s Disney Channel spinoff, “So Random!“)

Anyone else out there quietly suffering Marvel/Disney cease & desist letters? SPEAK UP.

Followup, posted 12/7 (same day) at 6 PM:

Elaine Lee posted on Facebook: “Announcement! Just got it in writing. The matter has been resolved. Sent to our lawyer around 3:00 PM EST.”

In a private FB message, Elaine thanked me, noting that we’ll never know if this online dustup (this went viral on Facebook, and was picked up by made a difference or not—but thanking me nonetheless.

I expect, if asked, Marvel/Disney will forever claim otherwise, but I believe speaking up and out, loudly, particularly when you have evidence (specifically clear legal evidence, as Elaine and Michael did and do) backing you up, is a good idea. Had Elaine spoken up last week, I suspect this would have been resolved even sooner, but we’ll never know.

Still, Marvel/Disney has now shown its true colors, folks.

My cautionary statement to all who ever worked with or for Marvel, even its Epic imprint, stands. Get your legal paperwork in order and in reach, and be prepared.

Discussion (13) ¬

  1. James Robert Smith

    This is hideous. This kind of shit goes on in the comic book business because for too many years the intellectual property of the creators was so easily taken/stolen by the publishers. With filth like Stan Lee to back up the lies that the creators don’t own the content of their own minds.

  2. Roger Green

    Anyone selling comic books in the 1980s [raises hand] KNOWS that the EPIC line was touted as a creator-owned line. If Marvel’s saying something different now, it’s Pants on Fire false.

    So if Kaluta and Lee win this, will they be suing Disney/Marvel over the Starstruck movie? I know you can’t copyright the title, but did they trademark it?

  3. Chris K

    Wow… Steve Gerber’s “Godcorp” from Destroyer Duck is looking more and more relevant 30 years on…. “Grab it All, Own it All, Drain it All.”

  4. Elaine Lee

    There’s nothing to win. No lawsuit. Just a letter that challenged our ownership in a rather harsh and scary way. We sent them documents that backed our ownership of the property and it seems to have calmed down. Here’s what bothers me. I’ve moved four times and raised three sons to adulthood, since we signed those Epic contracts. Luckily, Michael Kaluta lives alone, has only moved once, and has kept every document with his name on it since his 1st Grade report card. If a major corporation is challenging creators who worked for them 30 years ago, before everyone kept digital copies, how many documents that supported these creators will have been lost to moves or storm damage or house fires? Honestly, I don’t know if we’re just an aberration, thanks to our title, or if other Epic creators will be challenged. Guess time will tell.

  5. lankyguy

    This surprises anyone?

  6. Elizabeth Watasin

    This may be why you’re getting the scare tactic since the work is now over 30 yrs old:
    I hope this helps!

  7. BobH

    “GodCorp, Ltd.
    We Make Product”

    Steve Gerber & Jack Kirby, 1982

  8. Bill Anderson

    Steve, any word from Tom Yeates or Rick Veitch about whether they’ve been similarly harassed over their Epic titles?

  9. srbissette

    Elaine Lee posted: “Announcement! Just got it in writing. The matter has been resolved. Sent to our lawyer around 3:00 PM EST.”

  10. Peter Urkowitz

    Glad to hear about the happy resolution of this scary incident.

    Starstruck remains one of the great masterpieces of the modern comics era, and knowing that it is owned by its creators is a source of joy and pride for comics fans everywhere. Thanks for the reminder!

  11. Chuck Miller

    It doesn’t even look like Disney intends to do anything with it. What the creators do with it would not affect them at all. Just throwing their weight around because they can. They must have a whole legal department looking for non-issues like this so they can bully people.

  12. Henry R. Kujawa

    They have to justify their jobs. Like Hollywood “script doctors” who HAVE to bastardize every film script that comes before them, otherwise, why are they collecting that fat paycheck for?

    In recent years I’ve found myself more and more referring to Stan Lee as a “Hollywood kinda guy”. He always said he wanted to get out of comics, and into movies. Along the way, he had a lot of practice… needlessly re-writing OTHER PEOPLE’s stories, then claiming the finished result was all his idea.

  13. WordAndReason

    Chuck Miller wrote: “They must have a whole legal department looking for non-issues like this so they can bully people.”
    I suspect that this kind of thing has nothing to do with any legitimate claims of ownership, but rather a legal team insuring their own continual flow of paychecks. No cases, no pay.
    “It’s been a while. Find someone to sue before they start asking what we’ve done this month.”

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