The legal squabbles between Stan Lee's daughter JC Lee and his former company, POW! Entertainment, has reached a new milestone as Judge Otis Wright II of the Central District of California dismissed J.C. Lee's lawsuit against POW! with prejudice. The case -- which centers on whether Lee as representative of the now-defunct Stan Lee Media, or POW! Entertainment, should own the rights to Stan Lee's likeness and intellectual property. Lee's claim centered on a claim that her father had signed over the rights in perpetuity to Stan Lee Media, but Judge Wright wasn't buying it. He sanctioned Lee and her counsel, finding that the case was both frivolous and filed for an improper purpose.
The Court sanctioned J.C. Lee in the amount of $1,000,000, while holding her legal counsel jointly and severally liable for $250,000 in sanctions. POW! is characterizing the ruling as vindication, while Lee's attorneys are furious that they did not get to present their case.
"Stan Lee, a superhero in his own right, served to inspire the everyday hero," wrote Wright in his order. "The Court urges parties to treat his legacy with respect and cease engaging in meritless litigation."
"The courts decision to deny Stan Lee's heir the opportunity to Present her case to hold His Ex partner, Gill Champion and Vivian Lo's Camsing international , the Chinese criminal enterprise that hijacked POW Entertainment from its shareholders, accountable for its abuses Is Profoundly disappointing," a representative for Lee told ComicBook.com in a statement. "The extreme financial sanction Imposed by the court for the Estate's effort to protect Stan Lees legacy From Control and exploitation by an ex partner that Stan Lee detested and a Chinese Company That used his name to commit a billion dollar fraud in China is incomprehensible."
Since the start of her feud with POW!, Lee has alleged vague "criminality" on the part of the company, but neither Champion nor anyone else associated with the company has been charged with anything relating to Lee. It seems likely that she is trying to revive arguments made in a lawsuit that Stan Lee launched and then dropped in the last year of his life. When Camsing bought POW!, Lee had claimed that POW! ownership and Camsing had conspired to "steal" his name and likeness. There was no explanation for his decision to drop the suit but with context it seems likely that he was satisfied when he discovered that in spite of the new ownership the organization continued to operate independently.
"We feel vindicated by the Court's decision today," said POW! in a statement. "Stan purposefully created POW! eighteen years ago with me as a place to safeguard his life's work. Before he passed, Stan was adamant that POW! continue to protect his creations and his identity after he was gone, because he trusted that we would safeguard his legacy for generations to come. We promised Stan that POW! would respect and honor his wishes, and that's exactly what we are going to do. We are happy to finally put this ugly litigation behind us and move on to preserving the legacy of this great man and developing the large inventory of intellectual property he left behind. POW!'s commitment to honor and preserve Stan Lee's legacy has not and will not waver."
JC Lee had previously sought to sever ties with Camsing, the Chinese firm that owns POW! Entertainment, alleging "criminality" on the part of the firm. POW! fired back, saying that since Stan Lee Media no longer existed and the statute of limitations for any claims had expired.
In the last years of his life, after the loss of his wife and with his own health failing, Lee appeared to be surrounded by people and entities with competing and sometimes apparently criminal agendas.0comments
Various different representatives for Lee spent months going back and forth with each other, with the police being called to his home at one point. Allegations of elder abuse surfaced not long before his death, and Lee himself appeared to be barely conscious at several convention appearances, with his agents and business partners keeping him busy in spite of what fans thought looked like exhaustion and poor health. At one point, some of Lee's blood was drawn -- perhaps against his will -- to be used in a special printing of a comic that would have had "DNA ink," an echo of something Lee did with KISS decades before. Neither POW! nor JC Lee was involved with that offense, the egregiousness of which called attention to the questions surounding some of the people who surrounded Lee in his personal life. His longtime business manager Keya Morgan was charged with elder abuse, the result of a nearly year-long look into allegations made against him before Lee's death.
Lee herself has been at odds with Lee's various business partners, and appears to have spent some of the time since he passed away trying to get more control over his affairs. Before this, she sued Lee's longtime associate Max Anderson. Among the allegations that Lee's daughter has made in the last year or so is the claim that sexual harassment claims made against the aging comic book writer/editor -- he allegedly groped and made inappropriate comments to nurses taking care of him at his home -- had not been reported to her until they were already in the news.