[Updated 7/9/20] Stan Lee's brand has a new owner. On Monday, Genius Brands International and POW! Entertainment, the company Lee co-founded in 2001, which recently won a legal battle with Lee's daughter, announced a joint venture to create Stan Lee Universe. According to the announcement, Stan Lee Universe will "assume worldwide rights, in perpetuity, to the name, physical likeness, physical signature, live-action and animated motion picture, television, online, digital, publishing, comic book, merchandising and licensing rights to Stan Lee and his IP creations past, present, and going forward." The "past" portion of that statement applies only to Lee's creation from after his time working at Marvel Entertainment. Stan Lee Universe will be jointly owned, with Genius Brands as the managing and controlling partner joint venture.
Andy Heyward, the chairman/CEO of Genius Brands, said, "In all of Hollywood, there is no greater prize. This is the Holy Grail. Stan Lee Universe is a once in a lifetime asset drawn from over 100 original, heretofore unexploited properties, created by the most successful creator of intellectual property of our time."
Per the statement, Stan Lee Universe will draw from the library of characters and intellectual properties Lee created in his post-Marvel career. That includes more than 100 original creations. Stan Lee Universe plans to develop and license seven properties each year.
Stan Lee co-created many of Marvel Comics' most popular characters. With Jack Kirby, he established the Marvel Universe in the pages of The Fantastic Four. Lee was the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics for decades. Marvel sold to the Walt Disney Company for $4.4 billion in 2009, an investment that has paid off for Disney. Marvel's Avengers: Endgame is the highest-grossing movie of all time, earning more than $2 billion.
"It's almost impossible to conceive that one mind created all this wealth," said Heyward. "The spinoffs alone defy the imagination. From animated television, to toys, apparel, video games, and every conceivable licensed product imaginable, Stan Lee characters populate the screens and retail shelves worldwide. There is no creator who has influenced pop culture and created more successful entertainment. Not even Walt Disney. Over and over, again and again, he created characters and stories that resonated in the hearts and minds of all peoples of all ages around the world, with billions and billions and billions of dollars of motion picture box-office, television, and consumer product licensing.
"Having worked with Stan and been a close friend for almost 30 years, nothing could make me prouder than for Genius Brands to become the guardian of both his brand and body of work. I have no doubt that the greatest characters, the greatest stories, and the greatest hits from the mind of Stan Lee have yet to be told. As big as Spider Man, Black Panther, X Men, and the Avengers are today, tomorrow it will be Stan Lee's Tomorrow Men, his Stringbean, his Black Fury, and Virus."
Former President of Marvel Productions, Margaret Loesch, said, "Stan Lee was a one of a kind. So is this asset. Stan Lee Universe is going to be an unimaginable source of blockbuster entertainment for many years to come."
Former President of Walt Disney Television and Chief Content Officer of Genius Brands' new Kartoon Channel!, David Neuman said, "The spinoff opportunities for Kartoon Channel! alone are mindboggling, including a dedicated Stan Lee Universe program block."
Heyward added, "When we looked at the depth of these creations that sit in this library, the magnitude and value of this asset slowly began to sink in. There simply is no greater treasure chest of Intellectual Property anywhere. I feel like we went down to the basement of John Lennon and Paul McCartney's recording studio and found 200 songs that had never been released. One was called Yesterday, another was called Hey Jude, and another called Sergeant Pepper. They were just waiting for us to bring them forth to the market, along with their names and likenesses, signatures, and the right to merchandise the Beatles. It feels that big to us!
"We will be creating a dedicated business and creative unit specific to Stan Lee Universe. For the millions of Stan Lee fans, we look forward to taking this unique asset and faithfully bringing the characters to the movie screens, to comic books, to toys and licensed products worldwide.
"For the Genius Brands' shareholders, we look forward to effectively and smartly monetizing this asset across all platforms. I have no doubt that we will attract the most talented producers, directors, and marketers in the world as we unlock this one of a kind treasury and bring forth the next wave of Stan Lee creations for the world to experience and enjoy. We are proceeding immediately with our due diligence and expect final documentation to follow promptly thereafter."
Update: The original headline for this story state that POW! had sold the right to Stan Lee's name and likeness to Genius. It has been updated to clarify that they've entered a joint venture for Lee's likeness.