The 20-year deal could mean that Lee – the beloved co-creator of Spider-Man, Avengers and Hulk who died in November 2018 – may feature in forthcoming films and TV shows.
Lee’s likeness and name can now also be used in Disney theme parks and various “experiences”, as well as merchandising. The deal is a venture between Genius Brands International and POW! Entertainment.
News of the deal has attracted criticism from Marvel fans who have accused the company of “exploiting a dead man’s image”.
“As a fan, I loved all of Stan Lee’s cameos and miss them too but stop exploiting him beyond the grave and just let the man rest in peace,” said one fan.
The former writer and editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics in the Sixties famously made cameos in the superhero films. Among them were his roles as a juror in 1989’s The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, and as a bus driver in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War.
“The way Marvel is milking Stan Lee’s legacy is sad,” wrote one person.
Another added: “They will never stop selling his name, and it’s sickening,” while someone else wrote: “Stan Lee is no longer a person. He is now a Marvel character that will say and do whatever Disney commands.”
“Not a single audience member in the world will see CGI Stan Lee in future Marvel films and think it’s cool. Let the man rest in peace,” said another.
Andy Heyward, the chairman and CEO of Genius Brands, said that the deal “ensures that Stan, through digital technology and archival footage and other forms, will live in the most important venue, the Marvel movies, and Disney theme parks”.
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“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,” said Heyward. “He is a beloved personality, and long after you and I are gone, he will remain the essence of Marvel.”
The Independent has contacted a representative of Marvel for comment.