Marvel has signed a 20-year deal with Stan Lee Universe, a venture between Genius Brands International and POW! Entertainment, to license the name and likeness of Lee for use 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 venue, the Marvel movies, and Disney theme parks,” said Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO of Genius Brands.

Lee was writer and editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics when he co-created iconic characters like Spider-Man, The Avengers, Doctor Strange, The Hulk, Black Panther, and dozens more still popular today. In fact, Spider-Man just celebrated his 60th anniversary! He also became the smiling, energetic spokesperson for the entire field of comics and graphic novels, extending to 22 cameo appearances in Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

This new deal does not necessarily mean the return of digital Lee cameos in movies: we don’t know if fans would even want that. It does allow his name, voice, likeness, images, existing footage and existing audio recordings featuring him in movies and television projects. The rights to use Lee exclusively in theme parks, cruise lines and in-park merchandise including toys were also included in the deal.

POW! Entertainment was sold to a Chinese company in 2018, just weeks before Stan Lee’s death. Genius Brands said new Stan Lee Universe programs would be part of its new Kartoon Channel. For example Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten, from 2021. The licensing deal is for Stan’s likeness, not the new properties.

“We are proud to be the stewards of the incredibly valuable rights to Stan Lee’s name, likeness, merchandise, and intellectual property brand,” said Andy Heyward, Chairman & CEO of Genius Brands. “And, there is no better place than Marvel and Disney where Stan should be for his movies and theme park experiences. As we enter the centennial year of Stan’s birthday, December 28, 2022, we are thrilled to see his memory and legacy will continue to delight fans.” Andy Heyward was previously CEO of animation company DIC.

The new trailer for She-Hulk: Attorney at Law featured a sly appearance of Stan and artist Jack Kirby, in the name of a law firm.

Among Lee’s many awards ares the National Medal of Arts and the Disney Legends Award, which he received in 2017. He was also inducted into the comics industry’s Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame, the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. The Saturn Awards created a special Stan Lee World Builder Award.

Even before the deal, Marvel found ways to create Stan Lee easter eggs, like this WandaVision license that displays Stan’s birthday.

Will we be seeing holo-Stan at the next Marvel Theme Ride? It could still happen.


David Raiklen
David Raiklen

David Raiklen wrote, directed and scored his first film at age 9. He began studying keyboard and composing at age 5. He attended, then taught at UCLA, USC and CalArts. Among his teachers are John Williams and Mel Powel.
He has worked for Fox, Disney and Sprint. David has received numerous awards for his work, including the 2004 American Music Center Award. Dr. Raiklen has composed music and sound design for theater (Death and the Maiden), dance (Russian Ballet), television (Sing Me a Story), cell phone (Spacey Movie), museums (Museum of Tolerance), concert (Violin Sonata ), and film (Appalachian Trail).
His compositions have been performed at the Hollywood Bowl and the first Disney Hall. David Raiken is also host of a successful radio program, Classical Fan Club.