The Marvel super-villain Chameleon, created by Stan Lee, is a master of disguise, capable of taking the identity of anyone he chooses. One storyline even involves Chameleon impersonating Spider-Man himself to frame him robbing a bank. In a bizarre twist to an ongoing legal saga, the 95-year-old Lee is now alleging that the Chameleon is after him.
Lee, the face of Marvel comics and creator of such characters as Hulk, Black Panther, and the X-Men, is suing the company he co-founded, POW! Entertainment, for conning him into signing away the rights to his name and likeness, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Lee is said to allow only non-exclusive licenses to his identity, but he says POW! tricked him into agreeing to an exclusive contract.
In the complaint, obtained by the Hollywood Reporter, Lee’s attorney Adam Grant says that Lee does not recall being read any such agreement, and that he could not have possibly read it himself due to macular degeneration that left the comics legend legally blind in 2015. Grant says that means one of three things happened: Either Lee’s signature was forged, copied from another document, or Lee was told he was signing something else.
Lee tweeted yesterday (May 15) that someone had also “hijacked” his social media accounts:
The $1 billion lawsuit is the latest in a string of wild legal episodes involving the aging Lee, that make the convoluted plot lines of Avengers: Infinity War look simple by comparison. Last month, Lee sued his ex-business manager for fraud, alleging that the man created a fake charity in order to sell comic books literally stamped with Lee’s blood as a kind of “DNA Ink” for fans.
That came shortly after the Hollywood Reporter published a sweeping investigative report detailing allegations of widespread elder abuse against Lee by several parties, including his own daughter. Shortly after that, Lee himself was accused of sexual misconduct by a Chicago masseuse. Phew.
Perhaps the most famous (human) name in the history of comic books, Lee has become a global star in his own right, making cameo appearances in every Marvel movie. In 2001, he co-founded POW! Entertainment with Gill Champion, now one of the defendants in the lawsuit. Hong Kong-based Camsing International acquired POW! for an undisclosed sum last year; Lee says Champion and POW! CEO Shane Duffy failed to disclose the terms of the deal to him.
The dozens of superhero identities that Lee helped create together are worth billions of dollars in intellectual property. (Lee’s estate is estimated to be worth only between $50 and $70 million, after he failed to cash in on the Marvel movie universe.) But the identity most valuable to Lee is, apparently, his own.