Marvel Vs Ditko: The Major Battle for the Rights to Spider-Man and Doctor Strange

Marvel has become a hotbed for legal battles. In recent years, Sony tried to pull Spider-Man out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Jack Kirby estate tried to sue for Iron Man. Now, two years after his death, the Steve Ditko estate clashes with Marvel for Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, and many related characters. We’ll make the battle of Marvel Vs Ditko simplified.

Who created Spider-Man and Dr. Strange?

Several fans expect an open-and-shut case since it all comes down to who originally created the characters.

However, that answer is a bit more complicated.

Comic books are a collaborative medium, the writer often differs from the inker, colorer, and even letterer.

Stan Lee wrote and edited Spider-Man’s origin story in Amazing Fantasy #15, even providing the character’s core motivation; “with great power, there must also come — great responsibility!”

Ditko’s hand in the creation of Spider-Man comes down to appearance. From pencil to color, the webhead’s design originates in Ditko, as do the appearances of Aunt May and Uncle Ben.

Then for Dr. Strange, the story remains the same, this time including characters like Wong and the Ancient One.

So Stan Lee and Ditko co-created the characters. Why are Marvel and Ditko suddenly at each other’s throats?

It all boils down to Ditko’s employment status at the time of Spider-Man and Dr. Strange’s creation.

Marvel Vs Ditko, simplified

It all started with a Copyright Termination Notice that Marvel received on September 24. Ditko’s brother, and administrator of his estate, Patrick Ditko, filed two copyright termination notices to the superhero giant.

Under the 1976 Copyright Act, Patrick Ditko claims Spider-Man and Dr. Strange as pure creations of Steve Ditko, which he allowed Marvel Entertainment to use in the early 60s. Under this precedent, all rights can be terminated after 75 years.

“On the other hand, Marvel is claiming that Ditko was hired to create these characters. This by default makes Marvel Comics their legal owner, thus effectively nullifying the copyright claim as well as the possibility of the company’s termination of rights to Spider-Man and Dr. Strange,” Giant Freakin Robot reported.

Expectedly, this debate moves into the lawsuit territory as 

What happens if Marvel loses to the Ditko Estate?

While losing full control of characters like Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, even characters like the Falcon, who became the new Captain America earlier in 2021, and Iron Man find themselves in danger.

“The termination notices from Steve Ditko’s estate state that Marvel Entertainment’s rights to Spider-Man and Dr. Strange will terminate on June 2, 2023, and June 9, 2023, respectively,” Giant Freakin Robot said.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe set up Strange, Spider-Man, and Sam Wilson as future tentpoles of the franchise. However, this would serve as a huge narrative blow.

The Marvel and Ditko legal drama affects Sony, too. Attempting to spin a universe around Venom and Spider-Man-associated characters will prove nearly impossible if character rights slip from Marvel.

When characters become worth billions of dollars, legal drama follows. Issues of Marvel creators not properly compensated have cropped up in the past. However, this new battle could prove the most difficult rights struggle yet.

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