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Genius Brands buys rights to post-Marvel Stan Lee characters

Comic book legend Stan Lee poses with a painting of himself and Spider-Man at his home in Los Angeles in 2002.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Beverly Hills-based Genius Brands International bought the rights to a group of Stan Lee comic book characters to build a new world in kids’ entertainment.

The company, which produces, markets and licenses branded children’s entertainment, says it plans to build a “Stan Lee Universe,” drawn from over 100 original, unexploited properties created by legendary Marvel Comics creators, according to a statement.

Terms of the deal between Genius Brands and Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment were not disclosed. The two companies are forming a join venture that will be controlled by Genius Brands.

The transaction does not include the Marvel world of characters, which was acquired by Walt Disney for over $4 billion in 2009.

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The deal underscores the growing appetite in Hollywood for powerful and unique brands and intellectual property that can spawn film and television franchises.

Lee, who created Spider-Man and the Avengers, was for decades the face of Marvel Comics before his death in 2018 at age 95. In his final years and after his death, his family and friends have been embroiled in fights with the comic mastermind’s former manager over accusations of elder abuse.

A former business manager of Stan Lee has been charged in California with five counts of elder abuse involving the late Marvel Comics mastermind.

“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,” Andy Heyward, chairman and chief executive of Genius Brands, said in a statement.

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The new properties will include Stan Lee’s “Tomorrow Men, “Stringbean,” “Black Fury” and “Virus,” Heyward said.

The new universe of content will draw from more than 100 original Stan Lee creations, from which it will develop and license about seven properties per year, the company said.

Under Disney, Marvel became Hollywood’s most valuable film franchise, generating a long list of multibillion-dollar box office hits. Many other film studios have tried to mimic the strategy of creating an intertwined universe of characters, with varying success.

Genius has already created some programming based on Lee’s characters, such as “Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,” featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and “Rainbow Rangers” for Nick Jr. The company said it would build a dedicated Stan Lee Universe program block for its new streaming Kartoon Channel.


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