Stan Lee: Comic-book legend, 95, sues old company for $1bn fraud

BBC News
PA Stan Lee is the co-creator of Spiderman and numerous other Marvel characters

Stan Lee is suing the entertainment company he co-founded for $1bn (£742m).

The comic book legend alleges he was coerced into a fraudulent sales agreement when he was in an emotionally and physically fragile state.

The complaint, filed in LA on Tuesday, claims POW! Entertainment bosses surreptitiously made Lee sign away his name and image rights in the deal.

POW! are yet to respond but previously expressed "concern" over his wellbeing.

Its parent company, Hong-Kong based Camsing International Holding, who gained ownership of POW! through the disputed deal, told the BBC it was "not aware" any legal documents had been served.

The company said it is currently "seeking legal advice" on the basis of widespread media reports about potential litigation and "may take legal action if appropriate".

Pow! Entertainment is yet to return a request for comment from the BBC.

Lee, the co-creative force behind many superhero characters, including Black Panther and Spider-Man, sold the company to Camsing last year.

But the suit alleges POW! CEO Shane Duffy and co-founder Gill Champion "conspired and agreed to broker a sham deal to sell POW! to a company in China and fraudulently steal Stan Lee's identity, name, image, and likeness as part of a nefarious scheme to benefit financially at Lee's expense".

The complaint, lodged at Los Angeles County Superior Court, states Lee does not recall signing sale documents, nor having them read to him.

The suit draws attention to the death of Lee's wife last July, and his degenerative eye condition which has caused his poor eyesight, suggesting he could not have read the documents.

It says Lee was "in a state of total devastation" and that Champion and Duffy were "opportunists" who "saw a chance to take advantage of Lee's despondent state of mind".

Plea for help

"In addition, POW! took control of Lee's personal social media accounts, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, thereby impersonating Lee before a combined 15 million followers worldwide," the complaint reads.

Lee appeared to regain control of his Twitter account on Tuesday night and used the platform to confirm to fans that his social media channels had been "hijacked".

Help! Someone has hijacked my Facebook and Instagram. I want everyone to know whoever is writing them is a fraud and is impersonating me. How do I get them back? Can you guys help?

End of Twitter post by @TheRealStanLee

From now on, I will depend on you, my dear fans, to protect and defend me. I love you guys and am so happy I have control of my twitter account back. You guys are my true superheros.Excelsior!Stan

End of Twitter post 2 by @TheRealStanLee

"From now on, I will depend on you, my dear fans, to protect and defend me," he added.

The comic book writer went on to post his first Twitter video - with the help of fans - to express further gratitude.

Thank you twitter. I finally learned how to post a video thanks to you guys. pic.twitter.com/SiSqnNakd9

End of Twitter post 3 by @TheRealStanLee

"I just want to tell you I love your comments on Twitter - I don't know how much I have been missing now that I see them," he said.

"I appreciate everything you say and do, I love you all - let's keep up the great relationship".

The nonagenarian signed off with his signature phrase "excelsior!" - implying triumph.

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