In early 1981, Steve Gerber sued Marvel Comics over ownership of Howard the Duck.
I wasn’t at Marvel when the Duck first came to be. Almost all of what was at issue happened before my time, or during the time that I was associate editor, and not involved in a management capacity. Therefore, I wasn’t much involved in the litigation.
The litigation took place while I was Editor in Chief, however, so I was copied on many documents and otherwise made aware of the progress of the thing. I have copies of a number of letters, memos and documents relating to the case. No, I’m not going to post them here, except for two letters, below.
As I understand it, the gist of what happened is as follows:
- A mountain of motions and responses were made by both sides.
- Gerber’s side lost the war of motions.
- Gerber’s side’s likelihood of prevailing on anything of substance was virtually nil.
- In order to avoid wasting more money on legal expenses, Marvel made a de minimis settlement offer.
- Being in a hopeless position, Gerber’s side accepted. It was that or scorched earth.
The settlement offer essentially included Howard the Duck in Marvel’s standard character-creation incentive plan, one of the several incentive plans I had installed. It also guaranteed a limited publishing program of Howard the Duck publications and specified Gerber’s terms of employment. None of those terms were novel or extraordinary. They were, in fact, much the same as had been offered to Roy Thomas.
Marvel sincerely wanted to publish HTD anyway, because of the impending movie. Marvel also sincerely wanted Gerber as the writer for obvious reasons.
From the point of view of Marvel’s top brass, they had made the suit and legal expense go away for nothing. They were very pleased. And unconcerned about whatever grief doing so might engender for me.
So, the time came to publish and we set out to do so. Gerber delivered a script. I read it and expressed my concerns to Publisher Mike Hobson and President Jim Galton. Mike wrote Marvel’s responses to Gerber and his attorney. Here they are:
Gerber refused to accept the changes offered or propose alternatives.
And so, for then at least, there was no Howard book by Gerber.
And, By the Way….
Disney’s legal threats and demand for the Duck to be redesigned happened while I was associate editor. I wasn’t involved. The redesign was handled on Marvel’s end by John Romita. Disney artists ultimately provided Marvel with a design Disney deemed acceptable. John actually seemed pleased to have gotten Disney to do the work for us. Here are the results:
(As usual, click the images to embiggen – JayJay)
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