MANILA, Philippines — Marvel Studios signed a 20-year licensing deal with Genius Brands International and POW! Entertainment to use the name and likeness of the late legendary comic book writer Stan Lee in their future projects.
Lee, who passed away in 2018 a month shy of his 96th birthday, can now appear in upcoming Marvel movies. He can also now appear in Disney theme parks and merchandising.
“It really ensures that Stan, through digital technology and archival footage and other forms, will live in the most important venue, the Marvel movies, and Disney theme parks,” said Genius Brands chairman Andy Heyward in a statement.
Lee was a pioneer in the comic books industry, having co-created several heroes for Marvel Comics such as Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil and many more.
The comic book writer made constant cameo appearances in popular Marvel titles dating back to 2000's "X-Men" and 2002's "Spider-Man." His last appearance was in the 2019 blockbuster hit "Avengers: Endgame," having shot his cameo scene before he passed away.
Since then Marvel Studios has released six feature films and began making adjacent television shows on Disney+, Sony had a "Morbius" and a "Venom" sequel, while 20th Century Studios finally released the critically panned "Dark Phoenix" and "The New Mutants" — no image or likeness of Lee appeared in any of those titles.
This new licensing deal offers no assurance that Lee cameos are to be expected once again, though Marvel and Disney may opt to use the technology utilized in latter "Star Wars" films for actors that had passed away.
Some safe non-traditional options that Marvel can use instead are using his name and/or signature, past footage and voice recordings for live-action materials, and his likeness for animated outings.
The aforementioned options can also be used in Disney's theme parks, cruise lines and merchandising for the next two decades, but not in video games and virtual reality projects.
“The audience revered Stan, and if it’s done with taste and class, and respectful of who he was, [uses of his likeness] will be welcomed,” Heyward also said. “He is a beloved personality, and long after you and I are gone, he will remain the essence of Marvel.”