Brokered by the extant company Lee founded, Marvel has entered a 20-year deal for Lee’s image.
Genius Brands International and POW! Entertainment have signed a 20-year deal with Marvel to bring Stan Lee back into the MCU and beyond, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The comics legend passed away in 2018, and his last in-person cameos were in 2019, for Captain Marvel, where he was digitally de-aged to fit the 1990s setting, and Avengers: Endgame. With this new licensing deal, however, it seems like that might not be the last time we see Lee on-screen.
So, what can Marvel do with Stan Lee? It can use Stan Lee’s name and likeness in feature films, TV productions, at theme parks and “experiences” (for example, a cruise line), and in merchandising. It can use “digital technologies” and archival footage to imitate Lee’s likeness. Lee can appear as a toy, on stationary, apparel, and video games, and in virtual reality. Marvel can replicate, recreate, or use recordings of Lee’s voice. Marvel can continue to use Lee’s signature. Technically, the studio can place Lee in films, much like late Star Wars stars Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing were digitally placed in Rogue One.
While there is the ability to recreate Lee for the screen, a source told THR that “this new deal does not necessarily pave the way for the return of Lee cameos in movies.” Andy Heyward, the chairman and CEO of Genius Brands, has said that “there needed to be a steward of his legacy” after the complicated reveal of Lee’s “conflicts” immediately after his death. “The audience revered Stan and if it’s done with taste and class, and respectful of who he was, it will be welcomed,” said Heyward to THR. “He is a beloved personality and long after you and I are gone, he will remain the essence of Marvel.”