Prior to the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the summer of 2008, Iron Man wasn’t a household name on the same level as Batman, Superman or Spider-Man, despite being a regular fixture of the comic book world since his first appearance in a March 1963 issue of Tales of Suspense.
These days, though, Tony Stark is one of the most famous fictional characters on the planet thanks to Robert Downey Jr.’s iconic performance across countless superhero blockbusters, reinventing both the actor’s career and the hero’s popularity in the process. Of course, Iron Man is known for his signature red and yellow armor, and Marvel are now being sued by another company, which alleges that multiple designs in the Iron Man, Avengers and Ant-Man movies were stolen from Horizon Comics.
“After years of litigation in the U.S. and substantial sums, they continue to copy our characters,” says Horizon. “It’s causing us significant damage and impacting our ability to make a living as artists. It is clear that we cannot accept this repeated behavior. The only way to make things right was to file these proceedings.”
The lawsuit stems from three-volume series Radix, which was published by Image Comics between December 2001 and April 2002. Allegedly, Marvel’s editor in chief C.B. Cebulski sought to hire Horizon founders Ben and Raymond Lai to work for them, but they turned down the offer before eventually joining Marvel to help with Thor and X-Men, only for their efforts to be plagiarized.
As ComicBook.com explains:
The designs at issue come from the three-volume Radix series published by Image Comics from December 2001 to April 2002. Per the lawsuit, after the success of the Radix series, Marvel’s now editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski sought to hire the Lai brothers to work as artists for Marvel based on the series, but they declined. Then, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) copied illustrations for a research grant for the Institute for Soldier Technology in 2002. MIT issued a public apology for using the illustrations without consent, but per the suit, after the incident, Marvel contacted the Lai brothers again and in 2002, they accepted, working on Thor and X-Men comics.
Meanwhile, according to Horizon:
“MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) copied one of the Radix characters in 2002 to get a $50 million grant, we decided not to sue because they publicly apologized and acknowledged their mistake. But with Marvel, it’s repeat infringement.
The suit specifically names the costumes worn by Tony Stark in Iron Man 3 and Avengers: Infinity War, as well as designs featured in Ant-Man and the Wasp, but the Lai brothers have already seen one legal battle against Marvel be dismissed in 2013, while the comic book company won another courtroom fight in 2019 in regards to an Iron Man 3 poster. It’s hard to imagine the latest legal action gaining much traction against the combined might of Marvel and Disney, then, especially when previous motions have already turned out to be unsuccessful.