When Disney bought Marvel, it wound up with the rights to 7,000 characters and, as they described it, perhaps 20 years’ worth of worlds to explore.
Meet, for example, Doorman. First introduced in 1989, Doorman is a class-10 teleporter (according to Fandom) who enables others to walk through solid objects.
First, though, they (like Flatman) have to travel through him:
I don’t think that Doorman has debuted in a Disney film. But, as Disney’s intellectual property, he is available.
Disney’s Intellectual Property
Superhero legend Stan Lee (1922-2018) explained that his goal had always been to write comic books that he actually wanted to read. In 1961, he gave us the Fantastic Four, the first superheroes with personality flaws, problems, and worries. Next came Spider-Man and, in the decades that followed, the list includes the Hulk, Thor, X-Men, and Iron Man. The characters in the 2018 film “Black Panther,” date back to a 1966 Stan Lee and Jack Kirby collaboration.
I hope you enjoy this Black Panther trailer:
And this one for a Stan Lee cameo (at 1:00):
According to the Atlantic, at Marvel, Mr. Lee started his creation process with a storyboard and ended it with dialogue. In the middle an artist added the superhero images and more detail. The result was a prodigious accumulation of intellectual property.
Our Bottom Line: Intellectual Property
Those 7,000 characters owned by Disney take us to a complex web of copyrights and trademarks. Oversimplifying somewhat, we can just say that the stories and characters have copyrights, while the names and designs are trademarked.
Sometimes though intellectual property rights can be tricky. Dating back to 1999, Marvel licensed Spider-Man to Columbia Pictures (then owned by Sony). And now, Spider-Man performs on Sony’s PlayStation. Ultimately, Disney needed to share the right to use Spider-Man in its films.
Below you can see how Marvel’s superheroes are protected:
So yes, just like we own tangible property, so too can we possess what our minds have created. And always, in a market economy, the right to profit from your property is a powerful incentive.
My sources and more: Ideal for economic stories, Planet Money started me thinking about Marvel’s intellectual property. From there, the stories multiplied, including Vanity Fair, the Atlantic, and Fandom. And finally, this article focused on Marvel’s copyrights and trademarks.