Marvel Entertainment has long been praised for bringing comic book accurate superhero costumes to the silver screen with just a few sensible adjustments. But now both Marvel Entertainment and Disney face a copyright infringement suit filed by Montreal-based comic book company Horizon Comics and its founders Ben and Raymond Lai. They are alleging that over the years, Marvel has stolen their costume designs for their Iron Man, Ant-Man, and Avengers films.
As reported by CTV News, in their lawsuit, the company has claimed that these costume designs were used without the agreement of Horizon Comics or its owners nor were they compensated for the same. By filing the suit, they seek to put a stop to Marvel’s “deliberate and persistent infringement.” They want Marvel to pay the compensation for using their designs, the punitive charges for employing their work without recognition, as well as all the additional amount that Horizon incurred in solicitor-client costs.
In their official statement, the Lai brothers have shared that the allegedly stolen costume designs come from their successful three-volume Radix series, published by Image Comics, that ran from December 2001 to April 2002. It is the same comics that made Marvel’s current editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski offer the Lai brothers to work as artists for Marvel based on the series years ago. But at the time they declined.
In 2002, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) copied one of the Radix characters for a $50-million research grant but then issued a public apology for using them without consent. While the Lai brothers didn’t sue MIT in light of the apology, they said that Marvel has been using their work and copying their characters’ costumes for years.
In their lawsuit, Horizon Comics and the Lai brothers specifically point out the design of Iron Man’s suit in Iron Man 3 and how it is “strikingly similar” to Caliban’s suit, one of the characters that appear in Horizon’s Works Radix 1. Horizon Comics had also filed a lawsuit against Marvel in 2013 when the film came out. It was initially partially dismissed but allowed to proceed given the striking similarities between the poster for the film and a drawing of Caliban. But in 2019, Marvel won the suit as U.S. District Court Judge J. Paul Oetken found no evidence that indicated that the Iron Man 3 poster design was a copy of Caliban’s costume.
But now, as Marvel allegedly continues its “repeat infringement” in an even more “egregious manner” and is impacting the Lai brother’s “ability to make a living as artists,” they only had one option left: to file a suit against the company. In the new lawsuit, Horizon stresses that Iron Man’s suit in Avengers: Infinity War “consistently appropriated Horizon’s works” and was very similar to the Radix character Maxwell. The lawsuit also called out the similarity between Ant-Man and the Wasp character costumes and a military character in Horizon’s Radix 2, once again pointing out that neither Horizon nor the Lai brothers have ever given their consent in any form that would allow the blatant use of their works.