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Lawyer says Marvel copied Montreal comic creators, not ‘the other way around’

Last Updated May 8, 2021 at 1:04 pm MDT

MONTREAL (CityNews) — The lawyer for two Montreal comic creators who are suing Marvel says the alleged “repetitive copying” of her clients’ work is hurting their livelihood.

Julie Desrosiers, one of the lawyers representing Ben and Raymond Lai, says the alleged similarities between their work and Marvel characters are making the public think they copied Marvel.

The Lai brothers, founders of Horizon Comics Productions, claim the armour worn by Iron Man in “Avengers: Infinity War” is too similar to the outfit sported by Maxwell, a character they developed for their Radix comic series in the early 2000s.

“My clients are substantially prejudiced by this repetitive copying of their work,” said Desrosiers, a lawyer with Fasken Martineau DuMoulin. “Where now it’s like the other way around. It’s not like Marvel had copied them, people believe that they copied Marvel. And they are kind of deprived of their way of living.”

The brothers had sued Marvel Entertainment and its owner, The Walt Disney Company, in 2013. They claimed the outfit worn by Iron Man in a poster for Marvel’s “Iron Man 3” looked too much like a suit for another Radix character, Caliban. The brothers, however, lost that legal case.

A side-by-side comparison of the Iron Man 3 poster art (left) and the Radix character Caliban (right). (Credits: Walt Disney Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection/THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Horizon Comics Productions)

But Ben and Raymond Lai say Marvel has copied their designs again. And their lawyers say they have a case because the brothers’ claims involve new Marvel costumes in different Marvel movies.

On April 22, lawyers for the Montreal comic book company filed a motion in Quebec Superior Court against Marvel Entertainment and Disney for alleged copyright infringement. They say Marvel’s Ant-Man, the Wasp and Iron Man characters have body armour strikingly similar to the clothing they created for their superheroes.

“Now they are seen as the ones who have inspired themselves or copied Marvel while they have created these characters like 30 years ago, when Infinity Wars, the Wasp and all of that were very far from being created,” said Desrosiers.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are asking for compensatory damages yet to be disclosed, as well as for the court to issue a permanent injunction against Disney and Marvel Entertainment.

All allegations have yet to be proven in court.

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, Robert Downey, Jr. (as Iron Man), 2018. ©Marvel/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

The spokesperson for Montreal Comiccon, Jason Rockman, admits the similarities between the Lai brothers’ designs and Marvel’s characters are too striking to ignore.

“I couldn’t believe the similarities,” said Rockman. “Right down to the poses of their characters in the Iron Man-style suit versus the poster for imagery that they use for Robert Downey Jr. I mean I was kind of shocked.

“When something is already launched and then some giant comes and just mines it, takes what they want from it and just doesn’t give you any type of acknowledgment, that can be pretty insulting.”

The brothers created their comic book company in 1995. In 2001 and 2002, they published a three-volume comic book series called Radix.

Around March 2002, Marvel’s editor-in-chief, Chester Bror Cebulski, approached the Lai brothers for their unique, highly futuristic designs — but they turned down the offer, according to the lawsuit.

“If I was someone that created this and I saw this on the big screen without any type of compensation or any type of credit, I would be livid,” said Rockman.

“The more people see the similarities and they are pointed out the way I’ve see them pointed out, I think they have a good chance of at least getting something settled out of court because I do think they have legs to stand on.”