Mattel hopes it has the power to tamp down claims by writer Donald Glut that he has a copyright stake in the original Masters of the Universe minicomics packaged with the action-figure line three decades ago.
In a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Los Angeles, and first reported by Courthouse News Service, the toymaker seeks a declaration that it is the sole owner of the lucrative multimedia franchise, asserting that Glut's four stories were work for hire. Mattel refers to the writer's claims of ownership as "both baseless and stale," insisting the statute of limitations long ago expired.
According to the complaint, Glut was commissioned in 1981 to write "He-Man and the Power Sword," "The Vengeance of Skeletor," "Battle in the Clouds" and "King of Castle Grayskull" and to create backstories for He-Man and other characters under the direction of the toymaker ("Mattel told Glut what the toys could do and directed him to have the characters in the minicomics do these things as much as possible," the document states). The company notes the writer acknowledged as recently as 2001 that the minicomics were work for hire for which he received neither credit nor royalties.
"My work on Masters of the Universe taught me one basic lesson: Don't create anything original, especially concepts that someone else will make millions of dollars from, unless you have a percentage of the profits or part ownership," Glut said in a 2001 interview posted on his website. "It's a lesson I've managed to stick to since my days with He-Man and the gang."
But Mattel claims that this year the writer suddenly came forward to assert he created the characters and owns the copyrights, and merely licensed them to the toymaker. Under Glut's alleged theory, that license would expire in 2016.
Glut, who wrote the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back, also penned episodes of such animated series as Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, The Transformers and Centurions, as well as issues of Marvel's Captain America, Conan Saga, The Invaders. Kull the Destroyer and The Savage Sword of Conan.