Comic Artists’ Lawsuit Claims Marvel Stole ‘Iron Man’ Body Armor Design

Since the debut of the original Iron Man movie in 2008, Marvel has seen a streak of hits virtually unrivaled in movie history, but did the House of Ideas actually steal the idea that kicked off its spectacular run of box office successes? That’s the accusation leveled at Marvel by two comic book artists, who claim that the superhero film powerhouse stole the design for Iron Man’s armor from them.

Ben and Ray Lai run Horizon Comics, and the two brothers allege that Marvel snagged the design for the armor Iron Man has been wearing in the movies and comics from the Lais’ own designs in their comic Radix. The Lais created Radix in 2001, and they allege that, after they were brought on as artists at Marvel, the look of Iron Man began to change.

The Lais’ suit claims that Iron Man, prior to their influence, was typically portrayed “wearing a simple spandex-like attire and minimal armor.” It was not until the two comic artist siblings came on board with Marvel, their suit alleges, that the look of Tony Stark’s alter ego began to change. Once the Lai brothers were on board, they claim, Iron Man’s look went from minimally armored to “increasingly powerful and futuristic” suits, “each one more advanced than the last, and all… a stark departure from the simple attire depicted in the comic book series.”

The Lai brothers claim that they and they alone are the inspiration behind that shift to a “fully mechanized suit of body armor,” and they claim that their distribution of their work on Radix to other Marvel employees is what sparked the shift in Iron Man’s look.

While the look of Iron Man has evolved over time, with a shift to a more segmented design indeed occurring around the time Marvel brought the Lai brothers on board, there’s some question as to just how well their suit can hold up. When Iron Man actually debuted, he sported a clunky, grey monstrosity of a suit, not a “spandex-like” armor, and it was only over the course of years that Iron Man moved to the sleeker look that Marvel lovers eventually saw on screen. That evolution, in fact, is present in the first Iron Man movie.

The Lai brothers, though, are taking total credit for the current design of Iron Man, and they are calling for a permanent injunction against Marvel using “their” copyrighted designs. Of course, the brothers are also looking for Marvel to cough up some of the $2.5 billion the three Iron Man films have raked in so far, claiming that Marvel’s “unlawful and deceptive practices” have enriched the company while causing the Lai brothers monetary damage.

Of course, the Lai brothers’ suit won’t derail any forthcoming Marvel movies any time soon. Iron Man will figure largely in this year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Tony Stark looks to have a big impact on next year’s Captain America: Civil War. While that’s going on, the courts will probably be trying to figure out if the Lai brothers even have firm legal standing for their suit, as it is possible that the statute of limitations has already expired.

[Image via Deadline.]