Okay, I’ve been sitting on this for a little while so I could report to you all the full story. Now, it’s finally time to tell.

Last week, ABC aired the special “Marvel: 75 Years from Pulp to Pop!” in place of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. As you would expect, the special was a big love letter to Marvel and FILLED with great art from their entire history.
And one piece of fan art.
When Iron Man 3 came out, our very own Marc Lapierre did a mock Iron Man cover and posted it on this very site. You may recall it looked like this:

Clearly, Marc photoshopped in some elements to sell the idea that this is an old Iron Man cover, but of course that’s not what it is at all. Marc has never worked for Marvel and he wasn’t even born yet when the third issue of Iron Man came out. The piece is actually a riff on this poster for Iron Man 3:

Personally, I think Marc did a fantastic job combining disparate elements and making it all look totally legit. He says it took him a couple of hours. This is why we all hate him.

On the Marvel 75th Anniversary the show, about 7 minutes before the end, Marc’s art made a two second appearance. I was floored. It wasn’t presented as “Hey, here’s cool art fans of Iron Man have created.” It was presented as a legit piece of official, Marvel-approved Iron Man art from back in the day to illustrate a point by Kevin Smith. You can watch the special on Hulu right now if you’d like, but here’s the evidence:

Marc was never contacted about the use of his art. As you can see above, it was posted with watermarks, all of which have been removed from the art as it aired on national television. Whoever did it also distressed the art a bit, but it’s unmistakably Marc’s work, which admittedly does contain elements previously published by Marvel.
But the main illustration? The one that aired alongside work by Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Romita and Todd McFarlane? That’s all Marc’s.
Marc has entered quite the pantheon.So, what do you do when something like this happens? I mean, it’s both flattering and not cool. I was the first person to spot it, so I posted it on my Facebook page. Marc couldn’t believe it. Soon, all of Marc’s friends picked it up and started posting about it as well. People were pretty upset on his behalf. But Marc? This was his official response:

To be clear, I’m not planning to seek a lawyer. Considering the pantheon of creators who have gone before me and have encountered “less than fair” practices at Marvel, I feel it would be an insult to them for me to cry and moan about my situation. I created this piece using Marvel’s character, aping someone else’s artistic style, using a composition from a Marvel movie poster, and lifting actual logos and trade dress from a real Marvel comic. It was never intended to be anything more than a gag. I have never tried to sell any prints of it. I have never included it in a portfolio of any kind. The fact that a simple image I slapped together in a couple of hours has blown up to this level is mostly just an amusing and surreal moment in my life.

That being said, if someone of power and influence were to take notice of this and offer me a shot at a pin up or cover gig, I wouldn’t mind.

Marc was content to take the high road, but I still felt like the story needed to be out there. Artists do get taken advantage of and throwing a spotlight on that fact now and again is a very good thing. So, I forwarded the story to Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool, the big comics news and rumors site that is read by pretty much everybody in the industry. Rich jumped on the story fast and published it within the hour.

From there, the story went even wider and I saw several other sites pick it up. It was pretty awesome. There’s was some argument about how much or if Marvel owed Marc for the use of his art since he was riffing on Marvel in the first place, but everyone agreed Marc’s response was perfect and appropriate. True to his word, Marc sought no action against Marvel.

Then, two days later, Marc got this email:


My name is Zak Knutson. I was the director of the Marvel 75 television special. As you already know, we used your art. That wasn’t supposed to happen. We screwed up. We made this thing in 8 weeks, and your art got through the approval process – and it shouldn’t have. If it makes you feel any better, it was so good – we thought it was real Marvel art. We weren’t trying to screw you over – I promise. Just an honest mistake.

Anyway, we want to make sure that we do right by you.  Do you have an email that I could put you and the producer in touch. We want to make sure that you are taken care of monetarily. It wasn’t right, and we want to do right by you. Let me know if this is possible.

Thanks and I hope you understand.

True to his word, Zak and the producer of the Marvel 75th special reached an agreement with Marc and paid him a reasonable sum for the use of his artwork.
No, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place and we still don’t really know how it happened, but in the end the right thing was done and wrongdoing admitted. That’s far, far more than you usually get in a situation like this. Marvel could have never contacted Marc and this all would have passed out of memory and died. Instead, Marc got the best possible outcome. Kudos to Zak and to Marvel.
And, thank you, internet. Sometimes, you do right.