While a legal battle is brewing over the copyright of the Marvel Comics character Spider-Man, a similar trademark battle is beginning to unfold in inside the actual comic books at Marvel.
In November 10's Miles Morales: Spider-Man #32 by writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Christopher Allen, something happens in what equates to a comic book post-credits scene that could be the beginning of something big - something that Marvel Comics mentioned would come to pass somehow way back in August.
Spoilers ahead for Miles Morales: Spider-Man #32.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man #32 ends with the titular Spider-hero and his colleague Starling successfully fending off an attack from Taskmaster, only to be confronted with something you can't fight with fists: the serving of legal papers.
An unnamed legal team operating out of a limousine with hover capabilities swoops down onto the rooftop Miles Morales/Spider-Man and Startling are situated on, and a lawyer-y looking fellow steps out and hands over a file folder with papers that Miles soon becomes engulfed in.
"Unknown individual operating in an unlicensed capacity under the trademarked name Spider-Man!" the lawyer-y figure says. "We represent the Beyond Corporation in legal matters.
"This notice is to inform you that by operating as Spider-Man you are violating our client's legally owned trademark," he continues. "By law, you are required to relinquish use of the Spider-Man name and likeness... immediately."
When asked by Starling what's going on, Miles replies "I don't know... but better believe I'm gonna find out..."
In mainstream Marvel Comics continuity, Miles Morales shares the Spider-Man name with its originator Peter Parker - with his blessing. But back in October 6's Amazing Spider-Man #75, it was revealed that the Beyond Corporation has bought the trademarks and copyrights to Spider-Man.
During the time where Doctor Octopus took over Peter Parker's body and became Spider-Man (the so-called 'Superior Spider-Man' era), Otto, ever the businessman, formally trademarked the name for Parker Industries - the company Peter (and Otto as Peter) ran. When Peter regained control of his body, he liquidated the company back in Amazing Spider-Man #790 - without knowing that with that went the trademark to his superhero name fo Spider-Man.
It turns out, the Beyond Corporation swooped in and bought it, and have found their own person to be their new corporate Spider-Man: Ben Reilly, the '90s clone of Peter who for a time replaced him as Spider-Man.
In Amazing Spider-Man #75, Ben formally became Spider-Man again - and while breaking the news to Peter he didn't ask that the original Spider-Man stop being, you know, Spider-Man… he did express Beyond's ownership and Ben's own right to the mantle.
Now, it seems Ben Reilly's benefactors, Beyond Corporation, are enforcing their newly-bought trademark to at least get one Spider-Man, Miles Morales, to stop using the name.
This story will apparently come full circle back to the Amazing Spider-Man title in December 15's Amazing Spider-Man #81, with Miles Morales: Spider-Man writer Saladin Ahmed stepping in to write a story the company describes as "new Spider-Man vs. newest Spider-Man!!!"
According to advance solicitations of upcoming comics, Beyond will follow up this serving of legal papers with Ben Reilly serving up punches to get Miles Morales to relinquish the mantle. But as the covers by Arthur Adams and Arist Deyn show, Miles Morales punches back.
While the coincidence of this story about a Spider-Man trademark dispute unfolding the same time the estate of late Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko has filed a lawsuit against Marvel over the copyright to that same characters is hard to fathom, sources inside Marvel tell Newsarama that this fictional story playing out in comics was conceived before Ditko's estate's lawsuit was known to the creators involved.
Look for more on this fictional Spider-Man trademark fight in December 15's Amazing Spider-Man #81.
There's been more than a few Spider-Men in Marvel Comics, and we tried to rank them all with our best Spider-Mans article.