SPECIAL REPORT: Tucson man caught in legal web with Marvel

Published: Jul. 17, 2012 at 12:40 AM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:18 PM MST
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The Amazing Spiderman has returned to the big screen and a Tucson man has several million reasons to be happy about the movie's release.  Stephen Kimble is caught in the middle of a legal web with the super heroes creators.

"When my son was young, he and I would always read Spiderman comic books at night," Kimble said.  "So, I said, wouldn't it be cool to be able to sling a web like Spiderman?"

The father and son spent that entire summer during the mid 1990s designing what would become a web blaster.   "It was our summer project," Kimble said.  "We used Silly String but also noted it had to be a special can."

Kimble was so confident in his plans, he got them patented.  Then, he made a trip to New York City to meet with the Marvel Comics people.

"They said it's interesting and we'll think about it.  A year or so went by and they finally sent a letter that said, "Thanks but we're not interested."

Kimble thought the idea was a closed chapter until a friend told him he saw his Toy blaster in the store.  "I marched down to Toys-R-us and there's my toy!"  Kimble exclaimed.  "So, we had to sue them."

Kimble is also a lawyer and filed the proper papers to take Marvel to court.  At first, the comic book giant  denied even knowing him.  "After I produced his signed rejection letter from them, they said, 'Okay, but we didn't use his idea," Kimble explained.

More than a year went by before Kimble got a judge to agree to send the case to trial and later for a decision where to have it.  Representing himself, Kimble presented his case at the Tucson Federal Court house.  He believes the decisive moment came during his closing arguments. "The Marvel lawyers had this life size cardboard cutout of Spidey behind them and I said he stands for everything right and fairness," Kimble said.  "He needs to stand behind me."  Kimble then moved the figure to his side of the court room.

The jury ruled in Kimble's favor awarding him royalties past, present and future.  "It went to  the Court of Appeals because they argued the design had changed," Kimble said.  "But the jury still said, 'No, it's still his idea.'"  The quarterly checks he's been receiving my stop soon.  The case is returning to the Court of Appeals since Kimble's patent expired.

Kimble is still creating things as he spends his days inside his metal art studio in Tucson.  "The settlement has allowed me to stop practicing law and buy the Metal Arts Village,"  Kimble said.  "I come in everyday and ask myself, 'What am I going to create today?'"

He's still a big Spiderman fan.  Once the first Spiderman movie came out right after the web blaster's creation in 2001, sales picked up. Now, Spidey is on his fourth run at the big screen and Kimble is hoping for some more amazing returns.

"I'm hoping more people go see the movie and, hopefully, that means more will go out and buy a Web Blaster!"

Copyright 2012 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.