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Wednesday, 3 March, 1999, 16:02 GMT
Spider-Man escapes lawyers web
Spider-Man: Cleared to scale new heights
The Amazing Spider-Man is finally about to leap onto the big screen after being snared in a tangled legal web for nearly a decade.

On the eve of a major trial, publishers Marvel Enterprises Incorporated and Sony Pictures Entertainment have settled competing lawsuits over the comic book superhero.

The pair are to form an equal partnership to create a $200m blockbuster film and a television series with Sony-Columbia producing the movie as soon as possible.

The deal also settles claims by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) which had contended that it held the rights from a number of now-bankrupt independent production companies.

Competing claims

Several studios have been eager to make a Spider-Man movie for years but business problems including bankruptcies of at least three companies linked to the character's rights, and competing claims in court have prevented his celluloid debut.

Among the directors interested in taking the project on was Titanic's James Cameron who wrote a screenplay for one of the studios which went bust. The treatment now belongs to Sony-Columbia but Mr Cameron is thought to be under contract to Fox studios.

The Spider-Man character was created by famed Marvel artist Stan Lee in 1962, entering the world as The Amazing Spider-Man.

The man in the skin-tight red costume covered in a web-design is really the high school student Peter Parker, who got his powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider.

The comics have been huge sellers and the hero has also been the basis of a newspaper comic strip and animated and live-action TV series.

Marvel-lous boost

The settlement disclosed Monday was a major boost for Spider-Man's publishing home, Marvel Enterprises, which was formed last October after Marvel Entertainment Group emerged from bankruptcy and combined with Toy Biz Inc.

President and chief executive Eric Ellenbogen said it was a "great day" for the company.

"The last vestiges of bankruptcy and previous entanglements are now gone. The company is totally freed. And its most important property is now going to become a major motion picture," he said.

The settlement leaves only one outstanding claim by Viacom Incorporated contends it holds the television distribution rights to any Spider-Man movie.

There was no announcement on when a movie project would begin, but at least it is now only a matter of time before Spider-Man follows in the flight path of other comic book superheroes Batman and Superman.

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