Spider-Man is one of Marvel's most lucrative characters
Marvel is suing the family of the late artist Jack Kirby in a bid to retain copyright to some of the company's best-loved comic book characters.
Legal action, filed in New York, sought to invalidate 45 notices sent by his heirs, claiming rights to characters would revert to Kirby's estate in 2014.
Marvel maintains Kirby's illustrations, published between 1958-1963, were "for hire" making the heirs' claims invalid.
Kirby's family vowed to "vigorously defend" their case.
Among the titles cited in the notices, apparently authored or co-authored by Kirby, were Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk and The X-Men.
Marvel Entertainment, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, sought a judge's order that the Kirby notices have no effect.
Marvel lawyer John Turitzin said, in a statement, that the heirs were trying "to rewrite the history of Kirby's relationship with Marvel".
He added: "Everything about Kirby's relationship with Marvel shows that his contributions were works made for hire and that all the copyright interests in them belong to Marvel."
"It is a standard claim predictably made by comic book companies to deprive artists, writers, and other talent of all rights in their work," said Kirby's lawyer, Marc Toberoff, in a statement responding to Marvel's action.
"The Kirby children intend to vigorously defend against Marvel's claims in the hope of finally vindicating their father's work.
"Sadly, Jack died without proper compensation, credit or recognition for his lasting creative contributions.