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Any comic book fan knows that superheroes don’t grow up planning to save the world. They live quiet, ordinary lives until, one day, a mysterious phone call moves them to action. They take on the bad guys, seize the day, then stammer that really it’s no big deal. Witness the “aw shucks” tone of Allen Lipson, the Marvel Enterprises Inc. GC who’s just added CEO to his job title. Lipson gives credit to departing CEO Peter Cuneo for bringing the comic book company back from the brink. “I decided, hell, he did all the hard work. I can take over now,” Lipson says. But that’s not entirely true, because Lipson — with Cuneo — is half of the dynamic duo who pledged to save, if not the world, then Marvel. From 1993 to 1997, the two worked together as CEO and GC to save Remington Products Co. When Cuneo moved in 1999 to the ailing Marvel, then just one year out of bankruptcy, he insisted that Lipson join him. “He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Lipson says, laughing. Despite his lack of background in entertainment law, Lipson became New York-based Marvel’s executive vice president of business and legal affairs. After some tutoring by outside counsel, he became the point man in negotiating movie contracts, the heart of Marvel’s turnaround. “Spider-Man: The Movie” fueled a 61 percent increase in Marvel’s third-quarter 2002 sales. Lipson’s negotiations with Sony Pictures Entertainment for a joint venture in licensing brought Marvel over $7 million for the second and third quarters of 2002, on top of $4.5 million in box office receipts and $5.3 million in advance royalty payments for a sequel. Figures from a record 7 million videos sold the first day are still pending. And this year looks even better, as such Marvel heroes as Daredevil, the X-Men and The Incredible Hulk conquer the silver screen (with Spider-Man II set for a May 2004 release). There are also toys and licensing deals and “The Call,” a series about police and firemen, inspired by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Lipson, meanwhile, will juggle his new responsibilities with his GC role, working with a six-lawyer team. And comic fans can take heart: The CEO/GC duo won’t break up entirely. Cuneo will merely move to the wings as a member of the board while Lipson moves up, solidifying Marvel’s resurrection as an entertainment powerhouse. Sounds like a good sequel.

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