Gary Friedrich, the co-creator (at least) and original writer of Ghost Rider, lost his lawsuit to obtain any share of the revenues from the character as the second Ghost Rider movie prepares to go to theaters later this month. But Marvel wasn’t content merely to win.
For daring to sell prints of the character before this suit was settled, it demanded a fine of $17,000, and for Friedrich never to call himself “the creator of Ghost Rider” again for monetary gain.
The court gave Marvel everything, and Friedrich nothing. Already penniless, the unemployed comic book writer now faces a five-figure fine, for selling prints. Bear in mind that conventions often feature artists selling original drawings of copyrighted Marvel and DC characters, a practice the companies have never seriously challenged. And why should they? When George Perez sells a drawing of Supergirl, it largely encourages interest in his next official Supergirl art.
Friedrich, however, hasn’t made Marvel money in years, except in the sense that they continue to profit off ideas he introduced. One of the first writers to join Marvel in the 1960s after Stan Lee stopped writing the entire line, as well as a major contributor to Charlton Comics, Friedrich wrote many superhero stories and some wry, witty romances, but he was probably best known for war comics with a strongly moral and allegorical flavor… and for Ghost Rider, the biker hero with power from Hell itself, who lost an important contractual dispute of his own.
According to the countersuit, Marvel intended this “in order to avoid potentially unnecessary litigation”… that is, to discourage similar lawsuits from other creators, or their heirs… that is, the Jack Kirby estate.
But in a period of history marked by protests against economic inequality, as Marvel (and Disney) already face a public boycott of the Avengers film over similar issues, the demands seem, at best, shortsighted.
As well as reprehensible, but that should go without saying.
One fan petitioned Nicolas Cage, the lead actor in both Rider films, to help Friedrich personally, but more likely to produce results is a donation page set up by Steve Niles. Go there now, so we can continue to look at this image and laugh: