Sunday 24th May 2015,
Comic Booked

Help Gary Friedrich, The Real Creator of Ghost Rider

T Campbell 02/10/2012 Features, Reviews

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:

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About The Author

T Campbell is a prolific writer, co-scriptwriter of Guilded Age, and writer of QUILTBAG, Fans, Penny and Aggie, Rip and Teri, and more. He's also the creator of the world's largest New York Times-standard crossword puzzle.

  1. Scott Stoner 02/10/2012 at 8:22 pm

    That is an interesting case. I'm no lawyer but it definitely seems like he is wrong. While he may have invented the character, he did it while in the employment of Marvel so it would make the character their intellectual property. I'm sure that they advised him not to sell those prints while the case was in litigation, and if he directly violated that request then he did so knowing that he could be opening himself to this type of penalty.

  2. T Campbell 02/10/2012 at 8:34 pm

    I admit it freely: when I found out Friedrich was suing Marvel, the one thing I wanted to say to him was "How exactly do you think this is going to end?" The legal precedent is, shall we say, not encouraging. Much as I sympathize with him, I can't fault the court for not granting him rights to the character.

    But for Marvel to countersue him for so much over such a minor infringement, while within their legal rights, seems like both pettiness and shockingly poor public relations.

    • THOOM 02/11/2012 at 9:36 pm

      RE: The 17k countersuit.

      I bet an artist or creator who doesn't have a valid claim will think twice before suing Marvel or any other corporation. This will saved the taxpayers a lot of $$ in the future, and this is why the countersuit isn't necessarily a bad thing.

    • Sarah Ellen 02/12/2012 at 8:14 pm

      I agree that it was petty to countersue. There are so many grey-area legalities when it comes to character creation and ownership in the 60s and 70s, I don't believe it was a waste of taxpayer money for the argument to be fought and decided. It was a waste of money to do the countersue – that's just twisting the knife in the stab wound a little too much ….

  3. Scott Stoner 02/10/2012 at 8:58 pm

    I will agree with you on that. They really have nothing to gain by countersuing. I guess it could be seen as a way to prevent this type of thing happening in the future, but it is a little excessive just to prove a point.

  4. Skott Jimenez 02/11/2012 at 12:39 am

    Chances are the countersuit was more the idea of lawyers than Marvel.

  5. Nick Furious 02/12/2012 at 6:57 pm

    This is really sad to see, I don't plan on boycotting comics or anything, but this is seriously not ok.

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