On the eve of the release of Nicolas Cage reprising his role as demon hero Ghost Rider, we hear the unfortunate strategy of Marvel’s lawyers going after the character’s creator, Gary Friedrich. The debate and discussion in the comic market is lively on the matter of creative ownership this past week. Are Marvel and Disney lawyers being unreasonable with the creator of this top selling property, or are work-for-hire artists retroactively reviewing their original deals?
In 1967, Marvel published the star of my recurring nightmares (1978-present)—a gun wielding ghost on a spirit horse called The Ghost Rider. After the introduction of the flaming motorcycle-and-chains madman we are more familiar with in the 1970s, this character was changed to The Phantom Rider.
When not terrorizing my fever dreams, The Phantom Rider, with his stardust-infused cloak and Colt .44 shoots phantom bullets and rides his horse Banshee.
Talk about a movie property! I’d trade this guy in for Josh Brolin’s disappointing Jonah Hex.
Former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich and artist Mike Ploog were the team on the first supernatural Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze) stories. From what I understand of the Marvel Bullpen and the DC Offices of the 1970s, there were extra-curricular activities that allegedly affected short and long-term memories of the staff. No one is 100% sure where the flaming skull idea came from, if you catch my drift. This was before the days of Image Comics and creator owned books. The ultimate goal as a professional was to work at Marvel or DC to play with the toys there. You sweated your way through long hours retouching artwork and you were compensated at standard rates.
Here’s where it gets tricky and as Doctor Who would say, legally-wegally. Gary Friedrich sued Marvel in 2007 to claim credit, copyright and royalties owed to him for the creation of Ghost Rider. In a Judge Judy move, the defendant counter-sues in 2010 for Gary selling unauthorized posters, shirts and other merchandise.
The news is that Marvel won, and now the artist is to pay a whopping $17,000 in damages.
Industry reaction is strong on the side of Gary Friedrich. The most positive and encouraging words come from Batman’s Neal Adams. His Continuity Studios are accepting donations to help the man pay his mortgage. Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) started a similar campaign on his website. With the coverage of this story in the mainstream media on the week of a big screen sequel, one hopes that Neil’s call for auction artwork and Steve’s PayPal donations will lessen the financial burden on the Friedrich family.
Adams recognizes this may not be a black and white issue on Marvel’s part, he just wants to help get the mortgage paid and have creators look out for each other.
BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE! CHECK OUT LEAGUEPODCAST HERE. THEY HOST THE 3RD ANNUAL LEAGUEPODCAST BOSTON COMIC-CON AFTER PARTY ON SAT. APRIL 21 AT MCGREEVY’S.
League of Ordinary Gentlemen Podcast Episode #107 — President Rock
Clay, Josh and Dursin talk Dwayne ‘The President’ Johnson, Amazing Spider-Man trailer and wonder why the world is subjected to The Phantom Menace again. Plus Kirkman & Spencer’s Thief of Thieves.