Insult To Injury: Marvel Shakes Down GHOST RIDER Creator For $17,000

Insult To Injury: Marvel Shakes Down GHOST RIDER Creator For $17,000

In a seemingly blatant attempt to make an example of Gary Friedrich, reports that Marvel demands $17k in lieu of a counter-suit. More after the jump.

In the aftermath of a lawsuit Gary Friedrich filed after the release of the big budget Ghost Rider movie in 2007, Marvel is asking the now broke Ghost Rider creator to cough up a small fortune he made selling prints of his creation.

Gary co-created Ghost Rider/Johnny Blaze who first premiered in Marvel Spotlight #5 back in August of 1972. Ghost rider took on a life of his own, becoming a beloved character by many, referenced in hip hop songs and appearing in countless comics, cartoons and eventually movies.

This led Gary to seek out a piece of the rights to the character who had become profitable by way of his debut movie in 2007. Gary eventually lost the law suit. The Associated Press reported that on December 28 of last year, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest ruled Friedrich gave up ownership to the property when he endorsed checks that contained language relinquishing rights to Marvel’s predecessors. The judge said the writer signed over all claims to the character in 1971 and again in 1978 in exchange for the possibility of more freelance work for the publisher.

Kevin Melrose at CBR:

“Either of those contractual transfers would be sufficient to resolve the question of ownership,” Forrest wrote. “Together, they provide redundancy to the answer that leaves no doubt as to its correctness.”

“The law is clear that when an individual endorses a check subject to a condition, he accepts that condition,” the judge ruled, contending her finding made it unnecessary “travel down the rabbit hole” to determine whether Ghost Rider was work for hire.

In other words, by accepting his checks and cashing them, he gave up the rights as outlined in the fine print.

Fast forward to this week when this piece of news broke:

via Brigid Alverson at CBR:

Marvel figures that Friedrich made $17,000 from “the distribution and sale of goods depicting the Ghost Rider character appearing in Marvel Spotlight, Vol. 1, No. 5,”. Marvel is demanding this money under threat of a counter-suit. Marvel also wants him to stop selling Ghost Rider merchandise and even calling himself the creator of Ghost Rider if there's anything in it for him.

Now legally, Marvel probably has a good leg - or a gaggle of Disney's lawyers' legs - to stand on. Gary probably did sign over any creator rights in exchange for pay which was commonplace back then. Marvel has reportedly shafted some of it's talent in the past, a good example being the King himself, Jack Kirby. Having said that, times have changed and creators today thankfully are a lot more savvy and don't find themselves facing this sort of situation.

So it boils down to a moral issue now. Gary's suit legally might have been flimsy, and possibly a bad idea, but he had every right (figuratively) to go and try and get a piece of something he created that was making a huge company millions of dollars. Gary's situation is a good - and sad - example of how the "Work-for-Hire" system used to tilt the financial balance in favor of the publishing companies and leave the creator in the lurch. He claims to be broke now, and losing this lawsuit doesn't help matters either. Marvel could have extended an olive branch and cut him a check with a healthy and decent amount of zeros. What would it have mattered? From here on out, the Ghost Rider rights lie squarely in their hands. But they decided to take Gary to task in retaliation and are now threatening to ruin the 69 year old financially.

So where does this leave us now? Well, I know of a lot of creators who draw and sell prints of DC and Marvel characters at conventions and get away with it. Why? Many of these artists are actively employed and sell books, so it doesn't really cost the companies anything. But this action by Marvel sets a precedent that if properly pissed, those creators can be hung upside down like so many Vanilla Ices, Marvel or DC playing the Suge Knight role, picking coins and lint off the ground.

More importantly, how is Gary going to fare now? Well thankfully, people are taking action.

Via Brigid Alverson at CBR:

A Support Gary Friedrich Facebook Page has sprung up and already has 960 Likes; Marvel is getting called a bunch of jerks (and much worse) in forums and comments all over the Internet, and a fan even wrote an open letter to Ghost Rider star Nicolas Cage, asking him to pay the $17,000 himself. This has now become a petition at (where the Jack Kirby petition now has more than 800 signatures, by the way).

30 Days of Night Creator Steve Niles has also stepped in and started a donation campaign on behalf of Mr Friedrich. Niles reached out to other pros and so far has received a modest amount of responses. Hit up his Twitter account here to find out more. In case you didn't know, there's also something called The Hero Initiative, an organization that helps out older creators who also worked during the Work-For-Hire days. Many of them worked without insurance or retirement benefits, and now these days may need help with medical and financial aid. It's a great program, and you can visit them here.

Now this isn't just an excuse to bash Marvel, God knows they're not the first to screw creators and they will probably not be the last. This doesn't make them look good at all, though.

I know this has been covered lots elsewhere, but this site gets a lot of traffic and I feel like a lot of you faithful CBMers would love a chance to get in on the act. Lets stand up for the creators who helped bring some much appreciated escapism into our lives.
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Member Since 5/14/2011
Filed Under "Marvel Comics" 2/10/2012 Source: Comic Book Resources
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nowtheresaBATman - 2/10/2012, 9:14 PM
nikgrid - 2/10/2012, 9:30 PM
Comic Companies especially Marvel aren't moral. fvck them.
JatevinM - 2/10/2012, 9:36 PM
This is wrong...there isn't much else that can be said about it other than this is just wrong.
batmanrises - 2/10/2012, 9:44 PM
I know anything putting Marvel in a bad light isn't going to be popular on this site of all places, but this SHOULD be put up on main. This is wrong and needs to be set right. You can almost *I said almost* compare it to Veterans coming home from war and being forgotten and left to fend for themselves without the help of the land they helped protect.
misner89 - 2/10/2012, 9:51 PM
wow some guy at marvels a [frick]ing douche bags no wonder DC rules
neonhero - 2/10/2012, 10:14 PM
I am unapologeticly a Marvelite. DC just doesn't do it for me. But in response to the above comments that doesn't mean I don't see a big corporation doing what big corporations do best: screwing the little guy. C'mon, Marvel. I can see why you'd want to protect your rights to the character, but have a heart and just let it go. Or even better, if he is in a bad situation, help him out. That would certainly do more to endear you to your fans than this mean-spirited counter lawsuit.
conformist21 - 2/10/2012, 10:16 PM
Strong bias in this article. What he did was try to cash out on his creation and LEGALLY signed away all rights to Ghost Rider. Also intended to get hush money but legal departments said no. After signing away his rights, he then sold prints of Ghost Rider for money he lost the entire lawsuit from the start.
Saying he is getting screwed over is one thing, but saying he is completely innocent and condemn Marvel for this is a completely other thing. Marvel suing him is justified legally but sure morally it's a bit silly.

I create something and sell you the rights, and then I sell what I sold you (sure I created it but as of now it's irrelevant) and then I have the gall to try to sue you for the rights again? Get outta here. I do not even like Marvel, but I do not hate for the sake of the hivemind.
batmanrises - 2/10/2012, 10:23 PM
"I create something and sell you the rights" is actually more like "Sign this or you don't get paid. Other than DC, we're the only game in town, pal."

I don't get where you see bias? All I presented were facts with a bit of opinion, but most of that opinion is justified by what happened. Like I said, other creators (even creators who aren't actively working for Marvel) get away with selling art of their trademarked characters...Why go after this broke old man? It's easy to put 2 and 2 together and see that this is retaliation. It's pretty messed up, either way you slice it.
Cerebro - 2/10/2012, 10:26 PM
I am a Marvel fan and love the Marvel universe, but come on Marvel you have been proven right in a court of law. Do you really have to be dick heads and go after the guy. No cool man, not cool.
Cerebro - 2/10/2012, 10:31 PM
@batmanrises Come on man, its not like you are wrong about Marvel being dicks on this one, but don't come around and say you don't have a bias. You are one of the biggest haters of marvel on CBM. You are just a little more respectful than some of the other haters,of Marvel.
conformist21 - 2/10/2012, 10:42 PM
It's funny because I forgot to post about that, it may be true to an extent but they turn their eye if you sell things with your art at comic con and other places because it doesn't get in the way to them profiting with the comics and other media. The part he messed up was when he TRIED TO SUE THEM TO HAVE THE RIGHTS HIMSELF. That was stupid to do, so of course they'd sue back because he did something you should not do which is interfere with their profiting on Ghost Rider. Marvel does have some rights to an extent, he could have gone 3rd party and tried to make Ghost Rider popular through that way but could he? Hell no, he could not, Marvel had the name he needed and he should've just swallowed his pride and allowed it.
Go with one of the big 2 and take the back seat or go 3rd party so you can't complain about the papers you signed yourself.
batmanrises - 2/10/2012, 10:47 PM
@ Cerebro - I don't hate Marvel at all. Look through most of my comics and see that I own way more Marvels than DCs. I also support Marvel by buying their movies, comics and other merch when it's good. I just think they've been slacking on the creative end for the last dozen years or so and DC has been making better creative choices in that same time period. So in that regard, yeah, maybe I am a little biased, but this is less about a comic or a movie in particular and more about a major company taking advantage of the little guy. There's no bias, just truth.
batmanrises - 2/10/2012, 10:50 PM
@ conformist21 - One of the conceits in my article was that yes, it was unwise to take on Marvel in a lawsuit...But does Marvel need to financially cripple the guy? I couldn't find whether or not he's in the hole for legal fees, but even so, they have the rights to the man's creation. Isn't that enough?
Mrcool210 - 2/10/2012, 11:48 PM
i imagene joe quesada came up with this
Mego - 2/11/2012, 1:06 AM
A real problem with Marvel's stance is that during the time most Major Comic characters where created, Marvel and others had a Work For Hire agreement, but no alternative. If you wanted the highest paying comic jobs, you had to sign those agreements. If not, you couldn't work there. It was also very hard to self publish. However, if some creators had kept the rights to characters such as Superman, Captain America, Ghost Rider and so on, it's arguable that those characters would have had the same success. DC and Marvel had more money to invest in talent, and helped the characters to grow. If you look at the Rise and Fall of Image Comics, which has less than a percent of the market, it takes more than just creating characters to make them successes. Spawn and Savage Dragon would be much more popular if they had a real Studio and Publisher behind them. Not that I wish they were owned by DC or Marvel, but it's simply the way it is.
mithiama - 2/11/2012, 1:31 AM
okay he tried to sue them they must have had legal costs they have every right to sue him back. they fired him because he was apparently drunk all the time then he sold the rights to them and then he expected to get them back for no reason yrs later. how is marvel the bad guy in this situation? he still should pay them for legal expenses.
CraptainAmerica - 2/11/2012, 2:35 AM
The profit Marvel have made from the character far outweighs the profit this gentleman has made.

I just don't get Marvel's point in doing it. A moral obligation the counter-sue?

I don't think Marvel do themselves any favour in doing this as far as support from its fans. I'm a Marvel fan but the more I hear about these kinds of stories the more I get disillusioned with their treating people.

I guess it's just the way of the world. But it alienates they hardworking working class readers.
loki668 - 2/11/2012, 3:02 AM
I love how DC fans point to Marvel and use this as condemnation and how Marvel fans do the same. Both companies used this practice and both profited from the creativity of others. Use your own reasoning for favoring one company or the other. Quit trying to manufacture reasons for desperate trolling.

Lord Loki has spoken
Supes17 - 2/11/2012, 6:48 AM
That's kinda [frick]ed up
Durango95 - 2/11/2012, 6:55 AM
Marvels a bunch of greedy assholes.
Rodimus9 - 2/11/2012, 7:06 AM
If he legally signed away his rights and then made profit on the works after, he owes. That's the law, period. No shades of grey, you own it or don't.
Rodimus9 - 2/11/2012, 7:09 AM
Tea@ WOW!
Darkknight23 - 2/11/2012, 7:13 AM
Somewhere Michael Corleone and Emperor Palpatine are smiling.
Rodimus9 - 2/11/2012, 7:20 AM
Tea@ here, put this in there. It'll fill it

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
gunner - 2/11/2012, 7:37 AM
Pretty messed up ...
There really is no "Marvel" when it comes to this kinda stuff , Just Robot Lawyers in expensive suits.
hush - 2/11/2012, 7:53 AM
@ gunner - got it in one

Look at the Superman fiasco. What pi**es me off is everyone is trying to make money off my childhood heroes.

The morals they display in the comics don't reflect the attitudes of the companies and creators.

I would say lawyers, but I think we can all agree lawyers having no soul is common knowledge.

Maybe the total nutsacks should read the comics and learn something. Try Daredevil, Matt Murdock is a better example of how a lawyer should behave.

Tools, the lot of 'em.

Now back to Nic Cage being cast as Johnny Blaze again..
Hawksblueyes - 2/11/2012, 7:59 AM
While I feel sorry about the fact this guy made such a bad deal, that is how it works for graphic artists. If you create or do any art while employed for any company and present it to them for their use, it's theirs.

There are plenty of artists and writers who withhold characters or creations from the company they are working for because they feel they are something special.

tea: Pretty much summed it up with the fast food reference. Unless you have some sort of item specific contract written up and signed beforehand, don't present anything to your employer for the taking.
ZombieOverEasy - 2/11/2012, 8:05 AM
I'm a Marvel fan through and through. I can't sit by and watch the company rob a man that helped them create one of their popular characters.

While he may not legally have ground to stand on as far as getting a piece of that movie-deal-pie. Counter-suing him is distasteful and morally wrong, IMO.

I'm not going to purchase another Marvel Comic until this is dropped. Anyone know if there's a website or petition to get Marvel to stop this?
ZombieOverEasy - 2/11/2012, 8:06 AM
LOL, reading fail. I didn't realize the article continued after the large MARVEL image and scrolled down without noticing.
valeriesghost - 2/11/2012, 8:23 AM
What the hell is 17,000 to a company like Marvel? It ain't shit. Sometimes I forget Marvel and DC are huge [frick]ing scum sucking corporations. I shouldn't be surprised when they act like it. They just happen to make something I love very much.
Hawksblueyes - 2/11/2012, 8:41 AM
bropous: I don't see this as a sign that Disney will shut down everything at trade shows as you suggest. Really, I don't even think Disney wants to bother even going after some of these artist who may be making larger profits off the characters. I see it more as a warning to individuals thinking about future suits to leave Marvel and Disney alone.

While the company's would undoubtedly win again, I don't think they want to be bothered with this kinds of suit on a yearly basis. While I'm not condoning it, if someone thinking about a lawsuit because they're in need of money, happens to be well aware of the fact that they will probably be much worse off AFTER the suit, they may be too afraid to pursue action at all.
13echo - 2/11/2012, 8:46 AM
Well it could be worse, he could have created Spiderman, now that would have been a really tough pill to swallow......
superotherside - 2/11/2012, 8:48 AM
They should just give him a fat check if for no other reason but to make them appear in a good light.
aRandomSinisterClone - 2/11/2012, 9:17 AM
what do you expect. marvel is run by douchebags, and disney is run by former nazi's
Lizardking310 - 2/11/2012, 9:46 AM
Typical marvel money hungry bastards
Thelastdalek - 2/11/2012, 9:48 AM
I think Friedrich atempt a sueing marvel backfireing serves him right. You realy shouldnt try to sue over a character you gave up ownership off.

But that being said Marel's countersuit is definatly unecissery and a compleat dick move on there part. I choose to blame Joe for this regardless of who is realy responcible
Whovian - 2/11/2012, 10:09 AM
This is a case study for all that is wrong with the history of creator rights in the corporate world. When Gary created Ghost Rider at Marvel, he would be paid with a check that had a contract printed on the back. If you wished to cash the check and get paid for your work, you had to endorse the check. Well, when you endorsed the check you were similtaniously signing the contract. These contracts stated that all characters you created to recieve your check were now become property of Marvel Comics. Want to put food on your families table? Sign away your creations! Just becase its legal does not make it ethical.
batmanrises - 2/11/2012, 10:12 AM
Jeez - Didn't know we had so many Disney lawyers on the site!

A lot of people are missing the point. They're a huge difference between what's legal and what's ethical.

Gary lost the suit. Fine. Was he being "greedy"? Not at all...Gary helped create a property that helped make this company MILLIONS back at a time when creators didn't have rights. When I say rights, I am talking about things we all take for granted like Insurance, retirement benefits, profit sharing plans, etc. And that's before we even get into royalties and creator credit for characters they create. So what choice did he have but to sign his creation away?

If he didn't, he was S.O.L. as far as a paycheck is concerned. As I and other people have said, there were pretty limited work options for comic artists/writers back then. So they took advantage of him and a lot of other creators in the first place, which has been highly publicized.

Skip ahead to today. He sues and loses. Unfair, but fine. What Marvel SHOULD have done is say "Hey, we know our old business practices were unfair and we didn't take care of the people who made us what we are, but here's a check. We know it doesn't make things right, but we hope it helps restore a little faith in The House of Ideas. Our apologies and thanks for everything you've done for us!" - instead, the broke 69 year old is being shafted for $17,000. It's petty and it's unfair.

Marvel makes stories about heroes and acts like OsCorp in real life.
Hawksblueyes - 2/11/2012, 10:43 AM
batmanrises: there were pretty limited work options for comic artists/writers back then.

That's where you're wrong. He could have done any number of things that every other human was doing to earn a better living. As recent times have shown, if your desired field doesn't offer financial benefits, you have to move into something that does. He chose to work for Marvel at their agreed pay rate. Enough said.

I know fine craftsmen who work wonders with almost any material given to them. Right now they're lucky to make just over minimum wage in their desired field, so they do something else.

Don't make it sound like Marvel went into this guys home and forced him to work at gunpoint. He was a grown man and made what he considered to be the best decision at the time (and it probably was.)
KeithM - 2/11/2012, 10:45 AM
One of the peculiarities of Trademark law is that if you don't pursue your TM you lose it. Therefore Marvel had no choice but to counter-sue or it could have created a precedent that allowed former employees to profit from their Trademarks.

Morality has nothing to do with it. It's the Law.
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