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 Change.org (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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