Marvel/Disney wages petty, vicious war against Ghost Rider creator

This much is certain: Gary Friedrich created the Marvel comics character Ghost Rider. Freidrich sued Marvel (and its new owners, Disney) because he claims that he never signed away the rights to his character, and thus the feature film based on the comic was illegal. Freidrich also apparently launched his own, rival line of authorized Ghost Rider merchandise.

Disney/Marvel has countersued Freidrich, claiming that the boilerplate legalese on the back of his paychecks were all the assignment they needed to assert ownership of his character. What's more, Misney has broken with the industry-standard practice of turning a blind eye to creators doing sketches of their own characters for money at conventions, and singled out Freidrich for punitive, retaliatory legal claims for doing what every artist in the field does.

Finally, Misney has sought to prohibit Freidrich from publicly identifying or marketing himself as the creator of Ghost Rider, on the basis of the ancient legal principle of fuck you I said so and I can afford more lawyers than you so shut up.

As payback, not only can Friedrich no longer sell his own Ghost Rider merchandise, he can’t even represent himself as its co-creator, thereby robbing him of any potential financial gain he might accrue from convention appearances and the like. (He will, however, still be able to sign officially licensed Marvel merchandise, either with ink or bitter tear stains.) In addition, Marvel is also demanding $17,000 from the unemployed, financially destitute 68-year-old, which Comic Book Resources surmises will serve as a warning to all others who currently enjoy the privilege of selling their own unlicensed merchandise, and should maybe just keep their mouths shut then.

Marvel forces Ghost Rider creator to stop saying he's Ghost Rider creator


    1.  Marvel had a long standing tradition of screwing over creators. I’d tell you to ask Jack Kirby, but he’s dead.

  1. “the ancient legal principle of fuck you I said so and I can afford more lawyers than you so shut up.” 

  2. Unfortunately the contracts that artists & writers worked under with Marvel & DC back then were pretty standard work for hire – this same argument keeps coming up over and over again – Kirby, Gerber, Siegel, etc. so the decision that Marvel owned Ghost Rider outright isn’t surprising.

    Marvel/Disney’s attack on Freidrich is unconscionable, petty and just plain vindictive.   Are they going to go after all the artists on Deviant Art and classrooms for drawing their own versions of the Marvel characters as well?

    1. If those artists have deep enough pockets that Disney can get money out of them, then hell yes. It’s Disney.

    2. Pretty much the same as *all* employment contracts these days – from artists to software developers to engineers – “the employer owns all rights to any work created by this person during their employment” – that means all patents, ideas, artwork, characters… everything. Even worse, some contracts assert the same ownership of stuff you create at home on the weekend, even if it’s completely unrelated to your work and was done completely on your own. This extra clause is indefensible but some contracts still try and sneak it in there.

      It’s pretty much been this way for as long as there have been workers who create stuff for their living. I’ve signed many myself. It sucks, and it feels immoral, but at least for the vast majority of people it never actually matters.

    3. get your BS facts straight:

      This was a stipulated agreement he asked for after not having any ground in the suit. He admitted to selling unauthorized materials for monetary gain,so Marvel HAD to counter sue to protect their Trademark on Ghost Rider. 

      nothing unconscionable or petty about it… if they didnt protect THEIR IP then a lot of damage could be done. Here read the actual court doc… 

      This Court finds that there were at leasttwo moments in time when Friedrich definitively conveyed bycontract to Marvel all rights of whatever nature, including anyrenewal rights to the Character and the Work: (1) at the timeof payment for the initial creation of the Character and Work in1971 and 1972; and (2) in a separate contract signed in 1978 byFriedrich and Marvel Comics Group, a division of CadenceIndustries Corporation (and defined therein as “Marvel”) (the“1978 Agreement”).3 At the time Friedrich and Marvel Comics entered into the 1978 Agreement,the term “Marvel” referred to, inter alia, Marvel Entertainment Group (apredecessor-in-interest to defendant Marvel Entertainment, Inc.).There is no triable issue of fact as towhether (a) in 1971, Friedrich conveyed any rights he may havehad to both the Character and the Work to Marvel and (b) in1978, he again conveyed to Marvel any rights he then had orcould have in the future in the Character and the Work. Eitherone of those contractual transfers would be sufficient toresolve the question of ownership. Together, they provideredundancy to the answer that leaves no doubt as to itscorrectness.

  3. I don’t know what the standard is in the comic book industry, but generally if an artist works for a paycheck it’s a “work for hire” arrangement, and the person paying owns the rights to the work, right? I mean, I appreciate the sad tale of an artist who is no longer able to draw works based on a character he created, but he was paid in the first place. 

    1. Correct.  Same as programmers who accept a paycheck for a work for hire.  The company writing the check owns the copyright.  Same as anything else.  If you don’t like that deal, you’re welcome to turn down the paycheck and go it on your own.  No one is preventing you from doing that.

      And, although Misney are being complete dicks about going after him as much as they are, I suspect it has everything to do with him coming out with his own merchandise rather than him making a few sketches at a convention.  

      1. Actually, “work for hire” is much much narrower than people think it is (assuming that’s what the relevant contract says, or there wasn’t a contract at all).  Only a few categories of work qualify for work for hire if you’re not an actual statutory employee of the company that you’re working for.  If you’re not an employee and your work isn’t in those categories, unless there’s an express assignment (which generally requires a signed writing) the person paying you only gets a use right within the implied scope of the project for which you did the work.
        See, e.g.,

        People attribute a lot of power to the magic words “work for hire”, but the law doesn’t.

      2.  Frankly, based on what I’ve read (with having absolutely no knowledge about comic artists’ contracts before this, so I may be off base here), I think that comic artists should come together and sue Marvel/DC en masse for being coerced to sign contracts for work prior to the 90’s. When your employers can force you to sign something giving away your rights, and you (essentially) have no other option before you, it’s not much of a choice…The courts might even consider it coersion and declare said contracts null and void.

        But again, I may be wrong. i don’t have all the facts, clearly.

      3. Further reading into this makes this black & white issue more suspect.

        Gary was the writer of the book, not the artist – how many other writers produce prints for sale of the artists work?    He’s not selling his original artwork or prints of his artwork at that point is he?   Wouldn’t he have been making prints of someone elses art and selling it?

        So confusing.

    2. US copyright law prior to 1989 was a weird, complicated mess. It was much easier for creators to get screwed out of their rights. I doubt that what Marvel did back then would be legal now. 

    3.  Yes, the courts have upheld the back-of-the-check contract Friedrich signed.  (Which is odd, given that courts in the past have ruled that back-of-the-check contracts are coercive and not binding, which is why he’s appealing, but let’s leave that aside for the moment.)

      Marvel is, pending appeal, legally in the right.  But it’s still a colossally nasty thing to do.  The guy’s got no money and is about to lose his house; there are people defending Marvel saying “They could have done worse,” but I don’t really see how.  Yes, they could have asked for more, but that’s kind of a moot point given that they’re already asking for more money than he has.

      AND saying he can’t call himself the creator anymore, which just seems like adding insult to injury.  (If they made him say “co-creator” instead of “creator” I guess I could get behind that, as Roy Thomas also claims to have been involved in creation, and Mike Ploog was the artist.)

  4. Hey, Cory, Disney also has a bought and paid  for no fly zone over its parks placed in the US National Budget every year, while the FBI, FAA, CIA and DHS say there is no threat.

    So how was your last trip to Dizzyland/world?

    1.  If they PAID for a no-fly zone – who cares? Unless that really fucks up traffic, I say if they want to pay for it – let them.

      1. Some Americans are naive enough to believe that acts of congress aren’t supposed to be for sale.  If that’s wrong then we should have “let them” have SOPA and PIPA.

        If you think that it’s OK for a mega media corp to lobby congresscritters to insert  a provision into the US Omnibus Spending bill (the annual US Budget) to ORDER the FAA to establish a no fly zone, not for security purposes but because they dont’ like banner planes carrying ads they don’t get revenue from – is OK, then so was SOPA and PIPA.  

        In other words you’re saying corporations should be able to get the congress they paid for.

        1.  re: “… is OK, then so was SOPA and PIPA.  ”

          No. No. No. With that attitude any bill with a lobby group behind (all of them) would be “bad”.  So if, say, the Susan G Komen group lobbies for more breast cancer research funds, does that make the bill evil like SOPA? No.

          Now to the issue at hand. If Disney lobbied for the no-fly zone – not sure if I agree with it. If they paid a fee to get one established, that I would have no problem with.

          1. If they paid a fee to whom?  Who do you think they paid to get a no-fly zone?  

            What’s more likely, that Disney paid the public treasury for a no-fly zone or that they paid congressmen’s campaign fund for a provision in an unrelated bill to create a no-fly zone?

            And how far up does the no-fly zone go?  Do satellites have to make sure they never fly over any Disney property?

            Let’s not mess around:  Disney needs to be broken into small pieces.  

          2.  re: “Who do you think they paid to get a no-fly zone?  ”

            I dunno – the FAA? The original verbage of the post I replied to made it sound like they actually PAID for the privilege, not lobbied for the privilege. I guess that is a matter of semantics, but it is confusing what was meant.

      SLI VOR’s 066-degree radial at 6.8 nautical miles
      Surface up to and including 3,000-ft-AGLTimes:
      12:01 a.m. local Tuesday, February 17, 2009, until further noticeIMPACTED AIRPORTS:NONE.

    3. Ridiculously not true.  Ask anyone who’s ever been to Disney World, and they’ll tell you there are planes overhead EVERY DAY spelling out the ridiculous religious propaganda messages in their exhaust, that Disney has absolutely no control over.  There is not, and never has been, a “no fly zone” over Walt Disney World.   Please, find a conspiracy theory that’s not so simple to disprove.

      1. If you read the linked Federal Aviation Administration webpage, you’ll see the no flight zone is over Disneyland.

  5. Can the intertubes googlebomb “Ghost Rider” so the first result is an account of this fiasco?

  6. The countersuit is a dick move, but Friedrich (or more probably, his lawyer) really, really messed up. Anybody who knows anything about the Kirby case would never, ever try to go after Marvel and DC for any work between 1970 and 1985.

  7. “…claiming that the boilerplate legalese on the back of his paychecks were all the assignment they needed to assert ownership of his character.”

    That is like me claiming to own my house, because the boilerplate legalese on my deed is all i need to assert ownership. IT IS.

    As much as I think the all comic creators before the 1990s got a pretty raw deal, this is EXCEPTIONALLY well documented case law. I personally don’t think it is all that dickish to legally retaliate when A) the original lawsuit is frivolous, and both parties’ lawyers know it and B) the person suing you is stealing your intellectual property.

    Or to put that a different way, my postman will informally let my neighborhood put fliers for events in everybody’s mailbox. This is technically illegal. However, if I sue him in a baseless lawsuit (or even a real lawsuit) I shouldn’t be surprised if the rules are no longer bent for me.

    1. How do you know what was on the back of the man’s paychecks?  Do you believe that the back of his paycheck says, “you may never tell anyone that you have created any characters that you have created”?  

      I guarantee, there is not enough room on the “back of a paycheck” for language covering all the rights that Disney claims.

      Seriously, I don’t know why anyone would support a corporation that is so hostile to the artists we love by viewing their products legally.

      1.  I don’t believe the back of the paycheck *needs* to say “you may not promote your merchandise using our trademark,” because that’s what a trademark *is*.

      2. It’s not about supporting the evil corporations, it’s about supporting common sense.  Those writers and artists didn’t have to work for Marvel/DC.  They didn’t have to accept a paycheck.  They chose to.  Both sides should live up to whatever the contract said.  Same goes for every writer or artist today.  No one is forcing you to sell your work for another company to publish.  But if you choose to do so, live up to the agreement you signed.

        Understand, I have absolutely no doubt that the companies in question are low-life bottom feeding parasites sucking on the creative processes of others.  I am very familiar with how they work.  Personally, I choose to not have anything to do with them because of that.  You may choose otherwise.  I have to live with the consequences of my choice.  So do you.

        1. Both sides should live up to whatever the contract said.

          So every character DC and Marvel published prior to 1978 should enter into the public domain after 56 years, as originally agreed?

          Aside from that…what about the huge number of cases where there WAS no contract?

    2. That is like me claiming to own my house, because the boilerplate legalese on my deed is all i need to assert ownership.

      No, it isn’t.  Copyrights aren’t houses.

      Back-of-the-check contracts are a case where a creator has ALREADY completed the work at the client’s request, and then the client hands him a check for it — which he can’t cash without agreeing to a set of terms that may or may not have been part of the original agreement when the work started.

      Back-of-the-check contracts are legally questionable and I’m surprised a court held this one up.

  8. someone should volunteer to stand next to him at conventions and say ‘there’s the guy that ceated ghost rider!’

  9. I have that comic. If I could find it, maybe I should sell it, and send Friedrich the money. Any takers?

  10. I suspect that Disney is feeling more than ordinarily sensitive about it’s latest failure;  as the ghostrider sequel is sure to be.  Merchandise will be the only feasible way they can recoup the loss;  especially with an ancient Nik Cage on the ticket.  Ghostriders is one of my old, old faves;  and I somehow feel that the spirit of justice will prevail in the end.  Or, alternatively, Disney could try and go sue Johnny Cash’s estate, or even the older versions.  it just points up the ludicrousness of treating ideas as property.  Treating an idea as property is an idea.  that it s enshrined in law doesn t change the philosophical values one bit, no matter how much capital is involved.  that is the true realpolitik, and only time will reveal this.

  11. A couple of clarifications:

    “This much is certain: Gary Friedrich created the Marvel comics character Ghost Rider.”

    Gary Friedrich co-create with Roy Thomas and Mike Ploog.

    “What’s more, Misney has broken with the industry-standard practice of turning a blind eye to creators doing sketches of their own characters for money at conventions, and singled out Freidrich for punitive, retaliatory legal claims for doing what every artist in the field does.”

    Well, Gary was supposedly selling prints of Ghost Rider not drawn by him.

    That being said, what should have been handled with a a cease and desist order was handled with a thermonuclear warhead. Technically Gary was in the wrong in the eyes of the law, but Disney’s lawyers decided to beat up an old man that doesn’t have any money. They’re being bullies.

    If you would like to help out Gary with his legal/money troubles Steve Niles set up a PayPal page for him:

    1. Why in the world would you take Disney’s word for anything.  

      It’s safest and surest to assume Disney is lying.   That assumption has never failed me.

    1. My girlfriend has a principle she likes to quote when talking about labor disputes in baseball: “The players aren’t always right, but the owners are always wrong.” I think we’ve got a similar situation here. Not sure if Freidrich is right, but I’m pretty sure Marvel/Disney are being jerks. 

    2. Hm.  Ty Templeton has drawn an extremely one-sided and unfair caricature of fans who criticize Marvel, and an inaccurate description of the facts of the case.  Ty Templeton is also working on a new comic for Marvel and has lots of friends there.  I’m sure there’s no connection.  Our capacity to rationalize our own misdeeds is limitless.

      1. So he was in fact selling his own artwork at conventions despite the fact he’s a writer, not a graphic artist?  

        1. I’m not sure how you get that from what I wrote.  Is this the old rhetorical trick where I say “his description was inaccurate” and you pretend I was saying “every single word he said was wrong, in fact his name isn’t even Gary Friedrich”?  No, he wasn’t selling his own artwork, and that’s not what I said.  Templeton told a biased, lopsided view of the dispute, and his blanket depiction of people who criticize Marvel as irrational whiners with a vendetta should speak for itself.  

          1. Templeton told a biased one sided view and Friedrich’s defenders told a biased one sided view.   So what’s your point?    Go with the one sided view that agrees with your preconceived notions best.   

          2. @CSMcDonald:disqus : all of Friedrich’s defenders told a biased one -sided version of events? There’s an obvious false equivalence here.  I’m not saying everyone who criticizes Friedrich is being unfair or biased; I’m saying Templeton is.  But apparently we’ve come to an agreement on that much at least.  I’m not objecting to a comics artist disagreeing with my view of events, or my opinion of Marvel…but I have real issues with any comics creator who depicts all fans who simply want publishers not to be jerks to their creators as shrill and whiny assholes.  He’s painted every fan who criticizes Marvel with the same broad brush; it’s possible to say that’s wrong regardless of the merits of a specific legal battle.

          3. What exactly is lopsided or incorrect in Templeton’s summation of the facts of the case?  He discusses the strip in the comments after the comic and he seems pretty reasonable and straightforward to me.  

            In fact, the judgement is fairly clear that Friedrich made a lot of mistakes and signed away those rights (which he clearly knew he didn’t really have or in some cases thought he had with no legal basis) more than once.  What it comes down to is that Friedrich was most likely hoping that Marvel would turn a blind-eye to some of his activies and then, in 2004, figured he might be able to make some money of his connection to the character.  He miscalculated his chances.

            I’m hearing now that Marvel isn’t asking for the $17,000 any longer, which is good.  That was petty and vindictive and didn’t help them any.  But I don’t see how they were in the wrong here, just that they were being jerks after Friedrich kicked them a few times.

          4.  wizardru You might want to check the discussion in his comments again, where Templeton admits he himself had incorrect facts when he made the strip.

          5. wizardru, this is obviously not a good venue for lengthy replies, but I’ll try to hit the highlights.

            By his own account, Mike Ploog didn’t know Ghost Rider was going to be on a motorcycle when he was brought in to design the character.  His knowledge of the character’s creation comes entirely from Roy Thomas.  Thomas is one of my boyhood heroes, but he’s also a longtime “company man” and his own reputation depends on backing the official company version.  

            Any writer knows “let’s take this Western hero’s name and give it to a motorcycle rider” is not the entirety of creating a character, just as the words “snakes on a plane” isn’t the same thing as a screenplay.  Friedrich never said he was THE creator, just a co-creator along with Thomas and Ploog.  Marvel wants him not to say even that.

            The claim GR was obscure until artists made him popular in the Nineties is just nuts.  Patently false to anyone reading comics in the Seventies.  (Come to that, GR had fewer readers in the Nineties than he did in the Seventies.)

            As already pointed out, Marvel can sell prints of Mike Ploog’s GR art without his permission and without paying him a dime.  If Freidrich was doing this — and some say no, it wasn’t Ploog’s work he was using — two wrongs don’t make a right, but don’t claim that Marvel is bravely defending Ploog’s honor against greedy Gary.

            Templeton claims offended fans don’t care about justice or morality, they only want to bash Marvel because DC made Alan Moore mad for some reason.  Even Templeton doesn’t act like that makes any sense. 

  12. Up around Drew’s Gap in rural SE Oregon, there is a large acreage in the scrub pines, fenced with 12 foot cyclone fencing topped with three strands of barbed wire.  No trespassing signs are everywhere before you get to the fence and functional cameras run at intervals along the fence line.  On the fence are signs saying “Property of Disney Group.  Trespassers will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”  What the hell?

    1.  It’s where the old cartoon characters are put out to seed before they’re inevitably ground down into glue. The fences are for your protection though; a lot of the older characters have some pretty extreme views, I’m afraid. There’s a reason most of those old cartoons were silent…

    1. Dude, the Southern Baptists tried that in the 90s and discovered that it was unpossible then.  How much more unpossible would it be today?

      Here’s what Wikipedia lists as assets owned by Disney Inc:

      And that’s just the public stuff that they own outright.  Are there other companies that they have some interest in that isn’t publicly known?

      Disney is one of those targets that it’s better to find a way to publicly shame into doing the right thing, because you’re never going to be able to do enough damage with an economic boycott to get them to notice that you’re there.

    2. At what point do we call for a boycott of all Disney products and offerings?

      I’ve been doing that, albeit unintentionally, since the 1960s.  After Pollyanna, it was all downhill.

      1. Yep, have hated them for the longest time. Can hardly remember when it started. Was it learning about Walt’s testimony in front of the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities, back in the day, claiming his animators were commies to punish them for attempting to unionize? Was it the realization of the power of the Disney hype machine versus the quality of their product? (In my more cynical moments I’ve said I’m in awe of their PR people at the same time i want to blow chunks all over their movies.) Was it the young feminist in me noticing that the powerful female characters were all evil ,while the princess heroines were powerless? Was that Dumbo’s mother, the only good female elephant is MUTE while those gifted with speech were petty and cruel? (Mommy ,issues much Wally old boy? Musta been a big one, you want to cut the tongue out of every mature woman. And how about those crows, and those roustabouts? And how about all the trippy shit you stole from Fleischer for your pink elephants on parade, the only appealing part of that whole creepy-ass movie?) Was it the relentless marketing of the horrid Disney library of movies released on VCR so that parents of my generation raised children on a steady loop of that crap like it was as good for them, the same way that shit Wonderbread was good for us boomers. The fake happiness? The FORCED myth of middle American suburb consumption-based fulfillment? Was it that weekend we flew down to Orlando with the kid when he was little, so I could attend a workshop while my sister, lover of all things Disney and the parks, could squire my son around? And then we all got the flu and I spent an afternoon just sitting outside the entrance to tomorrowland, watching the tourists being vomited off the monorail, their salmon-like entrance to the park choreographed to the nines (count the admissions booths like a fish ladder, tricky but not impossible to negotiate), complete with ipecac-esque sweeping score.

        When, when, when? Can I remember a time when Disney did not make my skin crawl? No. If I happen to hallucinate a hidden Mickey, I’m torn between the desire to heave a brick and the immediate physical requirements brought on by pyloric spasms.

  13. We’ve turned into a society that doesn’t value artistic creation but instead puts the value on ownership.  Why do you think the copyright act term limitation was extended for another century?  Hint: It starts with a D…

  14. Even if Friedrich had formally signed away his rights to the character, how could they forbid him from identifying himself as creator or co-creator if it’s true? Do their work-for-hire contracts include non-disclosure agreements of some kind? It’s another super-injunction against a publicly available fact, coming from a corporation this time instead of a UK court ruling.

  15. “Misney”

    I propose using the term Marvsney, simply because it has more consecutive consonants and sounds even sillier.

  16. We can argue about the money ’til the cows come home, but tell me with a straight face that the co-creator “…can’t even represent himself as its co-creator…”
    Friedrich was, is, and always will be the co-creator of Ghost Rider.
    I would like to see little stickers and home-printed labels, all over the parks, that say just that.

  17. I think this case, for all of the gray areas we still dunno, is an awesome time to call Corporations to explain how their “Best Practices” always seem to go directly against what they tell Congress. 

    We need these copyright laws so we can protect the artists, even when it is never in our best interests to let the artists themselves have the rights.

    We knew what was in the laws be paid to get past, and added some words to the backs of checks to make sure the artists could NEVER have the rights to what they created/helped create.

    Copyright it is all about protecting the poor little artist that evil pirates are stealing from.  When you frame that argument with them ripping $17,000 out of an old mans hands, does it begin to ring hollow?  Nicholas Cage pissed away way more than $17,000 on junk, but someone who helped create the iconic image he portrays in a film needs to cough up $17,000 because he dared challenge the Corporation.

    It might have been a messy time in copyrights and contracts and terms, but who is at fault for that?  When they began meddling with copyright, they only focused on the benefit of the Corporations and turned a blind eye to the issues that might arise if an artist felt screwed and wanted their creation back. 

    With the new version of copyright would Shakespeare have had any recourse if the publishing house renamed Juliet – Snooki?  Or would they stripped him of his title, and demanded he stop bad mouthing their product?  Used their lawyers to make sure he would have even less than they left him with the first time, while finding a new way to make even more money from what he created?

    Sometimes you need to use the glaring examples to get people to see the forest in-spite of the trees.

  18. The basic message of all of this: If you really want to be an artist who lives off of your work, you need to retain all rights and not budge an inch for anyone anywhere.  Lessons artists working in the new digital age need to seriously understand.

  19. While I think the countersuit was excessive, I don’t think Friedrich was totally innocent in this affair either. He was selling artwork of Ghost Rider done by Mike Plogg, not himself. I don’t know if he should owe Marvel anything, but he should owe Plogg something.

    1. Right, I heard elsewhere that he was selling unlicensed prints, with his signature. I don’t follow this enough for a citation, though.

  20. For those who might find it interesting the full ruling is available here:

    It is interesting to note that the illustrator, inker, and letterer did not claim copyright over the work and considered the Marvel’s 1971 and 1972 contracts binding. It is also worth noting that other writers who worked on Ghost Rider with the same stipulations have not been considered to have copyright. The court ruled that, regardless of whether it was “work for hire ” or not, he assigned copyright through the checks.

    It appears that Gary Friedrich signed something in 1978 that even he thought gave control to Marvel as being the only one who could create Ghost Rider worksin the future. Ie. he did not just give up his copyright claims in 1971 and 1972, he reiterated it in 1978. In a contract that explicitly stated “SUPPLIER expressly grants to MARVEL forever all rights of any kind and nature.”

    Gary Friedrich’s claims were either that this reverted back to him in 2001 or that they did not apply to mediums like video games and movies. Ie that, at least from 1978 to 2001 he didn’t have the copyright for anything printed, by his own admission. 

    The court ruled that Friedrich’s case was baseless in the eyes of the law. 

    Friedrich sued Marvel/Disney and lost. Friedrich was the writer but the illustrator was not being given any copyright by Friedrich for the convention stuff, nor was he giving it to Disney- the legal copyright holder (since that is what the court found.)

    I hate the Copyright extensions, brought on by the mouse. I hate the lack of reasonable fair use in copyright law. But I am not going to shed any tears for Gary Friedrich- he is not the poster child for this.

  21. I’ve no doubt the guy’s a good guy and it seems Disney screwed him but good, but I’m pretty sure ‘creator of Ghost Rider’ belongs to whatever tattoo artist first came up with the ‘flaming skull’ design. 

  22. This is why American pop culture stagnates so much. 
    Megacorps are so frothy when it comes to their precious “IP” (a term they invented over truffles one day) that there is no room for the originators of said IP to innovate upon it, let alone fans make tributes to it (videos, pictures, murals, songs, light novels, etc.)

    This is another example of why TPP will be so terrible when they force it through.

    I suggest anyone with free time to skim some of artist Ron English’s thoughts on the mouse. Why does he paint Mickey so much? He likens it to prehistoric folk scrawling animals on walls – before the hunt you begin by sketching your game on the cave walls.

  23. As someone Disney screwed out of a writing credit on Toy Story 2 (I wrote the second draft), I can only hope that everybody there gets barbed-wire proctology exams with Deep Heating Rub as lube.

    1. You also wrote one of the best urban fantasy books I’ve ever read Sir. Sure the beginning is a bit overly saccharine but it eased us into the concept.

  24. This sheds light on the real relationship between the big media producers and the artists they are always claiming to “protect” with the crap copyright legislation and secret treaties they’re pushing! This is a business that exploits artists to make a living for God’s sake!

  25. As has been said before, this is similar to the Kirby and others debate.

    1. Publishers do not have the best interests of the artists in mind when they want to expand copyright law. They have their own interests at heart, its just hard to get a lot of support saying, I want to profit continually off the creative work of others.

    2. If we had sane copyright laws, Ghost Rider would be in the public domain now and this wouldn’t even be an issue now. Culture and creativity are not well served with a philosophy that ideas belong to an individual and should be considered sacred for all eternity. Each new idea is built upon the ideas of others.

    3. it is unfortunate that “Don’t be a dick” is not the most profitable business philosophy. The immediate benefits of selfish behavior out-weigh the potential risks of backlash. The guy that drives down the shoulder to merge at the last second is a D-Bag, but he got what he wanted with virtually no downside.

    1. I agree with each of your 3 points but I don’t see this as even being remotely like Kirby if for no other reason than sheer scale and primacy of Kirby’s creations and involvement at the start of Marvel.

  26. Recently I read Mark Evanier’s book “Kirby King of Comics,” in which Marvel, apparently, won the case of copyright ownership.   However, just out of curiosity, are there any former Marvel employees out there who actually have one of those cancelled checks?   Since none of us knows what that “boilerplate” on the back of the check said, we have nothing to base a legal opinion on.   

    However, according to the book, “Storyboards, Motion in Art,” by Mark Simon page 252:  “Some companies, such as Playboy in past years, attach a work-made-for-hire statement on the back of checks giving the company all rights to art when the check is endorsed.  These  work-for-hire statements must be signed of the check to be cashed.  This is NOT a valid contract as proven by the Playboy Enterprises, Inc. vs. Dumas case in California, because the  contract on the back of the check was not signed BEFORE the work began.”    [Quoted from GoogleBooks copy online].   This seems to indicate there is precedent for questioning the work-for-hire clause on the check endorsement, at least in California.   Does anybody have a scan of one of those Marvel checks?  Disclosure:  I am a die-hard Marvellite, Foomer, No-prizer, who is just plain sick of the corporate dominance of US economy, government, and culture.   Even the mighty Marvel bullpen is not immune to justified rage!

    more info:

  27. Disney did not own Marvel when Friedrich worked on the update of the old Marvel Western character “Ghost Rider,” itself a mere variation on The Lone Ranger. Marvel already owned the title, he worked on an update. A cowboy on a horse became a supernatural guy on a motorcycle. Not much of a “creation,” especially since the flaming skull idea was already on some motorcycle jackets and album covers. So much for originality.
    Like it or not, the standard Marvel pay voucher specifically states that the writer or artist signing it relinquishes all rights. Believe it or not, back in the apparently prehistoric 197os it was very unlikely that movies or anything else would result from most comic book titles.Not more than a handful of properties were even seen as potential entertainment properties, most of them not very successful. Think Wonder Woman. Think Adam West Batman, okay? They had to turn the Hulk into The Fugitive to make it work with a television audience.
    And something like “Ghost Rider” was literally impossible to film in the 1970s, what with the flaming skull and all. So it’s not like the Fiendish Capitalists were rubbing their hands, going “Heh, heh, heh, we screwed another one!” and dreaming of future profits. Hell, the first “Ghost Rider” movie was, to put it mildly, drek. No, it was just business as usual in a low-rent, low-profit crap factory selling dumb fantasies to kids. This isn’t Hamlet and Shakespeare we’re talking about, it’s junk. Calling it “culture” is laughable. It’s not even good comic books.

    1. Even Marvel at the time thought that it was more than just an update. The Judge thought it was more than just an update. The creation aspect at the 1971 time was acknowledged by all sides.  Everyone also acknowledged that it was the creation of multiple people. 

  28. “This much is certain: Gary Friedrich created the Marvel comics character Ghost Rider.” 
    This is heavily disputed, and not certain at all. 

    For starters, the first comic book character called The Ghost Rider appeared in 1949 as a western character created by Dick Ayers and Ray Krank. Since the trademarked had lapsed on the original character, in 1967 Marvel re-claimed it for itself by publishing a new version by original artist Dick Ayers and written by newcomers Roy Thomas and Gary Friedrich.

    In 1972 Friedrich pitched re-using Marvel’s name Ghost Rider for an updated version of the character that would ride a motorcycle. Editor Roy Thomas and artist Mike Ploog designed the visuals for the character, though both Thomas and Friedrich claim credit for thinking of a flaming skull design.

    The character was never Marvel’s most popular title, and it was canceled after 10 years in 1982. A fair argument could be made that  the 1990 relaunch with a new creative team featuring a new 3rd version of the character was the most successful, raising the character’s prominence above other 70’s titles like Luke Cage and Man-Thing, thus making possible the series of films.

    All work in the 1970’s was done for hire with no expectation that the writers would receive merchandising rights or residuals for their work. Case law is firmly established here: Marv Wolfman filled suit in 1998 over the movie Blade claiming ownership of his own 1972 marvel character, and he lost. 

    Friedrich filled suit anyway, and in response Marvel countersued and received a $17,000 injunction to stop Friedrich from selling reprints of Ploog’s cover artwork at conventions. 

    A writer selling expensive photocopies of another artist’s drawings without the artist’s permission, and with copyrights to those images belonging to the publisher, is not “doing what every artist in the field does” at conventions. 

    I wish a little bit of skepticism had been employed before writing this post. It may be unfortunate that Freidrich isn’t being re-compensated for a now successful character he helped to co-re-create, but that doesn’t make him right. And the $17K injunction against him is a a direct result of him baselessly suing the giant corporation he was also illegally pirating work from.

    1. It’s not even complicated like Wolfman’s case.  It wasn’t entirely clear that Wolfman was working-for-hire…Wolfman himself didn’t think he was.  Friedrich knew he was working for hire and never even disputed that detail until 2004, nearly 30 years later.  His 1978 agreement reinforced that detail.

  29. My understanding is that the judgement against Gary Friedrich was for “the writer’s unauthorized sale of Ghost Rider posters, T-shirts and cards online and at comic conventions.” That’s a little different than your article’s portrayal of them Marvel/Disney suing over the artists doing and selling sketches at conventions only.

  30. I for one will not be going to see the new Ghost Rider movie.  Not on principle and not because of this…but because Marvel has released yet another steaming pile of dogcrap on the movie going public and it’s “fanbase” once again, featuring ZOMG! A CAMEO BY STAN LEE!!! (probably) and also starring THE MAN OF ONE SINGLE FACIAL EXPRESSION, Nicholas Cage.

    Not now…not ever.  If you’ve seen “Face Off” then you’ve seen every single Nicholas Cage movie that has been or ever will be made.

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