Gary Friedrich, Marvel, and Ghost Rider

The past couple of weeks have seen a legal battle between Marvel and Gary Friedrich, co-creator of Ghost Rider. Marvel has successfully sued the struggling artist for $17,000. But why?

In 2007, Friedrich filed a lawsuit against Marvel (as reported in this 2007 article by Andy Khouri of Comic Book Resources) claiming that his copyrights to Ghost Rider had been returned to him in 2001. The rights in question in fact belonged to Marvel since the character’s creation in 1972.  This lawsuit, of course, was around the time of the release of the first Ghost Rider film, and Friedrich was looking to get a piece of the film’s profits and merchandising rights, which he claimed he legally deserved. Friedrich lost the lawsuit, Marvel was triumphant, and it looked like that was that.

However, recently, Marvel counter-sued the penniless Friedrich for $17,000. Fans and supporters of Friedrich were outraged at Marvel for the action, many calling it a “dick move.” contributor, batmanrises, describes the action as adding “Insult to Injury.” As a major fan of Marvel, it broke my heart to read about them engaging in what truly looked like tactless money-grabbing, simply because they could. This is how many blog sites like 20th Century Danny Boy made the situation sound, anyway. I almost felt ashamed. It didn’t take long for the torches and pitchforks to come out, as fans let Marvel know their disdain for the company’s actions. Donation sites to support Friedrich were set up, and the Marvel-hate continued.

Finally, we heard the other side of the story, when details came out stating that Marvel had not just been throwing their weight around, as it had appeared. Marvel counter-sued Friedrich because they had been forced to spend a good sum of money for their defense against Friedrich’s initial lawsuit, a fact that had not occurred to the Marvel-hating lynch mob (myself included). Not only that, but it turns out Friedrich had been illegally selling prints featuring Ghost Rider for some time. The gist of the situation was laid out nicely in this webcomic by Ty Templeton, featuring Marvel’s own Forbush Man.

So, Marvel won their counter-lawsuit. Gary Friedrich is no longer legally allowed to appear credited as “co-creator of Ghost Rider.” All this, of course, occurring days before the release of the new Ghost Rider film,  Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Not exactly a happy ending, but at least we’re now getting the full story. I feel for Friedrich (and donated to him, being the softy that I am), but in the long run I feel that Marvel went relatively easy on him. They most likely could have taken the poor guy for a lot more.

Currently reading: Captain America #8

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