Arguably the biggest story in comic circles these days is off the page and in the courts. When the creator of Ghost Rider, Gary Friedrich, lost his case vs Marvel comics of the rights of the character the comic nerd rage started to grow. Marvels counter suit against the senior citizen (touched on earlier in AofNCW) to prevent him from saying he created the character and appearing at conventions as such and profiting from the sale of merchandise. Oh yea, and it also came to the tune of $17,000 dollars.
Is the hose of ideas hurting that bad for money that they demand a cheque from a reportedly penniless man who’s only source of income is selling sketches of the character he created? Marvels Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada and Publisher Dan Buckley told Comic Book Resources that its totally not what it looks like. Quesada hits on the $17k first.
“First and foremost, Marvel has not settled with Gary. What has been misinterpreted as a settlement is a court document that Gary’s very own attorneys agreed to, along with Marvel’s attorneys. That document basically ends his lawsuit against Marvel at the trial court level with Marvel having won and Gary’s case dismissed. By agreeing on a number for the profits Gary made from selling unlicensed Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider merchandise after the court has decided that Marvel is the owner of that copyright, it allows Gary’s attorneys to file his appeal now rather than have Gary litigate further. It is in no way a ‘fine’ or ‘punishment’ for Gary. It is something that the court asked both parties to do and agree upon. This is one more step in an expensive and time-consuming legal process initiated way back in 2007.”
What about blocking creators and artists from selling commissions at cons, a nasty precedent that seems draconian at best? Buckley tries to smooth that over.
“We in no way want to interfere with creators at conventions who are providing a positive Marvel experience for our fans. We want fans to speak and interact with the creators who wrote, penciled, inked, lettered, colored or edited their favorite stories. Part of that positive interaction is that a fan can walk away with a signed memento or personalized sketch from an artist.”
Call it being honest or just conducting damage control, hopefully Marvel’s more official statements start to sooth a very ugly situation. The perception that it’s big business trying to squeeze a retired creator for pennies is not doing them any favors and perpetuating the perception that the industry is hostile to creator rights.
One thing to note, Quesada did mention that Friedrich is not completely without a safety net. The Hero Initiative, a non-profit that raises money to help comic creators in need of financial assistance, had been contacted. Quesada is a board member of the nonprofit and said this:
“…when all of this Ghost Rider stuff broke, I immediately checked with Hero’s President, Jim McLauchlin, to see if Gary was in need of assistance, and Jim informed me that up until that point Gary had not applied for any. My understanding is that Hero has since been in touch.”
Is it cool if I editorialize here a little? I’m still not buying it. This is not directed at Quesada or Buckley personally, but towards the faceless business that it is. You’re an asshole. While things are ‘better’ for creator rights these days, they are still far from perfect and if the industry is to survive and thrive you have protect your main commodity, and that’s not the charcter, but the ones that make funny pictures and fill the word balloons.
If you would like to help Gary Friedrich, you may do so here.