My first though upon hearing about this story was, “somebody’s really fighting for the rights of Ghost Rider?” But I digress.
In nerd-related courtroom news this week, federal appellant court Judge Danny Chin overturned a 2011 ruling that stated Marvel Comics owns the rights to the Ghost Rider character, and not original Ghost Rider author Gary Friedrich. Friedrich brought the appeal and after reviewing the case Judge Chin determined that the original contract Friedrich signed was “ambiguous on its face,” and needed further investigation before a final ruling.
Basically, what needs further investigation was whether or not the language in the contract, which was signed in 1978, covered the creation of Ghost Rider in 1972 as Marvel believes. Chin said that what had to be determined was “whether [the contract] covered a work published six years earlier” and “whether it conveys renewal rights.”
Friedrich had argued that the rights to the character reverted back to him in 2001 and brought suit against Marvel in 2007, coincidentally, the same year that the first Ghost Rider movie starring Nicolas Cage was released in theaters. When the case was ruled on in 2011 though, the judge at the time held up Marvel’s argument that Friedrich’s creation of Ghost Rider was covered in the ’78 “work-for-agreement” the writer signed, and thus he was not entitled to any of that sweet Hollywood back-end on Ghost Rider or its eventual sequel Spirits of Vengeance.
Joking aside though, this is an issue affecting many creators, up to and including Jack Kirby. Kirby’s estate has long fought for partial rights and/or royalties to certain characters he helped co-create for Marvel. So this case, which is now going back down the legal chain for a new trial, might have some pretty implications that go beyond Ghost Rider.
Gary Friedrich, creator of Ghost Rider, has been in an ongoing battle with the powers at Marvel to regain control of his rights to the character. He’s been going at it with the comics giant since 2007 and a recent ruling last December seemed to have sealed his fate in the matter. He had been arguing that Marvel never registered the copyright to Ghost Rider and that therefore it should have reverted to him. The judges said no and, to add insult to injury, even levied a fine against the poor guy.
For those without a knowledge of comic book history, back in the day writers and artists were pretty much little more than low-paid employees of the companies. The concept of creator’s rights wouldn’t catch on for some time. Given the current popularity of comic book characters, this has made Marvel fkn rich while those who first came up with the characters have been left behind, unknown to most except for the occasional by-line stuffed secretively into the credits. This has prompted more than one artist to seek compensation, Gary Friedrich among them.
What the lawyers are trying to argue now, in their appeal of the judge’s previous ruling, is that a precedent set by Stan Lee and Moebius regarding their retention of some of the Silver Surfer rights may apply in this case. They also contend that Friedrich was forced to sign over his rights under duress, threatened by Marvel with black-listing if he didn’t do what they asked.
And so he continues to fight, though it’s unlikely that any new ruling will be different from the old. In the meanwhile, Marvel continues to tarnish their reputation in the eyes of fans, showing themselves to be more concerned with money than taking care of the people that made them what they are today.
Will fans still continue to pay money to Marvel to see their films? Definitely. Although we may complain about the injustice, we still need our fix, right?
We’ve all had those jobs. The jobs that we want to storm out of, double-handed flip-offs on full display with a smile and a string of profane words so severe that they would make Andrew Dice Clay wash his own mouth out with soap. Sadly though, that’s just a fantasy for most of us. A “one day I’ll” that dances around in our brains during the blissful peace of a cubicle daydream. That’s why Chris Roberson (iZombie and Superman) is destined to become a momentary icon, not only did he tell his boss to go to hell, but that boss was DC Comics, and he did it in a very public, and embarrassing way by questioning their ethics and the way they treat writers.
Now, Roberson wasn’t explicit in speaking on the details of his mistreatment by DC, hell he didn’t even say he was mistreated — and who knows, maybe a few well placed tweets on the way out the door are merely the appetizers to a more stout statement on DC, everything is a teaser for another teaser nowadays, an ad for the big reveal. Maybe that’s how Roberson will play this, and maybe he won’t say anything more — focusing on his work and building a career away from DC. One thing is clear though, it takes guts to stand in against Goliath and it is something that is uncommon due to the long memory of powerful people. (more…)
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 Buckleytold 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.
Here we go. Another weeks worth of comic books have arrived and it’s back to the racks and into the conversations. Now, if you keep up on the events inside the comic book industry you know that lately there has been a lot of legal battles. The big one being Marvel vs Ghost Rider co-creator Gary Friedrich over creator rights. Back in 2007 he sued marvel saying that the rights to the character belong with the creator, Marvel counter sued saying the money he made on the convention circuit totting himself as the characters creator was their money. He lost, Marvel won, and it’s not very good.
Creator rights is nothing new, pick a character or a creator and 90% of the time you are going to see some legal battle either happening or possible. Battles for the rights to Superman, Bill Finger being stiffed over everything he did for Batman. Marvel Comics general treatment of legends like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby. Hell, Image comics was created to defeat the work-for-hire model. Like I said it’s a long list.
That’s a different conversation for a different day. Right now I just want to pass something a long. Gary Friedrich is a guy that gave a lot for the love of comics, one of the workhorses, and now he can’t even say he created Ghost Rider, Ghost Rider for crying out loud. As a fan, I’m just bummed out by this. We could go on talking about this and each and every other ugly story like it, but I’m bummed out enough and want to get back to reading the comics I love and thank the creators, writers, artists and all involved.
Steve Niles has set up a fund for Friedrich to help him in this legal battle. If you love comics, help a man who’s getting beat up by the business.
Ok, like I said, we are here because we love comics, right? So let’s read some. This week I’ve purposely passed by any of the Marvel releases. Not out of some moral stance or self-righteous protest, more that with what we already talked about in mind they just seem ugly to me so I give them a miss. For the other big guys, DC Comics, honestly nothing really caught my eye past the ones I regularly read, maybe it’s six month post-new 52 burnout syndrome.
So we got three independents lined up.
A Titty McBoobsalot character from the 90’s gets a redux that is amazing and two beloved sci-fi properties get the comic book treatment with some mixed results.
The rapid fire, in your face, fast and dirty reviews you’ disagree with hit you after the jump. (more…)
Remember how I said these things always end up being autobiographical? Well, here’s the story of how this week’s installment wound up being about Ghost Rider (and no, it has nothing to do with the new movie). (more…)
This NerdBastard pretty much checked out of the Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance movie fan club when I saw that Ghost Rider peed fire. Once you have to go so low as to rely on pee pee jokes to make your movie interesting in the first trailer . . . the party’s over. What ever happened to the darkness and tragedy that surrounded this character?
The only tragedy attached to this whole enterprise is Marvel’s recent court victory against the man who co-created Ghost Rider (Gary Friedrich). Now he cannot even claim credit for the creation in any form that provides income, like interviews, appearances, or artwork.
This train wreck of a comic book adaptation is set to be released on February 17th. An April first release would have at least given Cage a few jokes to tell fans when he looks back on this monstrosity of a movie while he signs autographs during the convention signing ally circuit of his career.
Check out the clip below, and tell us know if this is a movie you’re looking forward to seeing, or just looking forward to be forgotten.
Gary Friedrich is the creator of the modern-era Ghost Rider. You’d think with such a creation that he would get a fair cut from the Ghost Rider movies. You know, because the first movie was so good and made so much money. Well, Marvel didn’t think so. Naturally, Friedrich took them to court back in 2007. Five years later it looks like the case has been resolved…and it’s not good for old Gary.
Friedrich claimed that he held the rights to the Ghost Rider character (which replaced Marvel’s original character of the same name, the “cowboy-style character” from Marvel’s comics in the ’50s and ’60s). He also said he owned the rights to any Ghost Rider merchandise, but according to The Wrap, a U.S. District Court judge in New York ruled that Friedrich has no rights to his character. But how could this be?
In short, while he did create the modern incarnation we know today, he did so knowing full well that Marvel comics would hold all the cards to it’s ownership. Judge Katherine B. Forrest said that Friedrich was working for Marvel in a “work-for-hire” capacity, and that Friedrich “conveyed by contract to Marvel all rights” to the Ghost Rider character, both when he originally created him and when he signed a new contract with Marvel in 1978. Forrest continues:
“Friedrich concedes that he had read the 1978 Agreement when he signed it, that he discussed it with other freelancers — in particular, the topic of relinquishing rights which they may have had in exchange for the possibility of additional work — and that he understood its import.”
I’m sorry but that is any business. Whenever you create a character or product for a company unless otherwise stated then that company owns the product and character.