I know it.
This edition has been very hard to do, and went through many revisions because there are so many ways to come about this Gary Friedrich vs. Marvel Comics thing and so many ways opinions can be misconstrued.
For those who are unaware, Friedrich created the modern incarnation of Ghost Rider for Marvel Comics back in the 1970s. There were a few “oops moments” to borrow a term from Rick Perry that involved a murky idea of who owned the concept. Friedrich spent the remaining years attending cons and selling art and prints with his creation on it.
This was all well and good, Ghost Rider was mostly a C-List character and wasn’t really on Marvel’s radar until the first, horrendous Ghost Rider movie came out, and did well enough for a sequel/remake/redo coming out in a few weeks time.
Friedrich received no credit in the film, or any proceeds from his creation and sued Marvel, David failed to slay Goliath, and not only did he lose the case, Marvel counter sued him for $17,000 for sales based off his con sketches and other merchandise and won.
Gary is a senior citizen, living on a fixed income, with no way to pay that judgment, Horror writer Steven Niles is putting together a donation to help Gary and I for one think, if you are able, please give generously.
That said, the reason in the opening I said Friedrich created the modern incarnation of Ghost Rider, is that he didn’t create the character, he just reinvented him for a new era. Ghost Rider started his life in Timely Comics (Marvel before it was Marvel) Western stories. When the time came that cowboys, Indians, clam jumpers, and cattle rustlers no longer became relevant The Rider died on the vine along with Two-Gun Kid and the like.
Every so often a company needs to bring characters back to keep the copyright/trademark on them. Which is why you are seeing so many odd choices in the DC New 52 waves (Dial H for Hero? Who knows what a dial is anymore?) Friedrich was hired to relaunch a character and he created several new characters as a result, as is the case of publishing in that era, it was all assumed to be work for hire as specific contracts to that regard didn’t exist until the Sonny Bono Act.
After the passage of the act, Fredrich had the ability to go back to the company and renegotiate the rights to his works but for whatever reason that wasn’t done. It’s very easy to pick sides in this. Every creator worth their salt understands what its like to have something you work hard on get taken from you or fall apart.
If we learn anything out of this going forward, especially those out there trying to break into this industry is that you need to go over contracts CAREFULLY. I don’t care if it’s your best friend from 3rd grade or your grandma.
Because when that property becomes a TV series or movie, Nana’s gonna get hers and if you aren’t getting your piece, she’s not going to fight for you. We see that here in the case of the Walking Dead where Tony Moore is suing Robert Kirkman for a piece of the TV series and merchandising.
The problem with all of these things, is that these little spats have larger, wider complications. Marvel going after Friedrich for con sketches puts a chill down the spine of anyone in Artist Alley. A good part of a creators money comes from commissions, con sketches, sketch books, or prints. If someone selling a commission of Spider-man for $250 at a comic-con could be sued for $10,000 creates quite a stir.
Not only does it curtail a creator for making money needed for just keeping themselves alive and healthy, but it puts a barrier between the fans who spend thousands buying merchandise from a big company like Marvel or DC. I could buy my weight in Daredevil trades but there is something extra special having a one of a kind personalized Daredevil piece of art from my favorite artist.
For years it’s been a self policed and recognized practice. Do I think its in danger? No. But it’s a very real Sword of Damocles being held over a creator if they were to exercise their rights.
The comics industry is a lot like a small town, where everyone knows everyone else. Rumors travel at the speed of light, and with the advent of the internet it’s gotten even smaller. Where once was a veil, now the average fan knows how the sausage is made so to speak.
Look no further than a bit of business that actually came about from this column. The battle between John Rozum, Scott McDaniel, and DC Comics over the cancellation of Static Shock. The term ‘battle’ is a bit of hyperbole but to look at the fallout both here and across the internets what is a simple act that goes on in every editorial office becomes a conspiracy.
In a way, it can be a good thing. The transparency of things now mean editorial gerrymandering, and back room deals that leave a creator out of luck when their creations become pop culture icons get extra scrutiny and perhaps those types of problems will soon be a thing of the past.
Now, as a bit of a PS, I figure I should promote my own little thing here and there. I have begun a kickstarter project and hopefully I can get the funding I need to get it off the ground. I am still learning how to use Kickstarter so bear with me.
Keep an eye on it because there will be more info, as I figure out how to use the site.
And always, backers are appreciated. Even a dollar goes a long way.