Marvel Sues Ghost Rider Co-Creator For Some Reason

Gray Friedrich finds himself being bled for $17,000 in a move that could kill the careers of artists.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Ghost Rider #5

Back in 1972, Johnny Blaze, the motorcycle stunt man who became possessed by a demon and was dubbed Ghost Rider, was created by co-writers Gary Friedrich and Roy Thomas along with artist Mitch Ploog.  There's been some contention between the three creators over who exactly dreamt up each particular aspect of the character, who took his name from a western character created years earlier by Ray Krank and Dick Ayers, but all three are credited with having a hand in his inception.

Now that a second movie based on their version of Ghost Rider is about to be released, suddenly, Friedrich's attempts to get a piece of that action as the creator have legally failed, and what's worse, Disney/Marvel is now claiming Friedrich owes them $17,000 as an estimated tally for every time Friedrich has ever doodled a sketch or sold a print at a convention of their licensed character that he helped create.  They also claim that he is no longer allowed to bill himself the co-creator of Ghost Rider if it would result in any kind of financial gain.

The implication of this is huge.  At most comic conventions, there is what is known as Artists Alley, where all sorts of professional comic artists are commissioned for sketches, often of copyrighted characters from Marvel and DC Comics.  If, suddenly, any money they make from that has to be paid to the big corporate parent companies, that will quickly kill a huge portion of artists' income as well as a significant draw for conventions. 

Friedrich is broke now, and with health issues, and a donation fund has been set up to try and help him out of this jam.  This brings to mind the legends of bastardry from early on, where Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, creators of Superman, died penniless as well, with no benefit from having created pretty much the entire superhero genre.  Friedrich is planning another appeal.

This is awful, and a huge dick move from Marvel.  Or is it Disney now?  Would they have made that dick move before they were bought by crazed copyright-protection jackals like Disney?  Friedrich can't even TELL PEOPLE he's the co-creator of Ghost Rider, even though he was?  He's legally prohibited from advertising the truth? 

What the hell is going on here?  Are comic companies that desperate now, or was this just a 'stop suing us' threatening move that has gone too far?

One thing's for sure.  This plain sucks.