Creators Rights, Mean Spirited Lawsuits, Disney, and my boycott of Ghost Rider

Spider-Man: "Aren't I supposed to be a jerk when I wear this costume? Wasn't that what my last movie was about? Boy...did that make money..."

I was kind of looking forward to Ghost Rider, despite being pretty non plussed by the first film. I have been a fan of the Ghost Rider since I was a kid in the seventies, for simple reasons. He had a leather jacket and a motorcycle, and his head was on fire. Pretty much had me at hello.

Gary Friedrich worked for Marvel Comics in the 1970s, and was at least a co creator of the skull headed biker that brought me hours of enjoyment. He was under a work for hire contract, which basically gives Marvel the rights to his intellectual products. It is really lost to antiquity whether he was the sole creator, or not.

When Marvel started making big budget, big dollar, mass merchandise Ghost Rider projects, linked to film, Gary sued. He felt he was entitled to some kind of royalty as creator. It’s important to bear in mind that Gary Friedrich was making a very modest living, selling his art and Ghost Rider merchandise, as creator of Ghost Rider, at conventions.

Disney bought Marvel a while ago, and Marvel then inherited their huge legal department. The combined Marvel/Disney countersued Gary, seeking damages for $17000 as a penalty for the Ghost Rider merchandise and art he has been selling to make his meager living.

To Marvel and Disney, that’s no money. Pocket change. To people like Gary and I, that’s a devastatingly large amount of money, that simply can’t be paid off. In addition, he can no longer call himself “the creator of Ghost Rider,” thus nullifying his way to make a living.

That seems evil to me. Just evil.

Upon lerning about this mesaure, I decided that I wasn’t going to hand over any filthy lucre for the film. As I understand from the reviews, the film hasn’t been well recieved either.

The comics community has gotten together to give Gary Friedrich a hand against the forces of corporate evil. Many creators, such as Neal Adams and Mike Mignola, have auctioned off original art done by themselves. The artwork has been furiously bid on, and the proceeds of the bidding go to helping out Mr. Friedrich. You can read about that here.

Further, horror comic writer Steve Niles has set up a button on his site, with a donation to help Gary pay the bills. You can find that, and other information here.

Also, a fairly excellent article summarizing the whole thing can be found here, at moviefone, of all places.

Why am I so fired up about this? I love comics, and Marvel’s characters teach, in theory, a set of values. My values certainly come from comics. Key to this is, “You don’t pick on the little guy, it’s not right.” Also, the idea of “with Great Power comes Great Responsibility.” Spider-Man could be a bully, with his powers, but he’s not…he goes out of his way to sacrifice for the little guy, with what little he has. He protects.

In this, Spider-Man’s bosses went after the little guy. And they hurt him, bad.

I understand that Marvel is a company, and that it has corporate interests. But making an example out of Gary Friedrich, making him a harsh lesson to other creators about what will happen if you think you too might be entitled to a royalty for your hard work…or worse, if you have trouble making ends meet…it just seems wrong. It’s wrong by the standards of the product that you are in the same breath trying to sell me.

Don’t even get me started on Disney. The values of kindness that their product line seems to be all about certainly weren’t reflected here. Happiest Place on Earth? Maybe.

But not in Gary Friedrich’s house. Not today.

Feel free to join me and the comics community in helping make this right for Gary, by clicking the links above.

Normally, I’d sign off by paraphrasing Stan Lee in some way…but not today.

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