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Ghost Rider co-creator ordered to pay Marvel $17,000
Posted by Patrick Sauriol on Sunday, February 12, 2012
The second Ghost Rider movie opens in theaters this coming Friday. While audiences are paying to see Nicolas Cage go all flaming skull in Spirit of Vengeance, one of the creators of the comic book superhero has been asked to pay his former publisher $17,000 as part of a court ordered ruling.
Back in 1972 writer Gary Friedrich helped co-create one of Marvel's darkest heroes in the pages of Marvel Spotlight. Since that time Friedrich launched a lawsuit against Marvel Comics and movie studio Columbia Pictures, who released both Ghost Rider movies, as well as toy company Hasbro and related others involved with the licensing of the character. Friedrich alleged that the copyright to Ghost Rider reverted back to him in 2001 because the comic book company never copyrighted the character with the U.S. Copyright Office after his first appearance in Marvel Spotlight #5. Marvel filed a countersuit against Friedrich in 2010 claiming that the high quality Ghost Rider prints and merchandise the creator was selling at conventions were violating their copyright.
After many years and tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees for both sides, late last week the court sided in favor with Marvel. Spelling it out to Friedrich and his legal representative, the judge said that the legal notice on the reverse side of paychecks cut to Marvel freelancers legally spelled out that the creators inventions were work for hire for the company.
Marvel has asked that Friedrich pay the company $17,000 in damages, the believed cost of the unlicensed Ghost Rider merchandise that Friedrich has sold over the years; that he immediately stop selling his Ghost Rider merchandise; and that Friedrich also halts promoting himself as one of the co-creators of Ghost Rider.
What is also of interest is that Marvel (and other comic book publishers) have looked away from creators selling original artwork and other items of the characters they helped create to fans at comic book conventions. For many artists and writers that helped launch the fictional lives of these heroes, signing autographs and character sketches at cons is a way that they can supplement their income in their later years. Of note is that Marvel chose not to countersue Friedrich for more than $17,000, but even that amount is said to be a heavy fine for a 68-year-old man many say is financially destitute.