It’s been a trend in the comics industry lately, with comics hitting the Hollywood stage, there are artists and writers who feel they need a piece of the pie. Some do it because of greed, others rightfully have an argument. In the case of Gary Friedrich, it has now become a nightmare. In 2007, Friedrich sued Marvel, among other companies, for the character rights of Ghost Rider, who he claimed belonged to him as of 2001 because of a failure on Marvel’s part to register the copyrights in 1972 (although he agreed at the time that all rights belong to Marvel). In 2011, a federal judge ruled in favor of Marvel, stating that because Friedrich endorsed checks in 1971 and in 1978 that included language that relinquishes his rights of the character, that his case had no merit. Another huge win for Marvel, but they didn’t stop there.
After winning, they filed a countersuit against Friedrich, and now are forcing him to pay them $17,000 in damages. The suit stems from Friedrich selling Ghost Rider related items on his site and at conventions. Not only does Friedrich need to pay up, but he is not allow to make money off of claims that he is the character’s creator (which he is), and that if he signs autographs, it can only be on officially licensed Marvel or its subsidiaries products. A little harsh if you ask me. As stated in the ICv2 article, this sets a bad precedent. If you’ve ever been to a comic convention, it is filled with tables of artists lined up selling their work on “licensed characters”. It’s how they make a living, because frankly, not everyone who gets work for hire is living lavishly. Many depend on these “commission based work” in order to continue to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. What’s to stop Marvel/Disney, DC/Warner Bros., or any other publisher (which in reality, only the two aforementioned would do it) from suing these artists from profiting off these characters?
What has been so pure, and so good about the comic book industry, where fans can really connect with the writers and artists, seems to have taken a back seat to Hollywood and the almighty dollar. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many grief’s.” 1 Timothy 6:10. In the long run, Marvel’s lawyer’s greed, may hurt them at a public relations stand point. Boycotts for the upcoming film have already begun on Facebook, but I’m sure if you Google, you will find many more public outrages on this matter. How much will it hurt the box office and the comic book sales is unknown, but only time will tell.