Ghost Riders In the Convention Hall

Just does not have the same ring as “Ghost Riders in the Sky”.  But anyways, there has been a recent controversy that arose.  Back in 2007, coincidentally about the same time as the first Nick Cage Ghost Rider film, (never thought I was going to be saying “the first” in regards to a Ghost rider film) comic book writer Gary Friedrich sued Marvel, claiming they had let the rights to Ghost Rider lapse and they were now his.

The judge ruled in Marvel’s favor.  Recently, marvel had apparently offered some kind of “deal” where Gary could pay them $17,000 and put an end to things.  And the comics internet blew up.  It was another example of the shabby treatment of creators by the big two (see Alan Moore).  Poor Gary had medical bills and was not living the high life here.   Creators stood up to complain about Marvel’s cruel maneuver.

Now, understand, that $17,000 was related to some of Gary’s convention activities.  Gary was billing himself as the sole creator of Ghost Rider.  This is disputed by others involved with the creation of the character.  He had a large hand in it, but if you take him at his word, you are calling other creators liars.  So, it is not as simple as Gary vs. Marvel there.  Gary and Roy Thomas disagree on how much input was Gary’s versus other folks.  This is, however, not the biggest problem.

No, the real big issue?  One that Comics Alliance* (and many others) claimed was something all artists do in Artist Alley at conventions.  He was selling signed (and unsigned) Ghost Rider merchandise.  He had prints and t-shirts.  These were not things he purchased to resell.  He had them made and they featured the art of other creators-whom he had not gotten the permission from.

This is highly different from your average artist in Artists Alley.  Artists are selling prints and sketchbooks and personalized sketches of their own work.  When was the last instance of Adam Hughes selling T-Shirts and Prints of  Brian Bolland’s Wonder Woman covers?  Don’t think to hard on it.  The answer is never.  Gary made a poor ethical and legal choice.

This is not to rip on or bash Gary Friedrich.  I have no doubt that he was a big part of the modern Ghost Rider’s creation.   And I sympathize with a guy trying to pay bills and deal with medical problems. I fully understand that, and I certainly do not begrudge him for presenting himself as a primary creator of Ghost Rider.  But to go and sell bootleg product of other people’s work is not justifiable here.  Marvel has worked out deals with artists for prints in the past, but Friedrich made no attempt to work out something.

$17,000 is a lot to ask of someone struggling to pay medical bills.  Marvel is morally wrong on this.  There has to be a more decent and ethical way to resolve the situation.  It is wonderful that folks raising money for Gary.  It is great to see people banding together to help him.  But let us not sugar coat his actions here.   Let us not pretend this is another great David and Goliath story.  This is two sides with plenty of ethically bad choices made by each in the situation.

It is never fun to have to “defend Corporate America” but at the same time, it is a tired and incorrect cliche that Gary is sticking it to corporate America.  He was ripping off other artists, how is that not the very thing thing we decry Marvel and DC for doing to artists throughout history???

*I singled Comics Alliance out because that was the first place I read that claim.  I am a fan of the team assembled there and do not mean to cite them in a negative light.  And they provided more info than some sites (I saw articles where the writer never mentioned why Marvel was asking for $17,000 or that Gary was selling other artists work without permission from the artists).  But I did find the suggestion that Gary was basically doing the same thing as everyone else in artists alley rather odd.  By the way, I will be selling Comics Alliance T-Shirts and prints at the next SDCC.

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