A few weeks ago, I posted about how Gary Friedrich, the co-creator of Ghost Rider, took Marvel Comics to court and lost. He sued the comics publisher on the grounds that as the co-creator of the Ghost Rider character, he should be entitled to the profits Marvel has made off of the property. As I said, he lost that battle. However, in an effort to prove a point, Marvel Comics counter-sued Friedrich, basically using his own logic against him. Marvel argued that since Friedrich had profited off of Ghost Rider, by selling prints online and at conventions, he owed them some money. And now a judge has ruled that Gary Friedrich, who is seriously ill, unemployed, and deeply in debt, owes Marvel Comics $17,000.
Yes, you can absolutely make the argument that Gary Friedrich brought this on himself. After all, he is the one who first took legal action, Marvel’s lawsuit against him was in response to the one he brought against it. And, as a result of that decision to take things to court, Friedrich lost his job as a corporate courier (he had to take too much time off to attend to legal matters) and built up over $100,000 in legal fees. All of that being said, Marvel’s demand that he pay $17,000 in damages to the company that is making a fortune off of the character he helped create seems a bit harsh, to say the least.
And, like I said, Marvel is doing this to prove a point. They want to send a message to any other comic creator who might be struggling with the urge to sue them over ownership of a character or other intellectual property. The message is clear; If you fuck with Marvel Comics, be prepared to be destroyed in court and lose everything. Marvel is making it very clear that not only will the company probably defeat your lawsuit on legal grounds, it will also use its lawyers to financially rape you as punishment. The story of Gary Friedrich is meant to be a cautionary tale to the rest of the comic creating world.
I’ve gone on record as saying that I never believed that Marvel owed Gary Friedrich, or Jack Kirby for that matter, anything more than what was already paid. When Friedrich signed on with Marvel, before he created Ghost Rider, he never signed anything giving him ownership of the work he did for the company. And, had he made that request up front, it’s an absolute certainty that Marvel Comics would never have hired him. All of that being said, I can’t help but feel bad for Mr. Friedrich. Yes, making the decision to try and battle Marvel Comics in court was probably a very, very ill-advised mistake. But, at this point, Marvel is just raping the corpse.
Filed Under: Comic Books