The REAL Ghost Rider - Marvel & Sony: Cheap Bastards!
By now I expect that a lot of people have seen the Ghost Rider movie. Good flick, if a trifle odd in places. Movie cost a lot of money to make - estimated $120,000,000 - and worldwide it's more than made back it's costs so a lot of people will be cleaning up and taking home some nice chump change before the middle of this year even.
Except one person - Dick Ayers - the guy who created the original Ghost Rider. The original Ghost Rider didn't ride a motorbike, he rode a horse and he was featured in this movie (Sam Elliott played the original Ghost Rider for those who like to know). When Marvel decided to bring the original Ghost Rider back they changed the name the Night Rider and part of the character's origins to fit in with what they were doing at the time. I had a chance to interview Dick a few years back and asked him about the original Ghost Rider and it's creation. This is the exchange which'll give you an indication of how Marvel stole Dick's character way back when.
Daniel Best: Ghost Rider. You co-created it – it’s yours.
Dick Ayers: In a way. But it’s mostly because after working with Joe Shuster and Jerry Seigel and knowing what they were going through with that trial. And they lost out. Yet they were in Who’s Who and they created a word that’s in the dictionary and they had to fight for the ownership of something that they created and didn’t get it. They didn’t win. And so I made a point: I would never create without having a contract in the first place that said I’d get royalties. So as close as I came to it was that Vin Sullivan had me in and just like he told me what Jimmy Durante was to look like, why he told me exactly what he wanted from the song 'Riders In The Sky', and he told me what he was to wear and then it evolved. And then I got a script. It was Gardner Fox that wrote the first three stories, we got along good.
DB: Do you get the co-creator credit now when they reprint?
DA: Well now the reprints, and they call it the Haunted Horseman, but my name is on it all the time. But they’re in dire straights so, they had been paying me reprint money but they had to stop, because they’re only selling 500 books a month or something, very low.
DB: Have you ever thought going and doing something else with it?
DA: I can’t. I can’t because Marvel owns the title and I can’t use the words Ghost Rider. They took that because there’s some kind of a ruling when you have the copyright and the trademark that you have to print it once a year. So I know that those old Archie’s, they had me do a page of all their characters and then they printed it and that kept them so nobody could steal the titles or the character. So Stan, or Vin, didn’t do that and there it was and Marvel grabbed it. Just like they grabbed Captain Marvel. They grabbed that title. When DC wanted to put it out they called it Shazam. They couldn’t use the title Captain Marvel.
DB: And, of course, the Ghost Rider that Marvel put out now is as far removed from yours as you could get.
DA: So they had me do, oh, I don’t know, seven books or more. I don’t think we made twelve books and they put it aside because it wasn’t selling. And somebody got the idea ‘Gee whiz, let’s use the title and put him on a motorcycle.’ Went from there and that clicked. That made ‘em money.
DB: Well they had your Ghost Rider meet their Ghost Rider at one stage (Ghost Rider #50)
DA: Yes. Marvel changed my Ghost Rider. They had me draw the Ghost Rider and I thought they owned it, but they didn’t, they just owned the title. So my character wasn’t the same. All of a sudden it wasn’t Rex Fury, Federal Marshall, it was some guy Carter Slade, schoolteacher. Which blew my mind, but who am I, I wasn’t going to complain. They owned it and they’re paying me so when they’re the ones paying me I do whatever they said. And then I didn’t have Sing Song anymore, the Oriental boy, the helper for Rex Fury, and they gave him some schoolboy. So it was an entirely different character.
DB: It’s heartbreaking.
DA: Yes. It had to work like that, and I didn’t know it until years later when I was doing a graphic novel. I had walked into Marvel with the synopsis for me to do a graphic novel or a mini-series and Jim Shooter assigned me to do graphic novel. And so here I go, and I’m writing it, and Tom DeFalco was writing the synopsis for me and change it a little bit. And I got within ten pages of having it all pencilled and I was so happy. And somebody gave me Vin Sullivan’s phone number. And I called him up and I say to Vin "Boy, I’m thankful you sold out to Marvel-" "I never sold out," he said. “They took it.” And I said “Gee whiz, I’m doing a graphic novel.” So that’s the end of that. When he found out he got an injunction and stopped it.
Recently on Dick's mailing list talk has focused on the movie and how Dick's creation was used. Not that you'd know as the movie has no creator credits at all, other than for writer/director Mark Johnson. I'm not surprised that Dick wasn't credited (along with the others who helped shape the way the movie looked and without whom the movie wouldn't even exist, but I digress) as Marvel Comics like people to think that these characters just appeared (much the same as DC refused to give Joe Shuster and Jerry Seigel credit for Superman for all those years). But what made me see red was this comment from Dick. When asked what he thought of the movie he replied: "No, I haven't seen the motorcycle GR movie yet. I'm waiting for a complimentary ticket. Maybe Marvel, Sony or Nick Cage will send me one or send me a tape of the part where the western GR appears..???" What th???
Get off the freaking bus!!!! Marvel and Sony Pictures are too bloody cheap to even spring a couple of tickets to the guy who co-created the original Ghost Rider?? They can't give the guy who's character they used a freebie? That's just pathetic beyond words. They'll pay people who had nothing to do with the creation of the concept (hello Avi Arad. Out of interest how much are you making on this movie and how much did you have to do with the creation of the characters?) but won't pay the creators? That makes me wanna puke. Marvel are pumping themselves up with a new collection of 'classic' Ghost Rider team-ups out on the market place and in their blurb they even acknowledge that Dick's creation is the original Ghost Rider.
So I tell you what you should do. Don't bother seeing the movie. Give it a miss. Don't buy the DVD when it comes out. Instead go to Dick's own web-site and send him some cash so he can see the movie without having to pay for it out of his own pocket. You'll find his email address on the site so drop him a line and say hello - he's a great guy and always has time for a chat, plus he's one of the original comic book artists and one of the few left who has earnt the title legend. And why not just go to his agents site and commission Dick to do a drawing of the original Ghost Rider while you're at it. Don't buy the Marvel comics version of Ghost Rider, wander on over to Bill Black's AC Comics and buy Dick's original instead.
Marvel, Sony Pictures, Avi Arad, Michael De Luca, Gary Foster, Norman Golightly, David S. Goyer, Stan Lee, Steven Paul, Lynwood Spinks, E. Bennett Walsh & Mark Steven Johnson - hang your heads in shame, you cheap bastards!!!