Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Gary Friedrich & Ghost Rider by Barry Pearl

A legal point has come out regarding the Friedrich/Ghost Rider thing that I wanted to mention.  I am only expressing what I believe the law is, much to my surprise.  I spoke to a New York Supreme Court Judge, on several occasions, about this, twenty years ago. A small comic book store opened called the “Batcave” and DC went after them to change their name or shut down. They owners were on TV saying why are the big guys going after us?  We are just little guys?

So I asked the judge. First, he told me he helped write part of this law. Apparently, when legislators need to do technical stuff in their laws, they often asked judges to help get it right.

The government does not enforce copyright laws. Piracy yes that is criminal law, copyright and patents, no that is civil law.  They leave enforcement to the copyright holders. And the law states that there cannot be selective prosecution. In other words the must, to keep their copyright, go after everyone or the courts will not hear their cases.

Further, the copyright holder must legally go after everyone in the order they found them. In other words, if they do not go after the small “Batcave” in NY if a chain of Batcaves opens in New Jersey, those new owners can say to the court, “they can’t go after us until and unless they go after them.”  This is often why in copyright cases the someone says to the court, “Hey, they let so and so” get away with it, they have to either go after them or forget about us.”

So when Warner’s heard about Chuck Jones selling artwork of their characters they had to work something out with him. Yes, Warner’s is greedy, but if they didn’t every Warner’s artist could go into business selling new stuff they once drew.

So when Marvel went after Friedrich, yes it was a warning that they will fight back.  But let’s face it, $17,000 is not a huge amount of money these days and Disney said they needed it just to pay off the lawyers. But now that they know Gary was selling Ghost Rider stuff they had to do it. And I bet Gary will settle with them on something, if he doesn’t sue again.

---Barry Pearl

Barry Pearl is the author of the Essential Marvel Reference Project.


Mikeyboy said...

I frequent that store...I know the story of the BATCAVE....he changed the name of the store legally and technically but still answers the phone using the name he's not allowed to. he also posts the big yellow steel painted sign out front of his store everyday.
I have been going to his store since 1978 and he is the best comic book store in the area...perhaps the country. He has a million back issues in stock all high quality and high grade and anything you need he has multiples want an FF 1 or an Amazing 15? He has it. thats a comic shop.
The deal with Friedrich is...he created the character and just wants to be credited there harm in that?

Barry Pearl said...

Many people dispute Gary's total claim to Ghost Rider. (Wasn't Ploog a co-creator? And wasn't, really, the Dick Ayers Ghost Rider the prototype for this character?) Besides that, people don't sue, on contingency, for credit,lawyers only want money. This was about money. Gary wanted $1,500,000.
However, I was specifically addressing the $17,000 Marvel was demanding for the legal cost of stopping Gary from using their legally trademarked character. This was a two part thing from Marvel, I believe. First, we have to protect our copyright AND if you go after us we go after you.

Mikeyboy said...

Oh I certainly understand what the moral of the story is. Yes I agree that Dick Ayers had a hand in the Western character version…so did Frazetta…and a couple of other note worthy legendary artists.

But when we get down to the nitty gritty…who said…” Let’s make Ghost Rider a flaming skeleton clad in leather and have him riding a flaming chopper! “ ? I guess then that would be the creator of the Bronze age Ghost Rider. I’m under the impression that the fella who said that was Mr. Friedrich. I could be mistaken ( probably am ) But if it indeed was in fact Gary F. then…he deserves royalties and compensation of some sort.

Right now…the company is so enormous that this is nothing to them. But Mr. Friedrich feels…” Robbed “

I know the feeling as a wannabe comic artist and creator I have submitted and shopped and presented ideas for characters and story arcs that were outright swiped from me. BUT…I really did nothing to contribute to the field. So I never attempted to go after Goliath.

But being that it’s all said and done…and of course Goliath triumphed…it’s a shame that the man has to walk away in the negative. But now and forever more there will always be an asterisk next to GHOST RIDER’S creators name.

As for Mike Ploog…Damned right he deserves some recognition too. Of course he already receives and always will be remembered as the man who brought us the image of the GHOST RIDER on the cover of SPOTLIGHT 5. It is indelibly etched in all our brains forever more deservedly so.

Barry Pearl said...

Let me be careful and say that I would really like Gary and all creators to be treated better. But before the lawsuits and such Roy Thomas said this about Ghost Rider and it is in my book.

Now also let me say that I don’t believe anyone here is lying, but Thomas and Ploog are also the creators, it is not jest Friedrich.

Roy Thomas: “I had made up a character as a villain in Daredevil — a very lackluster character — called Stunt-Master...a motorcyclist. Anyway, when Gary Friedrich started writing Daredevil, he said, “Instead of Stunt-Master, I’d like to make the villain a really weird motorcycle-riding character called Ghost Rider.” He didn’t describe him. I said, “Yeah, Gary, there’s only one thing wrong with it,” and he kind of looked at me weird, because we were old friends from Missouri, and I said, “That’s too good an idea to be just a villain in Daredevil. He should start out right away in his own book.” When Gary wasn’t there the day we were going to design it, Mike Ploog, who was going to be the artist, and I designed the character. I had this idea for the skullhead, something like Elvis’ 1968 Special jumpsuit, and so forth, and Ploog put the fire on the head, just because he thought it looked nice. Gary liked it, so they went off and did it in back office for three hours.”