Monday, February 13, 2012

THIS ONE’S FOR GARY

Gary Friedrich created the modern-day Ghost Rider.  The character
made his debut in Marvel Spotlight #5 [August 1972].  Ghost Rider
has starred in hundreds of comic books and two big-screen movies.
There are countless toys and other merchandising items based on the
character.  Friedrich was paid $25 per page or less for writing 11
Ghost Rider stories.  After that, he was gone from the series due
to demons of a far more personal sort.

Several years back, Friedrich sued Marvel Comics and other related
companies seeking to regain his creation or, at the very least, be
fairly compensated for the millions Marvel and those companies have
made from his creation. 

The first Ghost Rider movie cost $110 million to make.  It took in
$228.7 million worldwide.  While movie theater owners got half of
that, the figure does not include DVD sales, television showings,
movie rentals, toys, etc.  Friedrich did not receive a dime of that
money.  At best, he’s received royalties when Marvel reprinted his
original Ghost Rider stories.

In recent years, Friedrich attended comics conventions rightfully
promoting himself as the creator of Ghost Rider.  It’s a claim that
some dispute, but the evidence as I read it says he was, at least,
the primary creative force behind the character.  In a far better
world and comics industry in which we live, Marvel would have long
ago acknowledged this, compensated Friedrich financially, and made
sure his name was on the Ghost Rider movies.

Friedrich has lost his court case against Marvel, though he is free
to appeal the decision.  Unfortunately, he has also lost Marvel’s
counterclaim against him.  The court has ordered Friedrich to pay
$17,000 to Marvel for his sales of Ghost Rider materials at those
conventions.  Adding insult to financial injury, the court likewise
ordered that Friedrich not promote himself as the creator of Ghost
Rider for financial gain.

“Blog not in anger” is the intent of what I write today and it is
as hard a thing as you can imagine.  No doubt that anger will come
later.  I blog today to ask you to help Friedrich, a good man who
I consider a good friend.

Gary and his wife are broke.  He is unemployed and in poor health.
Because of his health, he is unlikely to get gainful employment in
the future.  In addition to these challenges, the $17,000 judgment
also weighs heavily on him.  I expect he will appeal that judgment,
but I don’t know the status of his current legal representation and
whether or not he will be able to put forth an appeal.  Let’s put
that on the back burner for the moment.

Steve Niles, another good man, has started a fund to help Gary in
his time of need.  I urge you to go to his Donate to Gary Friedrich
page and give as generously as you are able.

Over the weekend, I made a donation of $100.  I don’t usually make
something like that public, but I’m making an exception this time
as a prelude to a challenge of sorts.

I would ask everyone who ever got paid to write or draw or work on
a Ghost Rider comic book, or got paid to work on either of the two
Ghost Rider movies, or who got paid for working on the Ghost Rider
action figures, toys, and other merchandise, to make a donation to
the guy without whose act of creation they would not have got paid
because there wouldn’t have been a Ghost Rider comic book or movie
or action figure for them to work on.  It would be wonderful if you
could match or top my donation, but I understand that many of you,
like myself, are dealing with economic issues.

Outside of the small check I get each month for my Comics Buyer’s
Guide
, I haven’t had a paying gig in several months.  Not looking
for sympathy here.  That’s the way of the freelancer, the price I
pay for trying to earn a living doing what I love...and it’s why I
so firmly believe that the comics community should come together to
help comics creators in need, especially when that need is made so
much more desperate because of Marvel and other corporate entities.

Following that line of thought would lead to the anger I’m avoiding
today.  Instead, let me tell you about Gary’s own generous nature.

I was the second regular writer on Ghost Rider.  I didn’t know at
the time why Gary was no longer writing the book.  Still dazzled by
working at Marvel Comics, it never occurred to me to ask the why of
my good fortune.

I didn’t write Ghost Rider as Gary had done.  I was smart enough to
recognize that I could not match his strengths so I went with my own.
It became a different comic book.  Yet, years later, when Gary and
I had connected online and were together at a Mid-Ohio-Com, he was
exceedingly generous in his praise of what I had written with his
creation.

Think about the hundreds of people who have worked on Ghost Rider
in comics, movies, and elsewhere.  If all of them made even a small
donation to the fund started by Steve Niles, it would make a huge
difference in Gary’s life. 

There is more to be said about this and similar situations on some
near-future day when I will again blog in anger.  Today is not that
day.  Today is for Gary Friedrich.

Gary Friedrich.  The creator of Ghost Rider.  The writer of stories
enjoyed by millions.  A good man.  My friend.

I thank you for your support in his time of need. 

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

6 comments:

  1. Amen and well said. (And not to egg you on, but I look forward to what you have to say when you DO "blog in anger." This is truly an angering court decision.) I hope that other creators heed your appeal. And for those who didn't work on making/creating Ghost Rider stories, art, toys, and films: Another blogger suggested that fans "boycott" the new Ghost Rider movie and send Gary the money that they would have spent on a movie ticket.

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  2. Having written my own take on a demonic warrior, I wanted to acknowledge Gary. And not just for his work on Ghost Rider but his other fine scripts for things like Sgt. Fury. I think Gary and the people he worked with on his projects at Marvel did a lot to make the Silver Age shine. I sent my donation last night.

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  3. Thanks for all the fun you gave me reading your books as a teenager, Tony! Come to think of it, I still read your books now and it's still fun! And Thanks to Gary Friedrich as well, Ghost Rider was always one of my favorites.
    with that said ...
    I think you meant "I didn’t write Ghost Rider as Gary had done. I was smart enough to recognize that I could NOT match his strengths so I went with my own."

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  4. My donation has been made, let us hope others accept your challenge and donate what they can, even one dollar is a dollar less.

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  5. From my friend Alex Ness' blog:

    http://poplitiko.blogspot.com/2012/02/gary-friedrich-ghost-rider-and-marvel.html

    Tony

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