sabato 24 marzo 2012

Interview with Gary Friedrich, creator of the Ghost Rider

For the last five years Gary Friedrich, creator of the Ghost Rider, has been fighting a legal battle against Marvel Comics to see his rights acknowledged

Clicca qui per leggere l'intervista in italiano.

Gary Friederich Ghost Rider
Thanks to the two Ghost Rider movies, even people who are not familiar with the comic-book character are well-aware of Johnny Blaze's struggle to regain his soul.
In recent years, however, another battle has been fought by Gary Friedrich to see his rights acknowledged.

The character of Johnny Blaze is in fact the brainchild of Gary Friedrich, who invented it in 1968 and published its origin story three years later in the fifth issue of Marvel Spotlight, assisted by co-plotter Roy Thomas and artist Mike Ploog.

In 2007, with theatrical release of the first Ghost Rider movie approaching, Friedrich sued Marvel Comics and Sony Pictures claiming that he regained the copyrights to Ghost Rider in 2001, pursuant to federal law. since Marvel Comics never registered the work with the U.S. Copyright Office.

After five years of legal battles, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest has ruled in favor of Marvel Comics because of the legal clauses printed on the reverse side of the checks accepted by Mr. Friedrich in compensation for his work. Clauses entailing the waiver of any future rights.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by Marvel Comics against Mr. Friedrich has once again settled in favor of the publishing house, thus obliging the author to pay $ 17,000 in damages for having wrongly used the name of the character to his advantage.

In a recent interview with Comic Book Resources, Marvel's CCO Joe Quesada and Marvel's President Dan Buckley, shared their point of view on the case.

I contacted Mr Friedrich for Lavika Web Magazine to let him share his perspective of the situation.

Gary Friedrich
Gary Friedrich, creator of the Ghost Rider
Would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?

Hi. I'm Gary Friedrich, creator of the Ghost Rider

Could you please recollect the events that led to the first appearance of Ghost Rider in Marvel Spotlight #5? What was your role in the creation of the character? And what was the role of Roy Thomas and Mike Ploog?

I can't say much about this as my lawsuit against Marvel is still in litigation.  I can say that I created the character over a period of years and that Roy and Mike became involved years after I came up with the initial concept.

Could you summarize the motivations behind your litigation against Marvel Comics?

I can't talk about the lawsuit.

The recent developments of the litigation resulted in a great solidarity towards you from the comics community, with Neal Adams and Steve Niles being particularly actives in raising awareness and gathering support for your cause. Are you currently in contact with them or any of the other artists involved in their initiative?

I am in regular contact with Steve who did a fabulous job raising funds for me.  I haven't heard from Neal though  I am of course very grateful for his efforts in my behalf.  I should also point out that I received considerable help from The Hero Initiative and recommend that all fans support them generously.

In a recent interview with Comic Book Resources, Marvel's CCO Joe Quesada and Marvel's Publisher Dan Buckley expressed their point of view on the case. Have you read this interview? If so, would you like to share a comment on it?

I have read their comments but have no comment at this time.

The second Ghost Rider movie has been met with great disappointment by film critics. Did you have any chance to see it? If so, what is your opinion on it?

I haven't seen the second movie.  I didn't feel I could go see it myself while my fans are boycotting it.

Now that Marvel has prevailed in the lawsuit and it's asking you to pay $17000 in damage, what is going to be the next move in your legal battle?

We are appealing.

Facsimile of a check used by Marvel
Facsimile of a check used by Marvel in 1986
This is not the first time an author is facing legal troubles because of the checks he signed in the past. As a matter of facts, printing terms and conditions in the back of the checks given to authors was a fairly common practice among comic-book publisher until well into the 80's. Among other things, this was in fact one of the reason why DC Comics and Warner Bros were refusing to pay royalties to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, creators of Superman. At the time the authors sued DC Comics and its corporate parent and, after years of legal struggles, gained their much-deserved victory.

It tis then really sad to see how, many years later, justice still turns in favor of the publishers, citing the implicit acceptance of the terms printed on the checks and forgetting that back then there were no real alternatives to those kind of conditions  for a comic-book author.

If we then consider that the first Ghost Rider movie has grossed more than 200 million dollars worldwide and the second, opening today in Italian theaters, has already passed the 100 million dollars, the demand of 17000 dollars in damages, a pittance for Marvel but a huge amount of money for an author who has not worked for years, seems almost like a retaliation.

The comic-book community has always been a really tight in facing these kind of adversities, the case of Gary Friedrich being just one of many cases that saw comic-book authors gathering together to help a colleague in need. In the last twelve years the Hero Initiative has been providing assistance to authors facing health and economic difficulties.

There is a strange similarity between the story of Johnny Blaze and that of Gary Friedrich: they both have signed a wicked deal and they are both fighting for their freedom. Fortunately Gary Friedrich is not facing this struggle alone...

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