After nearly five years of bitter and depressing legal back-and-forth only slightly ameliorated by the fact that it concerned a biker with a flaming skull, Marvel has won a lawsuit that forces Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich to stop identifying himself as “Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich,” simply because he is the creator of Ghost Rider. The oddly existentialist decision brings an end to a court battle first launched back in 2007, when Friedrich sued Marvel claiming that rights to the character had reverted back to him in 2001, and were subsequently being exploited by the company’s Ghost Rider film and its attendant merchandising. In response, Marvel argued that it was Friedrich who had relinquished all rights to his creations by signing his checks—all of which came stamped with legalese spelling out that his was a work-for-hire contract only—and followed up their defense by counter-suing Friedrich in 2010, seeking damages for all of the Ghost Rider prints and other merchandise Friedrich had sold at conventions.
Of course, that’s a fairly common practice employed by most comic book industry types who enjoy eating and paying rent, but Marvel made an exception in Friedrich’s case, because it did not like being sued very much. As payback, not only can Friedrich no longer sell his own Ghost Rider merchandise, he can’t even represent himself as its co-creator, thereby robbing him of any potential financial gain he might accrue from convention appearances and the like. (He will, however, still be able to sign officially licensed Marvel merchandise, either with ink or bitter tear stains.) In addition, Marvel is also demanding $17,000 from the unemployed, financially destitute 68-year-old, which Comic Book Resources surmises will serve as a warning to all others who currently enjoy the privilege of selling their own unlicensed merchandise, and should maybe just keep their mouths shut then.
Anyway, so far comics fans seem pretty evenly divided over whether Friedrich got what was coming to him for the way he went about things, or if this is yet another example of a massive comic book corporation exploiting its employees—a sentiment that has even led some to calling for a boycott of the upcoming Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance. To that end, even as Friedrich is mounting his appeal, at least one person has penned an open letter asking Nicolas Cage to put an end to this “public relations disaster” by stepping in and giving Friedrich the $17,000 himself (dousing the flames of this controversy in his own fiery pee, metaphorically speaking). Of course, that would depend on Nicolas Cage spending his money on something other than houses, pyramids, and $2,000 steak knives, so maybe Friedrich shouldn’t count on it.