Jackson native 'Ghost Rider' creator loses suit, owes $17K

"Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" rode into theaters Friday but performed far worse than its predecessor. (Source: CNN/Sony Pictures)
"Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" rode into theaters Friday but performed far worse than its predecessor. (Source: CNN/Sony Pictures)

(RNN) – Days before Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance hit the movie theaters, a judge ordered the creator of the character to pay $17,000 to the company he created it for.

Gary Friedrich, a Jackson, Mo. native and the unquestioned creator of Ghost Rider, sued Marvel Enterprises in 2007, around the time the first movie about the flaming-skulled superhero came out.

In response, Marvel – the company purchased by Disney in 2009 for $4 billion – countersued Friedrich for earnings he made at comic book conventions.

The U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, ruled in favor of the company in December. It stated in the decision that he had given up all rights to Ghost Rider and its associated characters through multiple contracts.

The amount came from a court order dated Feb. 6. Furthermore, the order stated he could not sell, promote, display or use the image of the character in any way. Friedrich could still autograph official Marvel items purchased at retail.

But conventions would have a difficult time promoting an appearance by Friedrich. He and anyone working with him are not allowed to use the words "Ghost Rider" in any way.

Friedrich came up with the idea and wrote the original story for Marvel Comics in the late '60s. Friedrich, 68, claimed that while he had given Marvel all rights to the character for comics, he should be paid if it is used in other media, like movies, toys and video games.

Marvel publisher Dan Buckley and chief creative officer Joe Quesada, a former writer and artist, spoke about the lawsuit in an interview with Comic Book Resources. Quesada claimed the $17,000 was a total agreed to by lawyers for both sides and necessary if Friedrich planned to appeal, although he did not discuss why Marvel decided to make a counterclaim in the lawsuit.

"It is in no way a 'fine' or 'punishment' for Gary," he said. "It is something that the court asked both parties to do and agree upon."

Friedrich was not the first creator to be shut out by a comic company who reaped millions from their characters. The industry has built a reputation for what renowned artist Neal Adams called "poor practices."

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster battled for four decades to gain additional money for the character they created and sold to DC Comics for $130 in 1938 – Superman.

Artists, writers and others from the comic community have come to Friedrich's aid, setting up and supporting a site where people can donate. A Facebook page and other outlets were created to get Marvel to back off Friedrich, who reportedly is broke and in bad health.

People also called for a boycott of the new Ghost Rider film for what they called bullying tactics by Disney and Marvel. Its opening weekend earned $22 million, less than half of the first movie's total.

However, the smaller take could have been due to the less-than-stellar reviews. One critic called it "the worst Marvel movie ever made."

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