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Ghost Rider drama continues as second film nears

by Matthew Price Modified: April 22, 2013 at 2:51 pm •  Published: February 16, 2012

The second “Ghost Rider” film opens this weekend, and the character has been in the news, though probably not for the reasons that either Marvel or Columbia would have hoped.   Gary Friedrich’s legal battle against the publisher resulted in a stipulation that Friedrich owes $17,000 for selling non-licensed Ghost Rider material.   That stipulation is from a countersuit filed against Friedrich after Friedrich sued for the rights to the Ghost Rider character.  Friedrich’s lawyers will appeal.

Marvel’s Dan Buckley and Joe Quesada responded to the latest legal maneuvering at Comic Book Resources.  Meanwhile, creators including Steve Niles and Neal Adams have rallied financial support for Friedrich.

A weird bit of the ruling has Friedrich not being allowed to call himself the creator of Ghost Rider for financial gain.  I assume, however, he could be in the clear calling himself the “co-creator,” which seems closer to probably accurate, and would include the contributions of editor Roy Thomas and artist Mike

Ploog.  Stan Lee also had some involvement in the creation according to some reports, and of course the name “Ghost Rider” was previously owned by Marvel, and used for a Western character.  Ultimately, I’d like to see some clarity on what exactly that legal point means.

I talked to Gary Friedrich in 2008 about his version of the creation of the character and his involvement at Marvel in the 60s and 70s. Friedrich was in Oklahoma for Soonercon.

“The first flash of an idea for Ghost Rider came when I was still a kid and saw Marlon Brando in ‘The Wild One,’” Friedrich said. “I loved the movie and began to think about a superhero on a motorcycle.”

As time went by, Friedrich said he was influenced by the cycle gang movies of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as daredevil Evel Knievel.

“The ideas began to come together in the late sixties during a period when I was away from Marvel and worked for another company for a time,” Friedrich said. “But as I began to lean toward a supernatural connection, I realized the Comics Code Authority probably wouldn’t accept anything like that. So although I had the concept pretty much together by 1970, I had to wait until the Code eased its standards for horror-type comics in 1971 to attempt to get the character published.”

Even those who don’t dispute the legal rights of Marvel in this case may sympathize with Friedrich’s plight as an older creator who has seen his creation (or co-creation) go on to multi-million dollar movies without being able to cash in on his association.  The ongoing legal battle probably is preventing Marvel from doing anything specifically for or about Friedrich; however, fans who want to contribute to Friedrich can do so through writer Steve Niles.

Niles posted the following response from Friedrich to the donations and support he’s received:

Jean and I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you who are supporting us. We’re just overwhelmed by the outpouring of love we’ve received and continue to receive. And we hope one day to get to meet and thank all of you personally.

We’re trying our best to read and respond to all of your posts and to confirm each and every request to be friends on Facebook. But my liver ailment makes typing very slow for me and Jean works all day, so forgive us if it takes some time to catch up.
You comics fans are the most special group of people on earth . And though there’s no way we’ll ever be able to repay your affection and kindness, know you’ll always be in our thoughts and prayers. And if we can ever be of help to you, just reach out. We’ll be there.
 Meanwhile, it’s on with the good fight knowing our legion is solidly behind us.WAH-HOOO!

Gary and Jean Friedrich

Meanwhile, “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” isn’t screening for critics, but Reuters reports 91 percent of men under 25 are aware of the film, which might bode well for its box office numbers this weekend.   Nicolas Cage returns in the title role.

- Matt Price

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by Matthew Price
Features Editor
Features Editor Matthew Price has worked for The Oklahoman since 2000. He’s a University of Oklahoma graduate who has also worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund intern for the Dallas Morning News. He’s...
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