It’s been a hell of a week when it comes to creator rights and shit hitting the fan online. What started the storm was the lawsuit by Gary Friedrich against Marvel over his credits and rights to Ghost Rider. Not surprisingly, Friedrich lost the case, but it wasn’t his loss that cause the shitstorm, it’s the decision that Friedrich now owes Marvel $17,000 according to a decision involving a counter-suit by Marvel. They 68 year old Friedrich doesn’t have that type of money, showing how poorly creators are paid, no matter how iconic and popular their creations. This was all on the heels of Marvel’s fight with the Kirby estate. Things were ready to explode.
First up is the idiocy of the counter-suit. Basically, Marvel is suing Friedrich for selling drawings he did of Ghost Rider at shows. This is a common practice and usually you can get most artists to draw most characters. It’s an unwritten rule that companies allow this to happen as it’s good promotion for them, generates good will within the community and as a whole is a bit difficult to police. Well, Marvel just took a dump on that.
Now, all creators need to think twice about what they draw for fans, who knows how many years down the road they may be sued and asked for that money gained. Not to mention the massive amount of unauthorized art on sites like DeviantArt and Etsy. Really, I’m shocked Marvel was rewarded any monetary amount concerning they haven’t enforced their intellectual property anywhere similar and have gained WAY more than they might have lost.
Congrats Marvel for ruining the fun. What’s more disturbing is Marvel’s very apparent shift publicly and their pissing on fandom. The Kirby fight is over tens of millions of dollars, I get that, but there’s an amicable solution out there for all parties. This lawsuit with Friedrich is just kicking a man when he’s down. Marvel won, leave the man be now. Allow him to call himself grandpooba if he wants, as long as he doesn’t license items, create toys, whatever, he should be allowed to draw whatever he’d like. This is the way it’s been done for everyone else and should continue to be so. On top of that Marvel and their parent company Disney supported the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act. Both are very anti-consumer and fans. That legislation took the might of hundreds of websites to defeat and luckily we did.
But what can we do? Talks of boycotts abound and as they continue to trample on fandom and creativity as a whole. My enthusiasm to support them has been diminished and this is from a Marvel fanboy and I’m less inclined to give them my dollars and devote my time to promote their products. Vote with your dollars and support creator friendly companies and indie comics.
But even more disturbing is their lack of response to all of the furor. There’s nothing. No interviews, no comments, no acts to show they care. Instead we get silence. It’s a court case and many times you can’t, but that doesn’t limit them from engaging the community as a whole. Marvel comics has a black eye and they need to address this before things really gain steam.
What can do is SUPPORT GARY FRIEDRICH!
Steve Niles has set up a PayPal account where you can chip in what you can to help Friedrich with his debt. I know it’s difficult financially for so many, but $5 goes a long way if enough of us give. So skip the $10 you were going to spend seeing a Marvel movie this summer, instead give it to Friedrich in protest.
Gary Friedrich went to Facebook to give his thoughts on the subject:
Since the various news agencies and websites have reported the ruling against me on my claims against Marvel in the Ghost Rider lawsuit, and the assesment of a $17,000 judgment against me and my company instead, I have read an amazing amount of comments in my support on the internet, and have received many messages of support directly. Although the reports of my employment situation and financial difficulties as well as problems with my health are unfortunately true, I want to let everyone in the comic book world, especially my supporters and fans of the Ghost Rider character which I invented, created, and wrote, that I am going to appeal the Court’s ruling and continue to fight this as long as I am able and that your support of me means more than you will ever know. I have heard your voices. I thank you with alll my heart, and I appreciate your thoughts and best wishes as I soldier on.
It’s sad that it’s gone this far and a multi-million dollar company thinks it seriously needs $17,000 from a man they’ve shown little gratitude towards for making them millions.