A week ago over on Google Plus I posted about the reasons why I wasn’t going to be seeing the Avengers film, despite my comics-geek nature, because of the absolute crap way that Marvel treated the man who co-created most of those characters, Jack Kirby. Add to that the bullshit news about DC doing Watchmen Prequels (their original contract with Alan Moore specified that he’d regain rights after Watchmen went out of print, which they then never allowed to happen, keeping it in print via graphic novels, a format which didn’t exist at the time the contract was signed. It’s pretty much no secret that “creator’s rights” in corporate media is a joke.
Now comes the last nail in the coffin — Gary Friedrich, the guy who created GHOST RIDER, is being made an example of by Marvel.
Friedrich brought suit against Marvel for a share of the money made by the first GHOST RIDER film — he didn’t see a penny from it. Everybody pretty much knew that this age of “Corporations are People” and “Money is Free Speech”, he had no chance in Hell, so it wasn’t surprising that he lost his case. Back when Gary worked for Marvel, they included a rights waver on your paycheck. That’s right: If you wanted to get paid, you had to endorse the check, which meant signing right below legal language that gave up the rights to anything you produced. Ethically bankrupt? Sure. Evil? Yes, I’ll even go there. But perfectly legal. So, naturally, Gary lost his case — he would see no money from the GHOST RIDER films, despite creating the character.
Marvel didn’t stop there, though. They countersued, and, outrageously, WON. Gary is now barred from making any money in association with the term or character “Ghost Rider” — which means he cannot do convention appearances as “the creator of Ghost Rider”, nor can he make any money from convention sketches, etc. In addition, the lawsuit hit him with a judgement that he owes Marvel $17,000 for past “merchandise sales.”
They cut the legs out from under a senior citizens SOLE source of income. If he can’t promote himself and make a living based on the character he created, what the hell is he supposed to do?
I don’t have words to express my fury. It is, as Bleeding Cool termed it, “the day that Marvel put a bullet in the head of Artists’ Alley.” Because make no mistake — this lawsuit will scare the shit out of convention organizers, who will (correctly) feel that they’re at risk of litigation by facilitating “unauthorized merchandise sales.” I expect to see policies barring original art sales at especially the big-prestige conventions soon.
So, I’m done. Marvel and DC will no longer get a cent of my money. No comics, no graphic novels, no books, no movies. Because it’s the only thing that the corporations understand — “money is speech”, after all.
If you’re interested in doing what you can to help Gary Friedrich, please visit Steve Niles’ fundraising page. Steve, the creator of 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, is taking Paypal donations for Gary, who is broke and in danger of losing his home by the end of the month because of the judgement against him. Please donate.
As for comics? I will try to continue my comics geekery via creator-owned works where possible — there’s a lot of good stuff out there, like Atomic Robo for example. Feel free to add your recommendations in the comments below.
Marvel and DC, though? Never again. The only way we’re going to stop corporate exploitation of creators is to stop enabling it. It may not be much, but I can’t contribute to it any more.