Ghost Rider creator sues for ownership

Marvel Spotlight5In 2001, writer Gary Friedrich said

Well, there’s some disagreement between Roy, Mike and I over that [the origin of Ghost Rider]. I threatened on more than one occasion that if Marvel gets in a position where they are gonna make a movie or make a lot of money off of it, I’m gonna sue them, and I probably will. … It was my idea. It was always my idea from the first time we talked about it; it turned out to be a guy with a flaming skull and [who] rode a motorcycle. Ploog seems to think the flaming skull was his idea. But, to tell you the truth, it was my idea.”

Now it is revealed that Friedrich is as good as his word, as he has sued Marvel, Columbia, Hasbro and a slew of smaller production companies. The heart of the suit is Friedrich’s claim that he created the character 3 years before it appeared in a Marvel comic, and when it was published with Stan Lee’s Magazine Management company (later to become Marvel Entertainment) they failed to register it with the copyright office, meaning Friedrich gained the rights to his creation again in 2001.

Friedrich alleges copyright infringement, and accuses Marvel of waste for failing “to properly utilize and capitalize” on the Ghost Rider character. Marvel’s attempts to do so, Friedrich claims, have only damaged the value of his work by failing to properly promote and protect the characters and by accepting inadequate royalties from co-defendants. Friedrich also claims that toymaker Hasbro and videogame firm Take-Two have improperly created merchandise based on the characters.

Friedrich created the character of Johnny Blaze and his alter ego Ghost Rider in 1968. Three years later, he agreed to publish the character in comic books through Stan Lee’s Magazine Management, which eventually became Marvel Entertainment.

Under the agreement, Magazine Management became holder of the copyright for the first issue, which explains the origin story of Ghost Rider. Lee’s company also held the copyrights to subsequent Ghost Rider works.

However, Magazine Management allegedly never registered the work with the Copyright Office and, pursuant to federal law, Friedrich regained the copyrights to Ghost Rider in 2001.

The case is similar to suits filed over the years by creators ranging from Joe Simon to Marv Wolfman. In Wolfman’s case, he sued for the ownership to Blade, claiming that various discrepancies over checks and the standard work-for-hire agreement meant that he had never surrendered the rights to the character that he had obviously created in TOMB OF DRACULA.

Without looking at the suit, or knowing anything else about it, the Friedrich case is interesting in that it claims Copyright had never been filed at the Copyright Office. Since Ghost Rider made his first appearance in a Marvel Comic in Marvel Spotlight #5, in 1972, whatever work-for-hire contracts were in effect then might have applied to Friedrich, or would certainly have been assumed to apply. Sometimes undotted I’s and uncrossed T’s can cause problems for such assumptions.

As for Thomas’s somewhat different account of Ghost Rider’s origin, it’s online at the Comic Book Artist Magazine site:

Roy: I had made up a character as a villain in Daredevil—a very lackluster character—called Stunt-Master. I took the name from Simon & Kirby’s Stuntman, but I made him a motorcyclist. Anyway, when Gary Friedrich started writing Daredevil, he said, “Instead of Stunt-Master, I’d like to make the villain a really weird motorcycle-riding character called Ghost Rider.” He didn’t describe him. I said, “Yeah, Gary, there’s only one thing wrong with it,” and he kind of looked at me weird, because we were old friends from Missouri, and I said, “That’s too good an idea to be just a villain in Daredevil. He should start out right away in his own book.” When Gary wasn’t there the day we were going to design it, Mike Ploog, who was going to be the artist, and I designed the character. I had this idea for the skull-head, something like Elvis’ 1968 Special jumpsuit, and so forth, and Ploog put the fire on the head, just because he thought it looked nice. Gary liked it, so they went off and did it. Then of course, you had to change the Western Ghost Rider into Night Rider, and Phantom Rider, [laughs] and Bill Black has the Haunted Horseman… Ghost Rider has had more names than Elizabeth Taylor’s spouses!

GHOST RIDER, the movie, has grossed over $200 million worldwide, and is coming out on DVD on June 12th.

Top Shelf ’08

Top Shelf has announced some of their 2008 offerings, and the list is strong. Here’s an edited list:
League 3 Image Lg

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Volume III): Century #1 (of 3)
by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill

Beginning In 2008…

The third volume detailing the exploits of Miss Wilhelmina Murray and her extraordinary colleagues, Century, is a 216-page epic spanning almost a hundred years. Divided into three 72-page chapters — each a self-contained narrative to avoid frustrating cliff-hanger delays between episodes — this monumental tale takes place in three distinct eras, building to an apocalyptic conclusion occurring in our own current twenty-first century.

Dogs Day End
Brian Wood and Nikki Cooke

Following up on the time-honored adage “you can’t go home again”, Dogs Day End details the personal journey of 30-year-old Andrew Maguire, pulled back to the small upstate hometown of his childhood by his mother as she enters the final stages of cancer. Once back, he revisits the demons of his youth: his estranged father, resentful ex-buddies, and his jilted high school sweetheart. As the twin pressures of the past and the present threaten to bury him, Andrew makes an all-or-nothing decision to come to terms with it all.

Dogs Day End reads like an indie film on paper, reminiscent of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Garden State, but with the edge of Closer and Affliction.

Junction True
Ray Fawkes and Vince Locke

“We brought down the genome patents and open-sourced the medical profession. That was us. We crashed the plastic surgery business. We paved the way for parasite chic. The body became a new kind of playground and we, celebrating the future, we became the Neumod.”

In the near-future Neumod culture of parasite addicts and hardcore one-upmanship, Dirk Brody has found love. He’ll do anything to prove himself to the woman of his dreams – even if it means blurring the boundaries of his flesh with the radical, illegal Junction True procedure.

Once he starts, he can never go back…

Too Cool to Be Forgotten
Alex Robinson

Andy Wicks is a forty-something father of two who’s making one final attempt to quit smoking: hypnosis. He’s skeptical it will work but is stunned that when he emerges from his trance, he’s fifteen years old – and it’s 1985! Is he doomed to relive the worst four years of his life or will this second go-round finally give him the answers he’s been missing all his life? If nothing else he’ll finally get to ask out Marie Simone from history class…

Infinite Kung Fu
Kagen McLeod

Infinite Kung Fu walks you through familiar corridors in the house of martial mayhem, but still smashes your face through walls of wonder and into rooms where kung fu is afraid to go.

The Martial World is ruled by a mysterious emperor whose five armies are each headed by a cruel and highly skilled kung fu master. Lei Kung, a soldier in one of these armies, grows tired of his master’s evil ways and seeks enlightenment elsewhere. However, he soon finds that he’s been chosen as the one who will put an end to the emperor’s tyrannical rule, personally! Allegiances are blurred as techniques are perfected, and Lei Kung becomes less certain who’s friend and who’s foe in each chapter!

Fists fly, limbs are lost and blood vessels burst in this tale of furious rivals, supernatural masters, walking corpses, and above all, raging kung fu!

Nate Powell

Wormwood is a love story carried by rolling fog, terminal illness, hallucination, apophenia, insect armies, secrets held, unshakeable faith, and the search for a master pattern to make sense of one’s unraveling. Two adolescent stepsiblings hold together amidst schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, family breakdown, animal telepathy, misguided love, and the tiniest nugget of hope that the heart, that sanity, that order itself will take shape again.

Essex County (Vol 3): The Country Nurse
Jeff Lemire

Country Nurse & Other Rural Legends, Myths and Half-Truths, the final volume of Jeff Lemire’s Essex County Trilogy, follows a day in the life of Anne Morgan, the peculiar farming communities traveling nurse. As Anne checks in on her favorite patients we are introduced to such rural legends as the boy called Jimmy-Elelphant-Ears, and the Essex Farmer’s Boxing Club! The story delves deeper into Essex County’s mythology and finally reveals how all three volumes stitch together, quilting a portrait of how loss and regret push and pull at the fabric of family in small town life. — 112 pages

Bill Keiter and Wayne Shellabarger

It’s a tired but true cliché that every American Vice President is just a heartbeat away from the most powerful job in the world — a job they’ve often never really interviewed for. Who are these people? We all know about the one who shot his hunting partner in the face. But how about the tavern owner who once married one of his slaves and then sold her at auction when she tried to leave him? Or the one whose President went to his death regretting that he hadn’t had his Vice President hanged? Or the one who was too frequently inebriated to serve out the whole of his term? Over more than 200 years, the American voters have sent a platoon of rogues, cowards, drunks, featherweights, doddering geriatrics, bigots, and atrocious spellers to Washington D.C. to sit one bullet, cerebral hemorrhage, or case of pneumonia away from the highest office in the land. “Veeps” tells the sordid, head-scratching, perversely-entertaining stories of these men we’ve chosen to ride shotgun in the biggest rig in democracy without ever seriously considering the possibility that they might have to take the wheel.

Can we add that we’re really psyched to see Brian Wood and Nikki Cooke working together?

Quitely and WE3 questions: ANSWERED

While we were researching our Easter post, we came across several bits of art from WE3 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, probably the greatest mainstream comic of the past three or four years. And we wondered, what was Frank Quitely up to? And lo and behold, Newrarama catches up with Frank Quitely.

And then we wondered, hey what ever happened to the WE3 movie? And LO AND BEHOLD, film ick reviews the script at length:

Grant Morrison has adapted his comicbook miniseries We3 into a feature script for New Line, and I’ve been lucky enough to read a copy. Luckier still, it’s amazing. It’s even better than the source material. In fact, this is the single best unproduced script I have ever read. Yep. And I really mean it.

What’s so great? The answer to that, if I’m really going to cover it, is very long. I’ll do my best, though, and I’ll share whatever I think is fair to share from the script – so expect some minor spoilers, certainly as regards the first two thirds of the plot.

When they were Kings

Mark Evanier posts one of the photos from his upcoming Jack Kirby biography. For a bigger persion go to Mark’s blog. The picture is from the 1975 San Diego Con award ceremony — Siegel, Eisner, Steranko, Stan, Jack and Gil Kane, all as big as life, along with other luminaries like Bob Clampett, June Foray and Daws Butler. Jim Starlin is in there, too. As Evanier puts it:

Nothing much to add to this. The photo kinda speaks for itself and when it does, it says something about how you rarely see so many talented human beings on one stage.

Rabbi examines Jewish themes in comics

Rabbi and scholar Harry Manhoff examines the Jewish heritage in comics:

“I knew there were Jewish authors and artists (in comic books),” recalls Manhoff, 55. “But I didn’t know they were in publishing and distribution. Jews got involved in comic books (in the late 1930s) because many could not get into legitimate publishing.”

Now Manhoff, a scholar and teacher at the college and university level, has taken on topics in addition to Judaism, the Old and New Testaments, and Christian origins. He lectures on Jews and comic books.

And he knows what he’s talking about.

In his lectures, Manhoff describes the secret “Jewishness” of favorite comic book characters, and how their stories link the Jewish folklore tradition.

Manhoff delivers a series of lectures on his fndings in San Leandro, CA later this month.

Johnny Hart Remembered

Much much remembrance to mark the passing of cartoonist Johnny Hart. The syndicate has already announced that his two strips — B.C. and The Wizard of ID — will continue. Family members had already been assisting him for years.

Endicott native Johnny Hart was 76 when he died over weekend. Family members say he was battling lymphoma since November but was in remission.

“He was feeling great. He had breakfast Saturday morning, told my mom I’m going to the studio to work and went over and was sitting at his drawing desk and that’s where she found him, it was like he had just fallen asleep there,” said his daughter Patti Hart.

Meanwhile, 84 year old Bil Keane, of the Family Circus, has his own memories.

“He had a very simple style and I always admired him because he could do more with just a rock. He could make it into anything,” he said.

In fact, after Peanuts creator Charles Schulz died in 2000, Keane was asked who his favorite cartoonist was. “I would always say Johnny Hart because of the simplicity and what he could do with just a few lines. Yeah, it was so simple, which is really a gift. Schulz had the same gift, but it was in a different way,” Keane said.

Hart used a lot of puns in his cartoons and was able to get away with some borderline gags because his characters were so outlandish, Keane said. “Like calling the one lady Fat Broad, which in any of the old-time cartoons you would never ever be able to get away with that,” he said.

Charles McGrath offers analysis in the New York Times:

Like the comic strip artists a few years ahead of him — Mort Walker, Mel Lazarus, Charles M. Schulz — he grew up listening to radio comedians and watching the movies of Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy. He loved slapstick, pratfalls, one-liners.

Like those other artists, Mr. Hart received what now looks like a classic American art education, the kind of apprenticeship that enabled a golden age of cartooning: he pored over strips like “Dick Tracy” and “Smokey Stover” as a child; studied a little commercial art as a teenager; did some time in the military, where he drew cartoons for Stars and Stripes; and then peddled single-panel cartoons to Colliers and The Saturday Evening Post before finally catching on with a newspaper syndicate. By the time he created “B.C.” in 1958, influenced partly by Mr. Schulz, he had pared his style to one of eloquent simplicity.

Take that!

GhcherryLimited posting today because, well…because.

In the meantime, Hollywood analyses GRINDHOUSE’s box office failure — a mere $11 mil at the box office. It’s this year’s SNAKES ON A PLANE, and no one wants that. Sometimes-accurate Nikki Finke grills a contrite Harvey Weinstein:

Weinstein pointed to several reasons why Grindhouse did so poorly in theaters over Easter weekend. “Our research showed the length kept people away. It was the single biggest deterrent. It was 3 hours and 12 minutes long. We originally intended to get it all in in 2 hours, 30 minutes. That would have been a better time. But the movies ran longer, the [fake] trailers ran longer, everything ran longer,” Harvey told me. Weinstein also criticized his own marketing plan. “We didn’t educate the South or Midwest. In the West and the East, the movie played well. It played well in strong urban settings. But we missed the boat on the Midwest and the South.” But he denies others’ thinking that the Grindhouse subject matter was too foreign for mainstream audiences in mainstream theaters. He’s wrong, of course.

Anne Thompson backs this up with observation:

The whole point of this exercise was TO DO IT CHEAP! The movie probably cost far more than the Weinsteins’ claim of $53 million. With total P & A costs the movie probably sneaks close to $100 million. What happened is what happens to all movie companies when name talent have the clout to hold their financeers for ransom. That is, the two directors spent beyond their budget because they wanted their movies to be as good as they could be. Performance anxiety trumps prudence. Rodriguez spent to make his trashy send-off of grade-B horror flix as gruesome as possible (he also melted down over the breakup of his marriage and the production had to shut down for a month; the Weinsteins ate that cost). And Tarantino shot and shot and shot to score the best possible car chase finale. Marrying those two movies into a digital internegative and final film print at the last possible minute wasn’t cheap either.

Look, we love Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarrantino — they’re part of OUR team. Thompson explains why Weinstein couldn’t turn down their 3 hour+ cut, but it’s obvious these two spirited auteurs can murder plenty of people onscreen, but when it comes to murdering their darlings, they just can’t pull the trigger. The movie will break even via foreign release and DVD, eventually, but that 3 hour running time was the killer coming from inside the Grindhouse.

In the meantime, enjoy Cameron Stewart’s renditions of some of the characters. (above and here.)