Robot 6

Gary Friedrich case spurs debate about convention sketches

Reacting to analysis of Marvel’s much-publicized dispute with Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich, Joe the Barbarian artist Sean Gordon Murphy has announced he’ll no longer sell convention sketches or commissions of characters he doesn’t own, and encourages other creators to do the same.

“Am I rolling over in fear of Marvel? Maybe, but […] they’re in their legal right to come after me if there’s ever a dispute,” Murphy wrote this morning on deviantART. “I love to complain about the Big Two, but I can’t (in good conscience) get upset at them if I’m breaking the rules myself. Being DC exclusive, maybe I can get a waiver that allows me to sketch DC characters, so I’ll keep you updated.”

Friedrich sued Marvel, Sony Pictures and other companies in 2007, claiming the rights to Ghost Rider had reverted to him six years earlier because the publisher never registered the character’s first appearance in 1972′s Marvel Spotlight #5 with the U.S. Copyright Office. Marvel counter-sued in 2010, seeking damages from Friedrich who, through Gary Friedrich Enterprises LLC, had produced and sold unauthorized Ghost Rider posters, cards and T-shirts at conventions and online. The company also asserted that Friedrich had “aided and abetted third parties” in reproducing and selling “graphic and narrative elements” of Ghost Rider comics.

It’s on that claim that Friedrich, who lost his lawsuit against Marvel in December, was ordered last week to pay $17,000 in damages in exchange for the publisher dropping its countersuit. As Ty Templeton humorously points out in his latest “Bun Toons” comic strip, Friedrich wasn’t simply selling Johnny Blaze sketches at conventions, but rather offering prints and T-shirts of Mike Ploog’s Ghost Rider covers. While it can be — and indeed has been — argued that a multibillion-dollar company shouldn’t be pursuing an ailing writer with limited financial means, it’s important to make the distinction between an artists alley sketch and an inventory of T-shirts, prints and cards.

Artist Phil Noto highlighted that difference this morning on Twitter, writing, “Once again folks, there’s a big difference between mass produced prints/sketchbooks and original art. Prints/books are a grey area where companies can claim a copyright if they choose. You’re completely free to sell a drawing for someone’s personal collection. People who do mainly recreations or ‘erotic’ pieces featuring the characters would possibly be scrutinized a bit more. The only thing that could possibly curb original art would be companies and cons in agreement of no sketching. Which I’d be shocked at.”

However, in Stephen Bissette’s alert to creators — it’s his Facebook post that spurred Murphy into action — the artist quotes extensively from his longtime legal adviser Jean-Marc Lofficier, who warns: “This is the first time Marvel is using convention sales of copyrighted Marvel characters as a ‘weapon.’ They are of course perfectly entitled to do so, legally speaking. But it does mean that, from now on, all of you here who draw sketches of Marvel characters for money at conventions or sell sketchbooks containing pictures of Marvel characters are on notice that you might be sued (usually for triple the amount you made) should Marvel decide to go after you. My legal advice to you guys is simple: STOP and destroy all sketchbooks for sale with copyrighted materials in it. I’m serious. You’ve just been put on notice by this case.”

Murphy for one is taking Lofficier’s advice to heart, warning other creators to “QUIT doing, creating, selling ANY sketches or sketchbooks or prints featuring Marvel/Disney characters, IMMEDIATELY. And let fans know WHY you are no longer doing them, and/or CANNOT do them ever again.”



Mr. Bissette’s legal advisor is probably right. The characters and logos owned by Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner Bros. are protected by copyright and trademark laws. Absent some express authorization from the owners, anybody reproducing these characters, whether in original art or mass photocopies of some comic, are risking some serious legal action.

That said, Marvel and DC should authorize all of their artists to do these kind of sketches at conventions. There would probably be a huge uproar from the fans if someone like George Perez couldn’t sketch Batman for you. Not to mention folks like Alex Ross who make a lot off of commissions.

Its my understanding that Alex Ross doesn’t do commissions. But I think most other artists do.

Is it considered illegal for an artist to sell their original art page of a published comic?

I don’t think the big two are particularly interested in alienating both their customer base and talent pool by pursuing artists selling sketches. From what the article says it sounds like what Gary Friedrich was doing went way beyond simple sketches. He had a company selling t-shirts using a marvel owned cover that’s a pretty big leap from sketches. That’s pretty clear infringement to me. Though Marvel and DC should both make statements to authorize convention sketches if only to alleviate the fears of artists.

Yeah, Squirrel, you’re right on the money. The end of this article sort of peters off into convention sketches, when it really shouldn’t. Marvel’s not going to go after some guys making $15 a sketch because people ask for a pic of Wolverine; but when we’re talking about someone who has access to mass produce products like t-shirts and posters, then there is an issue at hand.

John Byrne does 50+ commissions a year of DC and Marvel characters while badmouthing both companies for how horrible they are and claims he would never work for either company again.

He charges $550 for a single character, no background 11″ x 17″ commission. You want it to be an X-Men character? That’s extra. You want a larger size? Double the price.

John better keep his head down and hope Marvel doesn’t decide to go after artists because he’d be right up there with those making the most off characters he doesn’t own the rights to.


While the legal advice is likely 100% correct, it is quite unlikely either of the big two (or smaller) will come after you for sketches, otherwise every user of a DeviantArt account selling art would be targeted.

In regards to con sketches/commissions/fan art in general, just some info so people don’t think they’re protected when they’re not:

Articles are similar, but discuss the subjects at length. Just because they don’t go after these things or tolerate it, doesn’t mean they can’t at any time. And they’d never explicitly authorise such things either, as that could potentially weaken any future copyright related claims/cases.

@ Orlando T
No, it isn’t. The actual art artifact is a separate object from the published version of the same image. The same thing applies to art objects like the Mona Lisa. That painting is ancient and in the public domain, but a photograph of that painting is copyright of the photographer or magazine that published the picture.

Same rules apply to the art used in comics. Most comic contracts stipulate whether the physical work belongs to the artist creating it, but in some cases the work for hire contract terms also give the physical object created to the company that is paying for the work. So, it varies case by case.

See Squirrel’s comment above for the correct analysis on this

However, if many comic creators react as Sean Murphey has – then keeping fans from getting sketches of their favorite characters will be one more way to alienate fans from an already floundering industry (comics). Kudos Marvel!

You know, I just have to hope that Marvel pulls all advertising and promotional work from CBR for coverage like this.


If it wasn’t for the “Let’s stick it to Marvel” mentality held by comic fans and people like Bissette, they would be appalled at Friedrich’s theft.

Master of disguise

February 14, 2012 at 10:54 am

Hi everybody!
What I always hear about copyrighted character it’s that you can use them anytime you want, do commissions if you want, but you must not do any money with them. So from that, I think the Mouse of idea will have the right to sue someone doing a sketch of their character for money. But like I said, it’s what I hear about copyright. I don’t know the specific law about that.

No – you’re wrong Scavenger. Many people have said that they can see the legality of what Marvel did – but even though it was legal, it was also spiteful, and it was grinding a man into the dirt when he was already beaten

But, keep spouting your hyperbole and all caps on the Internet

In this case I agree with the ruling due to the merchandise angle. However trademark and copyright protection are not absolute in the continued absence of defense. In laymen’s terms, Marvel and DC have known for many decades that artists have been selling sketches of their characters for a fee yet have taken no action The lack of requiring permission or payment for use of a character in the hundreds of thousands of instances when this has occurred would give any court the reasonable impression that a publisher is not interested in protecting their interest in this type of situation.

To protect their interest, comic publishers would not only have to include language in contracts that addresses the matter but also take action when such terms were violated.

Remember, it’s only illegal if the artist makes money off it.

Do the sketch for free, charge for the artist’s signature lol

Adam, that’s simply not true. While profit is a consideration when determining damages, it has no bearing on whether a work infringes on copyright.

@Kevin – exactly. There have been cases of Disney making daycare centers paint over images of Micky Mouse on their walls

I think grinding a guy into the dirt would have been if Marvel had Gary owe them more than what he made off of the years of selling the merchandise. I personally think that both parties are guilty. And I think artists don’t have anything to fear, as long as they don’t put themselves on Marvel, DC, or Image’s radar in a negative way. If an artist does a quick sketch for me in a book for free… I see that as being similar to me making a mix CD for someone.

And by the way, I do like how it feels when reading posts and stories about Gary it feels like he’s an artist when really he’s a writer.

I think people are missing a point in all this:

Freidrich sued Marvel and Sony first. He stated that he OWNED Ghost Rider over a technicality in copyright, and wanted BIG money. He opened the door, which two (3 counting papa Mickey) HUGE corporations with lots of intellectual copyright lawers saw, investegated, found him in the wrong, then found out he was making money off of their intellectual property.

Work for hire is just that, and under contract, anything you create, write, or draw is the intellectual property of the comany you work for. Anybody hear of Image Comics? That’s why they founded it: to retain intellectual property. To work for themselves. You work for any corporation, in any task (including dressing in a costume at a theme park), your contract says they own any IDEA you may have when you work for them. Don’t like it, work somewhere else, don’t sign the contract or take their money.

It’s why George Lucas is a Billionaire. He refused to sign a movie contract giving up his intellectual property to Disney, Warner Bros, Universal, and Fox. Fox distributes his movie for a share of the profits, but make nothing on licensing (read: toys). It’s also how Dark Horse reprints the Marvel Star Wars comics: Marvel licensed the property, and no longer own the rights. Same with Rom, Micronauts, Transformers, and GI Joe.

And if you wanna make Marvel the big bad, fine. Just remember that Epic Illustrated and Epic Comics helped set the stage for crators to keep their copyrights and ideas. They weren’t the first, but a big company doing that was pretty big in 1980.

The most that artists may have to do is throw a copyright Marvel/DC/respective owner notice on a sketch. We pay them for they’re time and talent. the owner gets publicity and good will. But they also make big money on movie rights and can get the heat for casting Nic Cage.

I feel for Freidrich–I do. It sucks but he brought it on himself. But you don’t see Ralph McQuarrie suing George Lucas over Darth Vader because he drew him first, or Steranko suing over his storyboards for Raiders. He took a chance, and lost. Some people win (Stan Lee, Neil Gaiman). Sorry, Gary.

So, sketch away, all you artists! Please, because we all love it.. Just don’t sue Warner Bros because you drew Superman in a green suit and they used it..

Jean-Marc L’officier graduated from the Sorbonne Law School in France in 1978, and isn’t a lawyer recognized by the California State bar that I can tell. In addition to writing books about Doctor Who, his Wikipedia page lists his work experience as “international banking.” There’s no indication he ever practiced as an attorney.

Kevin, I understand that. However, I’d argue that it is the biggest motivator on whether or not comic companies choose to go after artists. Convention sketches and commissions have long been a staple of the comic art world and it hasn’t been a problem until this case was brought up. Even now, I don’t suspect it is a problem and I believe this issue is being blown way out of proportion.

What Gary did is vastly different from what artists do with sketches/original art. The only common theme is that they both use copyrighted characters. One used an image Marvel owned while the other creates a unique image.

Uh-duh, that’s Disney. While they own Marvel and could certainly enforce their own policies, it has no bearing on what DC and other comic companies decide to do in regards to convention sketches. My girlfriend’s father painted Disney characters on his granddaughter’s bedroom walls. His family hasn’t received any form of communication from Disney telling him to paint over them. Do you have a link to these cases so we can see the specifics?

This article made me so angry, I had to do some legal research.

Convention Sketches are 100% OKAY.
Please read: Field v. Google Inc., 412 F. Supp. 2d 1106 – Dist. Court, D. Nevada 2006.

1) Implied License. “Consent to use the copyrighted work need not be manifested verbally and may be inferred based on silence where the copyright holder knows of the use and encourages it.” Id at 1116. Do you think Marvel doesn’t know this is going on? Do think Marvel hates this?

2) Estoppel. “A plaintiff is estopped from asserting a copyright claim “if he has aided the defendant in infringing or otherwise induced it to infringe or has committed covert acts such as holding out . . . by silence or inaction.”” Id.

3) Fair Use Factor 4. “[A] use that has no demonstrable effect upon the potential market for, or the value of, the copyrighted work need not be prohibited in order to protect the author’s incentive to create.” Id at 1121. Convention Sketches in no way harms Marvel or DC, in fact it’s free promotion.

Get out of here with this wackiness.

Friedrich wasn’t simply selling Johnny Blaze sketches at conventions, I personally bought a texiera/salteres print of dan ketch GR from him that he signed. a print by other artists of a derivitive character he had no connection to that he signed. please stop defending this guy

I feel for Gary, I feel for a lot of guys from the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. They were working for hire, or under contract for companies and they knew going in that whatever they created was for the company that was paying them to create. Its the new generation of thinking where the older guys, or thier kids, think they should have a stake in what they created because fortunes are being made off the property. If they wanted to own the rights to their own work, well, you could have back then. Will Eisner did it as early as the 1940s!

Do I think that these creators should get a share of the credit, sure, but they aren’t entitled to money they made while under contracts. Now Ive written a couple of comics (nothing really well know) but the book I worked on got optioned for a film. I don’t feel I’m entitled to money from that book, even though i created stuff for it. I was working under contract. I;m not against creator rights, current industry pros owe a huge amount to their industry forefathers, for showing the way for creative freedom for the future. I feel bad for Gary.

I do not think Marvel per say is looking to ruin a creator. They have a bigger company behind them and they want no lapse in any potential claim on copyright. Look at the mess of Marvel Man, or the Superman case. They want to protect theirs. Gary was selling non original material, and he went after Marvel. Guys who are selling sketches at cons will be fine, I think even the print people will be fine as long as its original art being printed.

Honestly, I’ve always wondered why it’s taken this long. In no other industry/medium is anything REMOTELY close to this allowed to happen. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, I’m just saying in every other area, these issues were dealt with decades ago.
@ Paul lm I’m sorry, but you couldn’t be more wrong. The Implied License rather obviously no longer applies. As for the other two: creators can’t PROVE marvel had knowledge and they can’t PROVE they are not damaging the property. And, well, when it comes down to it, guess who can hire better lawyers and who is better positioned for lengthy legal battles? I’m not saying Disney & Warner are going to go after everyone for sketches (in fact, it would cost more than they would get), but the point is they certainly have every legal right to as, um, established RIGHT HERE, in this case, in case you missed it. Maybe you should look up the concept of precedent. What came before means far less than what was decided last week.

“In this case I agree with the ruling due to the merchandise angle. However trademark and copyright protection are not absolute in the continued absence of defense. In laymen’s terms, Marvel and DC have known for many decades that artists have been selling sketches of their characters for a fee yet have taken no action The lack of requiring permission or payment for use of a character in the hundreds of thousands of instances when this has occurred would give any court the reasonable impression that a publisher is not interested in protecting their interest in this type of situation.

To protect their interest, comic publishers would not only have to include language in contracts that addresses the matter but also take action when such terms were violated.”

David’s right on the money with this one. A big part of copyright rulings is protection. The reasons that you’ll see companies go after infringement cases that seem meaningless to us is because if they don’t the protection on the copyright can lessen. So Marvel in this case was drawing a line of protection, where making t-shirts and prints of covers to their books is infringement, but the fact that for several years (more?) they’ve shown zero interest in the sketches done at cons or even just random shop appearances would be a strong defense in that being unprotected by copyright law. Course that would be decided in court so it would require the artist going against one of the big two, and hoping the defense holds.

Gary wasn’t selling sketches he was selling prints of copyrighted ghost rider covers that he signed and passed off as his own even though he didn’t draw them and he wasn’t even giving Mike Ploog a dime. He routinely referred to himself as the soul creator of Ghost Rider even though both Roy Thomas and Mike Ploog say differently. Yes, marvel taking this guys money that he doesn’t have is kind of a dick move and they should find a way to not do it. But that doesn’t make Gary any less of a Jerk.

Any, while I’m not aware of his finances I can’t help but think that someone who is “nearly penniless” as some have described him and suing 5 movie studios at the same time.

And furthermore, if Marvel didn’t have to defend themselves against these lawsuits every time a move came up maybe they wouldn’t have laid off a bunch of their editorial staff last year.

amazing how many fools will defend the big corporations.

for the guy that wanted the Disney link – a 1 minute Google search will find it for you

As far as Frederich “asking for it” by taking on Marvel – wake the f*** up. Until more and more creators take on Marvel and DC, the pimp system that exists in comics will not change – and comics will continue to drive away creative and innovative people because of the way they strip mine their talent



The best you can come up with is “Ghost Rider may have also been created by Ploog and Thomas”. OK, so marvel owes nothing to those 3 guys for a character that Marvel has made millions on?? No royalties at all?? Wake up. Study your comics history. Guy like Neal Adams and Jim Shooter fought to get creators at least some royalties – yet even that small bit of progress is being pressed back into the dark ages by these recent court rulings. This, folks, is why current comics are bland and forgettable. When was the latest great and original comic character created??

@Josh –

“And furthermore, if Marvel didn’t have to defend themselves against these lawsuits every time a [movie] came up maybe they wouldn’t have laid off a bunch of their editorial staff last year.”

That’s a leap. Like, the sort you could clear a tall building with.

Mr.. Duh
I never said Ghost Rider may have been creadited by Ploog and Thomas. I said they claimed what Gary said about being the sole creator of Ghost Rider isn’t true. I wasn’t saying anything about him any of them not deserving royalties. I happen to think they do. That wasn’t an issue I brought up at all. It’s not about royalties, it’s about the fact that this guy is getting all this sympathy when he himself is ripping off other creators and denying them credit, the very thing he accused marvel of doing. As I said (which means go back and actually read) I don’t think marvel should take money from him but that doesn’t change the fact that he is wrong.

And yes that is a bit of a leap, but that’s why I said “Maybe”

We as artists and citizens in a free country have decided to hand over the power to the “men” with the largest wad of cash while the truly deserving starve. The one freedom you have in our society is to create with truly free gestures without fear of consequence! Without that, what is the point of art? So sell your lame super hero try-out comics and sketches! Don’t ever give up the dream to one day work for a company who would rather sue you then give you your just desserts. Besides, they can’t sue everyone! That would cut into those profits they so dearly cherish.

“@Kevin – exactly. There have been cases of Disney making daycare centers paint over images of Micky Mouse on their walls.” Only because the daycare was only a few miles from Walt Disney World and parents with their kids at this daycare were blaming Disney for this daycare’s problems. Disney has nothing to do with the daycare but they were taking all the heat from angry parents simply because the daycare put Mickey Mouse and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves on the walls. That had to stop.

Can i draw a Chevy Silverado and sell it?

Can I paint a portrait of Madonna and sell it?

Individual art is fine. Mass produced stuff isnt..

Thanks for doing the research Paul Im.

Lets get another perspective…..Busiek Busiek Busiek alakazam appear!

So what about those thousands of Blank Cover Marvel Variant Covers that Marvel printed for people to sketch on. Entrapment?

OH FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, now I won’t be able to have Bill Walko do a comission I’ve wanted: a headshot quartet of Colossus, Power Girl, Wheeljack from Transformers, and Barbecue from GI Joe. Those freaking twits are ruining my fun!!!! I say let’s treat ‘em like the freshmen in Dazed and Confused.


“It’s why George Lucas is a Billionaire. He refused to sign a movie contract giving up his intellectual property to Disney, Warner Bros, Universal, and Fox”

100% insorrect. Fox didn’t WANT the right, they looked at the film, decided to stary out of it, and chose to only take the distribution.

The only thing stopping Marvel and DC (or more correctly, Warners and Disney) from sending out C&D letters to every artist at every convention is the people in editorial and PR explaining using small words what a catastrophe that would be. Some younmg paralegal who doesn’t know what they are doing will send one (or more) out someday, and the industry will lost its collective mind, and there will be a hasty recant, with fingers pointed at the poor schlub who thought he was doing his job.

There are three options for artists:

1) Work under the assumption that the “don’t as don’t tell” policy still holds, and continue to do the art.

2) Take jean-marc’s advice, stop doing them, and make it very clear to fans why, in the hopes they will rise up as a unit and march (figuratively – we’re not that fit) on the publishers and get them to change the (non-existent) policy

3) Force Marvel and DC (et al) to put a policy in place, one that can be read through, agreed with and adhered to. Fair warning, that policy will almost certainly be far more restrictive than the non-policy that exists now.

Jean-Marc Lofficier is criticised because he isn’t a professional lawyer, despite he graduated in Sobborne, but no one refuted his solid arguments concerning Friedrich case. In absence of reason it’s easier to complain about the minor fact Jean-Marc allegedly never exercised advocacy.

@Vinnie, Actually both you and mcjeremy are basically correct. Lucas had no interest in signing over the rights to his product, and would have refused any such contract in any case, especially after his trials with THX-1138 and Graffiti. And yes Fox (at the time) didn’t see the value of ancillary products like T-shirts and toys so they simply gave him that condition without a fight.

Had Fox offered such a contract he’d have surely passed, but he beat them to the punch by stating his terms first, which Fox considered extremely weighted in Fox’s favour at the time.

““It’s why George Lucas is a Billionaire. He refused to sign a movie contract giving up his intellectual property to Disney, Warner Bros, Universal, and Fox”

100% insorrect. Fox didn’t WANT the right, they looked at the film, decided to stary out of it, and chose to only take the distribution.”

It’s off topic, but you are both wrong. Fox owned Star Wars (the movie itself), but gave George the merchandising rights (where, unexpectedly at the time, the real money was). George tried to hold onto Empire, but needed fudning, so Fox got half of that (again, just the film). George has always owned Jedi outright.

When the time came for the prequels, Fox sold George full ownership of the original Star Wars and Empire as part of the deal.

But the original point is valid. George always understood how important it was to control his creations and not let them fall into the hands of anyone else. That *is* part of the reason why he is so wealthy. While he is willing to authorize Star Wars-based materials in which he has little or no interest or involvement (comics and books, mostly), nothing can come out with the Star Wars name on it that is *too* far away from the way he sees things.

Few creators in fields that require collaborative efforts and significant financial backing (like movies and comics) see that until someone else is making money off something they did. (I’d compare it to Mark Millar and Todd McFarland – both creators who made their names in WFH, but made their *money* working for themselves.)

I have a couple of comments here.

Actually, the first is part question, part observation.

I would be willing to bet real money that everyone here who is saying Gary’s in the wrong and that he “should have known,” etc. etc… and I’m including this Josh on this…

I’d be willing to bet every single one of these people also thinks that unions are bad, that they overreach, that unions are the source of many economic problems in this country.

Second, a contract on the back of a check, that you must sign to cash the check, AFTER having done the work, is UNENFORCEABLE. Cross that contract out, color over it, whatever you want to do. Cross it out and write your own!
You did the work, and the company accepted your voucher. You have the right to be paid. ANY other stipulations the company puts on you AFTER that is illegal.

It’s an interesting debate.
Do convention sketches count as bootleg merchandise? Because selling bootleg Marvel merch is what Friedrich was doing.

I’ll ask Mike Mignola for a Hellboy sketch and watch him sue himself!

From what I understand, prior to the recent policy of forbidding making copyright-owned superheroes/comics characters on the spot, artists could still sell their past portfolios since that policy, from what I discern, is not retroactive. But still, Marvel and DC should allow artists to make a living of making sketches in conventions. The artists are basically not in the best of economic profession, but being eked out of living. What we witness here is another ploy of Marvel of curtailing those downtrodden artists into submission and spread fear through legal, yet morally questionable, practices!

From the oft mentioned Steve Bissette, from his Facebook page: “Time to bring some fresh thinking to the Kirby heirs/Marvel/Disney legal battle; and to the Gary Friedrich/GHOST RIDER/Marvel/Disney judgment.

(a) BOTH were JUDGMENTS, not jury trials, and clearly pro-corporate judges at the bench making a decision;

(b) both judgments enforce contracts/agreements predating the 1976 Copyright Act;

(c) both cases also involve Marvel subsequently profiting from MEDIA AND TERMS THAT DID NOT EXIST prior to 1976 (stay with me, now, this is critical), so perhaps it should be argued that Kirby’s heirs/Friedrich are due renegotiations/shares of media that came into existence after 1976 (i.e., video games, videocassettes, DVDs, electronic media, online media, etc.);

(d) in 1991, a jury determined Peggy Lee was due more than Disney was paying her in residuals for media that DID NOT EXIST when she signed with Disney to compose songs/perform for LADY AND THE TRAMP (see​archive/article/​0,,20114850,00.html). Ladies and gentlemen, I put it to you, the Peggy Lee case is the role model for meaningful reorientation to this entire Marvel/Disney/creators legal nightmare.”

Was he selling other people’s work? Believing he is the creator of the work due to the pre-’76 loophole, he felt he could? Why? He was destitute. Could he have gotten another writing assignment from one of the big two? No, for the same reason Roy Thomas and Gene Colan cannot/could not get work: AGEISM. It runs rampant in this industry and don’t tell me for a minute that it doesn’t.

Is Marvel being vindictive? One can make that case simply based on what they did to DAVE STEVENS. And he didn’t even work for them.

Stevens stated in an interview in the 80’s he’d never work for Marvel because he felt their WFH contracts were the worst in the industry. The Marvel brass retaliated by instructing their legal team to find anything showing that he “may have stolen the Rocketeer” from Marvel, and take him to court. Their team found a short story in an old Marvel comic from the 40’s called “The Three Rocketeers.” Appeared once, never reprinted, had nothing to do with Steven’s creation. But because the word “Rocketeer” was in the title, bingo! He stole the Rocketeer, now we can sue him. And they did. And he spent God knows how long proving that he didn’t steal Cliff Secord from Marvel before Disney could go ahead with the movie. Draw your own conclusions. I have.

What Marvel is doing to Gary may be legal, but its not ETHICAL, which is the sticking point. More important to this corporation than the creators who gave them AND US these characters, like Ghost Rider, more important than the audiences who buy their product, are their shareholders. Period. If they do not make them millions, they can be sued. But a corporation can still be beholden to their shareholders and still do right by those who created the characters we love. I find it unsettling the amount of fans who are quick to burn these creators if they get in the way of their needs: making sure they have every issue of every Marvel book. Now that’s my opinion of the corporation and the fanboy generation of this cyberage. You don’t have to share it.

What everyone should share in now is to help a creator who has given us something we have enjoyed for decades. That’s all that matters now:

Or are we truly that selfish a society?

wait, people actually pay john byrne 500 dollars for a sketch? wow that really blows my mind

And yes, I know I have gotten off the subject of convention sketches. But the above subject and the subject of this article are connected. Disney owns Marvel. Disney once sued a daycare center that painted Mickey Mouse on the side of its building. Marvel has finally opened the can of worms that could hurt the welfare of many artists who depend on cons and sketches. Disney protects its trademarks like it is life or death. Bissette is right to be worried. The comics industry is eating itself alive. Here is another example of that.

I want to make an argument against the interests of the Disney Corporation and for individual creators.

I want to start by saying that just because something is a law means that the issue is settled. There are some laws that are simply not right and SHOULD BE disobeyed.

For example of that, I’ve been thinking about the issue of interracial marriage. In the backward states of the Deep South, it was actually once literally against the law to marry outside one’s race. That law is not only wrong, but is so wrong that it should not exist.

In fact, some laws are wrong and need to be changed… even if they can only be changed by being disobeyed. Again, to pick the low-hanging fruit, let’s think about Apartheid in the South and in South Africa. The only way those laws were going to be changed was with disobedience. There are times when obeying the law is the WRONG thing to do.

Granted, those examples are not from the issue at hand, but the principles are the same– they are only different in scale, not in some real sense.

People like Gary Friedrich, Gene Colan, Dave Cockrum, and Jack Kirby, are hurt by the laws that exist. Laws that benefit the Disney Corporation.

Most congressmen don’t have the expertise in the issue that Sonny Bono had when the bulk of our current law was enacted. These congressmen had to rely on the information provided them. Most of that information comes from lobbyists. The lobbyists come prepared with good arguments that make sense. The best arguments money can buy. The congressmen who vote in the interests of corporations over people will probably tell you that they’ve “studied” and “learned” about the issue and are convinced they acted in the public interest.

The problem is, because we’ve convinced ourselves (through one of the best arguments that money can buy) that “money is speech,” we don’t have any real mechanism for ensuring that those very congressmen have access to both sides of the argument. I talk to lots of conservatives and creationists who are frankly shocked into silence when I not only challenge their arguments but can actually argue my own position.

Liberals, or even just people who want to put people’s needs and wants above the needs and wants of the corporation, are so comfortable in the knowledge that they are on God’s side forget that they have to have a clear, reasoned argument for the things they believe in.

Regardless of whatever laws the unliving, undying Disney corporation have been able to buy and put in place in this new global economy, I’m not willing to accept that’s the end of the argument. I’m not willing to give the will of the corporate state the final word.

The work-for-hire laws create the fiction that it was not Gary Friedrich or Jack Kirby that created the Marvel characters, it was some entity known as Marvel Comics. Right now, legally, it is not Brian Bendis writing the Avengers, but a corporate entity known as Marvel Comics.

I disagree. I’m saying that Marvel can create nothing. They can certainly exploit the work of human beings, but without those human beings, they create nothing. Do you suppose that without Gary Friedrich, the Ghost Rider character upon which the movie is based, the character would somehow have just bubbled up out of the corporate culture? There’s only one answer–everything else is meaningless speculation: You can use weak and limp-wristed words like “might,” “maybe,” and “possibly,” but that’s not what happened. What did happen is that Gary Friedrich brought the character we know as Ghost Rider into being, the character upon which the movie is based–the character upon which the prints he was selling was based. Someone could hem and haw and tinker around with that last statement all they want to, but God damn it, that’s just playing games, and I’ll shoot that argument down right now. The character that appeared in Marvel Spotlight is the character we’re arguing about. Any tag-lines, later story-lines, or artistic interpretations do not subtract from that.

It’s not Walt Disney that the law needs to be taking care of, regardless of whatever law is on the books right now. The Disney Corporation is just fine. It is the real and actual lives of American citizens, real flesh-and-blood people whose interests must and needs be protected by the law.

@Carlton Donaghe
And with that, I think you just out-argued the rest of us. Good job.

You know, I really believe that Gary was in the wrong here. The fact that the character was owned by Marve/Disney is not really relevant. The fact is that he created a description of the character Ghost Rider, which was a re-interpretation of the late 40’s western character, also published by Marvel/Timely. So, Gary only had a hand in creating a version of the character. Also, and if I am incorrect I apologize but this I got second or third hand, Marvel did simply send him a C&D, asking him to stop selling unlicensed prints and such. It was he that decided to go after them, and got burned. I do believe that a smaller, token amount, along with a ban on selling merchandise, would have sufficed, given the circumstances. However, for everyone, artists included, that are up in arms against Marvel/Disney and the others and claiming that they should be able to have ownership of characters they ‘create’, I ask you this, how much money do you pay back to the companies if a character is not a success? I don’t see anyone suing Marvel for their ‘rights’ to Dazzler or suing DC for the ‘rights’ to Space Cabbie? But, put a movie out or a TV show and suddenly all sorts of people claim ownership. Which is the reason for all these Hollywood remakes and re-remakes, it is not that Hollywood has run out of ideas, it is because Hollywood knows who OWNS the properties! They are not going to get dragged through useless court hearings due to some wannabe claiming their idea was stolen.

Instead of popular artists refusing to sketch certain characters at conventions, how about those same artists refuse to sketch those characters for Marvel or DC comics? That would make a much bigger impact. And reading the ass-kissing bullshit here whining about how Freidrich did something “wrong” is truly sickening, and really points out the reason the comics industry is in the toilet, and has been for a good 30 years.

Talmidge Mcgulliger

February 15, 2012 at 7:36 am

I’m totally going to get absolutely fried for this and I don’t know why I should bother but I’m genuinely curious. What is the difference between what Gary did and what Rob Garino did?

Commission sketches are a gray area, given that they are one-off original works.

HOWEVER, let’s say Taggart Amalgamated doesn’t like you, for whatever reason.

Using their own salaried legal department which is expert in such cases, they file suit because you drew and sold sketches of their world-famous character “IP Man”. (Sure, they could send a “cease and desist” letter, but maybe they feel you’ve done too much damage to their property.)

The judge determines that Taggart has a valid complaint, and proceeds with the trial.

Now, you have to challenge the suit, or capitulate. If you give in, you must pay penalties to Taggart and agree to the terms of the ruling.

So you fight. Representation costs money. You could represent yourself, but that is foolish.

Perhaps you win. How much did your attorney cost? How much did the court case cost you in productivity and lost wages? Also, Taggart will probably have the case heard in a favorable arena where they are more likely to win.

Perhaps, during the court case, it is discovered that you didn’t report that convention income on your state and federal tax returns (either personal or corporate), or pay local sales tax. So you are audited, and must pay taxes, fines, and interest on that income. Where does that money come from?

Perhaps, during the court case, someone discovers you did “naughty” drawings of other characters, perhaps when you were younger and more stupid. (Or maybe Taggart sends an undercover fan to request a naughty commission.) What do you do when this hits the local newscast? (Oh, and it will. Nothing like a good visual mixed with a viral headline!) What will your neighbors think? Perhaps Child Services might wonder what sort of parent you are.

Perhaps Taggart realizes they can create a revenue stream by licensing artists. Perhaps Taggart realizes they could drive traffic to their convention booths by having their own “Artist Alley”. The artist gets a free table, perhaps a travel allowance, and the ability to advertise that they are an “official” Taggart artist on all publicity materials.

Seem far-fetched? Boom Studios already did this, selling sketch variant issues at conventions, and having the issue’s artist do a sketch on the cover AT THE BOOTH (as well as autograph any trade paperbacks sold).

Lucasfilm licenses artists on a regular basis.

Hard to believe there’s this much gear grinding over Ghost Rider. Even with the movies how much money can they have made on that slug character?

Gary is not an artist. He was selling artwork/images that didn’t belong to him, and were not made by him. He told the judge how much he made from this merchandise and the judge said “then thats what you owe Marvel”. If you are an artist in Artists Alley, no company will stop you from drawing their characters for fans, it’s free publicity. The company also realizes the fans are paying you for your time to do the sketch and hey, if your an artist this is how you make your living, Marvel and DC, etc, won’t stop you from that. What Gary did is something different. If I made prints from another artists image and work and sold it, it’s infringing on that artists rights and the company that owns it. Its illegal. Nuff said.

Talmidge Mcgulliger

February 15, 2012 at 8:08 am

Gary is an artist, he just wasn’t the artist on those first few issues of Ghost Rider, also on the subject of people asking for more money based on the ip they created, if the movie, tv show, video game, or comic loses money should they have to pony up? Why should they get the reward if they aren’t taking the risk?

Talmidge Mcgulliger

February 15, 2012 at 9:14 am

if I’m a props guy making 30 gs a year (not that out of the question) and I’m on set of Ghost Rider every day why should I get nothing from the profits but this guy should because he wrote 22 pages in 1975. Or the director who spends close two 2 years of his life and stakes his reputation on it but has to wait in line behind the comic creator because he doesn’t get royalties until the studio makes all its money back.


lol – surely you don’t need this explained to you

I have to disagree with the statements made and implied in the
article. This has nothing to do with selling convention sketches. That is
still a ton of free advertising for the characters and goodwill for fans and
pros alike. Every IP attorney in the industry will tell you it’s an “unwritten
code” among us, uncommon in other entertainment fields.

I don’t care how big a company is, they’re still beholden to the court of public
opinion. Take a look at Netflix, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Kellogg’s, McDonald’s,
Johnson & Johnson, GM and others for examples. Goodwill is a quantifiable asset
and public opinion can be powerful.

The only time they come after you is when you sell reproductions or distasteful
representations. (Terms which are rightfully defined solely by their legal
department.) Case in point, last year a former CBG cover artist who prominently
displays hand-colored prints was politely asked by DC to remove those with their
characters and only display genuine original artwork. It was very congenial and
he talked with both their publisher and legal representative. No threats, no
nasty letters. Marvel, interestingly enough, did not have a problem with his
hand-colored prints of their characters.

Note that Marv Wolfman sued Marvel over ownership of Blade several years ago and
though he didn’t win that legal claim, he won credits for himself and Gene
Colan. They settled out of court. Dave Cockrum’s people were going to bring a
case for the X-Men but it was also settled (favorably) out of court. But that
was pre-Disney.

THIS was obviously done for typical legal reasons (a defendant counter-suing the plaintiff, which is standard corporate legal procedure) and (IMO) to punish Gary specifically to send a message to other
creators–because many GA, SA and 70s characters are reaching the points where
creators will be able to file claims for them, and Disney probably doesn’t want
to have to spend the time, money and effort to deal with all of them. Cut ‘em
off at the knees now and avoid the expense later.

Contrary to what the Supreme Court says, the fact is that corporations are not people; they do
not think and do not have consciences. They deal in laws and financial logic,
and it makes more sense to their books to smite guys like Gary and send a
message than to offer a settlement to everyone who created a character. Not
immoral, but *amoral*–an absence of morals.

But like I said, public opinion matters a lot, especially in these “connected”
times. If enough people, or enough *people who matter* make a stink, the
backlash could be worse than the settlement. That’s what I hope for, and why I
contributed to Gary’s cause.

And I encourage others here, especially the anonymous ones, to do the same.


why doesn’t cbr just ask alonso(or any of the marvel editors…whom they regularly pimp) if marvel/disney has plans to sue artists for con sketches/commissions/prints etc…? would be nice if some of these blogs/websites actually performed some journalism.

Selkirk – have you ever listened to the CBR interviews of industry pros?? They ask softball questions and never challenge them in any way. It is basically free PR

In all the interviews, Cup of Joe sessions, Marvel Q and A’s at conventions – when have you ever heard someone challenge a pro with a real tough question?? Ever?? I can’t think of an example

I hope Joe Quesada doesn’t have to pay back Disney/Marvel for the sketches he’s worked on through the years before becoming an editor on the Marvel Knights line and now their Chief Creative Officer. :)

Long live Artist Alley!

Thanks for the link, JK–great stuff. Hoping TCJ does a more in-depth report as well.

this needs follow up ….’We in no way want to interfere with creators at conventions who are providing a positive Marvel experience for our fans. We want fans to speak and interact with the creators who wrote, penciled, inked, lettered, colored or edited their favorite stories. Part of that positive interaction is that a fan can walk away with a signed memento or personalized sketch from an artist.’

does he mean ‘at conventions’ only, creators ‘providing a positive(what that means we can’t be certain) experience’ can sell?, is it just with creators ‘the one who wrote, pencilled, inked…etc.’ that can sell?

is hort the actual question is this: can any artist sell commissions based on marvel properties thru say deviant art or their own personal website. some follow up would be nice…and actually getting them nailed down on what they mean-not just general expressions of goodwill.

should be ‘in short in last paragraph ^^;…:D.

oh hey didn’t mean to sound too harsh in the last post :D. but also responses from dc/dark horse/image etal….as to their policies on commissions(digital and convention) would also be helpful. thanks.

ALL STAR COMICS MELBOURNE are selling all back issues of GHOST RIDER with allrd weddings going to Gary’s benefit.

Duh, The word is Copyright. Sketches are originals. You can sell your copy of a CD you bought but not copies of it. Dave Stevens (who I knew before he created the Rocketeer) problems with Marvel were because Pacific comics failed to put a Trademark notification (TM) behind the name Rocketeer. Look at the early issues. I noticed this and told Dave but it was too late, Marvel hurried up and printed something with that name on it to take Dave’s right to use it on the cover. They did the same thing to DC regarding Captain Marvel. That’s why DC had to call their book Shazam instead. You have 7 years from the first time you use a name to use it again or someone else can take it from you. Books about artists can fair use reproduce images of copyright holders characters, because the focus of the book is about the artist not the characters. Comics companies only paid for the reproduction rights to the artwork. When they found out they’d have to pay taxes on the art they started returning it to the artists. Kirby was a free lancer when he did the bulk of his creating for Marvel he wasn’t working for hire, he wasn’t on staff. That’s why when the copyrights came up for renewal after his death his family had a good case to sue. He refused to sign a contract when he was still alive that said retroactively that everything he did was work for hire. Only the art he drew at that time was work for hire. You’re selling your artwork when you do a individual original sketch. People are buying in more because they like your artwork, You, more than they are buying it for the character. You are the selling point, not the character. You don’t have the right to sell copies of the Copyright holders character unless you pay licensing fees. Since Gary is so poor the judge should’ve only charged him that being that he did have a hand in creating the character.. You’re selling your original artwork when you do a sketch., People are paying you, more to have a picture by you, the character is incidental. If someone doesn’t like your art they’re not going to buy it because you’re drawing their favorite character. Sketches don’t violate copyrights because, duh, It’s not a copy, it’s a original. Even recreations are originals.

Hmmm. Didn’t realize the legal issue was so complicated. A comic on the subject:

Oops, I meant “all proceedings” in my above post

I want to add recreations by one of the original artist’s

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