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Comics A.M. | Marvel’s big push for AvX; New 52 hurting GN sales?

AvX #1

Publishing | David Gabriel, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, says that Marvel is putting “the biggest marketing investment that we’ve ever put into a series or an event” behind its upcoming Avengers vs. X-Men event. The campaign will include online, social media, radio and television promotion. “They’re actually treating every issue as an event, because there’s a different fight going on in every issue, and I’m told that they are pushing every single issue through all 12 issues,” Gabriel said. “The story itself has three acts, and each of those acts has a natural marketing hook to it, so they’re pushing those as well.” [ICv2]

Publishing | While DC’s New 52 has been good for comics sales overall, there is a dark side: Sales of pre-reboot collected editions are down. ICv2 also lists the Top 10 comics and graphic novel franchises in a number of different genres. [ICv2]

Legal | The Justice Department brought more charges of fraud and copyright infringement against Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and his colleagues on Friday, but also revealed that Megaupload isn’t all that mega: The file-sharing site had only 66.6 million users, not the 180 million previously claimed, and fewer than 6 million had ever actually uploaded a file. The indictment mentions one user who uploaded almost 17,000 items, including copyrighted movies, which were viewed 34 million times. [The Washington Post]

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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.

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Neal Adams calls on creators to help Ghost Rider’s Gary Friedrich

Neal Adams, the legendary comic artist and advocate for creator rights, has joined Steve Niles and others in issuing a call to help Gary Friedrich, the Ghost Rider creator who owes Marvel $17,000 in damages for selling unauthorized merchandise.

Writing this morning on his Facebook page, Adams asked fellow artists to donate artwork for sale or auction to benefit the ailing Friedrich, who’s in danger of losing his home.

“Fellow creators, we can help Gary Friedrich without taking any kind of position in his case with Marvel,” he wrote. “Gary is sick, and he’s about to lose his house, and though he will tell you he is not destitute, he needs help. If I have to do it alone, I will see to it that he gets his mortgage paid, and gets some money in the bank. But I would like to ask you all to help.”

Gary is a victim of the deficiencies of two very bad copyright laws, and the history in the comic book industry of poor practices on everybody’s part. There will be battles in the future, and good will come of them. But this is simply just a bad situation. Gary is one of us. And while we can’t save him from Marvel, and his small place in history, we can help him have a place to live, ongoing. And I can only promise you this. If you find yourself in a bad situation, whether for heath or other reasons, I and others, will join to help you. Just as you have helped to support William Messner-Loebs, Dave Cockrum and others.

While I hope that Marvel would step up and help out too, I can understand that they find themselves in such an unfortunate position that they cannot do so. I would like to believe that they would if they could.

Artists wishing to donate work my send in to: Continuity Studios, 15 W. 39th St., ninth floor, New York, NY 10018.

Marvel prevails in lawsuit over rights to Ghost Rider

A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a four-year-old lawsuit by Ghost Rider co-creator Gary Friedrich, who claimed the rights to Marvel’s fiery spirit of vengeance reverted to him in 2001.

Friedrich filed the lawsuit in April 2007, shortly after the release of Columbia Pictures’ Ghost Rider movie, accusing the studio, Marvel, Hasbro and other companies of copyright infringement, false advertising and unfair competition, among other counts. The film grossed $228 million worldwide; a sequel, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, will be released in February.

The writer asserted he created Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider in 1968 and, three years later, agreed to publish the character through Magazine Management, which eventually became Marvel Entertainment. Under the agreement, the publisher held the copyright to the character’s origin story in 1972′s Marvel Spotlight #5, and to subsequent Ghost Rider works. However, Friedrich alleged the company never registered the work with the U.S. Copyright Office and, pursuant to federal law, he regained the copyrights to Ghost Rider in 2001.

But The Associated Press reports that on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest ruled Friedrich gave up ownership to the property when he endorsed checks that contained language relinquishing rights to Marvel’s predecessors. The judge said the writer signed over all claims to the character in 1971 and again in 1978 in exchange for the possibility of more freelance work for the publisher.

“Either of those contractual transfers would be sufficient to resolve the question of ownership,” Forrest wrote. “Together, they provide redundancy to the answer that leaves no doubt as to its correctness.”

“The law is clear that when an individual endorses a check subject to a condition, he accepts that condition,” the judge ruled, contending her finding made it unnecessary “travel down the rabbit hole” to determine whether Ghost Rider was work for hire.


Australian retailer loses fight with Marvel over Ghost Rider clothes

An Australian retailer’s Ghost Rider clothing brand has gone down in flames.

The Courier Mail reports the Australian Trade Marks Office has rejected an application by Brisbane clothing-store owner Gary Charles to register the words “Ghost Rider” following opposition by Marvel.

Charles had first applied to register the trademark in 2009 and, following a threat of legal action by the company, decided to pursue his case. “I thought why should I let them push me around,” he told the newspaper. “But if I’d known the trouble it would be I would have dropped the trademark.”

Solicitor Fiona Brittain, who represented Marvel Characters Inc., argued Charles’ application was made in bad faith, and that he’d previously attempted to register such marks as Red Bull and Army of One. An investigation by her firm allegedly uncovered counterfeit clothing in his store, “including Spider-Man and Marvel Superheroes branded garments.”

The hearing officer was persuaded by the evidence, ruling: “The evidence which the Opponent has provided in respect of the Applicant’s other trade mark applications and registrations, in conjunction with the evidence of the clothing brands available for sale in the Applicant’s shop, is sufficient for me to be satisfied that this application is an example of the Applicant’s standard pattern of behaviour, a pattern which leaves much to be desired as far as commercial fair dealing is concerned.”

Now Charles is left with Ghost Rider-branded denim shorts that, according to the newspaper, he was still trying to “offload” last week. If that’s the case, he should probably expect another letter from Marvel …

Ghost Rider co-creator must defend himself against Marvel claims

While the big legal story is, of course, a federal judge’s ruling that the family of Jack Kirby has no claim to the copyrights for the characters he co-created for Marvel, the company also scored a courtroom victory this week in another, lower-profile case.

A judge declared on Tuesday that Ghost Rider co-creator Gary Friedrich will have to defend counterclaims by Marvel accusing him of violating its trademark by using the phrase “Ghost Rider” and the character’s image on posters, cards and T-shirts, Courthouse News Service reports.

The dispute stems from a 2007 lawsuit filed by Friedrich against Marvel, Columbia Pictures, Hasbro and other companies alleging the copyrights used in the Ghost Rider movie and related products reverted to him in 2001. He sought unspecified damages for copyright infringement, and violations of federal and Illinois state unfair competition laws, negligence, waste, false advertising and endorsement, and several other claims.

Friedrich claimed he created Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider in 1968 and, three years later, agreed to publish the character through Magazine Management, which eventually became Marvel Entertainment. Under the agreement, the publisher held the copyright to the character’s origin story in 1972′s Marvel Spotlight #5, and to subsequent Ghost Rider works. However, Friedrich alleged the company never registered the work with the U.S. Copyright Office and, pursuant to federal law, he regained the copyrights to Ghost Rider in 2001.

The case has taken a few turns, with a judge in May 2010 dismissing the claims made under state law after determining that the Copyright Act of 1976 is the relevant federal statute. That decision was followed in December by counterclaims by Marvel Characters, the subsidiary that actually holds the rights to the company’s characters, accusing Friedrich of the unauthorized sale of Ghost Rider posters, T-shirts and cards online and at comic conventions.

Friedrich, who amended his complaint in March 2011, attempted to have the counterclaims dismissed. However, on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones rejected his motion. Courthouse News Service notes that Friedrich’s lawsuit is in discovery, with Marvel and the other defendants so far turning over 34,000 pages of documents.

Ghost Rider, the 2007 film based on the character Friedrich co-created, grossed $228 million worldwide. Columbia Pictures will release the sequel on Feb. 17, 2012.

C2E2 | A round-up of news and announcements from this weekend

C2E2

The second C2E2 convention, hosted by ReedPOP in Chicago, wrapped up yesterday. Here’s an attempt to round up all the comic-related news that was announced at various panels during the show. I’d be surprised if I didn’t miss something.

While Marvel and DC Comics were both in attendance and held multiple panels, Marvel dominated in terms of the number of announcements, which is no surprise — DC tends to favor announcing new projects and creative teams on their Source blog rather than at conventions these days. I only point this out after seeing the long list of Marvel announcements and the far fewer DC ones in my summary below.

• Marvel confirmed earlier reports by officially announcing the creative teams for the two “Big Shots” titles they’ve been teasing, Daredevil and The Punisher. Irredeemable/Amazing Spider-Man writer Mark Waid will pen Daredevil, with Amazing Spider-Man artists Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin illustrating.

“Tonally, it’s still very much a crime series, but we’re toning down the noir a bit and playing up the high adventure a bit more,” Waid told Comic Book Resources. “He’s the Man Without Fear. I want to see that constantly. I want to see him diving face-first into perils that would make Green Lantern shriek like a little girl.”

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Talking Comics with Tim | Dan Abnett

Heroes for Hire 2

Heroes for Hire

The writing team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have come back down to Earth and the streets of Marvel with the new Heroes for Hire (H4H) series, which premiered in December. After reading the first issue, which ended with a spectacular plot curve ball, I wanted to find out more about the series. This Wednesday, January 5, marks the release of issue 2–featuring Ghost Rider and Silver Sable. Despite his busy comics and prose writing schedule, Abnett was kind enough to do a brief email interview about the series–and offer readers a chance make hero hire suggestions for future issues.

Tim O’Shea: After working in space with myriad Marvel universe alien species, what’s the most enjoyable aspect to getting to also dabble in the “nitty, gritty, human vigilante street action of Heroes for Hire” as you recently described it.

Dan Abnett: The change of pace, really. Bill Rosemann, our editor, asked us if we’d like to do something that was a contrast to the cosmic stuff we’ve been doing, and the first thing Andy and I ever did for Marvel US was a year or so’s run on the Punisher in the early 1990s. So we decided to go ‘back on the streets’.

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Robot 666 | What comic scared the $#!@% out of you?

Orb

Happy Halloween! We round out our series of posts on what comics from the past or present left various creators shivering under the blanket until the sun came up. To see the previous posts, go here and here.

Fred Van Lente

I had the oversized MARVEL TREASURY EDITION of MARVEL TEAM-UP when I was a kid. The panel in the Spider-Man & Ghost Rider story in which the Orb removes his helmet and shows how hideously scarred he is scared me so bad I actually cut out a square of black construction paper big enough to tape over the panel to cover it so I could read the rest of the comic without looking at it. I couldn’t have been much older than seven.

Fred Van Lente is the co-writer of Marvel’s current event series Chaos War. He’s also written Action Philosophers!, Iron Man: Legacy and Shadowland: Power Man, among other titles. If you’re looking for something in the spirit of the season, check out his Marvel Zombies work.

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Exclusive: Sheldon Vella jams with Ghost Rider in Strange Tales II #2

And finally, here’s a look at a page from Super-Tron creator Sheldon Vella‘s heavy-metal Ghost Rider tale that will be featured in the upcoming second issue of Strange Tales II. Check it out in all its glory after the jump.

The book lands in shops next week and includes contributions by, among others, Paul Hornschemeier, David Heatley, Scott Richardson and Jaime Hernandez (who did the cover).

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Gary Friedrich’s Ghost Rider lawsuit against Marvel lives on

ghost riderA lawyer for Ghost Rider co-creator Gary Friedrich asserts the writer’s copyright-infringement lawsuit against Marvel will proceed, despite reports in June that the action had been dismissed.

Friedrich sued Marvel, Sony, Hasbro and other companies in April 2007, arguing the copyrights used in the Ghost Rider movie and related products reverted to him in 2001. He sought unspecified damages for copyright infringement, and violations of federal and Illinois state unfair competition laws, negligence, waste, false advertising and endorsement, and several other claims.

His attorney Charles S. Kramer now tells Digital Spy the order of dismissal, issued in late May, relates to the claims made under state law. A reading of the order by U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones supports that. She upheld the 2009 recommendation by Magistrate Judge James C. Francis that the state law and Lanham Act claims be dismissed. However, Francis also determined the Copyright Act of 1976 is the relevant federal statute.

“Gary’s case was originally filed asserting claims under both federal and state law,” Kramer tells Digital Spy. “The court’s ruling was only that this is a question of federal law only, under the federal copyright law, and that the case should thus proceed only on the federal law issues. [...] The federal copyright claim was always the main part of our case, and this is really more of a procedural ruling than anything else.”

In the 2007 lawsuit, Friedrich claimed he created Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider in 1968 and, three years later, agreed to publish the character through Magazine Management, which eventually became Marvel Entertainment. Under the agreement, the publisher held the copyright to the character’s origin story in 1972′s Marvel Spotlight #5, and to subsequent Ghost Rider works.

However, Friedrich alleged the company never registered the work with the U.S. Copyright Office and, pursuant to federal law, he regained the copyrights to Ghost Rider in 2001.

Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

GhostRider22Cover

Ghost Rider #22

Legal | A federal judge has dismissed a copyright-infringement lawsuit filed in April 2007 against Marvel, Sony Pictures and other companies by Ghost Rider co-creator Gary Friedrich, who claimed the film and merchandising rights to the character had reverted to him in 2001. [Comics Commentary, via Bleeding Cool]

Passings | Cartoonist Tony DiPreta, best known for his work on the Joe Palooka and Rex Morgan M.D. comic strips, passed away on June 3 of of respiratory and cardiac arrest. He was 88.  [Connecticut Post]

Passings | Francis Metcalfe, the manga blogger who wrote under the name Tiamat’s Disciple, passed away last week after a long fight with cancer. [Tiamat's Manga Reviews]

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Exclusive preview: Ghost Riders: Heavens on Fire #6

ghostrider_hof_6_02

Courtesy of our friends over at Marvel Comics, check out this exclusive preview of Ghost Riders: Heavens on Fire #6. This issue, which is due in stores Feb. 3, wraps up writer Jason Aaron’s long run on the character, as Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch go up against a renegade angel.

Here are the solicitation details, and you can check out four pages from the book after the jump.

COVER BY: Christian Nauck
WRITER: Jason Aaron
PENCILS: Roland Boschi
INKS: Array
COLORED BY: Dan Brown
LETTERED BY: VC – Joe Caramagna

THE STORY:
Writer Jason Aaron’s hellblazing, heaven-burning run on GHOST RIDER roars to its dramatic conclusion with a confrontation that’s been a long time coming. In one corner, we have the Ghost Rider brothers, Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch. In the other corner is Zadkiel, the renegade angel. And before the battle is through, you can rest assured that blood will flow on the golden streets of heaven. And no matter who wins, will it mean the end for America’s favorite Flameheads? Parental Advisory …$3.99

PRICE: 3.99
IN STORES: February 3, 2010

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Nicolas Cage reportedly sold comics collection to stop financial bleed

Nicolas Cage in "Ghost Rider"

Nicolas Cage in "Ghost Rider"

Remember back in 2002 when actor Nicolas Cage auctioned off his comic collection for a cool $1.6 million but never said why? Well, now we may know.

Last month the star of Ghost Rider and the upcoming Kick-Ass sued his former business manager for $20 million, blaming him for financial problems that include more than $6 million in tax liens. However, in a countersuit filed last week, Samuel J. Levin claims that by the time the actor hired him in 2001 Cage “had already squandered tens of millions of dollars he had earned as a movie star.”

Levin asserts that he advised Cage he would need to earn more than $30 million to maintain his lifestyle, and persuaded him to sell a dozen automobiles and his comic-book collection, which included copies of Action Comics #1, Detective Comics #1 and All-Star Comics #3.

But by the time Ghost Rider was released in 2007, Cage reportedly had fallen back into his old habits: Levin contends that in that year alone the actor purchased three homes worth more than $33 million, 22 cars, 12 pieces of expensive jewelry and 47 pieces of artwork. Within a year, Cage’s tally of homes had reached 15. He also owned an island in the Bahamas, four yachts and a Gulfstream jet.

No wonder he’s so eager for another Ghost Rider movie.


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