Hi Mr. Cage,
I’m writing because you’re on David Letterman right now promoting your new film, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. I enjoyed the first Ghost Rider film, was pleasantly surprised that such a thing could even exist, much less be a fun movie and a good adaptation of the comics.
I know that you’re a fan of comics too, that’s why I wanted to write you and let you know about the creator of Ghost Rider, Gary Friedrich; today he was ordered to pay Marvel Comics $17,000 and to stop claiming that he created the character for the purposes of making money. Essentially, Marvel and its parent company, Disney, are asserting trademark ownership of the character and of course they are within their rights to do so. However, myself and many others who love and make comics feel that this judgement is needlessly punitive to Mr, Friedrich, who like many retired comics industry veterans does not have a lot of money to spare, much less $17,000 to give to one of the richest companies in the world. Here’s an article about the case: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2012/02/09/ghost-rider-creator-lawsuit/
Anyway, Mr. Cage, I don’t have any specific request for you, I just wanted to bring this matter to your attention in the hope that you or your fans can do something to help the man who created the character that you have brought to life on the screen so well. The film and comics industries are big businesses and they protect their properties within the letter of the law – sometimes going so far as to lobby for laws to be modified so they can protect them longer or more strenuously. But what good are these laws if the creators of the characters we love have to worry about going broke in their retirement?
I’m reminded of a line from one of my favourite movies, “My Favourite Year” starring Mark Linn-Baker and Peter O’Toole. After a huge TV star threatens to cut an aging movie star from his show, a young comedy writer tells his boss:
King, you’re a big star now, and I’m sure you always will be. But suppose someday you end up like this. I hope nobody does to you what you’re doing to him.
Thanks for your time, Mr. Cage, and good luck with your movie. I’m looking forward to seeing it.
Saint John, NB, Canada
[Updates: Steve Niles has created a donation button for those who want to support Gary Friedrich.
Very amusing comments by the very amusing Ty Templeton on how this issue has brought out the worst in entitled fans.
And while I'm at it, here's some comments from the always wise Mark Evanier, and some additional insight from the other side of the desk by Jim Shooter.
Finally, about a week after the original story broke, reassurances from Marvel chiefs that convention sketches will not bring the wrath of God down upon cartoonists - provided they are part of a "Marvel-positive" experience. In other words, no Air Pirates-style shenanigans where the characters are shown in X-rated situations and the like. Hardly surprising.
As I write this update, this post has become by far the most-read post on my blog, and Nic Cage's second Ghost Rider film opens in two days. Thanks for reading it, I hope it gave you something to think about and I hope it inspires you to (1) think about what you support with your entertainment dollars and (2) read contracts carefully before you sign them. :) ]