'Ghost Rider' Belongs to Marvel, Federal Judge Rules

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on December 29, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Who owns "Ghost Rider" -- Marvel, or the man who created the comic book character? According to U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest, Marvel does. Writer and former Marvel employee Gary Friedrich's lawsuit against the comic book company was dismissed in federal court this week.

Friedrich created the fiery motorcycle-riding "Ghost Rider" character in the early 1970s.

He sought movie rights after he heard that Marvel planned other uses of the "Ghost Rider" character. The 2007 "Ghost Rider" flick, starring Nicolas Cage, grossed around $115.8 million in the U.S. and Canada.

Friedrich's suit was dismissed because he signed over his rights to Marvel. In fact, he'd signed two agreements.

First, he'd signed and endorsed checks that stated he was relinquishing his rights to the character. When "an individual endorses a check subject to a condition, he accepts that condition," wrote Judge Forrest in the court ruling.

Second, he signed an agreement in 1978 that stated he would give up his rights in exchange for the possibility of freelance work.

Any of the two agreements are sufficient to show that Friedrich gave Marvel the rights to the character, writes the judge.

Friedrich originally maintained that he thought he was only giving up future comic rights, according to the AP. Yet he had no proof in writing that substantiated his belief.

Judge Forrest did not make a ruling on whether or not the character was a "work-for-hire." Copyrighted works that fall under this category are owned by the employer, not the employee. "Work-for-hires" are often created during the scope of an employee's job.

There have been similar challenges over comic book creations like Gary Friedrich's lawsuit over "Ghost Rider." Marvel previously faced a suit from Jack Kirby's estate. They filed a claim against the company in an effort to get benefits from Incredible Hulk and X-Men characters. The claim was unsuccessful.

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard