Marvel Studios may have retained the film rights to Ghost Rider following his two Columbia Pictures movies, but that doesn’t mean the spirit of vengeance’s legal woes are over. Deadline reports that a federal appeals court overturned the 2011 ruling that landed in Marvel’s favor regarding the character’s ownership. Now if creator Gary Friedrich wants to take Marvel back to court in the hopes of wresting control of the character, he’s free to do so.
Friedrich had a hand in creating two different versions of Ghost Rider, the most popular being Johnny Blaze, who debuted in 1972’s “Marvel Spotlight” #5. Nicolas Cage brought Johnny Blaze to life in two Ghost Rider films: 2007’s Ghost Rider and 2012’s Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.
Ghost Rider’s rights are pretty tangled up, and I’m quite sure I’ll be bungling them in this post, but Marvel says they own the character because Friedrich created him under a freelancers contract. It’s interesting to note, though, that Friedrich and writer Roy Thomas didn’t actually come up with the name “Ghost Rider.” A version of the character first appeared way back in something called “Tim Holt” #11 from 1949, created by Ray Krank and Dick Ayers. This version of the character wore a ghostly white bodysuit and rode a white horse. The character joined the Marvel family in “Ghost Rider” #1 in 1967, with the adaptation handled by Friedrich and Thomas. Five years later the duo, along with artist Mike Ploog, introduced the leather-wearing, motorcycle-riding, flaming-skull-having Ghost Rider we all know.
The Deadline article fails to mention Roy Thomas and Mike Ploog, as does most coverage of GR’s legal woes now that I think of it. Marvel’s pretty much gone on the record as saying that they have no intention of making a new Ghost Rider film now that they have the rights back, and Nicolas Cage has sworn off the movies too. With the character possibly about to head back into the courtroom, it looks like it’ll be a good long while before fans get another big-screen take on Ghost Rider.