Creator of one of the most striking characters from Marvel’s pantheon, Ghost Rider, Gary Friedrich has passed away at the age of 75 due to Parkinson’s Disease. Fellow comic book creator Roy Thomas broke the news, which was then shared on Facebook by Tony Isabella. Thomas wrote:
“I won’t go into details at this point, but I wanted to mention that one of my oldest and dearest friends, Gary Friedrich, passed away last night, from the effects of Parkison’s, which he had had for several years. That and his near-total hearing loss had left him feeling isolated in recent years, and his wife Jean seems content that he is finally at peace.”
Friedrich began working on romance comics before transitioning to westerns and eventually superheroes. He provided dialogue for Steve Ditko’s Charleton creation ‘Blue Beetle’, a character that now belongs to DC Comics. He then went to work for Marvel, working in titles such as ‘Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos’, ‘The Incredible Hulk’, ‘The Uncanny X-Men’, ‘Captain America’, ‘Captain Marvel’, ‘Daredevil’, and more. On a suggestion from Stan Lee, he concocted the character Damon Hellstrom, better known as the ‘Son of Satan’.
His biggest contribution, however, was his co-creation of Ghost Rider, the supernatural creature, who appeared as a renegade motorcyclist with a flaming skull for a head. This striking visual was an instant hit with readers who liked their comics a bit darker than the average. Friedrich developed this stunt rider, also known as Johnny Blaze, with artist Mike Ploog and editor Roy Thomas.
Unfortunately, it would be his most popular creation that would also lead to a legal quagmire, as the various parties disagreed over who created what aspect of Ghost Rider. Friedrich sued Marvel over the rights, with Marvel counter-suing. Marvel also attempted to prevent Friedrich from selling and signing Ghost Rider memorabilia at conventions. Eventually, the matter was settled out of court.
Friedrich’s contribution to the comic industry was honored in 2007 with the Inkpot Award. In 2010, he was awarded the Will Eisner Comic Industry Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Writing.