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Gary Friedrich, co-creator of Marvel's Ghost Rider, passes away at 75

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Aug 30, 2018, 12:16 PM EDT

Gary Friedrich, co-creator of Ghost Rider for Marvel Comics, has died at the age of 75. Friedrich's passing was confirmed by his newphew Chris on Facebook, who wrote: 

"Today we lost a wonderful family member and the creator of Ghost Rider, Gary Friedrich. Love you Uncle Gary you will be missed!!"

Friedrich created the character of Johnny Blaze with fellow writer Roy Thomas and artist Mike Ploog, debuting him in 1971's Marvel Spotlight #5. However, in that issue, it is Friedrich who gets most of the credit with the title of "Conceived & Written [by]" with Thomas receiving the cheeky title of "Aid and Abetment."

Born and raised in Jackson, Missouri, Gary Friedrich was destined for a career in publishing when he became a member of his high school newspaper as a teenager. During this period of his life, he met Roy Thomas, while the two young men were working at Jackson's Palace movie theater. The duo, thick as thieves, also played in rock n' roll bands (Evetz Pretzel and the Transjordanaires) during their high school years.

After working as the managing editor at the bi-weekly Jackson Pioneer, Friedrich moved to New York City in the early '60s, where Thomas, now working with Stan Lee, offered his friend a job at Marvel Comics. While in New York, Friedrich brushed shoulders with a number of folks that would go on to become comic book legends, even sharing an apartment with Namor, the Sub-Mariner creator Bill Everett.

Working as a freelance writer, Friedrich became attached to such notable brands as Charlton Comics (collaborating with Jack Kirby) and Topps Trading Cards. In the mid 1960s, he became an assistant to Woody Gelman and Len Brown, the team responsible for the cult favorite Mars Attacks cards. While at Topps, he worked on Superman cards and was introduced to a young Art Spiegelman, who would go on to write the award-winning Holocaust graphic novel Maus.


Credit: Bobby Bank/WireImage

By the fall of 1966, he was working full-time at Marvel, penning scripts for Kid Colt, the Rawhide Kid, Daredevil, Hulk, Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, and the X-Men. All the while, he was developing the character of Ghost Rider, which he pitched to Stan Lee in the summer of '71. Inspired by Marlon Brando's The Wild One, Friedrich wanted to put a supernatural spin on the motorcycle-riding greaser trope. Obviously, the rest is history, with the Ghost Rider becoming one of Marvel's most iconic heroes, going through several different identity changes over the years. 

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Credit: Marvel Comics

Ghost Rider received the cinematic treatment in 2007 with Nicolas Cage starring as Johnny Blaze. Despite negative reviews, a sequel — Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance — was released in 2011. The character was revived in the form of Robbie Reyes (played by Diego Luna) on ABC's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The latest comic iteration is Cosmic Ghost Rider from writer Donny Cates and artist Dylan Burnett.

Just a few years ago, Friedrich took Marvel to court over the ownership of Ghost Rider, asserting that the publisher no longer owned the rights to the character. According to a report from The Hollywood Reporter in 2013, Marvel decided to settle out of court.

Friedrich is survived by his wife, Jean, daughter Leslie, and nephew Chris. 

All biographical information on Friedrich's life comes from Christopher Jackson's Planet Comic Con website