Gary Friedrich, the comic book writer who created Ghost Rider, has passed away at the age of 75. Friedrich died of complications from Parkinson's Disease. The news was confirmed by his nephew, Chris Friedrich, via a Facebook post. Here's what Friedrich had to say in his post, which was accompanied by a photo of Marvel Spotlight #5, which served as Ghost Rider's first appearance.
"Today we lost a wonderful family member and the Creator of Ghost Rider, Gary Friedrich. Love you Uncle Gary you will be missed!!"
Dating back to the 1960s, where Gary Friedrich got his start with Charlton Comics, the man was a prolific comic book writer up until he retired from the industry in 2010. He penned the first appearances of Blue Beetle during that period, before commencing his work with Marvel Comics, getting his start with the publisher working on their western books, such as Rawhide Kid. It was here where Friedrich first came into contact with Ghost Rider in his early, western form. Marvel writer and editor Roy Thomas shared a statement on Friedrich's passing via Tony Isabella, who also worked at Marvel and was a contemporary of Friedrich's. Thomas and Friedrich had been friends since childhood. Here's what Thomas had to say.
"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. As many of you will know, he did considerable work for Marvel during the late 1960s and 1970s, and for Charlton in the 1960s, including a remembered run on Sgt. Fury, stints on Captain America, Daredevil, SHIELD, and others, and of course the basic concept/creation of the motorcycle-riding Ghost Rider at Marvel. I'd know Gary since I was in college and he still in high school, when he came to work at the Palace Theatre in Jackson, MO, and some of my happiest memories of our days in the rock band he founded circa 1962 and which existed for a couple of years."
Working with artist Mike Ploog, Gary Friedrich co-created the Johnny Blaze version of Ghost Rider, who remains the most popular and well-known version to this day. The character was the subject of two movies, Ghost Rider and the maligned sequel, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Nicolas Cage portrayed Johnny Blaze in both movies. Ghost Rider is far and away Friedreich's most well-known comic book creation.
Unfortunately, Ghost Rider ultimately became a source of contention for Friedrich. He, Mike Ploog and Roy Thomas disagreed over who created which elements of the character, leading to various lawsuits filed against Marvel by Friedrich. Eventually, the matter was settled out of court in 2013 for an undisclosed amount.
Beyond his work with Marvel, the writer worked for Topps Comics and Atlas/Seaboard Comics before retiring from the industry in 2010. That same year, he was awarded the Will Eisner Comic Industry Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Writing. RIP, Gary Friedrich. You can see Chris Friedrich's Facebook post and the Facebook tribute from Roy Thomas for yourself below.