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The Walking Dead Eats Friends: Tony Moore Sues Robert Kirkman over Copyright Interests

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Update: The Hollywood Reporter has run a statement from Robert Kirkman, in which he says Moore's claims are incorrect and showing a credits page from an early issue of the series that lists Kirkman as 'Creator/Writer/Letterer' and Moore as 'Penciler/Inker/Gray Tones':

"The lawsuit is ridiculous, we each had legal representation seven years ago and now he is violating the same contract he initiated and approved and he wants to misrepresent the fees he was paid and continues to be paid for the work he was hired to do. Tony regularly receives payment for the work he did as penciler, inker and for gray tones on the first six issues of The Walking Dead comic series and he receives royalties for the TV show, to assert otherwise is simply incorrect."

***

Just when you thought that the legal storms inside the comics industry were cooling down now that Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane had settled their age-old dispute over certain Spawn creative rights, a surprising story broke last night on The Hollywood Reporter.

Artist Tony Moore has sued his childhood friend and The Walking Dead co-creator/writer Robert Kirkman, claiming Kirkman ‘swindled’ him out of his copyright interests and ensuing profits stemming from The Walking Dead and presumably other projects the duo created together. Long regarded as one of the great examples of the 21st century wave of creator-owned comics, this lawsuit – if Moore’s claims are true – will no doubt put more oil on the fire of creator rights issues.

The creator rights debate flared up again just last week when DC announced Before Watchmen, the ‘prequel’ continuation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen classic, the rights of which never reverted back to the original creators because of several illusive publishing tactics 25 years ago.

If Moore is telling the truth, he’s missing out on a lot of dough, as The Walking Dead has become a cash cow not only for Image Comics (the graphic novels continue to top best-seller lists), but for AMC as well since TWD currently ranks as the top show on cable television in the US.

Kirkman’s attorney says Moore’s claims are “totally frivolous” and that Moore is “owed no money at all.”

Here are a few outtakes from the THR article:

"Moore claims that in 2005, Kirkman and his agents devised a scheme to fraudulently induce him to assign his copyright interests over to Kirkman's company. Moore, who grew up with Kirkman and worked together on several projects, claims he signed a deal granting him 60 percent of "Comic Publishing Net Proceeds" in connection with Walking Dead and another project called Brit; 20 percent of "motion picture net proceeds" in connection with Walking Dead and Brit; and 50 percent of "motion picture net proceeds" from another project called Battle Pope."

"But Moore says he hasn't received much revenue nor any profit statements from Kirkman or his company, despite the success of his projects. "Indeed, they have not issued a single statement or allowed access to their books and records in accordance with the reporting obligations of the agreement," the complaint alleges."

"Moore claims he was told in 2005 by Kirkman that a big TV deal was on the table but "that Kirkman would not be able to complete the deal unless [Moore] assigned all of his interest in the Walking Dead and other works to Kirkman," according to the complaint. Thinking the deal would fall apart, Moore signed the contract, he says, allowing Kirkman to "swindle" him out of his 50 percent interest in the copyright and never intending to pay him his share of royalties.

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