Tony Moore files suit for co-ownership of The Walking Dead and other properties

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Well, if you wondered if tensions were going to deescalate between former collaborators and childhood friends Tony Moore and Robert Kirkman after Moore filed a suit to collect what he alleges are his fair share of the profits from the Walking Dead comics and TV show, the answer is “HELL NO.” Moore has actually filed a SECOND suit claiming that he should be named joint author of THE WALKING DEAD, BATTLE POPE, BRIT, DEAD PLANET and MY NAME IS ABRAHAM. (The latter two are comics as yet unpublished but developed by the two when they were friends.)

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in US District Court, Moore came out swinging with Lucille:

Kirkman is a proud liar and fraudster who freely admits that he has no qualms about misrepresenting material facts in order to consummate business transactions, and it is precisely that illicit conduct which led to the present lawsuit (and to Kirkman’s business ‘success’ generally).


At issue is Moore’s claim that he and Kirkman co-created all the works in question back when they were friendly collaborators, and that Kirkman fraudulently removed Moore’s name as co-copyright holed after the proofs of the first issue of THE WALKING DEAD had been turned in. Moore claims he was listed as the co-copyright holder in the proofs he saw but when the printed issues came out, Kirkman was the sole copyright holder—however, he didn’t notice this until August 2005. (THE WALKING DEAD debuted in the innocent year of 2003.)

Moore also claims that he was coerced into signing an agreement to transfer all of his copyright interests in THE WALKING DEAD to Kirkman so that a TV deal could be signed. As we’ve noted before, this is fairly standard in getting TV or film deals exactly because of these kinds of rights disputes—studios don’t want to deal with a bunch of warring copyright holders. However, Moore claims that this was all part of a swindle to get him removed.

The lawsuit seems to stem from the earlier one, in that as agreements between Moore and Kirkman for the monies to be received are already in existence, in order to get the piece of the pie he feels he is due, Moore must sue for his co-creator status. And as we’ve seen time and time again, that is where things get messier and messier in this comic book business.

Although Kirkman has yet to respond publicly to this lawsuit, he issued a statement on the first one, which was filed back in February, which stated that Moore was being paid what he was due under agreements that had been signed seven years prior.

You can read the entire new filing below.

Comments

  1. Jason says:

    Wow not just Walking Dead but several properties not in print yet. Not sure what to make of the whole thing right now.

  2. likefunbutnot says:

    I really wish the best to Tony Moore in this.

  3. I don’t know. If Kirkman, as Moore claims, refuses to be transparent with the accounting then that would obviously be a red flag. I’m also prejudicial towards the artists in these cases. Image picked up the book due, in part, to Moore’s art. I can’t believe that Kirkman honestly believes that Moore was just a work for hire artist.

  4. Paul Nolan says:

    Well, when Walking Dead was selling below 15000 no-one knew what a massive success the property would become. But I believe I read in the back matter somewhere of a Kirkman comic clearly stating that he was writer and sole creator of all his properties. Its going to be interesting to see how this case develops.

  5. Paul Nolan says:

    The original Image comics press release for the Walking Dead (and capes) is here.

    http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=2524

    some things of note:-

    ” “When INVINCIBLE and TECH JACKET were approved, I told Jim Valentino and Eric Stephenson that I wouldn’t stop pitching books until they made me,” Kirkman chuckled. “They haven’t stopped me yet, so they must like what I’m doing. ”

    AND

    ” “Erik Larsen’s to blame,” joked Image’s Director of Marketing, Eric Stephenson. “He brought Robert to us with SUPERPATRIOT: AMERICA’S FIGHTING FORCE, but as good as that material was, we had no way of knowing that we’d be getting such a steady stream of ideas from this guy! ”

    Intimating the comic was approved from a pitch and not the normal submission routes.

    Also note the series artists are hardly mentioned in the PR. it’s ALL about Kirkman.

  6. Beat: “As we’ve noted before, this is fairly standard in getting TV or film deals exactly because of these kinds of rights disputes”

    I must have missed that. Could you name at least three other cases where this occurred? That should be a good minimum for “fairly standard”. I think the Ninja Turtles were licensed to the hilt while Eastman and Laird were joint owners (Eastman selling his share to Laird and then Laird selling the whole thing to a corporation came later). Moore and Campbell jointly own FROM HELL, I think, and Moore and O’Neill jointly own LOEG, and those movies got made, for better or worse. The Pinis both own ELFQUEST, and that’s been optioned various times. I think Millar co-owns his movie pitches disguised as comics with his artists, and those options seem to sell just fine.

    Anyway, interesting case. Moore seems to have pretty high hurdle, but not an insurmountable one.

  7. Chris Hero says:

    The sad thing is Kirkman and Moore were high school buddies who worked on comics together.

  8. He didn’t notice his name had been removed until two years after the fact & waited until now to say something? Smells like BS to me.

  9. I tend to side with the artist on this. Even if the writer created everything and pictured everything in their mind, the artist is the one who brings it to life. That, in definition, is co-creation, whether or not the writer wants to fully acknowledge it. I remember when the book first came out as well, I noticed it more for the art rather than the writing, which really set the tone in the beginning.

  10. BobH: “I must have missed that. Could you name at least three other cases where this occurred? That should be a good minimum for “fairly standard”.”

    The Beat isn’t saying that if a property has co-creators that one of them needs to sign it over to the other. What I think the Beat is saying is that tv networks want clarity in who owns what before signing on, so that they don’t get sued later.

    Example with Eastman and Laird having split ways any future TMNT tv show or movie would want clear documentation that Peter Laird is in control and owns the rights (which I understand exists). They wouldn’t want to make a new version of TMNT only to get sued by Kevin Eastman later.

  11. “Example with Eastman and Laird having split ways any future TMNT tv show or movie would want clear documentation that Peter Laird is in control and owns the rights (which I understand exists). They wouldn’t want to make a new version of TMNT only to get sued by Kevin Eastman later.”

    They were pretty careful with things, Eastman and Laird, as far as splitting up the rights. Laird wasn’t sole owner until not too long before the sale to Nickelodeon, and I think buying the rights from Eastman was part of getting everything nice and neat for the sale.

  12. Micah says:

    The Walking Dead launched with terrible numbers, selling 6k to 7k. Moore left the book. The success came much, much later after years of consistent quality and critical praise. He drew 6 issues. Then noticed his name was missing. THEN signed away his rights to the book (after I’m sure a big payout). Tony Moore, you are the Stuart Sutcliffe of comic books.

  13. Matthew, I think the antecedent of “this” was clearly “transfer all of his copyright interests… so that a TV deal could be signed”. I’m sure even sole owners or corporate owners sometimes have to provide evidence that the rights they’re selling are theirs to sell. Steve Bissette has spoken about how he was asked to sign waivers that he had no claim on material published in TABOO beyond the single printing in the anthology so the creators could option the rights, despite the fact that he made his lack of any claim crystal clear in both the contracts and in the book itself.

    The issue here is whether there’s any other case where a transfer of rights to a sole owner was required to facilitate a deal, as opposed to a simpler solution like forming a corporate partnership (with clearly defined ownership percentages and signing authorities) to hold the rights, or a second signature line on the contract.

    By the way, this Hollywood Reporter article has some interesting stuff on the filings in the case between the original suit being filed and this one that I don’t recall seeing mentioned in the comics press, including “In March, Kirkman filed a countersuit against Moore that stated he had actually overpaid Moore for his work and was entitled to money back.”

  14. What-Ev says:

    “Even if the writer created everything and pictured everything in their mind, the artist is the one who brings it to life. That, in definition, is co-creation”

    Bullshit.

    There’s some back and forth on this subject. Sometimes artists or pro-artist fans overvalue the contribution of an artist, and sometimes everyone else and pro-writer fans undervalue the contribution of an artist.

    I’m with Kirkman on this unless he was actually not paying Moore what they had agreed to. The “swindled” comment is probably just sour grapes. Moore likely agreed to sign over the rights to Kirkman thinking the show would never get off the ground and he regrets it now that it’s a huge success. I’m just saying that that’s what it looks like. I have absolutely no insight into either party’s real motivation for anything they’ve said or done.

    I’d just like to see them work on the book together again (no disrespect to Charlie Adlard.) Tony Moore subbing in for a few issues or providing covers again because he draws spectacular zombies. Hope it all works out in the best interests of both sides.

  15. Peter Urkowitz says:

    Sad situation. Strange also, since Kirkman shares the copyright on Invincible with the original artist Cory Walker, even though Walker only drew the book for the first 8 or 9 issues, and the new artist Ryan Ottley has now been drawing it for far longer. But the Kirkman/Walker relationship has remained friendly, with Walker occasionally doing fill-in issues and helping out on design work, and frequent kind words exchanged between all three creators.

    So what went wrong in the Walking Dead case? Why such a different outcome from such a similar beginning? Was it just the windfall of the TV money that soured relations? Why didn’t Moore get to retain co-ownership of copyright while Walker did?

    In any case, I wish they would work it out amicably, since neither side seems to really be in the wrong. But it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, sadly.

  16. Jason Wood says:

    LOL…best of luck Tony, you’re going to need it.

  17. “The issue here is whether there’s any other case where a transfer of rights to a sole owner was required to facilitate a deal, as opposed to a simpler solution like forming a corporate partnership…”

    I doubt AMC cared if it was a sole owner or a corporate partnership, I’m guessing they just wanted clear ownership of the tv rights. Otherwise you get situations like the Spider-Man film rights where there were a number of companies suing each other.

    If Tony Moore didn’t sign on and had a claim to the rights, then he could have signed a deal with another tv network or movie studio.

    Moore and Campbell with From Hell in your previous example wasn’t an issue as they were both on board and both signed the rights away. If it had just been Eddie Campbell working on the deal and Alan Moore had a view that he has now and didn’t want to deal with these movies, then it would have been a problem. Eddie Campbell would have then likely needed to get Alan Moore to sign something giving him all the movie rights before moving forward.

  18. horatio weisfeld says:

    Wow not just Walking Dead but several properties not in print yet. Not sure what to make of the whole thing right now.

    >>

    @Jason:

    An interesting move – if nothing else, I suppose that (assuming no deal in place already for the properties mentioned) would tamper down Kirkman’s ability to set them up hereafter (as producers are unlikely to want to be involved with particular material named in dispute) – so Moore is trying to turn up the heat (beyond the filing) w/this tactic .. (?)

  19. I feel for both of them, it sucks to lose sight of their long friendship over money. Even if it’s a lot of money. Hopefully they can get past this one day and remember the good old days of hanging out at night after work making comics and dreaming of hitting it big.

  20. Steve says:

    Micah:” Tony Moore, you are the Stuart Sutcliffe of comic books.”

    That should be “the Pete Best of comic books.” Unless you mean zombie Stu…

  21. Snikt Snakt says:

    I met Tony Moore at Wiz World Chicago in ’05, he was signing at a booth WITH Kirkman. They both signed my TWD #1 and the first tpb which I bought from them on the spot.

    I asked him why he didn’t draw TWD anymore.

    He said, and I clearly remember this, “I want to work on something that *I* created, not for someone else’s creation”

    So take that for what you will…

  22. Torsten Adair says:

    Didn’t Tony Moore trade his rights of The Walking Dead for another title he did with Kirkman? Battle Pope?

    Ah… here it is!
    http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/22122.html

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