Tony Moore sues Robert Kirkman over his share of WALKING DEAD money—which could be a LOT

walking dead compendium Tony Moore sues Robert Kirkman over his share of WALKING DEAD money—which could be a LOT

Even as the success of THE WALKING DEAD across all media has soared—it’s basic cable’s highest rated program—there has always been a bit of a silent partner on the book: co-creator Tony Moore, who left the book after six issues. Although credited as co-creator on the series, he’s been noticeably absent from promoting the book or TV series in its recent wild run of success.

And now we know part of the reason why: he’s just filed suit over his share of the profits of the book, profits he claims he has never had an accounting for and which he fraudulently signed away.

In 2005, Moore signed over all rights to THE WALKING DEAD in return for 60% of net profits from the published version, as well as 60% of new profits for another Kirkman project, Brit; and 20 percent of “motion picture net proceeds” for WALKING DEAD and Brit; and 50% of “motion picture net proceeds” from BATTLE POPE, another early Kirkman title.

How much could 60% net be? Well, as we’ll be talking about later today, the WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM alone—which contains all of Moore’s work on the series—made $2,121,546.35 in retail at bookstores alone. The creator’s take on that, given Image’s generous publishing split, could be as much as a third. Although the contract specifies “net profits,” that should still be quite a bit of money. When you throw in the next 15 volumes of WALKING DEAD trades that continually top all the best seller lists, you see why Moore would want to get his share.

In the complaint Moore claims that he signed away rights to THE WALKING DEAD fraudulently when Kirkman told him the TV series could not proceed with him as co-owner.

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.


You can read the entire complaint, with Moore and Kirkman’s 2005 agreement attached, here, as posted on Deadline. (When we get a clean copy we’ll post that.)

Kirkman’s attorney called the suit groundless:

Reached by telephone for comment on the suit, Kirkman’s attorney Allen B. Grodsky told Deadline, “It’s pretty ridiculous. Mr. Moore is owed absolutely nothing. There is no fraud. No money owed. No credit.” He suggested that “when all is said and done Mr. Moore is going to end up paying Mr. Kirkman’s attorneys fees.” Additionally, Kirkman’s camp contends that Moore’s credit contractually and in the first six issues of the comic is listed as: penciler, inker, gray tones.


Although Kirkman and Moore are childhood friends, and early collaborators, they haven’t been too chummy in recent years. And the reasons for Moore leaving leaving the book remain vague. In
dual interviews in Vice last year the two remained cool. Here’s what Kirkman had to say about Moore’s departure:

The real answer is much more boring. We were very adamant about scheduling early on, and Tony—fantastic artist though he is—is much more the type that works best on a variety of projects, rather than a single, constant deadline, so we decided it would be best if we went our separate ways for the time being. So, at that time, I contacted Charlie Adlard, who is a fantastic artist, and we’ve been working together ever since.


And here are Moore’s comments:

Well, Kirkman and I have clearly gone our separate ways. We had our disagreements about how things were supposed to operate, and since then, our different perspectives have given rise to what each believes to be the key issues leading to our split. Over the years, he’s publicly espoused some views on the artistic process that are so fundamentally dissonant from my own that they will likely remain a wedge between us for a long, long time. I don’t talk shit on anybody, but I’m not going to hide or sugar-coat my feelings on the matter. On the flipside, though, Rick Remender and I have been collaborating for about seven years now, and still going strong. We operate on the same creative wavelength and respect each other enough to put the cards on the table and deal with shit. I think that’s the secret to longevity when it comes to maintaining a work relationship, especially with friends.
[snip—asked if he regretted leaving the book]
Not really. I was pretty miserable by the end, and clearly things weren’t working out. I can’t complain. If I hadn’t left it, I might not have gotten to do any of my subsequent books, which I immensely enjoyed and I co-own. Also, I got to do some pretty crazy shit at Marvel, too. Not to mention, I might not have gotten married to an awesome gal, Kara, who helps run my business like a Swiss fucking watch, and also happens to have an awesome vagina what squirted out the awesomest baby daughter that was ever squirted out of a vagina. At the end of the day, my hands are clean and the cheques clear, so what, me worry? Life’s good. I don’t have the time or energy to carry that kinda baggage.


Well, that baggage now includes a lawsuit.

A lot of folks are pointing to this as more proof that the creator-owned model doesn’t always work where collaboration is involved. You can read the lawsuit and the buyout contract for yourself. Ironically, although Kirkman is definitely making a decent wage as a producer of the TV show (and will get some kind of (residuals), the continued money from the books—the majority of which he seems to have signed away to Moore—could end up being more in the long run.

Comments

  1. That could be a big long trial because there is a lot of money at stake.

    Oh yeah and remember kids you can’t get rich making comics. I think someone said that.

  2. DJ Coffman says:

    Awh, this is a shame. I remember what good friends they were in the Funk-o-tron days :( –

    I really can’t imagine Kirkman trying to swindle anyone out of their fair share on a project. He’s a good dude.

    :( sad to hear about all this legal stuff lately. The marvel making Friedric pay 17k thing? Ughhhh.

    Can’t we all just get along!?!

  3. “A lot of folks are pointing to this as more proof that the creator-owned model doesn’t always work where collaboration is involved.”

    No “model” works when one party is willing to screw the other party over. I have no knowledge of this situation and am not saying that’s what happened, but if you’ve got a CONTRACT between two parties and one party refuses to honor it, that’s not a breakdown of a model. That’s one guy trying to fuck over another one. Old as the hills in every form of business ever, and no evidence or counter-evidence of the effectiveness of collaboration.

  4. Such a shame to see this happen between childhood buddies.

  5. DJ Coffman says:

    Explain to me how Kirkman fucked someone over? According to this he went and told Tony there was a big deal on the horizon for TV that wouldn’t happen unless Kirkman was the sole owner. Moore signed the deal to help Kirkman. At the time, nobody coul have known how epic the tv show would become. Now it kinda does sound like sour grapes.

    So it should go like this… No TV money for Moore. But the book royalties and thing they agreed on, Kirkman will have to report and share according to the deal. Case closed.

  6. DJ Coffman says:

    Unless Kirkman had a crystal ball or time machine to know how big the tv thing would be… This complaint is written as if he knew it was gonna be a success and cheated the guy by having him sign it.

    I’m sure there will be more to this story. I hope these guys can just settle amicably. They really are great guys.

  7. DJ – I explicitly noted that I am NOT saying what did or did not happen here. Only that an instance of one collaborator willing to screw another is not in itself an argument that creator-owned collaborations don’t or can’t work. If true (this or any other instance), it’s an anecdote that goes in the negative column, that’s all.

  8. I’m sorry, but is it cool to say in an interview that your wife has “an awesome vagina”?

  9. The guy drew 6 issues. Walking Dead sold 7,000 to 8,000 copies at the time? This sucks.

  10. blacaucasian says:

    While part of the complaint may be baseless, depending on the specifics of the disputed contract, the fact that he claims that he has asked their accounting to be more transparent and they haven’t been leads me to believe this will end in a settlement more likely than not. It never looks very good when any party refuses to open their accounting books for the other party.

  11. Chris Hero says:

    This is sad when you remember these guys basically grew up as best friends.

    As for the TV show becoming a hit…that’s kinda beside the point. It’s a shitty thing to use friendship as leverage to get someone to sign on to a contract with net profits. Kirkman is a wonderful talent, but I highly doubt he’s shrewd enough in legal matters to dream up this net profit ruse. It’s much more easy to believe some attorney got in his ear and either played Kirkman like a sap or exploited whatever greed he may have.

  12. Marco Polo says:

    Can someone explain why Kirkman would’ve had to be the sole owner of the rights?

  13. Mr. Gustafson says:

    Moore has no box to stand on with his claim of being swindled in the initial contract – you’re an adult, probably had a lawyer and never complained about the terms before and it was *2005*, I mean you should really know better (everyone: read MEN OF TOMORROW). It is super shifty that he hasn’t gotten any kind of accounting from Skybound about profits, though, and he probably does have a case there.

    I’ve often wondered how their deal worked after Moore left the book… Is anyone else astonished by how much Moore was promised – 60%?! If Kirkman had been honestly sharing profits up to this point one could say he’d swindled himself on that one, if not for the fact that everyone knows the big bucks are in the options.

    No, there’s no money in comics, but more appropriately, from the King himself, “Comics will break your heart.”

  14. goggles says:

    more bitter – alan moore or tony moore?

  15. Travis says:

    “Can someone explain why Kirkman would’ve had to be the sole owner of the rights?”

    It’s actually possible the studio either demanded to have all owners of the property on the same page (and sign a contract stipulating to that) or demanded that one person get all the rights to be able to execute a contract. If Kirkman didn’t own the whole thing, he couldn’t negotiate solely with the studios. If he did execute a contract and Moore retained some percentage stake in the property, Moore could have come in afterwards and nullified the contract or sued them anyways.

    It’s kind of plausible that the studio made demands to mitigate their own risk if it looked like a co-owner wasn’t interested in playing ball or otherwise wasn’t part of the process.

    However, who knows how it played out. The situation is in and of itself totally plausible though, however that got communicated to the creators.

    It’s a tragedy for childhood friends have a falling out over something like this.

  16. Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore are two of the most talented guys in comics today. Everybody knows about Kirkman’s awesomeness, but I’ve been in love with Tony Moore’s work, too, since Fear Agent, and have always felt he was under-rated (I think of him as a redneck Moebius).

    I just hate this.

    And they are both local Kentucky boys!

    Gah.

    I’m going to be continuing to read & support both of these guys, as creators/artists whose work is awesome, and just hope that wherever the truth is in this dispute, the courts find it out and dispense a fair amount of justice in both directions.

    But sad. Very sad.

  17. nWoJeffDW says:

    Moore’s comments really seem low-class with such crude language.

  18. “When you throw in the next 15 volumes of Walking Dead trades that continually top all the best seller lists, you see why Moore would want to get his share.”

    It looks like that share only applies to the first six issues (and is pro-rated if those six issues only form part of a book, so for that Compendium he only gets 50% of 12.5% of whatever the “net proceeds” are), so the sales of the following books aren’t relevant. And that first book sells for $10 instead of the $15 the later books, so it’s possible the “net proceeds” for it are minimal.

  19. I have no insider knowledge of this, and know both Kirkman and Moore as good, creative folks. However, of COURSE Moore would sue over any lingering problems he had AFTER the show became a monster hit — which was only a year ago. I don’t think anyone really expected the books to sell as well as they have in the past year.

  20. Comet says:

    It looks like one of the big issues is that Moore was slated to receive a percentage of the “net” profits. The accounting that publishing houses and movie studios use to determine net profit is so corrupt and arcane that he’ll never see a dime from this deal.

    Hell, movies that gross billions like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are “net money losers” according to Hollywood accounting (hence Peter Jackson suing New Line a while back). That’s why actors and directors get themselves a percentage of the “gross” profit instead.

  21. Snikt Snakt says:

    “I’m sorry, but is it cool to say in an interview that your wife has “an awesome vagina”?”

    Yeah, I’m not quite sure where they came from or why Moore needed us to know that. LoL

  22. Chris Hero says:

    I’m sorry to everyone my last comment in this thread was kinda dark. After the news of the past few weeks with everyone screwing everyone over while people make comments supporting the screwing over…I’m just really down about this stuff. Mocca, my annual injection of comic happiness, can’t get here fast enough….

  23. “Can someone explain why Kirkman would’ve had to be the sole owner of the rights?”

    When a studio is licensing a property, they want exclusive rights to it. But if two co-creators share the copyright (as is the case with most creator-owned comics) they each have independent rights to exploit the property. So Kirkman could cut a deal with AMC… but Moore could then cut a separate deal with some other studio, and there could be two competing TV series based on the same property, or a TV series vs. a movie, or whatever.

    That’s an unacceptable risk to a studio, so they require either a single copyright holder (like they’d get with a corporate-owned property) or a contract that’s binding on both copyright holders. But the latter would still make them uneasy, because it’s two parties to deal with, who might not agree with each other… etc. So there’s no reason to doubt that Kirkman was being honest when he told Moore that AMC wanted to deal with a “sole owner”.

    It sounds to me like Moore agreed to give up his copyright too readily, and didn’t ask for the financial compensation he now thinks he should’ve gotten in exchange for that. If his legal counsel is any good, they’re already talking to Kirkman’s counsel about settling, because Seller’s Remorse doesn’t usually get you much in court.

  24. Others says:

    Sadly all I can think of when I read this was how Moore said he couldn’t sign my issue of Fear Agent #1 because I didn’t buy it from him, even though I had just purchased it from Remender and had him sign it five minutes before. He would have happily signed it though if I bought something else from his booth though.

    It sounds to me that Moore as an adult signed away the rights with complete knowledge and then waited until the money really came in and is trying to cash in. As said above, of course he waited until there was real money to be made because what else is the point?

    Personally I’m more wondering, how much money does the current artist make off everything? He is the one who has created the visuals for the farm, all the new characters from season 2, and the rest we shall see in the future…

  25. “A lot of folks are pointing to this as more proof that the creator-owned model doesn’t always work where collaboration is involved.”

    Please. Nothing ever “always” works where people are involved, people.

  26. Jim D. – “but if you’ve got a CONTRACT between two parties and one party refuses to honor it, that’s not a breakdown of a model. That’s one guy trying to fuck over another one.”

    DJ Coffman – “Explain to me how Kirkman fucked someone over?” – “At the time, nobody coul have known how epic the tv show would become.”

    I would check the language in my caricaturization but the part about how they won’t show the books under the current deal? And he’s not getting paid – that is bullshit that is.

    If I had done my buddy the LARGE favour of selling my shares in something that ended up big, least I would expect is to get paid what I AM due on time and without having to ask more than once.

    And this was not Watchmen, not an unknown property that came out of nowhere to redefine the market. The TV show could have flopped but no one does a TV deal expecting it to flop or having ‘no idea’ it could be something, that’s just silly – they had a huge hit on their hands with the book, hoped there was going to be more to it and they wanted to take it to Hollywood.

    Tony made the deal easy for him but he’s not getting his fair share in return, that’s bad faith dealing, failure to deliver scheduled payments, and withholding the books. These things are not considered good business practice in any world DJ.

    I hope they resolve it too, but Kirkman is at best not taking care of his old freind there. So it’s coming back to bite him in the butt.

    Karma is.

  27. ohmygodjohntravolta says:

    Episode 8: “Nebraska”
    The episode starts at the exact same spot the previous one left off. One of the walkers who got shot (the stepmom) tries to grab Beth (Hershel’s youngest daughter), but is killed by Andrea with a swift hoe through the head. Shane shouts some more and Hershel tells the group to “LEAVE MY FARM!” for the umpteenth time. Maggie finally slaps Shane right in the face and things cool down somewhat.

    Sophia is buried along with Hershel’s dead family members from the barn. T-Dog, Andrea, and Shane pile the other corpses on a truck, drive to a nearby field and burn the bodies in a pyre. Hershel has something of a mental breakdown as he slips out of the farm and goes to a bar in the town to get shitfaced. Beth goes into catatonic shock from the ordeal at the barn, so Rick and Glenn head to town in order to bring Hershel back.

    Meanwhile, Dale tells a skeptical Lori about his suspicions that Shane killed Otis and his belief that Shane will sooner or later kill someone else. Daryl snaps and shouts at Lori when asked to bring Rick and Hershel home quicker, stating he’s “done looking for people”. Lori heads out by herself, hits a random walker on the way and flips the car into a ditch. It’s not shown what happened to her. That’s the second (and the last) actual walker we see in the episode.

    Glenn and Rick find Hershel in the bar. After a five-minute rant by a drunk Hershel, two dudes (Tony and Dave) enter the bar. They are bad guys. They inform Glenn, Rick, and Hershel that Fort Benning is overrun and they’re heading for Nebraska, which is supposedly safe. “Low population, lots of guns,” as they put it.

    The two quickly deduce that Rick and company must have a farm nearby and want to go there because “they’ve got people to look out for”. “That’s not gonna happen,” says Rick. There’s a tense situation, since both guys are armed and threaten to take the farm by force. This culminates with a Clint Eastwood-style gun draw and Rick shoots both guys dead. The scene then cuts to bodies of walkers burning in the pyre. End episode.

    Episode 9: “Triggerfinger”
    The episode begins with Shane asking Daryl if Rick and Glenn are back. Daryl tells him “NO” and also tells him that Lori asked him to go look for them, but he ain’t doin that no more. Shane lets him have it for sending Carl and Lori out to look for Rick, and Daryl tells him “Not to talk to him about getting his hands dirty.”

    Then we go back to the bar, where Rick tells Glenn he needs to “shoot the bad guys in the head”, so he can go back and talk to Hershel. Glenn says, “but they are already dead, and we need to save our ammo” and Rick says, “Glenn, just do it.” Rick and Hershell go for a talk.

    At the farm, Daryl goes to see Carol, who is still in a catatonic state. He suggests that she go to Sophia’s grave and make her peace. She says nothing. He helps her up and walks with her. When they get there, Carol finally speaks to the grave and Daryl cries. Carol sees a Cherokee Rose on the grave, and she cries.

    Shane finds Lori on the side of the road. He kills the zombie trying to get in the car. Lori is okay but shaken. She doesn’t know where Carl is. He tells her to drive back to camp, tell Daryl what happened and the both of you, come back for me. Shane goes in woods to look for Carl. Carl is getting ready to shoot a zombie, Shane shoots it for him. Make that the sixth time Shane has saved their lives.

    Still in the bar patiently waiting for Rick’s arrival, Glenn doesn’t get why Rick wants him to shoot the bad guys in the head. Rick and Hershel return in a panic as the rest of the dead guys’ gang chases them in. Rick starts shooting at them when out of nowhere, the two dead guys become the undead. Glenn freaks and gets triggerfinger, and kills them dead. After the gun fight, Glenn is a mess and wants answers. Rick tells him Jenner’s secret: everyone is already carrying the zombie virus, and will come back as a zombie no matter how they die. End of episode.

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