Six months after suing longtime collaborator Robert Kirkman over the proceeds to “The Walking Dead,” artist Tony Moore is asking a federal court to declare him co-author of the lucrative horror franchise and several other comic-book properties.
In a complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, and first reported by Courthouse News Service, Moore is seeking a declaratory judgment — a legally binding judgment of a court in a civil case declaring the rights, duties, or obligations of one or more parties in a dispute — that he is joint author of “The Walking Dead,” “Battle Pope,” “Brit” and two potential comics series, “Dead Planet” and “My Name Is Abraham.”
Moore, who launched “The Walking Dead” with Kirkman in 2003 and illustrated the first six issues, filed his lawsuit in February in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming the writer fraudulently induced him to sign over his copyright interests in the comic, as well as those in “Brit” and “Battle Pope,” in 2005 so that Kirkman would be able to complete “a large deal” for a “Walking Dead” television series. In exchange, the artist was granted 60 percent of “comic publishing net proceeds” and 20 percent of “motion picture net proceeds” for “The Walking Dead” and “Brit,” and 50 percent of “motion picture net proceeds” from “Battle Pope.” However, Moore alleges that he “has not received the proper amount of royalties owed to him,” and has never been permitted access to financial records.
Kirkman quickly fired back, calling the lawsuit “ridiculous.” And while Moore’s complaint identified him as co-creator, joint author and co-owner of the copyrights in “The Walking Dead” and their other collaborations, the writer asserted the artist was credited as “penciler, inker and gray tones” and only shares creator credit on “Battle Pope.”
Moore’s new complaint states, “perhaps because of the animosity engendered by the filing of the state court action, Kirkman now baselessly denies that Moore jointly authored the works with him.” It asserts Moore’s status as joint author will affect damages awarded in the lawsuit.
There’s no mincing of words in the complaint, which contends that “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).”
Moore’s lawyers lay out a scenario in which their client wasn’t merely a hired artist but a collaborator, involved in a “give-and-take” effort with Kirkman. In addition, the complaint insists that Moore was listed as co-copyright holder in the original proofs for “The Walking Dead,” but his name was “surreptitiously removed” by Kirkman prior to publication; the artist contends the omission wasn’t brought to his attention until August 2005.
Moore is requesting a jury trial to decide his case.
Kirkman’s Skybound Entertainment has not responded to CBR’s request for a comment.