Robert Kirkman calls the fraud lawsuit filed against him by former "Walking Dead" collaborator Tony Moore "ridiculous," and insists his childhood friend receives proper royalty payments for the long-running comic as well as the top-rated television drama it spawned.
Moore, who launched "The Walking Dead" with Kirkman in 2003 and illustrated the first six issues, filed a complaint Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court accusing the writer of fraudulently inducing 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" TV series. (Moore claims he later learned the deal, with NBC, didn't require him to relinquish his interests.)
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. The full lawsuit can be found here.
In a statement issued Friday to The Hollywood Reporter, Kirkman asserts there was no fraud in their 2005 agreement, and that Moore is properly compensated for his contributions to "The Walking Dead."
"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," Kirkman writes. "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."
The exact nature of Moore's role in the first six issues appears poised to become a key element of the dispute: While the artist's complaint identifies him alternately as co-creator, joint author and co-owner of the copyrights in "The Walking Dead" (and the other comics), Kirkman and his attorney Allen B. Grodsky repeatedly emphasize Moore was credited as "penciler, inker and gray tones"; Kirkman even provided The Hollywood Reporter with scans from the first few issues as further proof. The 2005 agreement spells out that Moore is to only share "created by" credit with Kirkman on "Battle Pope."
AMC's adaptation of "The Walking Dead" premiered in October 2010, becoming basic cable's highest-rated series. The collected editions of the comic are perennial bestsellers, with sales of the first volume surpassing 4,000 copies in the direct market last month, more than five years after its initial release. In his analysis of 2011 bookstore sales, CBR columnist Brian Hibbs called "The Walking Dead" "without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest success story" of the year, noting that the books collectively hauled in a staggering $8.7 million dollars.