It has been, in many ways, The Year Of The Creator-Owned Comic — with prominent creators such as Grant Morrison, Mark Waid and Chris Roberson jumping-ship from DC and Marvel and/or creating their own imprints. 2012 has also seen the spotlight on creator’s rights, from Alan Moore’s serious misgivings over “Before Watchmen” and Jack Kirby and Jim Starlin’s relationship to characters featured in “The Avengers” movie. So it is a great irony that one of the biggest propenents of creator-owned, independent comics, Robert Kirkman, is in the bullseye of a series of lawsuits brought on by his former collaborator, artist Tony Moore.
Six months ago, Moore sued Kirkman over the sweet-sweet monetary proceeds from the highly-successful “Walking Dead” comic book and TV franchise. Now Moore is back in court, asking a federal court to name him “co-author” of not only “Walking Dead,” but several other works both published and in-development. Specifically, according to documents obtained by the Courthouse News Service, Moore alleges that Kirkman “tricked” him into signing over his rights to “Walking Dead,” “Battle Pope,” and other comics they had co-created:
“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).”
A point to take away from all this is that just because one isn’t working for “The Big Two,” it doesn’t mean everything is sweetness and light and there will be no more haggling over rights and lawyers involved whatnot. The world of indie comics and creator-owned material is not a utopia. It’s still a business. The little comic you and your friend co-create today could be the next “Walking Dead” — and if that is the case, have you two figured out rights issues yet? Do you have a contract? Do you have legal representation? Because spit-handshakes, promises, informal agreements, etc. DOESN’T WORK. (Not saying this was the case in the “Walking Dead” lawsuits; I assume all those details will come out in court. ) If your comic is made into a TV show or movie, EVERYBODY is going to want their “fair share” of the profits, royalties, and such.
In the words of Mr. Biggie Smalls: “Mo money, mo problems.”