5:27pm PT by Matthew Belloni
'Walking Dead' War: Creator Robert Kirkman Sued By Collaborator (Exclusive)
Robert Kirkman, the famed comic book writer who helped create AMC's hit zombie series The Walking Dead, has been sued by a childhood friend and collaborator who claims he is entitled to as much as half the proceeds from the lucrative franchise.
Michael Anthony ("Tony") Moore, a fellow comic book artist, filed suit Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court. In the complaint, a copy of which was obtained by THR, Moore says he was duped into assigning his interest in the material over to Kirkman, who has since gone on to fame and fortune. Moore, on the other hand, has received very little compensation and has not be able to access profit statements from properties including Walking Dead, he says.
"Each of these works was prepared by [Moore] and Kirkman with the intention that their contributions be merged into inseparable or independent parts of a unitary whole," the complaint states. "[Moore] and Kirkman were thus joint authors and co-owners of the copyrights in these works."
Kirkman and Moore were apparently good friends and collaborators for many years before Kirkman became a big-time name as a creator and writer of Walking Dead, which has become the highest-rated series on cable TV.
Moore claims that in 2005, Kirkman and his agents devised a scheme to fraudulently induce him to assign his copyright interests over to Kirkman's company. Moore, who grew up with Kirkman and worked together on several projects, claims he signed a deal granting him 60 percent of "Comic Publishing Net Proceeds" in connection with Walking Dead and another project called Brit; 20 percent of "motion picture net proceeds" in connection with Walking Dead and Brit; and 50 percent of "motion picture net proceeds" from another project called Battle Pope.
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.
Walking Dead premiered on AMC on Halloween 2010 and has since become basic cable's highest-rated series, drawing as many as 7.3 million viewers.
The suit, filed by Devin McRae, William Wright and Mary Gordon at LA's Early Sullivan Wright Gizer McRae firm, alleges causes of action for promissory fraud, breach of written contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, money had an received and accounting.
Kirkman's attorney Allen Grodzky tells THR that the case is "totally frivolous. Mr. Moore is owed no money at all. And Mr. Moore's contract has an attorneys' fees clause in it so we will be going after him to collect attorneys' fees. We are taking this matter very seriously."