February 10, 2012

Walking Dead Collaborator Sues: Tony Moore vs. Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead #16 Cover Art by Tony Moore
The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that The Walking Dead's Robert Kirkman is being sued by his former collaborator and friend Tony Moore. Moore is arguing that he has been denied a rightful stake in the zombie franchise that he created with Kirkman.

Tony Moore (born Michael Anthony Moore) is the co-creator of The Walking Dead comic series. He acted as artist from issues #1-6 before being replaced in 2004 by current artist Charlie Adlard. Moore is now suing Kirkman and claims that he was tricked into transferring his rights to the property to Kirkman before the title blew up in popularity with the current AMC series. Moore is claiming that he has not received the compensation that he's legally owed, and -- if I understand correctly -- that  Kirkman and his representatives knowingly and fraudulently duped Moore into signing away his copyright interests to Kirkman's company.

According to The Hollywood Reporter:
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.
Zombie t-shirt design by Tony Moore
The Walking Dead #13 Cover Art by Tony Moore
 In my opinion, Moore was the superior artist on The Walking Dead and is one of the best zombie artists around, so it was a shame to see him leave the book. In a 2011 interview with Johnny Ryan at Vice.com, Kirkman gives his point of view on the split. Kirkman states that they 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." Adlard was then brought in to take the artistic reigns although Moore continued to produce cover art for the book until issue #24.

Kirkman and Moore have always been very vague about the cause of their split. In a 2010 Newsarama.com interview with Kirkman before the premier of The Walking Dead, it's clear that Kirkman and Moore were no longer the close friends and collaborators they once were: "Robert and I talk briefly now and again, but not often or for long. I pretty much find out things about the TV show the same time as everybody else, when it shows up on the internet."

Moore further elaborated on the split in his Vice.com interview:
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. . . . I was pretty miserable by the end, and clearly things weren't working out. I can't complain. If I hadn't left [The Walking Dead], I might not have gotten to do any of my subsequent books, which I immensely enjoyed and I co-own. . . . . 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.
Despite Moore's what-me-worry attitude in 2011, things have obviously changed. The rift between Moore and Kirkman has spilled into the legal world of lawsuits and counter-suits.

Does Moore have a case? I have no idea, but it will be interesting to see how this lawsuit plays out in the courts. Will this be the case of an artist and collaborator unfairly swindled out of his compensation, or a case of sour grapes tasted bitterly after The Walking Dead went big?