Even as the success of THE WALKING DEAD across all media has soared—it’s basic cable’s highest rated program—there has always been a bit of a silent partner on the book: co-creator Tony Moore, who left the book after six issues. Although credited as co-creator on the series, he’s been noticeably absent from promoting the book or TV series in its recent wild run of success.
And now we know part of the reason why: he’s just filed suit over his share of the profits of the book, profits he claims he has never had an accounting for and which he fraudulently signed away.
In 2005, Moore signed over all rights to THE WALKING DEAD in return for 60% of net profits from the published version, as well as 60% of new profits for another Kirkman project, Brit; and 20 percent of “motion picture net proceeds” for WALKING DEAD and Brit; and 50% of “motion picture net proceeds” from BATTLE POPE, another early Kirkman title.
How much could 60% net be? Well, as we’ll be talking about later today, the WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM alone—which contains all of Moore’s work on the series—made $2,121,546.35 in retail at bookstores alone. The creator’s take on that, given Image’s generous publishing split, could be as much as a third. Although the contract specifies “net profits,” that should still be quite a bit of money. When you throw in the next 15 volumes of WALKING DEAD trades that continually top all the best seller lists, you see why Moore would want to get his share.
In the complaint Moore claims that he signed away rights to THE WALKING DEAD fraudulently when Kirkman told him the TV series could not proceed with him as co-owner.
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.
You can read the entire complaint, with Moore and Kirkman’s 2005 agreement attached, here, as posted on Deadline. (When we get a clean copy we’ll post that.)
Kirkman’s attorney called the suit groundless:
Reached by telephone for comment on the suit, Kirkman’s attorney Allen B. Grodsky told Deadline, “It’s pretty ridiculous. Mr. Moore is owed absolutely nothing. There is no fraud. No money owed. No credit.” He suggested that “when all is said and done Mr. Moore is going to end up paying Mr. Kirkman’s attorneys fees.” Additionally, Kirkman’s camp contends that Moore’s credit contractually and in the first six issues of the comic is listed as: penciler, inker, gray tones.
Although Kirkman and Moore are childhood friends, and early collaborators, they haven’t been too chummy in recent years. And the reasons for Moore leaving leaving the book remain vague. In
dual interviews in Vice last year the two remained cool. Here’s what Kirkman had to say about Moore’s departure:
The real answer is much more boring. We 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. So, at that time, I contacted Charlie Adlard, who is a fantastic artist, and we’ve been working together ever since.
And here are Moore’s comments:
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. On the flipside, though, Rick Remender and I have been collaborating for about seven years now, and still going strong. We operate on the same creative wavelength and respect each other enough to put the cards on the table and deal with shit. I think that’s the secret to longevity when it comes to maintaining a work relationship, especially with friends.
[snip—asked if he regretted leaving the book]
Not really. I was pretty miserable by the end, and clearly things weren’t working out. I can’t complain. If I hadn’t left it, I might not have gotten to do any of my subsequent books, which I immensely enjoyed and I co-own. Also, I got to do some pretty crazy shit at Marvel, too. Not to mention, I might not have gotten married to an awesome gal, Kara, who helps run my business like a Swiss fucking watch, and also happens to have an awesome vagina what squirted out the awesomest baby daughter that was ever squirted out of a vagina. 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.
Well, that baggage now includes a lawsuit.
A lot of folks are pointing to this as more proof that the creator-owned model doesn’t always work where collaboration is involved. You can read the lawsuit and the buyout contract for yourself. Ironically, although Kirkman is definitely making a decent wage as a producer of the TV show (and will get some kind of (residuals), the continued money from the books—the majority of which he seems to have signed away to Moore—could end up being more in the long run.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.