It's a familiar tale—childhood friends being driven apart by money—that is now being played out over one of the hottest media properties of the moment: The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman's gory zombie apocalypse, a best selling comic book series and a record setting TV series on AMC.
Artist Tony Moore, who drew the first six issues of the best selling comics series, has sued Kirkman for promissory fraud and breach of contract over the accounting for the series. In the complaint, filed last week, Moore alleges that in 2005 Kirkman fraudulently coerced him into signing away all his rights to the series, telling him "there was a large TV deal on the table," and unless Moore assigned his copyright, "no one would receive money from television rights." Moore now believes this was an attempt to cheat him out of money for the television rights, even though the deal at the time (with NBC) eventually fell through.
In exchange for signing the contract, Moore was given 60% of comic publishing net proceeds for The Walking Dead and another Kirkman collaboration, Brit, 20% of all motion picture net proceeds for Walking Dead and Brit and 50% of all motion picture net proceeds in connection with another property, Battle Pope.
The Walking Dead publishing agreement only applies to the issue which Moore drew. After the first six issues, Moore was replaced as artist by Charlie Adlard, who draws the series to this day. Although the terms of the agreement only call for Moore to be paid for those six issues, that is still a substantial mount of money: various reprintings of the first issues of The Walking Dead have topped the comics bestsellers lists for two years.
Kirkman and Moore grew up together in Kentucky and were high school friends who planned to make comics together; The Walking Dead and Battle Pope were among their collaborations.
Although Moore's suit does not claim that he hasn't been paid for The Walking Dead, he claims he hasn't been paid what he is due and has been continuously rebuffed in attempts to see them the accounting for the book and TV show. According to the complaint, "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."
Through his attorney, Kirkman has responded calling the lawsuit "ridiculous": "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.”