Robert Kirkman is in the hot seat once again. Years after settling a suit from co-creators of the comic icon's The Walking Dead series, a creator Kirkman worked with on Invincible has filed suit for a similar reason. Sunday, comic colorist William Crabtree filed a lawsuit against Kirkman and Robert Kirkman, LLC alleging he was "swindled" profits from colorist after the sudden popularity of the comic series.
Crabtree colored the first 50 issues of Invincible, and suggests he and Kirkman has an "oral agreement" on a copyright-sharing deal. According to Crabtree, the agreement in place would have directed 20-percent of comic revenue and 10-percent of any film and TV-related revenue into the colorist's bank account.
"Kirkman falsely told Crabtree that Crabtree's rights and financial interest in the Work would remain unchanged if he signed the Certificate of Authorship and that the document would simply allow Kirkman to market the licensure of the Work more easily, resulting in greater profits for both of them," the lawsuit, filed Sunday in the federal Central District of California district court, reads.
Instead, Kirkman issues Crabtree a "Certificate of Authorship" in 2005, which instead said Crabtree had been employed as a "work-for-hire" creator, giving Kirkman virtually all of his copyright in the series.
"When Crabtree questioned Kirkman about why Kirkman continued to pay Crabtree royalties on the Work for years after the Certificate of Authorship, Kirkman stated that those royalty payments were actually just 'bonuses,' that he paid at his discretion," Crabtree's attorney Devin McRae writes.
McRae also represented artist Tony Moore in an older lawsuit between Moore and Kirkman over copyright issues involving The Walking Dead. That suit was settled out of court, and terms of the settlement were never released.
The complaint alleges both fraud and a breach of contract, and Crabtree and his attorneys are seeking a judgment that would credit Crabtree as a joint creator of Invincible, and corresponding punitive damages.