Comic book creator Robert Kirkman is being sued by an artist who says he was tricked into relinquishing his copyright to Invincible and lost profits from the superhero franchise, which is now an Amazon Studios animated series.
William Crabtree says he co-created Invincible (as a colorist for the first 50 issues) and Kirkman in 2005 convinced him to divest his stake under the pretext of facilitating the sale to studios, according to a lawsuit filed Sunday in a federal court in California. the Invincible The series, which features a voice cast from Steven Yeun, JK Simmons and Sandra Oh, premiered in March and was renewed in August for two more seasons.
“Fraud and deception have become standard business practice for Kirkman and this is apparently where his true creative aptitude lies,” says attorney Devin McRae in the complaint, which is incorporated below. McRae previously portrayed artist Tony Moore in a 2012 costume alleging Kirkman cheated on him about his interest in the Walking Dead, which was settled out of court on undisclosed terms in less than two months.
Crabtree says he and Kirkman had a verbal agreement that awarded him 20 percent of the proceeds from the one-time sale of Invincible and 10% of any income generated by “other commercial cinematographic or television exploitation of the Work as well as any derivative project based on the Work and any related or ancillary rights in the Work”.
But, when it came to commemorating the deal in writing, Crabtree alleges a ploy by Kirkman and his agents to fraudulently induce him to assign his copyright to Kirkman’s company. He says Kirkman approached him at San Diego Comic-Con in 2005 and presented him with a “Certificate of Author”, which purported to characterize all of his contributions as “work for hire.” He said he was in the final stages of obtaining a license Invincible for television production and that having it represented by a single creator would increase its commercial viability.
“Kirkman falsely told Crabtree that Crabtree’s rights and financial interests in the work would remain unaffected if he signed the copyright certificate and that the document would simply make it easier for Kirkman to market the license for the work,” which would result in greater benefits for both. “, We read in the trial.
After signing the document, according to the lawsuit, Kirkman continued to pay Crabtree for comic book sales and as part of the series license to operate by MTV for a television animated comic and by Paramount Pictures for an option. television and cinema. But when Crabtree learned in 2020 that Amazon Studios was planning to launch a show, Kirkman informed him that he was not entitled to any monetary proceeds because he had no stake in the series.
When Crabtree asked Kirkman why Kirkman continued to pay Crabtree royalties on the work for years after the copyright certificate, Kirkman stated that those royalty payments were in fact just ‘bonuses’, that he paid at his discretion, “writes McRae.
Crabtree says he was denied access to profit statements relating to the series, according to the complaint, which alleges fraud and breach of contract, among other claims. He seeks a ruling that Crabtree is co-author of Invincible, a statement of what is owed to him and punitive damages.
Representatives for Kirkman have yet to respond to requests for comment.