DC Comics are publishing Before Watchmen in a deal with rather strong ethical considerations concerning the original Watchmen contract. Marvel are demanding the destitute Gary Friedrich pay back $17,000 for selling Ghost Rider prints after he lost his case for credit, royalties and ownership for creating the character. And you kind of expect it from them.
The case from Tony Moore against Robert Kirkman over The Walking Dead is… less expected. To some. But a few definitely saw it coming.
Tony Moore co-created The Walking Dead and drew the first few issues before Charlie Adlard took over the art on the book. He now states that he was coerced to sign a contract with Kirkman to hand over rights, and that he hasn't received any royalties or even the profit statements he is legally required to receive. Kirkman's attorneys in response have stated that Moore is owed no money and that they will "be going after him to collect attorneys' fees."
Rick Remender, Tony Moore's collaborator on Fear Agent tweeted last month.
Listening to crooks, who only care about creator rights when it serves them, lecture about integrity, makes me want to start a fucking war.
You want to blow a hole in some asshole's creator-owned bullshit front? Ask how much ownership they give their artists.
Creator-rights go for artists AND writers. Not something the writer determines based on his ego's whims.
I tend to ignore most blowhards and their bullshit but this mother fucker is making it hard.
Phil Hester tweeted in reply
Now I can't rest until I know. Mmmmaybe I know.
We all fucking know. But why burn a bridge in this small industry, right?
Well, we all kinda fucking know who now. But in a twist, once-collaborator with Remender, Cory Walker replied
Just how much of Strange Girl do I own?
Strange Girl was an Image series from Remender and Eric Nguyen. But it clearly had an earlier artist on the book. Remender replied;
When you quit the book you offered me the design as a parting gift for flaking. I'll give you a cut if you've changed your mind.
I know that in your world designing a character defines everything, I mean it's way harder than drawing hundreds of pages.
In my world, drawing pages and creating an intellectual property are two different things.
Also, is character design what defines ownership? If so we should we cut out Eric Nguyen for his many actual issues of art work.
No, creating a character is what defines ownership
Let's do it! We're the real creators! Let's fuck the guy who drew the book! Forget your promises! Let's make money for integrity!
Sure, designs are a part of it. But in the end designs are one small part of a much larger process to make IP as a comic.
you cared so little for your Strange Girl designs, and the hours they took you, you GAVE them to me willingly.
Walker argued that under Remender's definition, Mark Bagley would own part of Spider-Man, Remender argued that under Walker's definition, Jack Kirby would.
The Walking Dead and Strange Girl cases aren't exactly comparable – Moore drew six issues and designed all the major initial characters – but then he did leave the book, replaced by Charlie Adlard who has drawn the large majority of the series, where as Cory Walker left before the first issue was drawn.
What's more apparent is that creators of creator-owned work are taking sides in this battle and, following on from the Alex De Campi/Jimmy Broxton/James Hodgkins situation on Ashes, is exposing fault lines in the creator owned publishing model.
Representatives of Image comics have opined at length on both the legal and ethical elements of creator ownership. But what price creator owned integrity when the co-creators of your best selling book go to court over exactly that?
And can certain people condemn Marvel for not paying Jack Kirby royalties from the Avengers movie, when Tony Moore hasn't received a penny from the TV show?
People are picking sides. Whatever the reality, this looks like it will be an issue that may rent the upcoming Image Expo in twain.