Invincible comic creator Robert Kirkman is being sued in California federal court for allegedly tricking artist and illustrator William Crabtree out of his copyright claims.
According to court documents obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Crabtree claims he co-created Invincible alongside Kirkman and served as the colorist for the first 50 issues of the comic book. The lawsuit alleges Kirkman convinced Crabtree to sign away his copyrights under the guise of making Invincible easier to sell for TV licensing and movie deals.
Crabtree said that he and Kirkman initially had an oral agreement whereby Crabtree received 20% of all single sale proceeds of Invincible and 10% of all revenue generated from deals related to film, TV, or "any derivative projects based on [Invincible] and any allied or ancillary rights in [Invincible].”
Then at the 2005 San Diego Comic-Con, Crabtree said he was approached by Kirkman to put their agreement in writing. Rather than follow the same oral agreement as before, Kirkman allegedly tricked Crabtree into signing a "certificate of authorship" that described his contributions as "work-for-hire." It also listed Kirkman as the sole owner and creator of the Invincible property. The court documents allege that Kirkman told Crabtree that it would be easier to market Invincible for film and TV production if it had a single creator.
Kirkman continued to pay Crabtree for years based on the oral agreement's terms for comic sales, but when Crabtree found out about the Amazon TV deal in 2020, Kirkman said Crabtree wasn't entitled to anything from the licensing sale. Kirkman described the previous comic sales as "bonuses" and not royalty payments.
Crabtree is asking for all outstanding royalties, punitive damages, and a judgment as co-author of Invincible. The show originally debuted last March and has since been renewed for two more seasons.
This isn't the first time Kirkman has been sued for allegedly tricking co-owners out of their copyrights. A very similar lawsuit brought forward by artist Tony Moore also alleged Kirkman tricked him out of his copyright stake for The Walking Dead. That lawsuit was settled for undisclosed terms in 2012.
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