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Robert Kirkman ‘Invincible’ Ownership Lawsuit Settles Just Ahead of Trial

A legal battle between comic creator Robert Kirkman and an artist who says he was tricked into abandoning his copyright to Invincible has settled.

Lawyers for Kirkman and William Crabtree, a colorist for the first 50 issues who claims he co-created the series, notified the court of an agreement to resolve the case, according to a notice of settlement filed Thursday. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. A jury trial was set to start Feb. 20.

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The legal battle revolved around claims that Kirkman duped Crabtree into surrendering his ownership stake under the guise of making the title easier to sell to studios. The 2005 agreement stated that Kirkman was the “sole author” of Invincible and “owner of all rights of every kind and nature,” while characterizing Crabtree’s contributions as a “work-for-hire,” meaning that Kirkman was assigned any rights the colorist would’ve had to the series.

In November, a federal judge narrowed the scope of the case but allowed key claims to move forward. U.S. District Judge Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong ruled that Crabtree won’t be able to seek a court order that he’s a joint author or get damages for fraud but could possibly invalidate the contract he claims he was swindled into signing.

Kirkman could have been on the hook for massive damages if a jury found that he breached an oral agreement to pay Crabtree 10 percent of any revenue generated from film or TV spinoffs of the work, which includes the Amazon Studios animated show.

Lawyers for both sides didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Kirkman was represented by Tim Henderson and Allen Grodsky, while Crabtree was represented by Devin McRae and Peter Scott.

Crabtree’s suit nodded to a complaint brought against Kirkman in 2012 by Michael “Tony” Moore, who claimed he was entitled to as much as half of the proceeds from the Walking Dead comic book franchise. The comic creator was accused of tricking Moore, whose lawyer was also McRae, into giving up his interest in the comic and demanded a rescission of the copyright assignment. Under their original deal, Moore was allegedly entitled to 60 percent of “comic publishing net proceeds,” 20 percent of “motion picture net proceeds” and further financial interest in other projects. Kirkman countersued, arguing that he had overcompensated Moore for his work and was entitled to money back.

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