Invincible Comic Colorist Sues Robert Kirkman, Alleging He Was Conned Out Of His Profits Share

The coming-of-age superhero saga "Invincible" was a TV standout when it debuted on Amazon Prime last year, thrilling fans with its gory twists and a captivating voice cast led by Steven Yeun. The show has already been renewed for two more seasons, but now its creator seems to be facing legal troubles behind the scenes.

Robert Kirkman, who created both the Amazon Prime series "Invincible" and the 2003–2018 Image Comics series on which it's based, is being sued by William Crabtree, according to court documents attained by The Hollywood Reporter. Crabtree works as a colorist, and per THR, alleges that he co-created "Invincible" as a colorist for the series' first 50 issues. The court documents filed by claims attorney Devin McRae allege fraud and breach of contract by Kirkman, and point back to an incident Crabtree says happened at San Diego Comic-Con in 2005.

The Details of the Lawsuit

According to Crabtree's complaint, the colorist had an oral agreement in place that would grant Crabtree 10 percent of the revenue "Invincible" might generate from "other film or television commercial exploitation." But in 2005, Crabtree's suit alleges, Kirkman approached him with a "Certificate of Authorship" that effectively ended Crabtree's recognized inclusion as a co-creator moving forward. According to THR's reporting on the suit, Kirkman told Crabtree he was in the process of finalizing the series for television, and that "having it represented by a single creator would increase its commercial viability."

The lawsuit alleges that Kirkman presented the Certificate of Authorship as a lucrative opportunity for both of them, saying, "Kirkman falsely told Crabtree that Crabtree's rights and financial interest in the Work would remain unchanged if he signed." Crabtree also alleges that Kirkman paid him for comic sales and an earlier film option for the series, but informed the colorist in 2020 that he was not entitled to earnings from the Amazon series. After questioning the apparent inconsistencies in payments, Crabtree alleges that Kirkman said past payments were "actually just 'bonuses,' that he paid at his discretion," according to the details of the suit.

This Isn't Kirkman's First Legal Rodeo

There's a lot to unpack here, and we won't know anything for certain until the lawsuit unfolds, but it's worth noting this isn't the first time Kirkman has been sued by a collaborator. In 2012, Kirkman and comic book artist Tony Moore amicably settled a lawsuit in which Moore alleged that "Kirkman and his agents had duped him into assigning his interest in the material over to Kirkman," according to The Hollywood Reporter. After a countersuit and a brief move to federal court, the lawsuit ended. A joint statement on behalf of the pair to THR said that "neither side will be discussing any details but will instead happily and productively spend their time focused on their own work and move on in their lives."

It's tough to know exactly what to make of all this, but we do know the now-lucrative business of adapting comic books has resulted in numerous lawsuits in the past. Everyone deserves credit for their work, but how does that credit translate across decades and mediums? It seems that question is more often than not worked out in court, as when Marvel sued the estates of famed comic book creators, and author of a similar story sued spin-off series "Fear The Walking Dead," and a company called Stan Lee Media (not related to Stan Lee himself) sued all sorts of people. We'll keep you posted on the Kirkman-Crabtree lawsuit as it unfolds.