Robot 6

Cartoonist sues over Cowboys & Aliens movie

A cartoonist has sued Universal Pictures, DreamWorks and Platinum Studios, claiming that the sci-fi Western Cowboys & Aliens infringes on his 1995 comic of the same name.

In his complaint, first reported by TMZ, Steven Bunti contends the 2006 Platinum graphic novel on which the film is based “contains striking similarities” to his own story, published more than a decade earlier in Bizarre Fantasy #1. Among those are “an alien spaceship zooming overhead the main cowboy character, the spacecraft being discovered by Native American warriors (specifically Apache) who are then attacked” and an alien commander “incredibly similar” to the conqueror “Morguu” in Bunti’s work.

Although Bunti didn’t register his comic with the U.S. Copyright Office until September, two months after the premiere of the Universal film, he notes that a preview of the story appeared on the back of Bizarre Fantasy #0 in November 1995, and was spotlighted in Comic Shop News — on the same page as a story about Malibu Studios and Platinum chairman, and Cowboys & Aliens creator, Scott Mitchell Rosenberg (he’s also named in Bunti’s lawsuit).

In May 1997, Platinum released a one-sheet featuring a cowboy chased by an alien spaceship, part of a promotional effort that led Universal and DreamWorks to buy the film rights to Cowboys & Aliens, and Platinum to publish the 2006 graphic novel, overseen by Rosenberg.

The lawsuit is just one more blow to a film seen as a financial and critical disappointment.  Despite the creative talents of director Jon Favreau and a stable of screenwriters that included Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, and a cast led by Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde, Cowboys & Aliens grossed only a little more than its $163 million budget.

Just last month Universal Studios President Ron Meyer described the film as “mediocre,” telling an audience at the Savannah Film Festival, “Cowboys & Aliens wasn’t good enough. Forget all the smart people involved in it, it wasn’t good enough. All those little creatures bouncing around were crappy. I think it was a mediocre movie, and we all did a mediocre job with it. […] Certainly you couldn’t have more talented people involved in Cowboys & Aliens, but it took, you know, ten smart and talented people to come up with a mediocre movie. It just happens.”



What kind of business considers 163 million dollars of profit a disappointment?

One problem with that argument – if we’re going by who was influenced first, we could have Gary Larson as a contender.

Not $163 million in profit. The $163 million was the cost of the movie. According to Box Office Mojo, the movie earned only a little more than $100 million, although this article says the movie earned “only a little more” than it cost.

Reading comprehension, it is a lost art.

@Scott Bieser

The $163 million will be worldwide, whereas the $100 million will be domestic. It says so on Box Office Mojo.

Reading comprehension IS a lost art.

There sure is a lot of Box Office Mojo confusion today. In all fairness, it that site’s design is pretty bad.

The worldwide total looks to be a hair shy of $175 million, with 74.5 million of that being international.

The 163 million total is the production budget, so it would appear that this movie made about ten million bucks, if you believe Universal’s production numbers, which is not a good idea.

The DVD comes out on the sixth. I’d assume its sales over the holiday season will bump this movie into profitability, though not by all that much.

Of course, the money taken in doesn’t all go to the studios. Movie theaters get their cut too.

But this Far Side cartoon predates both the movie and this comic book:

1) It costs $50 to copyright something at the Library of Congress, $35 if you do it online.

(But don’t feel too bad… I know of a major publisher/creator who hadn’t filed on a regular basis, even though the physical comics would be added to their collection.)

2) It doesn’t hurt to register the trademark either, although that’s a bit more complicated. But it paid off for “Men In Black”, “The Firm”, and Nebraska Educational Television (the NBC “N”).

3) According to Bleeding Cool, Greg Noveck came up with the title.

Meanwhile, what’s Platinum up to?
Platinum Studios, Inc (PDOS.OB)
$0.0043 a share. (That is, 100 shares = 43 cents)

Wow… the DVD is not released until the Sixth of December. Given the mediocre box office, one would think it would be released before Black Friday to maximize sales.

The stated budget also never includes print costs but the studio accounting budget always does. Unless it makes a lot more than it cost, it is generally a loss. Even then, it can still be a loss, like how Warners had “never made money on Harry Potter”.

I self-published a 1995 16-page ashcan (xeroxed) comic book by the same title and sold over 100 copies at the 1995 Small Press Expo in Bethesda, MD.

In 2004 Scott Rosenberg of Platinum Studios paid me for the rights to the title and to change the name of my on-going comic book to “Wayout West”. A 104-page full-color trade paperback compiling the first three issues of “Wayout West” is currently available on Just type my name into the search bar.

When the movie came out I was contacted by David Reskin, a Los Angeles writer who sent me his 1989 screenplay called Cowboys & Aliens. While Reskin’s story and mine are obviously different, the movie bears striking similarities to both our stories, though more Reskin’s than mine.

While Rosenberg contacted me to negotiate a settlement after my attorney’s had recommended that I not pursue my threatened suit, due to copyright vs. trademark issues, I was able to obtain a settlement, but Mr. Reskin, following the same advice from his counsel has not.

We were both convinced Mr. Rosenberg has seen and stolen our stories, as he has never claimed to have created anything else, and had to hire others to produce ‘his’ 2006 graphic novel– with Mr. Bunti now surfacing– I’m not as certain Mr. Rosenberg saw our stories. And I could never prove he had.

Unfortunately all this doesn’t bode well for Mr. Bunti’s cause, but I wish him luck.

Oh, and according to TMZ, his name is Steve Busti- not Bunti. Either way I just Facebook messaged a guy names Steve Busti.

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