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.