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As if Cowboys & Aliens wasn't already enough of a disappointment for Universal, here comes some more bad news. TMZ reports that an Austin-based writer named Steven John Busti has filed suit against DreamWorks, Universal Pictures, and producer Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, claiming that they stole the idea for the summer tentpole movie from a comic story he wrote back in 1995.
Here's how it all breaks down: Busti says he had the idea for a story about cowboys squaring off against aliens back in 1994, then actually published a story called "Cowboys & Aliens" in a 1995 issue of the comic Bizarre Fantasy. If that was the extent of it, you could easily chalk it up as a case of parallel development or coincidence, but Busti claims there's more to it. He points to a 1994 issue of Comic Shop News that ran a feature story about his Cowboys & Aliens story...in the same issue that they ran an interview with producer Scott Mitchell Rosenberg.
Rosenberg is the head of Platinum Studios, a media company that specializes in creating independent comic books, which it then attempts to leverage into movies, TV shows, games, etc. Back in 2006, Platinum published the graphic novel Cowboys & Aliens written by Fred Van Lente and Andrew Foley. That, eventually, became the summer would-be blockbuster starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. That's a pretty large span of time for Rosenberg to have allegedly sat on the "cowboys & aliens" concept without doing anything with it, but you never know. As is typical for this type of lawsuit, Busti also claims that the film and graphic novel bear "striking similarities" to his story.
These lawsuits pop up all the time in Hollywood, so who knows if Busti's lawsuit has any truth to it or not. Still, if he is just fishing for a settlement, he might have picked a more profitable movie. With a $163 million budget, Cowboys & Aliens only earned $175 million worldwide. I realize that's one hell of an "only," but we're talking in Hollywood terms here.