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The Walking Dead is no stranger to lawsuits. Series creator and original showrunner Frank Darabont has filed not one but two suits against the zombie apocalypse juggernaut, and comic scribe Robert Kirkman and others behind behind the scenes slammed AMC with a huge lawsuit less than a year ago. Now, the second series in the Walking Dead universe is the target of a legal case. Robert Kirkman and AMC have been named in a lawsuit over Fear the Walking Dead filed by the author of another zombie-filled comic series. According to Dead Ahead writer Mel Smith, Fear the Walking Dead's second season infringed on the comic series' copyright.
According to the lawsuit (via THR), the three-volume Image Comics series Dead Ahead had "protected elements" that were copied and used, performed, and exploited by Fear the Walking Dead without Mel Smith's permission. Named in Smith's lawsuit are AMC Networks, Skybound Productions, Valhalla Entertainment, David Alpert, and Robert Kirkman himself, among others. The suit claims that Smith's copyrighted work on Dead Ahead was copied in Fear the Walking Dead throughout the last three years. Cited in the suit is a 2007 written license agreement penned by Image Comics to Smith.
The three-volume Dead Ahead series published one volume per year from 2008-2010. The lawsuit itself doesn't detail the elements from the comic that were allegedly copied for Fear the Walking Dead, but it's not difficult to guess the plot that Mel Smith takes issue with. The description of Dead Ahead from Image Comics reveals that, much like portions of Season 2, Dead Ahead sees zombie action on the high seas. Take a look for yourself:
'WATER... WATER... EVERYWHERE!' On a restless ocean, a group of weary survivors contemplate their grim fortune: What had started out as a fun little fishing trip soon turns into a nightmare of damnation, trapped on a floating prison. The continents have been hit by a plague that has turned humanity into living corpses - leaving our castaways at sea to fend for themselves! With provisions low, hope comes in the form of a luxury liner sailing into view on the horizon... All they needed to survive would be on board, but who among them has what it takes to find out what happened to its crew and passengers?
A portion of Fear the Walking Dead Season 2 took place on the ocean, with the survivors taking refuge on Strand's yacht, the Abigail. They run into danger from another group on the high seas, and everybody is running short on supplies while zombies continue to overrun to mainland. The Dead Ahead summary does sound similar to some of what happened in Fear the Walking Dead's second season, but there's no saying at this point if the show really did take anything from the comic as alleged by Mel Smith. There is the point that pretty much any project set in the zombie apocalypse is going to have similarities to other projects; only those familiar with the show, the series, and the people who worked on them can currently know for sure.
While AMC and Robert Kirkman are the biggest names in the lawsuit, David Alpert is definitely of note. Currently credited as an executive producer on The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, Alpert was reportedly working as Mel Smith's agent back when Dead Ahead was created. The suit states that Alpert was also the manager and business partner for Robert Kirkman. The suit seeks "relief" in the form of compensatory damages, awarding Smith profits from the alleged of Dead Ahead, punitive damages, prejudgment interest, and further relief as equity and justice may require. AMC reportedly hasn't been served with the suit yet and has declined to comment at this point.
Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for the latest in zombie apocalypse news. Fear the Walking Dead will return to the airwaves for the second half of Season 4 on Sunday, August 12 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC. For some non-zombie TV fare, swing by our summer TV premiere guide.