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OFF BEAT: Comic book author says 'Cowboys & Aliens' was his idea


A comic book author claims the producers of the 2011 sci-fi western “Cowboys & Aliens” stole the film’s concept from him more than 15 years before it was released.

Steven John Busti, author of the “Bizarre Fantasy” series of comic books, first published his “Cowboys and Aliens” story in 1995, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in an Austin, Texas, federal district court.

Mr. Busti’s comic book and the film tell a similar story about extraterrestrials invading the Old West and battling with a band of cowboys.

Mr. Busti claims his story was previewed in a 1995 issue of Comic Shop News. Not coincidentally, he claims, an article about Malibu Studios and, more specifically, Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, one of the film’s producers, appeared on the same page.

In May 1997, two years after Mr. Busti’s “Cowboys and Aliens” was published, Mr. Rosenberg and Platinum Studios Inc. produced a one-sheet pitch form “featuring a cowboy chased by an alien spaceship titled ‘Cowboys & Aliens,’ according to the suit. Based on that one-sheet, the suit claims Universal Studios and Dreamworks II Distribution Co. L.L.C. bought the film rights to Mr. Rosenberg’s “Cowboys & Aliens” from Platinum Studios.

Several years later, in 2006, Mr. Rosenberg and Platinum Studios published their own “Cowboys & Aliens” graphic novel, which Mr. Busti claims bears several similarities to his work, “including an alien spaceship zooming overhead the main cowboy character, the spacecraft being discovered by Native American warriors (specifically Apache) who are then attacked. In addition, the alien commander in the defendants’ work is incredibly similar to the alien conqueror Morguu in Mr. Busti’s work.”

Mr. Busti is suing the film’s production studios and its individual producers for copyright infringement, and is seeking damages and additional profits from the film’s DVD and Blu-Ray sales, but has not asked for an injunction barring the film’s distribution.