Image Comics and Skybound made fans rise from the convention floor for the first “The Walking Dead” panel of Comic-Con International at San Diego 2012 where writer/creator Robert Kirkman and series artist Charlie Adlard assembled with fans for a session detailing the critically-acclaimed series with some discussion on the recent release of “The Walking Dead” #100.
The panel kicked off with the duo receiving the Inkpot Award for Excellence in Comics to uproarious applause.
“I’m very busy and I’m tired, I thought it would be fun to chat with Charlie and open it up for questions,” said Kirkman, who went on with a quick joke. “I made sure that Charlie’s mic was off because he has a British accent.”
Kirkman did say that he was going to do everything in his power to avoid spoilers for “The Walking Dead” #100 and asked the audience to please be vague about issue spoilers.
“Before we get to the questions, I want to say that everyone in this room loves ‘The Walking Dead,'” he said. “But we did a really cool thing that I’m really proud of where we ramped up the schedule and we did the book every three weeks to get #100 out by Comic-Con. … You would not get ‘The Walking Dead’ with any regularity at all if it wasn’t for Mr. Adlard. He is constantly saving my ass. He does such an amazing job on the book and I feel so fortunate to have worked with him.”
The first questioner disagreed with Kirkman’s assertion that “The Walking Dead” was the best comic book on the stands, but asked about Davidson’s silhouette in the Survival Guide. Kirkman said Davidson was similar to Andrew, who disappeared after the prison. “I like the idea of things happening in ‘The Walking Dead’ that are more like real life.”
The duo was also asked how long “The Walking Dead” would go and if there was a certain end the creators had in mind.
“We have talked about an ending but whether we do it in two years, ten years, twenty years, who knows?” said Adlard.
“We love what we’re doing and this is genuinely what we set out to do with our lives,” said Kirkman. “To know … I’ll be able to watch Carl grow up on the page if we don’t kill him, I can’t fathom a point when we don’t want to do the comics.” Kirkman said even after all the merchandise disappears, he would still want to do the comic. “We have everything in place, but the plan is to go on for a good long time.”
One of the fans asked about whether readers will see the source of the infection. “No!” said Kirkman as the room laughed. After the laughter died down, Kirkman said the comic at its heart was about what people realistically act like at the end of the world and finding out the source of the infection “would take away from the realism of it” and he prefers to avoid it.
One fan said he was upset his girlfriend hadn’t read “The Walking Dead” #100. “Get a new girl,” said Kirkman. The fan wanted to know how the television show would continue to shock people in the same way as the comic.
“I think the TV show has already demonstrated it can go further than any other TV show,” said Adlard.
Another fan queried about the television show on AMC. “We’re only talking about the comic here, I’m going to have to ask you to please sit down,” joked Kirkman.
Adlard spoke about the actors and some of the casting decisions. “Because our comic is based arguably in reality, you don’t have to get actors that look like the characters. … You want the actors to embody the characters, not necessarily look like them. … It’s how well they act and how they portray the character.”
One of the questions dealt with whether there was anything Kirkman scripted that Adlard didn’t feel up to drawing. “The only time I’ve ever phoned Robert up right after the script was the torture issue,” said Adlard. “He had to convince me, and he did, obviously.” The artist also mentioned Kirkman was going to send reference to Adlard for “The Walking Dead” #100 but it was just too horrific.
Kirkman said that he’d also been doing a lot of research on how to make homemade bullets because of Eugene’s interest in creating his own ammunition. “If you’re listening, FBI, it’s all for comics!”
There is a sequence at the end of “The Walking Dead” #100, in which a character is chosen by a certain method. Despite the method in the book, Kirkman said the choice was made very deliberately and not by chance. He also told an anecdote about speaking with the writers of the television show that the character would die and they were completely surprised and angry.
“Every now and then, I get flak on the internet when I change my mind or something,” he said. “I wrote the end of 97 and something shocking and cataclysmic happens at the end of 98. I didn’t have that planned at 97 and when he drew 97.”
“Of course, that’s why I got a script and I was completely surprised as well,” said Adlard.
The creators got asked how they would do in the actual zombie apocalypse. “People would want you in their group,” said the fan.
“That would be foolish,” Kirkman said, mentioning he thought people would think because he writes “The Walking Dead,” he would have all these survival skills. “I can write you comics. Where are the Cheez-Its?”
A fan asked about where Kirkman would set “The Walking Dead” if it wasn’t in Atlanta, Georgia. “I would do ‘The Walking Dead: Atlantis,'” Kirkman joked. “It would just be everybody drinking lemonade saying, ‘Uh. They’re not here yet.’ … Television show-wise, it would be like, Hawaii.”
A younger fan asked how the creators prevented nightmares as the creators of “The Walking Dead.”
“It’s funny, drawing the book, it’s kind of –” said Adlard and then his phone rang, for which Kirkman gave him a hard time (“Come on, grandpa, this is a movie theater!” he said). “It’s kind of a weird — for me, I get anything emotional out of the way after reading the script. By the time I draw it, it’s marks on paper, literally. I could draw a madman bashing pink, fluffy kittens and I would have no problem drawing it.”
A deaf fan walked up to the microphone and asked about deaf characters in the book. “I’m not opposed to that, normally I’m extremely anti-deaf people…” Kirkman joked. The fan mentioned it might make for an interesting element change, to which Kirkman said, “That’s cool. I’ll take it under advisement.”
The next fan asked about Tony Moore’s recent lawsuit against Kirkman over the rights of “The Walking Dead.” “It’s an unfortunate thing that I’m glad you asked me about. There’s clearly a disagreement there and we’re working through it,” he said.
The next fan asked about Negan, the new threat introduced in “The Walking Dead” #100. “I will say he’s only been in 12 pages and you’re already comparing him to the Governor,” said Kirkman. “And he has a cool bat.”
“He’s also based on Henry Rawlins,” said Adlard.
“There’s still quite a bit to learn [about him],” said Kirkman. “I think we’ve got some really cool stuff planned about the guy.”
A Korean-American woman expressed her gratitude to Kirkman for creating the character of Glenn, saying, “we need to see more characters like that.”
“Thank you very much. If only he were deaf,” Kirkman said to laughter from the audience.
The fan also asked about Kirkman’s process in writing unlikable characters. “I don’t necessarily purposefully make characters who nobody’s going to like, but Carol was somebody who I wanted to write as a weak and fragile human being who couldn’t survive in this world,” he said. “It’s a large cast and I’m trying to portray these characters as realistically as possible. … To a certain extent, it’s very hard to control what the audience is going to respond to.”
Adlard noted he cameoed in “The Walking Dead” pilot in the wall of zombies that chases Rick as he’s on the horse. Kirkman decided he didn’t want to be a zombie because of the heat of Atlanta and he didn’t want to see himself on camera. “I don’t like looking at myself in the mirror, let alone on a TV camera,” Kirkman said. Apparently, the scene was shot over two days and Adlard decided not to be in the scene as a zombie after one day. “I much preferred that,” said Adlard, but noted he “loved the process of getting made up” as a zombie. He was also prepared to conquer his fear of putting contact lenses in his eyes.
The next fan asked about the existence of packs of animals such as “dogs or pumas.”
“I will say that Norman Reedus is hounding Glen Mazzara about having a dog,” said Kirkman. “That’s why there will be no dogs,” he jokes.
A fan asked about one of the recent news stories where a man had his face eaten. Kirkman mentioned many people kept Tweeting the story at him. “Then one morning, I woke up and it was just someone tweeting me and someone Tweeted me with a link and it’s a photo on the guy at the hospital who had his face eaten,” he said. “I can’t do it. I can’t see that stuff.”
The creators also noted the characters they missed writing or drawing.
“I miss drawing Dale,” said Adlard.
“I might miss Axel and Tyrese the most,” said Kirkman. “And the Governor. He was neat. But I get to write him again, so I don’t care!”
A fan asked if the show was an outlet for stories or plots that didn’t make it into the comic or something Kirkman wanted to retcon.
“I like to call it ‘George Lucasing,’ which has been controversial,” Kirkman said. “It really excites me when we do new things. When I look at the Sophia storyline on the show, I don’t say ‘I wish I did that in the comic’ — but that is a really emotional storyline. … When she comes out of that barn, it’s a really powerful moment and we haven’t had those kinds of powerful moments in the comic mostly because of Charlie’s art,” he joked. “When things are being pitched around and it’s something that’s altered the comic in a way that’s better, I’m for that.”
“They’re joined and separate at the same time, which is really how an adaptation should be,” said Adlard. “TV is a different genre to comics. Film is a different genre to TV. You’ve got to do it how it’ll suit the medium and I think the TV show does it absolutely brilliantly.”
Kirkman spoke about his upcoming book “The Walking Dead: The Cutting Room Floor,” which would collect all of his notes about the story and where he changed his mind in the first fifty issues. “One of them, Thomas, the murderer in the prison was originally going to stab Lori in the stomach and kill her baby,” said Kirkman. “That was something that I worked out and I didn’t do it because it was stupid.” He said the commentary was taking him much longer than expected, and he was hoping to have it get finished later this year.
A fan asked about the growing disparity between Carl and Rick. “Carl grows up in an environment that’s not normal for us, but him is normal,” said Kirkman.
With that, the panel finished up. Stay tuned to CBR for more coverage of CCI 2012.