SPOILER WARNING: This article contains a major spoiler for The Walking Dead #167, released last month.
Fear The Walking Dead returns this Sunday on AMC for the start of its third season, showing staying power for an unusual take on the TV spinoff. While set in the world of massive global hit The Walking Dead, it doesn’t connect in an overt fashion, nor involve any of the same characters — or any of the characters from the Image Comics series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard.
It’s further proof of the power of The Walking Dead, and the zombie apocalypse-stricken world created by Kirkman back in 2003. Details remain scant for what to expect from Fear The Walking Dead season three, but in an interview with CBR, Kirkman compared it to the third season of The Walking Dead proper, which saw a number of new additions to the show — “I really do strongly feel like [Fear The Walking Dead] is hitting its stride in season three.”
CBR also spoke with Kirkman about the tone of this season — “there is a tremendous vein of optimism to be mined here” — the way the show has developed over three years, his current level of involvement on the TV adaptations of his work and the major moment from last month’s issue #167 of The Walking Dead comic book series, which featured the death of long-running character Andrea.
CBR: Robert, the first two seasons of Fear The Walking Dead were pretty different from each other, and I imagine season three will keep up that tradition — what are you personally proud about from season three, and the direction the show goes this time around?
Robert Kirkman: I always try to compare Fear The Walking Dead to The Walking Dead just as a gauge to how the show evolves. Comparing season three of Fear The Walking Dead to season three of Walking Dead is really interesting, because I think that’s really where both shows hit their stride. If you look at Walking Dead season three, you get the introduction of Michonne in a big way, and Woodbury, and the prison, and the Governor, and all of these new elements are put on the table.
I think we have a similar thing going on with Otto’s ranch and what’s going on with Strand — I don’t know when this article is going up, so I don’t want to spoil too much. There’s a lot of new characters that are brought in with the Otto family, and a lot of new conflict. Some really great evolutions for the Clark family, and all of the cast that we’ve grown to know and love over the first two seasons. I really do strongly feel like this show’s hitting its stride in season three, much the same way the other show did.
One thing that people are always curious about going into a new season of either of the shows is tone, and just how bleak it will get — season two was pretty bleak, and it doesn’t look like this with lighten up too much, but what can viewers expect?
It certainly is going to have bleak aspects — I mean, it is a Walking Dead show. There are some terrible things that happen over the course of season three. But I think there is a tremendous vein of optimism to be mined here. Otto’s ranch has a little bit of prosperity and safety to offer. There’s a little bit of grieving space that the characters get before things really hit the fan — as they do on a Walking Dead show. I would say it’s going to be somewhat less bleak than the second season was.
We’ve seen The Walking Dead universe spiral out into things like the Telltale games and this show, which are wholly separate from the comics. With Fear The Walking Dead now three seasons in, what’s it been like for you to watch it develop and find an audience of its own?
It’s great. The Walking Dead is really a world at this point, and to know that there are so many different legs within that world that are striving on their own, it’s really just kind of awesome to see how it’s all going, and to know that the fanbase will support so many different branches, and really get invested in different characters doing different things within the world. That’s just really gratifying, and I’ve really got to thank the fans. It could have easily not worked out this way. To know that everybody is invested and really excited about what’s coming is really great.
And given that the show stands so much on its own, there are also Walking Dead viewers who aren’t watching. Does it still feel like it to you that there are Walking Dead fans missing out, and are you hoping for that to change in season three?
There’s certainly fewer people watching Fear The Walking Dead than are watching Walking Dead, but that’s to be expected. As a guy who read a lot of Amazing Spider-Man and may not have bought all the issues of Web of Spider-Man, I completely understand that. But yeah, I think that Fear The Walking Dead has some unique things to offer. I’m sure there are some fans that may not be watching it, but if they gave it a shot, I think would really enjoy it. But there’s only so much time in the day, and Game of Thones is coming back, too. We do what we can — but I think anybody that gave the show a chance would definitely love it.
You’ve got I don’t know how many different things going on at a time, and have for years — how involved have you been in the past season of Fear The Walking Dead on a day to day basis?
I’m not in the room full time. With Outcast and Fear The Walking Dead and Walking Dead, I’m not in any writers room full time anymore. I’m doing my job in a producer capacity, and I pop into the various rooms from time to time. I do a lot of meetings with the showrunners, just to see where things are and give my input at that level. I’m able to steer things here and there as I want to step in. That’s been pretty cool.
It’s really [Fear The Walking Dead showrunner] Dave Erickson’s show, it’s really [Walking Dead showrunner] Scott Gimple’s show, it’s really [Outcast showrunner] Chris Black’s show. I’m here to help them as best I can, but they’re the guys doing the day-to-day work. I consider myself here when they need me.
It’s a fun process, seeing comics turned into different things. You have to understand that when you move into a new medium, you’re not necessarily an expert. So when Dave or Scott Gimple [say], “I kind of feel like the story needs this,” it’s a true collaboration in that respect, because I feel very comfortable being able to sit back and say, “You know what, I think you know what you’re talking about.”
Moving to comic books — there was a big moment last month with the death of Andrea in The Walking Dead comic book series — what was it like writing that scene, and did you know it was coming for a while?
I did know it was coming for a while. I even hinted at it in the letters column a couple of times, because I thought that would be funny.
It was weird. Even knowing that it was coming for a while, when I actually sat down to write the scene, it was extremely difficult. Andrea’s been a really important part of the book, and is one of the longest-running characters in the book. For me, one of the characters that has evolved almost more than any other character. The person she is at her death is vastly different than where she was when the series began. That kind of stuff really hits me hard, because I see so much growth in the character, and it’s ending.
It makes no sense, because it’s not a real person, but to know that their story is ending, it really hits me. That was a real tough one. I didn’t expect it to be as difficult as it was, which is why I ended up writing that letter. I try to gauge the impact it has on me with how it will impact the audience. I think it’s important to readers that they know as upsetting as some of these stories are to you, it also upsets me. And I don’t really understand why I do it! Because I could just stop, and make the comic super-happy. But it’s a fun burden to have, I guess. The desire to keep things interesting and compelling often supersedes my desire to, y’know, sleep well at night.
Fear The Walking Dead season three debuts this Sunday, June 4, on AMC. Issue #168 of The Walking Dead comic book is scheduled for release on June 7.