Image Comics partner and “The Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman returns to the one-day Image Expo in San Francisco with the “I is for Infectious: A Conversation with Robert Kirkman” panel, with the writer joined by Skybound editorial director Sean Mackiewicz. CBR News is there live, so keep hitting refresh.
Kirkman starts by quickly mentioning his current comics projects — “The Walking Dead” is in the middle of “All Out War,” big changes are coming to “Invincible” — and Mackiewicz mentions current Skybound series including “Clone,” “Thief of Thieves,” “Ghosted,” “Super Dinosaur” and “Manifest Destiny.”
Following that, Kirkman quickly turns to audience Q&A, with Mackiewicz roaming the crowd with a microphone. First question is from a retailer asking if the freshly announced “Tech Jacket Digital” will be collected in print, “What we’re definitely trying to do with Tech Jacket Digital’ is try to look at the potential of digital comics as advertisements for print,” Kirkman replies. “I would never do anything that would not be collected in print, just because I like to sell things in multiple formats, because that helps you become profitable. The print component is definitely something that’s a part of it, and will come a little down the road.”
More “Witch Doctor” coming soon? Kirkman: “Hopefully we’ll have something to report on that very soon, but it’s in the creators’ hands.”
Status of “The Walking Dead: Cutting Room Floor”? “Next question? Kirkman quips, before adding that he has been working on it, and hopes it’ll be out soon. “It ended up being a much more time-consuming endeavor than I ever anticipated. I do chip away at it every week.”
A fan of “Destroyer MAX” asks about Kirkman’s experience writing that Marvel series. Kirkman says it’s one of his favorites (giving credit to artist Cory Walker, and that he wishes it had been an Image series, since they didn’t really use any Marvel intellectual property. “I recommend giving that a look,” Kirkman says, joking that fans should find a pirated version since it’s a Marvel book and not one he owns.
Next audience member asks if a t-shirt featuring “Walking Dead” antagonist Negan will be offered. There will be two, in fact, one with the cover of “The Walking Dead #111,” and one with a quote from the character.
How much pride does Kirkman take in “Invincible”? Kirkman says he’s happy with how the series has progressed, but that he genuinely thinks the best is yet to come. “Hopefully that’s the case,” Kirkman says. If not, tell Ryan [Ottley], go upset him.”
Kirkman downplays the notion that he regrets cutting Rick Grimes’ hand off, saying that it truly instituted the sense that anything could happen in “The Walking Dead.”
How much control does Kirkman have over the hit “Walking Dead” AMC series? “If you like what we’re doing on the show, I have a tremendous amount of control,” he says. “If you don’t like what we’re doing on the show, I don’t know what to tell you, they don’t let me do everything.” Kirkman says there are some gruesome moments coming up in the back half of season four, and advises that television is a “larger group of people collaborating,” and thus changes come from multiple people having good ideas. “To ignore that would be arrogant, or a huge misstep,” he adds.
“I know that a lot of people really wish it was a closer adaptation, but I would just say, ‘you’ve got the comic,'” Kirkman continues. “And if we were just doing the comic on TV, I don’t think people would enjoy it very much, I don’t think it would be very successful, and you’d find it very boring.”
Kirkman says he’s currently the only writer working on the pilot for the “Walking Dead” spinoff show, though he won’t be the showrunner. “I recognize how risky and scary the idea of a ‘Walking Dad’ spinoff show is, and it’s something I’m taking great care to make it’s as good if not better than the original show,” Kirkman tells the crowd. “I think people are going to be very excited.”
A fan asks if Kirkman has “bad blood” with Marvel. “I don’t have bad blood with Marvel per se, aside from the fact that I think they’re a poorly run company that is partially destroying the comic book industry,” he answers. Kirkman says he think there are a lot of good people in the company, and they publish good material, but their upper management is “extremely short-sighted” with negative effects on the industry, and the fanbase Marvel caters to, which Kirkman counts himself among, “is not going to be around for a hundred years.” “I always try to look at the long game,” he says. Every time he’s critical of Marvel, Kirkman says, it’s because he loves them, and wishes they were doing a better job.
That led to the question, “So the ‘Ant-Man’ movie isn’t going to be based on yours?” “I wish, but I don’t think so,” Kirkman answers, adding that he’s heard the movie Ant-Man will be Scott Lang.
What recent comics has Kirkman enjoyed? “‘Sex Criminals’ really blew me away,” Kirkman replies, for being laugh-out-loud funny, engaging and emotional. “And now Matt Fraction is going to use a quote that says, ‘Sex Criminals blew me.'”
Is it ever difficult for Kirkman to keep track of ideas for multiple different projects? Kirkman says ideas are usually specifically generated to each one, but, “I also write a lot of notes, and I refer to those notes a lot.”
What led to the creation of exorcism-themed series “Outcast”? “It’s a subject that actually scares me,” Kirkman says, because of his religious upbringing. “There’s a part of me that thinks demons actually are real. I can’t write ‘Outcast’ scripts at night, I’ve found, just because it does creep me out a bit.”
Does Kirkman feel there might be a limit to how big the “Walking Dead” franchise can be? “People can’t really see the amount I do behind the scenes to try and manage that stuff,” Kirkman answers. “I think it’s important to note there hasn’t been a spinoff comic. I could easily have done multiple spinoff comics.” The comics thus stay “pure,” Kirkman says, and then the audience can decide if they’re interested in the merchandise or not. “There’s an audience of people who are hungry for more things, and not giving it to them would be foolish.” Additionally, he’s been mindful that the novels and video game are “additive experiences” that fit into the comic book stories.
There are some things AMC does that Kirkman doesn’t like, he admits, like the “sassy” women’s Rick Grimes costume.
Kirkman says he learned about setting boundaries, work-wise, from Erik Larsen, who told him that the “work takes up as much time as you allow it.” Kirkman says he used to work upwards of 16 hours a day with an irregular sleep schedule, but now he mostly works normal daytime hours, doesn’t work at night and rarely on the weekends and makes sure to spend time with his kids.
What will make “Outcast” scarier than other newly announced Image horror titles, “Wytches” and “Nameless”? “I can’t say for sure ‘Outcast’ will be the scariest,” Kirkman says, but adds that it’s very important to series artist Paul Azaceta to bring a strong visual element to the scares. “We are going to try to make them as scary as possible.”
Things start to wrap with the question of how ownership works with characters introduced in “Invincible Universe.” Kirkman says most of the characters were created by him and Cory Walker or him and Ryan Ottley, in order to avoid an “unfortunate” legal situation where outside creators introduce hit new characters that Kirkman would then own.