Robert Kirkman is quickly becoming the kind of comic creator whose name is known outside the die-hard Wednesday comic store shoppers, but even as his hit “The Walking Dead” expands its media footprint, the writer hasn’t slowed down his funny book business with Skybound Entertainment either. Next weekend, Season 3 of AMC’s high-rated “Walking Dead” adaptation launches to set the show’s characters into the signature story arc of the comic featuring the zombie-filled abandoned prison and the man known as the Governor. Meanwhile, the Image Comics monthly series that started it all is looking for a fresh start in the wake of the shocking events of #100. Kirkman discussed all this and more with CBR News in advance of his appearance next week at New York Comic Con.
The writer explained that adapting perhaps the longest and best known segment of the comic series for TV presented a unique challenge even three years into production. “I think one of the first things we did on this season was that [writer] Scott Gimple, who probably knows the comic a little better than me -Â or actually a lot better than me, but I don’t want to admit it -Â took down everything from where they arrived at the prison in the comic until they left, and he just wrote this huge beat sheet on the board,” he said. “It had all the different things that happened, the various events and the character deaths that happened in the comic. We sat there for a day or two just analyzing that, and my first thought was ‘Holy crap! I packed a lot of stuff into those issues!’ but then we were able to start figuring out what applies to our characters based on what had happened in Seasons 1 and 2 of the show. From there, we started to figure out what we could used and where we might want to go, and we picked key events that would fit into Season 3 and started crafting the show around that.
“It’s definitely a process of looking at the comic and recognizing the comic and seeing what works or what may not work based on what has already happened on the show. There are different characters that have appeared here or have already died, and we just work to craft a season around that. That’s when the big twists and turns and changes that happen in the show start to appear -Â it’s as we break it all into episodes and craft the show.”
One of the biggest moves for the show is relocating the cast from a very real farm house to a very fake prison set – one that CBR News was able to visit this summer and will have a full report on next week. While the prison feels like cardboard up close, on film it’s every bit as grimy and gruesome as a real correctional facility, and Kirkman explained that the shape of the set allowed them the flexibility to tell any part of the comic book epic they wanted. “[Production designer] Grace Walker designed that prison, and there are certain rooms that we’ll constantly be using the episodes such as the cell block and the common room, but what you may not have noticed when you saw the set is that a lot of that stuff is modular. One room may be a boiler room one day and a cafeteria the next day. That stuff is moved in and out depending on what the episodes call for,” he said. “There is a kind of magic to how we’ve built the prison where you can pretty much do anything we’ve done in the comic book series at that set. It’s all in a somewhat confined space because we’re able to transform rooms into different spaces, but prisons are very similar in the way that you get trapped in them.”
Meanwhile, Rick Grimes of the comic books will be getting trapped in his own head a bit starting with this month’s issue #103 which is being billed as a new starting point in the series without the beleaguered sheriff taking command of the survivors. “What really come out of issue #100 was this dramatic change in Rick where he kind of realizes he’s been beaten,” Kirkman explained. “This is a character who for 100 issues has been saying, ‘Fuck you. I’ll take care of this.’ And he always has. But now he’s suddenly thinking, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to get out of this.’ You can tell that he’s trying to figure things out, but it’s clearly Rick in a submissive role. And that’s something we’re going to be exploring for a while. We’re going to be telling different stories, and you’re going to see some very different behaviors from the characters.
“That’s something I think is important when you have a book that’s been running this long -Â you have to be able to change things up in big ways and tell different kinds of stories so that things don’t just get very mundane and repetitious. But we’re going to do our best to keep it from getting too depressing.”
Of course, fans at New York Comic Con will be getting a first look at both the future of the comic and the TV show, and the writer shared the details on some of the swag Skybound will be debuting alongside panel discussions with creators and cast members. “We’ve got a Red Foil version of the hardcover ‘Walking Dead Compendium.’ We did a Gold Foil version in San Diego, so this is another limited edition that you can only get at one show. We’re also do a special hardcover limited edition of ‘Thief of Thieves’ Volume 1. But I think the coolest thing we’re doing is this Michonne PVC where she’s got her two Walker pets on chain. It’s slightly larger than the old M.U.S.C.L.E. figures from the ’80s, but it’s got a lot more detail on it. It’s a one-color PVC thing that’s going to be pretty awesome.”
Stay tuned next week for full coverage of the return of “The Walking Dead” on AMC and for CBR’s reporting from New York Comic Con 2012.