What started as an indie comics hit has become a global media sensation, and “The Walking Dead” — and its creator, Robert Kirkman — got the spotlight Thursday afternoon at New York Comic Con, during the “‘The Walking Dead’: An Inside Look with Robert Kirkman” panel.
Kirkman addressed the “Walking Dead” season six premiere event happening Friday night at Madison Square Garden. “It’s really cool to have a premiere event that fans can go to,” Kirkman said.
Speaking of season six of the AMC series, Kirkman said, “This is going to be the most intense season of ‘Walking Dead’ yet. Big cliffhangers at the end of every episode. I’m watching cuts and I go, ‘I gotta watch the next one!'”
Talking the return of Morgan, Kirkman said, “It was always in the plans to bring him back,” adding that his return was delayed in part due to actor Lennie James’ schedule. “That guy just kept working. It took a lot for us to get where we were going.”
Kirkman talked the long-speculated possibility of notorious comic book series villain Negan joinign the TV series: “I think it would be very cool if Negan were to be introduced to the show. I don’t know when that would happen, though. I mean, I do, but I can’t say.” Kirkman joked that Ed O’Neill would be his choice of casting for Negan.
Next character discussed was Maggie, and how she plays into the new season. “Maggie’s character is evolving, like all the others, but she’s really become very assertive,” Kirkman said. “We’ll see more of her kicking some butt, as they say.”
As previously reported, the show will employ more CGI effects on its zombies. “There’s a lot of green noses on set that are going to be taken out digitally,” Kirkman shared. “Just continue to decay them up.”
Kirkman praised current showrunner Scott M. Gimple, saying, “He’s very invested in these characters. He just wants to dig deep, into their psyches. He’s doing really excellent work. He was always our details guy. He definitely knows the comic books almost better than I do — definitely better than I do. It’s a little embarrassing.”
Next up, companion series “Fear the Walking Dead.” “It was a lot of fun just playing with expectations, and showing how alien this world would be, and how hard it would be to adjust.”
Speaking of season two, Kirkman advised, “Just because it’s taking place on a boat doesn’t mean they’re going to be on the boat all the time.” He said it’ll be a “journey” and story of survival, like all “Walking Dead” stories.
A new character will debut on the “Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462” webseries who will continue on to “Fear the Walking Dead” proper, Kirkman disclosed.
Asked about Image Comics originally passing on “The Walking Dead,” Kirkman explained — while also stating that Jim Valentino doesn’t like it when he tells the story — that he was told, “Horror comics didn’t really do that well.” He said he later re-pitched it as secret sci-fi series involving an alien invasion, and it was accepted. After the first issue was released, current Image publisher (then marketing director) Eric Stephenson called him to say, “I read the first issue, really good. I didn’t see anything about the aliens. Were there some hints in there?” Kirkman said he then admitted there were actually no aliens planned, and Stephenson agreed it was for the best.
Discussing the comic further, Kirkman mentioned Negan, and said “if and when” the character comes to the show — he made it clear, “I’m not saying when,” then mouthed the word “soon,” before cracking a smile and shaking his head to indicate that he was (probably) joking.
Kirkman said he’s got the comic planned “pretty far out,” though he does change plans every so often. “At least once a year, there’s, ‘This is boring, I’m not doing this.'”
Asked about killing off characters, Kirkman said it’s easier in the comic than in the show, since all of the actors are good people — “except for Norman [Reedus],” he said to laughs from the crowd.
Charlie Adlard‘s cover of January’s “The Walking Dead” #150, revealed for the first time, was shown on the screen. “There’s some bad stuff happening to Rick Grimes, as often is the case,” Kirkman said. “There’s a big shift in the book here. It’s going to change things moving forward in a pretty big way.”
Talking the various expansions of “The Walking Dead” franchise, from TV to video games to a cruise, Kirkman said, “Every step that we do, we always try to do good stuff, and it’s just fun opportunities. I’m a fan of all this kind of stuff — I’m not a fan of ‘The Walking Dead,’ I can’t stand ‘The Walking Dad’ — but I’m a fan of other stuff like this. I think, if I were a fan of ‘The Walking Dead,’ what would be cool to me?”
Kirkman said he’s not interested in bringing new characters introduced to other “Walking Dead” adaptations into the TV show. “Having Daryl Dixon show up in the comic book would make the TV show less cool.” Kirkman plugged the “Walking Dead: Road to Survival” mobile game, which will adopt the “All-Out War” comics storyline.
Moving to fan Q&A, Kirkman was asked if there was a chance of an international version of “The Walking Dead.” “If I did, I certainly couldn’t say that here,” Kirkman said, but added that the success of “Fear the Walking Dead” may make such a thing more possible — though there’s no plans yet.
A fan asked Kirkman if he ever wrote Negan dialogue that he didn’t use because it was “too ridiculous. “Yeah,” Kirkman answered. “Negan definitely is borderline weird from time to time, but I think it works. I think if all the characters started acting like that, the book would fall apart. If you have one character who is as bizarre as he is, it doesn’t ruin the thing entirely. I know there are some Negan detractors out there — those people, I don’t care what they think.”
Telling a fan who asked about the difference between Carol on the comics and in the show, Kirkman responded, “We can’t do that, right? Anybody want Carol to die on the show?” The crowd responded with boos — while making it clear that, as usual, no one is actually safe in “The Walking Dead.”
The last fan questions concerned how the fan-favorite character of Daryl Dixon developed. Kirkman said that Daryl was originally more like Merle, since Reedus auditioned for that character, and was more of an antagonist. “I would have to honestly credit Norman Reedus a great deal for how the character developed.”
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