Back in February, word broke that “The Walking Dead” co-star Norman Reedus. Kirkman and Reedus both discuss that and more Saturday afternoon at Comic-Con International in San Diego, at the “Robert Kirkman Presents Skybound Entertainment Featuring Norman Reedus.”
Things started with panel moderator Greg Miller from IGN introducing Skybound Entertainment founder Kirkman and his producing partner David Alpert. Conversation started with the origins of Skybound in 2010, with Kirkman explained he started it because “The Walking Dead” was on the “verge of something bigger” — the AMC TV series, of course — and he wanted to set up something that could keep creators engaged and a big part of things, “which isn’t necessarily how it always happens in Hollywood.”
Alpert added that Skybound was founded to help “creators take advantage of all the benefits that Robert has been reaping from the success of ‘The Walking Dead'”
Turning to Kirkman’s latest horror comic (also in development as a TV series), “Outcast,” the writer said, “We’ve been working on this for quite a while. I wanted to try to do something exorcism that I’ve done with zombies.”
Next up to the panel was Darin Ross, creator of the card game “Superfight,” now partnered with Skybound for a “Walking Dead” expansion and more. “Superfight is a party game where you’re making up ridiculous character to fight each other, and everybody votes on who would win,” Ross explained. An instructional video for the game played on the screen.
Miller asked Kirkman why Skybound would get in the card game business. “Why not?” he replied. “It is the conversation that we have in the office all the time, ‘Hulk vs. Superman, who wins?’,” Alpert added. “We have these arguments all the time — who would win, the Governor or Negan?” Alpert said they loved the game and wanted to share Ross’s vision with their fans.
Telltale Games co-founder Kevin Bruner joined the panel, to talk “The Walking Dead” video game. “We’re an independent studio like Skybound is,” Bruner said, saying that there was a “huge enthusiasm” for “The Walking Dead” in the Telltale studio.
“I love Telltale so much,” Kirkman said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this. It’s just been a fantastic working relationship.” A trailer played for “The Walking Dead: Season Two” video game.
Addressing the possibility of characters from the video game appearing in the comic book, Kirkman said he still doesn’t think that will happen. “I think that it’s great that when you sit down to play the Telltale video game, it’s part of the world, but it’s a new experience, and there are different characters, and there are things that are unique to that experience of “The Walking Dead,'” he said, adding that he enjoys that there are “unique aspects you can only get” in each version of the franchise — comic book, TV show, video game, novel series.
Bruner confirmed that there will be a third season of “The Walking Dead” video game. “And it’ll be coming soon!” Kirkman said. “It’ll be coming… later,” Bruner correct. “Not this year.”
Asked about Skybound’s move to movies with “AIR,” starring two workers, played by Norman Reedus and Djimon Hounsou, maintaining a cryogenic facility following a nuclear disaster. Kirkman said he watched a short zombie film online directed by Christian Cantamessa, and thought it was “totally awesome” — then found out that Cantamessa had a script titled “AIR” that he was looking to get produced. Alpert added that he found the story “incredibly compelling.”
Cantamessa joined the panel, and said, “The film is full of hope. It’s just my way to kind of give hope that there is a future, and the best way to experience it is maybe seeing the other side first, and then you can appreciate what you’ve got,” the director said. “I think the best science-fiction is talking about our society and our world.”
Reedus then joined the panel, to raucous applause. He thew a few “AIR” shirts into the crowd. “I’m really excited about this film,” Reedus said. “Christian’s going to be a great director, I can tell.” This led to the debut screening of an “AIR” teaser.
The clip was short and didn’t give away too much, but illustrative of the film’s premise and atmosphere — hinting at the bleak, isolated situation Reedus and Hounsou’s characters find themselves in. The footage was combined with an announcer stating, “our administration is taking steps to ensure our way of life will continue,” underscoring the work that the two main characters are doing, and crescendos with Reedus yelling, “Where are you going? We’ve got no air!”
Kirkman discussed the premise, saying “Norman and Djimon are playing maintenance workers in a makeshift cryogenic facility in a missile silo that was put together in a hurry, because the air has become poison.” Kirkman said the facility is full of important people meant to restore society, and Reedus and Hounsou’s characters have a “very limited amount of time to do maintenance.”
Reedus said the film has “such a claustrophobic feel to it. You’re just dying reading this script.”
Kirkman shared that he teared up a little bit when he first saw the Skybound logo at the beginning of the “AIR” teaser. “It’s great to see our little company continue to grow and grow and grow.”
Discussing how to retain a claustrophobic feel given the number of people and technical elements needed in producing a feature film, Cantamessa stated, “We didn’t shoot with a massive crew. Everything was fairly intimate. We tried to build the sets in real locations to keep the atmosphere as real as possible, and as claustrophobic as possible.” The “AIR” teaser played for a second time.
Before turning to fan Q&A, Miller asked Reedus what he would think about Daryl Dixon showing up in the comic book, even though Kirkman has said it won’t happen. “If it fits, cool,” Reedus said. “If it fits in the video game, cool.” “It’s not going to happen, Norman,” Kirkman replied.
First fan up to the microphone asked what Reedus’s favorite acting role was — he answered Daryl, citing the growth the character has seen over the years. “You’re so cool,” the fan told Reedus, who replied by playfully making a fart noise into the microphone.
Next question asked how the panel stayed focused. “Lots of coffee,” Reedus answered. “I think it’s important that you have great partners that make you look really smart,” Alpert said, citing Skybound’s work with companies like Telltale.
A fan asked what the most stressful project the panel had been involved in. Kirkman said that “The Walking Dead” TV show can be stressful, but that’s what takes to make a quality project, and he’s not a stressed-out guy in general. Alpert said he’s the opposite, with Kirkman responding that’s what makes their relationship work.
Two consecutive fans gave Reedus gifts; a drawing of him and chocolate. “This is like Christmas up in here,” Reedus exclaimed.
Panel ended with a fan asking when “AIR” will be released — no set date yet.