Opening his spotlight panel with the statement, “The Green Lantern panel is not taking place in this room. I just want to let you guys know that,” Image Comics partner Robert Kirkman proceeded to host a lively, Q&A heavy panel Friday at WonderCon, discussing a wide range of topics with fans, from how he thinks his move to Los Angeles is selling out, why he can’t look his son in the eye and tons of news on the various incarnations of “The Walking Dead.”
Accompanying Kirkman was “Walking Dead” editor Sina Grace, who introduced the writer as a Golden Globe nominee. “I’m a Golden Globe loser,” Kirkman responded, correcting his friend.
The conversation quickly focused in on Kirkman’s newest series, “Super Dinosaur.” “This is a book I’m pretty much only doing for my son to read,” said Kirkman. “It’s an all ages book, but it’s not just for kids. I’m promise someone will cry at some point, though, and it’ll be all depressing like ‘The Walking Dead.’ For the most part, it’ll be a dinosaur shooting missiles at things.”
The first issue of “Super Dinosaur” is out on April 20 with the “Super Dinosaur Super Special” out on Free Comic Book Day on May 7. “[The FCBD issue] is free, so at least get that one.”
Kirkman then talked about his upcoming series “The Infinite,” which is co-created and illustrated by Rob Liefield. “You may have heard of him; he’s a young up and coming artist.”
“The Infinite” is a sci-fi book about an older man who comes from the future to team up with his younger self. The book is way ahead of schedule, Kirkman said, with issue 3 already being worked on. “We hope to have four or five issues completed before the first issue ships.”
Despite how far in advance “The Infinite” is being drawn, “I wouldn’t ask when the next issue of ‘The Walking Dead’ is coming out,” said Kirkman. “We’re kinda going by the seat of our pants on that one. It still comes out on time, though.”
Grace then put up some images on screen, which were barely visible in a sea of blown out white. “These are ‘The Walking Dead’ covers, but you can’t tell,” said Grace.
“OK, I do a book called ‘The Walking Dead,’ and there were some covers I could have shown you, but do I really need to sell ‘The Walking Dead’ to you guys? Who in here doesn’t read ‘The Walking Dead?'” asked Kirkman, brushing past the technical failure.
Kirkman then discussed the first series debuting from his Skybound imprint, “Witch Doctor.” “‘Witch Doctor’ is probably the smartest comic book I’ve ever read,” said Kirkman, before inviting writer Brandon Seifert up on stage to talk about the series, which is illustrated by Lukas Ketner.
The smartly dressed Seifert said “It’s Dr. House meets Dr. Strange. A doctor looking for a vaccine for the apocalypse. The doctor is gonna shake an evil baby in the second issue. I just decided that.”
The topic shifted once again, this time to “Invincible” as an image appeared on the projector screen featuring someone new in the Invincible suit, with the year 2012 in huge numbers under him. “All I’ll say is that that is a different guy in the Invincible costume. Mark Grayson is not black, suddenly. I just want to make that clear,” joked Kirkman.
Grace then opened up the panel to the Q&A section of the hour.
The first fan asked Kirkman, referring to the just revealed image, if Mark would be losing the Invincible identity. “What, you think I’m gonna tell you?!” responded Kirkman. “You’ll see, don’t worry.”
A fan asked if there would be any ramifications from Nolan being back in “Invincible,” despite the fact he killed all the original members of the Guardians of the Globe. “Ehhh. He didn’t kill all of them,” said Kirkman, listing off two or three members who were still around.
Next, a female fan asked if the twist ending of the latest issue of “The Walking Dead” was planned for a long time. “Well, it wasn’t planned from the very beginning. I mostly burned through all of the plot lines I had set up from the very beginning. I’d like to say I knew exactly what was gonna happen in issue 83 when I was writing issue 1, but I didn’t know if issue 12 was even going to exist when I was writing issue 1. I had some longtime plans — the prison and Woodbury arcs — worked out before I even started the book.”
“The Carl thing was planned for a while,” he continued, to huge groans of disappointment from the crowd at the accidentally slipped spoiler. “‘The Carl thing.’ That’s a spoiler I guess, sorry! I’m not good at this, what do you guys want from me? Who hasn’t read issue 83 yet?” asked Kirkman, with a vast majority of the crowd raising their hands. “Wow! You guys must be reading the book in trades, right? Well, volume 14 — check it out in June. That’s when ‘the Carl thing’ happens!”
A fan then complimented Kirkman for creating Headpool, the Marvel Zombies version of Deadpool, who he thought was the greatest character ever. “Just to point this out, I don’t think that guy appeared until “Marvel Zombies 3,” which I did not write,” interrupted Kirkman to huge laughs from the crowd. “That was Fred Van Lente. I don’t think I had a thing to do with that.”
The embarrassed fan then asked if Kirkman thought prisons were a good place to hide during a zombie attack. “I don’t know, prisons don’t seem very fun. I will say, I haven’t ever been in a prison, so it could be a blast.”
What weapon would Kirkman use in a zombie apocalypse was the next topic. “A noose, because I would kill myself immediately!”
The conversation then turn to what will be in “The Walking Dead” TV series’ second season. Kirkman said that it would be coming in October and deal with a lot of issues from the second TPB collection. He also revealed that, unlike the first season, he has relocated to Los Angeles for the year so he can be in the writers’ room every day. “I don’t really talk about it publicly, though, ’cause I don’t want people to think I sold out and left Kentucky for California.”
Kirkman said the next issue of Science Dog, “Science Dog Super Special 2,” should be out soon, calling the artist “Cory ‘I’m always late’ Walker.”
Asked if he would ever consider killing Rick, Kirkman responded, “I’m planning on killing every character in “The Walking Dead” at some point.”
A fan asked about the episode of “The Walking Dead” Kirkman wrote, saying it was his favorite episode. “I’ve set a mandate that I get to kill a character in every episode of the show I write. Also, spoiler alert if you ever see my name in the credits!”
Kirkman responded to a question about what things inspire him when he writes. “I wear Speedos all the time. I’m wearing Speedos right now!” On a more serious note, he said he enjoys listening to “The Presidents of the United States of America” when writing “Invincible” and “Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds” when writing “The Walking Dead.”
Someone asked if Kirkman plans to do more “The Walking Dead” origin stories for character, like in “The Walking Dead” #75. “Maybe we’ll do something cool for ‘The Walking Dead’ #100, but there are no plans currently.”
Kirkman then told the audience he had met with the people at Telltale Games not 2 hours earlier at local Thai chain Osha to discuss the “Walking Dead” video game. He said that this game would not be the game where you run around killing zombies, but have all the depth and emotion that the comic book has. It should be out in October, available on two out of the three major systems of PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii.
The same questioner asked if Stephen King was still planning to write an episode of “The Walking Dead.” “I think Stephen King has confirmed we are in talks, and I think me and Frank would love to have Stephen King,” Kirkman replied. “All parties involved would like to make it happen, but it is unfortunately a little bit soon to say anything definitive.”
Someone asked where Kirkman see comics in cultural relevance in 2011. “Are you doing a thesis?!” joked Kirkman. He then said most people still read print comics, and while digital may be the future, it’s still decades away. “I don’t think print is going to be dying anytime soon. I think it’s very much alive and vibrant and blah blah blah.”
Two very young children, aged around 5 or 6, came up to the mic to ask a question. They wanted to know what Kirkman’s main inspiration was for “The Walking Dead.” “My aggravation at zombie movies ending. I have never really watched a zombie movie and thought, ‘that was a satisfying end.’ They’re all great and I love them, but they all just have this abrubt, ‘Well, everybody dies!’ kind of ending.” When they turned to leave, Kirkman shouted, “Hey, the other kid didn’t even ask a question! You were just along for the ride!”
A fan thanked Kirkman for giving “The Walking Dead” such a gender and racially diverse cast, then asked what sort of research he puts in to writing “The Walking Dead.” “I mostly make it up, I’ll be honest,” said Kirkman. He does some research, for practical things like dressing wounds, but sometimes just completely makes things up. Once, he got an angry letter from a medical professional who was upset because the way he had a character treat a wound, would have actually killed the character. “We didn’t print that letter!” joked Kirkman.
Kirkman then said he doesn’t care about the difference between the TV show and the comic book versions of “The Walking Dead” when asked by a fan about the CDC encounter in the TV show. Sometimes he’s even impressed by how the writers have characters react to different situations on the show in different ways than Kirkman originally wrote them. “The only reason I didn’t have them go to the CDC in the comic is because I didn’t even know the CDC was based in Atlanta!” he said. “Nobody knows where the CDC is! Have you ever seen CDC people on the news? We don’t even know what those people do!”
Kirkman did confirm, however, that the character The Governor, from “The Walking Dead” comic book, would eventually make it to the TV series, as well as Hershel’s farm and the character of Maggie.
In a similarly veined question, Kirkman said the video game would not adapt specific stories, saying it would be boring to re-do stories from the comic.
The same fan asked if there would ever be a black and white episode of the TV show. Kirkman said that they have talked about it, but it probably wouldn’t happen. The show airs on AMC, also known as American Movie Classics, and when people see something black and white on the channel, they just assume it’s an old movie.
Kirkman commented on the strong father/son elements in both “The Walking Dead” and “Invincible.” “I have lots of issues with my father, I guess. My dad didn’t beat me up and try to take over the world. My dad doesn’t kill people in front of me all the time. I mean, he has killed a couple people in front of me, just not all the time.”
Since Kirkman is from Kentucky, someone wanted to know what his favorite kind of bourbon is. “I don’t drink at all,” admitted Kirkman to a disappointed crowd.
A man who had traveled to WonderCon from Atlanta asked whether “The Walking Dead” would continue to film in his city. Kirkman confirmed that the series would continue to film in the city, and wished the fan good luck on his dream of becomingbecome a zombie extra.
A boy who looked to be around 8 years old asked Kirkman if “The Walking Dead” would ever get to the point where it’s just Rick wandering around by himself. “We had that for a little while, kind of. It was just him and Carl. I mean, maybe eventually. There will always be new people who come in to the book and get killed. You’re exposing the cycle! Don’t let these people realize what’s going in the book or they’re gonna stop reading!”
The boy then ran up to the stage to hi-five Kirkman, barely able to jump high enough to slap the writer’s hand.
The next person in line asked whether he used different script formats for different writers, but Kirkman said he writes in the same format for every script he writes.
When asked if he planned to ever stop raining crap on Rick, the main character of “The Walking Dead,” Kirkman said, “The book will just be a terrible succession of horrible things happening to that man.”
Kirkman was then asked why he always wrote scientists as evil and weasely, since the fan’s girlfriend was a scientist. “The reason all scientists are portrayed as being weasely, evil and somewhat sinister is because all scientists are weasely, evil and somewhat sinister, including your girlfriend!”
A fan wanted to know what scares Kirkman, who admitted to being frightened by ghosts and birds. He told a story of how a bird landed on his arm when he visited the zoo with his 4-year old son. Kirkman screamed and ran out of the bird area, waiting for 10 minutes for his son to come out. “I haven’t been able to look my son in the eye since.”
Finishing off the panel, someone asked which comic book character Kirkman would love to write. “There was a time when I would have liked to gotten ahold of Spider-Man, but that kind of stuff just doesn’t interest me anymore. It’s not cool that all of the most talented people in comics just want to write Batman and Superman and Spider-Man and Wolverine. I wish all those people would just create their own comics.”