So when Kirkman stopped by the CBR Tiki Room at New York Comic Con, the table was wide open to a range of topics including his new slow boil comic series "Outcast" with artist Paul Azaceta, the calm before the next major storm of horror in the pages of "Walking Dead" and the impending spinoff of the TV series that focuses on an entirely new set of zombie apocalypse survivors.
On "Outcast's" larger conspiracy storyline: "The story of 'Outcast' -Â over time you will realize what it is. You don't really realize what it is yet, which is exciting to me but could possibly be frustrating for an audience. So I'm happy that people seem to be on board for the ride. But it'll probably be issue #18 or 26 where people finally go 'Oh wait! They're actually doing this. That's very strange.' This new guy Sidney that has come to town who seems a little evil, a little demonic? He might be a fairly shady character, but he is a part of all that. The world's going to start opening up a little bit, and we'll start peeling the layers back on the mythology, and you'll get to see what it is Kyle finds he's at the center of."
On keeping his comics full of unexpected twists: "['The Walking Dead'] jumps the shark every month depending on what part of the internet you're looking at, which is a delight to me. I enjoy it...Freedom is a double-edged sword, and I like to say for better or for worse I can do whatever I want. Matt Fraction's made this joke before too, but it's like 'I can totally screw my book up if I want to.' And that's great, but [for instance] we'll have to see how people respond to the new issues of 'Invincible.' It's getting weird!
"Once you do 100-some odd issues of something, you've got to do something to change it up. But every time I take one of these series in a new direction, I'm risking alienating the people who have been supporting us for so long. So you have to walk that fine line of 'I need to draw more people to the book' and 'I have to keep engaging people with the book' but 'I also have to not drive people away.' At the end of the day, I just do stuff I think is neat."
On the horrors around the corner in "The Walking Dead" comic: "Every now and then, the book can appear cyclical. It's 'Oh, there's another bad guy they have to deal with' or 'Oh, they're going to lose their sanctuary again and be on the road or whatever.' I'll just say it's definitely not that [coming up.] There's always going to be another new conflict and another new threat on the horizon, but I feel like over the life of the series, Rick and the core group have been dealing with things in an evolving way. So even if they've encountered similar kinds of threats, it's been by design so you can see how they've handled a similar threat now that they've lived through so much stuff.
"There's certainly a big threat on the horizon, and things are going to get more dire than they have been for the past couple of issues -Â again, as it so often happens in 'The Walking Dead.' But there are going to be some major differences. This new beginning, this new world -Â it's not going away any time soon. These are very different people now."
On the society behind the horrific talking zombies of recent issues: "I get excited about stuff like that. It's been years at this point since I started building towards this. But it's really just an evolution of Michone's character. When Michone was introduced, she had come up with this system of armless, jawless zombies that acted as a masking agent to allow her to travel freely in the world. As we get deeper and deeper into this world, it becomes a question of how people have survived this long. We've seen Rick and his group and how they've survived for as long as they have, but when you see new people, they've survived in different ways, and they've evolved in different ways. When you look at the series and the way it's evolved now, you've got Rick leading one community and Maggie leading another. And we haven't even checked in on the other communities in this area. But it's very much about pockets of civilization.
"Now we're going to find some people who have survived in a way that maybe doesn't rely on civilization. It's a bit more of a savage existence that's evolved for this group, and we're going to see those two world views clash. I'm pretty excited for where that's going to go."
On the spinoff series from "The Walking Dead" TV show and how it veers from the comics: "I wrote the pilot with Nave Ericson, the showrunner. But the central [idea of] what we're doing with that show started with me going, 'I'm a different person now. What would I do in 'The Walking Dead' space [today]?' I started doing 'Walking Dead' as a spunky 24-year-old. I was faster and better in every way! Now I'm old and tired. I have kids now...I'm in a different place, and so I very much from the outset thought, 'I'm going to compete with that idiot from the past and see what I can do.'
"There hasn't ever been any leftover ideas from 'The Walking Dead' that I could use in something like this, but it is an opportunity for me to start over from scratch and see 'Can I - working with Dave - construct a new world and a new pocket of this universe that is just as entertaining but completely different. And I think we've pulled it off. We're casting now, and we've got a date for when we're filming. Things are moving pretty quickly, and I hope around summer next year we can start talking with people more about it."