CCI: Kirkman's Skybound Entertainment Panel

The zombies of Robert Kirkman's AMC TV series "The Walking Dead" may be splattering across hotel elevators in viral marketing across San Diego during Comic-Con International 2011, but Thursday afternoon it was all about Kirkman's comics label at the Skybound Entertainment panel. A growing fixture in the Image Comics family of imprints and a major piece of Image's booth on the show's floor, Skybound brought out a wide range of talent including Kirkman, his "The Infinite" artist Rob Liefeld, incoming "Thief of Thieves" co-writer Nick Spencer and more.

And CBR News was on hand for a full report including news of "Thief of Thieves" artist, a new series of graphic novels by Kirkman and Charlie Adlard and much, much more.

The panel got rolling with introductions of the guests which also included Brandon Seifert of Skybound's just launched "Witch Doctor" series, however more surprises were promised for later in the proceedings. The panel proceeded with a catch up on the first year of Skybound as an Image imprint.

"'Walking Dead' and 'Invincible' are still doing okay," Kirkman said of the core of the line before noting other new projects like his all-ages series "Super Dinosaur" and Spencer and Shawn Martinborough's "Thief of Thieves."

Discussion moved on to "Witch Doctor" whose first issue sold out at the distributor level. Seifert joked that his artist Lukas Ketner was in the building and pushing his way through people to get to the panel. "The second issue [of the book] is this fairy changeling kind of story," the writer said of the medical/horror mashup's latest installment. The panel announced that a following up "Witch Doctor's" first mini series will be a one-shot in December and a second mini series in March. A cover was shown for the one-shot featuring an invisible man in a bathtub full of ice a la horror tales of organ farming.

Seifert explained that the mystery of the story involves a man who wakes in a bathtub with an incision over his kidney, but when he goes to the hospital, they tell him he still has two kidneys. The mystery becomes what is the second kidney in his body. "There's a lot of fun things you can do with the magical/medical mashup we're doing. This story starts with the Doctor doing a tarot reading with X-Rays. We're going to have a lot of fun," the writer said as Ketner joined him on stage.

"Thief of Thieves" was up next as Kirkman explained his goal for the series was to run a comic more like the writers room of a TV as he's been doing on "The Walking Dead" on AMC. "It's going to be me plotting the series with a bunch of different writers" the first of whom will be Spencer who will write the final scripts. "It feels like a book that's better than anything I could have written," said Kirkman.

Spencer explained that the book focuses on thief Conrad Paulson who's job as "become his addiction." He decides to change his ways, but since he's still addicted to thieving, he opts to only steal from other thieves. "This first arc is about getting to know Conrad AKA Redman," Spencer said, noting his son and other family members will play a role in the book. "It was a real honor to get asked by Robert to do this story...there's so much to explore in this character and his life. If you're interested in a noir book that's a little bit of a caper, check this out." The book will launch in February 2012 with art from the just announced Martinborough.

Kirkman and Liefeld talked up "The Infinite" which has a Deluxe Edition on sale at the show before it hits comic shops on August 3. Liefeld joked that when he initially designed lead hero Bowen who comes back from the future to recruit his younger self into a time war, his decision to make the older version much taller than the younger had Kirkman balking. To convince him it was all right, Liefeld sent his writer a collection of NBA stars photos who hit growth spurts between their college days and their prime time in the league. Kirkman knew none of the players, but took the point.

"Invincible" will soon be back on track, and a new cover was shown focusing on the mystery hero wearing Invincible's costume while Mark Grayson buddies up with villain Dinosaurus. "There's going to be a lot of things coming up in recent issues following up on 'The Viltrumite War'...and we've got Cory Walker coming back to do issues #85 and 86 of the series," the writer explained that the war story set the schedule back on the series as artist Ryan Ottley took his time to make the two-page spreads really shine. Kirkman's decision on the timing of the book was "This is a monumental part of the series that we're going to be looking back at 10 years from now, and I don't want to cut corners."

Kirkman and Charlie Adlard will soon launch a series of graphic novels called "Album" with "Album One" holding a story called "The Passenger." The graphic novels will run around 56 pages and come out in the oversized album format like "The Infinite's" Deluxe Edition - a format Kirkman loves. The writer described "The Passenger" saying "It's basically about a future where sadly, we're still very much dependent on fossile fuels." A company that mines crude oil in space sends men on year-long trips out into space to harvest fuel, but in the series one ship is beset both by space pirates and a killer robot whose trapped on the vessel with the crew.

Asked how he names his characters, Kirkman said that he initially wanted to name Invincible "Kid Cosmic" but artist Cory Walker said it sounded dumb. Other names like Darkwing were inspired by, yes, Darkwing Duck while Dinosaurus was named by his son.

Kirkman then related how he came up with "The Infinite" while pushing Liefeld to draw "more pouches and guns." Liefeld joked the book was born over many plates of nachos, though Kirkman insisted it was one nacho plate per meeting. The writer followed up saying, "Characters that look like they can't walk look awesome."

A fan dressed as Invincible asked after a story following the Viltrumites left on earth. Kirkman promised that he'd get back to it, but admitted there were two "Invincible" plotlines in the book he's forgotten to follow up on over the years. One is from the Viltrumites which he'll get back to, but the other involved the bag of trash that landed in England that he wanted to turn the moment into a crossover with "Jack Staff" where Kirkman would write his ill-informed version of an England where people worship trash, but it never happened.

At that point, a man stepped to the mic and introduced himself as "Darkwing Duck" creator Tad Stones who was in the audience as a fan. "Only at Comic-Con!" cried Kirkman saying the character he named after Stones' capes mallard isn't used that much. "You're fine with me, but Disney owns it so keep quite," Stones said.

A fan asked Spencer about the status of his series "Infinite Vacation." Spencer promised that the book would be finished by the end of the year and that the third issue is being drawn. The writer admitted that "Marvel happened" and delayed the book getting done monthly.

Krkman promised a fan that the "Walking Dead" TV series would continue to move towards plots from the comic including placed like Woodbury and characters like the Governor and Dale, but he said detours from the book are needed and all the changes are vetted by him in the writer's room first.

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