ECCC12: Kirkman and Company Discuss Skybound

Robert Kirkman played host to several of the creators from his Image Comics Skybound Entertainment imprint for a panel at Emerald City Comicon. In a conversation moderated by Sina Grace, Skybound's Editorial Director, Kirkman spent an hour talking with Jason Howard, "Super Dinosaur" artist and co-creator, Brandon Seifert, creator and writer of "Witch Doctor," and "Invincible" artist Ryan Ottley. The creators discussed their current projects and what's in the future for Skybound.

Beginning with a brief look at "The Walking Dead" and its current storyline, "A Larger World," in which Rick, and his community, discover a network of similar groups, Kirkman said, "They eventually find out that there's a lot of blood in these communities. So, in true 'Walking Dead' fashion, not everything is exactly what it seems and there ends up being a pretty dark turn by the end of the story...'A Larger World' leads right into the 'Something to Fear' storyline, that will actually take us through issue 100. In discovering these new communities, he discovers a community that is a very dangerous threat to everyone else."

The "Larger World" story arc is scheduled for an April 18 conclusion, with "The Walking Dead" shipping every three weeks through issue #100.

Kirkman then hinted at the sidelining or possible death of character Mark Grayson in light of the passing of the Invincible mantle to Bulletproof. "It's another transition in 'Invincible,'" he said. "[We're] trying to tell different kinds of stories and keeping the thing moving and developing so that it's interesting after a hundred issues. We're always trying to do new things and this is another one of those."

Brandon Seifert announced the upcoming publication of the six-issue "Witch Doctor: Malpractice," due to launch around Halloween. "The first miniseries was really heavily focused on monsters. We did our take on vampires, our take on fairy changelings, some Lovecraft stuff. The second volume is going to be more focused on magic, as kind of like a medical metaphor."Seifert said. "Morphine is this amazing, life-saving painkiller that you can sell for a profit on the street, that you can put in someone's drink, that you can kill somebody with an overdose. It all depends on how you use it. In 'Witch Doctor,' that's the same thing with magic. It can be this wonderful, beneficial thing, or, if you're a douche bag, you can do awful stuff with it."

Before opening the conversation up for questions, Grace called a surprise guest out of the crowd, the writer/artist of "G-Man," Chris Giarrusso.

"During 'The Walking Dead' television show, from time to time, I catch a lot of flak because its not a very direct adaptation of the comic book," Kirkman said. "Chris came to me with this really cool idea. We're going to do an adaptation of 'The Walking Dead' that is exactly, panel for panel, exactly what happened in the comic book series, but, it's going to be a different kind of comic that's going to be for kids! So we're gonna do 'The Walking Dead for Kids!'...Every storyline, every panel, every line of dialogue, all the cuss words, all the violence...but for kids!"

As the April Fool's cover was displayed on screen to the delight of the audience, Giarrusso declared, "It's gonna be cute!"

Asked how he entered the comic book industry, Kirkman recounted his time spent working at a comic shop as a teenager. "I found out from working at that comic shop how comics are distributed, and how they get to stores, Kirkman answered. "I knew some people that shopped at the store that had done fanzines and stuff like that."

Around the age of 20, Kirkman said that he and some friends, including artist Tony Moore, began their own publishing label, Funk-O-Tron, and began working on the book "Battle Pope." Kirkman managed, before printing a single copy, to get the book listed in the Diamond catalogue. When he couldn't find a publisher, Kirkman decided to do it himself.

"I went around and found people that knew printers and ended up, like, teaching myself how to publish a comic while I was waiting for numbers to come in. All the while, Tony [Moore] and I were working on 'Battle Pope,' like, figuring out how you put art on an artboard, and how you letter a comic, and we basically just had to teach ourselves how to do all that stuff."

Eventually "Battle Pope" caught the eye of Erik Larsen, who brought Kirkman to Image.

Another audience member, stating that he sometimes found the violence of Kirkman's books extreme, asked about the portrayal of violence and sex in comic books.

"I'll sum it up," Kirkman joked. "Violence is awesome, sex is icky.

"That's the American mindset," he continued. "It's ridiculous. You know, everybody has sex. Everybody has sexual situations that they experience in their life and not everyone has, like, these gruesome violent encounters that you would see in fiction, so it is kind of absurd that Americans are so adverse to graphic sex being portrayed in entertainment, but violence is perfectly fine."

A neuroscience student then asked Seifert if he works with scientists or doctors to figure out how zombies or vampirism could occur. Seifert replied that he does, in fact, consult with a number of medical experts when writing his books, often approaching them with outlandish questions.

"When you die, there're always some things that happen to you," he explained. "One of them is rigor mortis, and then there's also things like livor mortis, and pallor mortis. Pallor mortis is the paleness of death, that would be, you know, zombies and vampires; that would be why they're pale. The reason that happens is because your blood is no longer being pumped around your body, so gravity is just pulling it down to the point that's closest to the ground.

"I asked a bunch of different doctors and medical people, 'If you have a corpse that was walking around, basically, where would the blood go? Would it move around, or would it be, like, locked in a part of the body, or what?'

"For me, the point is figuring out the biological basis for this stuff, and then also throwing a bunch of magic at it."

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