"I'm gonna do my best not to spoil anything," said Robert Kirkman, the man who knows exactly where "The Walking Dead" is going in both its TV and comic book iterations. "But I can't promise anything."
In our spoiler-sensitive modern pop ecosystem, it was only a matter of time -- about 13 minutes -- before a fan at the free-form Emerald City Comicon Q&A with Image Comics partner Robert Kirkman mentioned a major death in the just-finished second season of AMC's "The Walking Dead" television series -- and received a healthy round of boos from the crowd.
Kirkman, who launched "The Walking Dead" comic book series in 2003 with artist Tony Moore, noted that some characters who've had long lives in the still-ongoing comic book might not make it so far as the AMC show evolves. "I think the show should be even more different than the comic, but this is just me," Kirkman told the sizeable crowd gathered in the Seattle ballroom. "I think it's a crazy world, and you have to portray that."
TV and comics are very different formats with a different set of rules and guidelines. "Not many people are willing to go as far as I did," Kirkman said of his work in "The Walking Dead" comic when asked "how far" AMC is willing to let Kirkman and the other writers on their hit series go in their portrayal of a world overrun by walking corpses.
Kirkman's comic book series avoids the whys and wherefores of the zombie plague, and instead questions the way human values might change while confronting it. Aside from the wholesale killing of humans by zombies and vice versa, it has also featured human-on-human murder, child killing, insanity, dismemberment, and sexual abuse.
"They may not be able to portray certain things the same way I did, but that doesn't mean they're not going to happen," said Kirkman, who serves as both a writer and executive producer on the show.
Katana-swinging Michonne, one of the survivors' most valuable assets in the comic book's zombie war, turned up in the season-two ender to begin her TV arc. Kirkman also pointed to the recent casting of British actor David Morrissey as the Governor, a popular and sadistic character, who will play a major role in the show's third season, set to premiere in October.
"The Governor that's in the TV show is going to be the same Governor that's in the comic book," Kirkman assured the crowd.
Kirkman said the process of working on the TV show is vastly different and more collaborative than working on his comics. "I work with Charlie Adlard, I work with Ryan Ottley, I work with Jason Howard and a lot of other people -- but I'm not, like, in a room with them a lot, discussing the stories.
"When I write for a comic, I'm just like 'Aw, it'd be cool if this guy bust through the wall and punched this guy!' 'Okay, that's awesome, let's go!' It's a quick process, and it's a lot of fun. Then when you're writing for television, it's like, 'Would it be cool if the guy bust through the wall? Would he punch him, or would he kick him? What kind of wall would he come through? How fast would he come through the wall?' And you end up kind of crafting a better story. Sometimes."
The talk branched out into other Kirkman creations including his first published comic series "Battle Pope" with Tony Moore, "Invincible" (with Cory Walker and Ottley), and "Super Dinosaur." Should his fortunes ever fail and his other projects fall apart, Kirman said, "I'm gonna do some more issues of 'Battle Pope,' and then I'm gonna shoot myself."
His strategy is roughly the same in the event of a real-life zombie apocalypse. "I've written 'The Walking Dead!' I know it's gonna be bad!" he said.
As for the long-running "The Walking Dead" comic book, Kirkman announced it will soon shift to an every-three-weeks publication schedule as things ramp up for the landmark #100.