"The Walking Dead" is now a major pop culture franchise, and the Image Comics series that started it all is celebrating its 10th anniversary in conspicuous fashion: With a 12-issue arc titled "All Out War."
Starting in October's "The Walking Dead" #115, the story arc is scheduled to ship biweekly, and features the battling factions of survivors waging, well, an all out war. As the solicitation to issue #115 puts it: "It's Rick versus Negan with a little help from everyone else!"
Franchise creator Robert Kirkman discussed "All Out War" in a conference call with the comic book press on Thursday. Ron Richards, Image's director of business development, started the call by asking Kirkman what the world looks like as of Walking Dead" #115.
"The 'All Out War' storyline is really a culmination of years and years of storytelling," Kirkman said. "It's really about these communities that are formed. The world is changing and things are getting a little bigger and more complicated, and more dangerous as a result," Kirkman says. "I'm finally at a point in 'The Walking Dead' where civilization is starting to rebuild."
"There's probably going to be some people dying in this storyline," Kirkman continued.
Richards asked Kirkman how series artist Charlie Adlard is adjusting to the accelerated schedule. "Charlie is fine, it's really me I want to talk about, I'm very stressed out, this is a lot of work," the writer answers. To help keep schedule, Kirkman said, Stefano Gaudiano will join the book as an inker, a "Walking Dead" first.
First press question, from CBR News: How even is the playing field as "All Out War' starts? "It's actually completely uneven as you'll see when the story unfolds," Kirkman said. "As the story begins, we've seen the Hilltop and the Alexandria and the Kingdom align against the Saviors, so it seems very lopsided, but that's not going to be the status quo throughout this storyline. There's going to be some upheaval, and some people will seem stronger than they first appear. I'm not going to say that three-community unity will continue through the storyline. Like what often happens in 'The Walking Dead,' I think we'll quickly see that Rick maybe has bitten off more than he can chew."
Next question, from Newsarama: Does "The Walking Dead" deliberately avoid a status quo? "I feel like change is a very big aspect of the story of 'The Walking Dead,' and ever-shifting, ever-evolving status quo is I think is a big part of that," Kirkman answered.
Next question, from MTV Geek asked for clarification on the schedule: It'll be biweekly in every month except October and November.
Also from MTV Geek: Is "All Out War" building up to something even bigger? The story's always building to something bigger, Kirkman replied. "It is a war, and there's quite a bit going on. It is going to be very fast paced. But at times, it will slow down. I do plan on telling quite a bit of story over these 12 issues."
Back to CBR for a second question: Beyond the obvious main players, which supporting characters play an important role in the story? "Holly, who's been around for a while," Kirkman said. "There's going to be a lot done with her in this storyline. I think Heath is another character you can look out for. There's actually going to be quite a bit done with Maggie back in the Hilltop. We're also going to see a lot of Aaron and Eric."
Another question from Newsarama: Are there characters that Kirkman has been waiting to kill off that are going to die in "All Out War"? Not necessarily, Kirkman says. "I always reserve the right to be writing an issue and deciding on the fly, 'No, that guy's going to die.' Because I get a lot of enjoyment out of that."
"There are going to be a good number of deaths," Kirkman continued. "You can't have a war without casualties."
Next question, from MTV Geek: What collected edition should readers look to as a good precursor to "All Out War"? Kirkman suggested starting with Volume 12, "Life Among Them."
Question from Image: What does Kirkman channel when writing Negan? "Negan is a combination of things I have sometimes wanted to say to people but never have the balls to, and funny things I've heard people say," Kirkman answered. "Every now and then I say something a little wacky that gets a chuckle: 'That'll work as a Negan line.'"
"But really, he's a horrible human being," Kirkman continued. "Often I think of the absolute worst thing to say in a situation, and the worst way to react." Negan is the central character of "All Out War," Kirkman said.
One more question from Newsarama: Have the human survivors forgotten about the walkers, and does that come into play? "My hope is that some of the readers, because of the last year or so of the book, have kind of forgotten that this is a war populated by zombies," Kirkman said. "That is going to come into play in a huge way, and hopefully in an unexpected way."
The Walking Dead #115 is scheduled for release on Oct. 9.