Kirkman on the Past and Future of "Haunt"

The words "sibling rivalry" take on a whole new meaning in the pages of "Haunt," Robert Kirkman and Todd McFarlane's new ongoing series released by Image Comics. The creative duo, alongside penciler Ryan Ottley and layout artist Greg Capullo, recently wrapped the first arc of the series and introduced readers to a world of high-stakes espionage, supernatural dealings and a pair of mismatched brothers that just can't quit each other, even after one of them dies.

Fans that missed the opening adventure of Daniel and Kurt Kilgore will have a chance to catch up when the first "Haunt" trade paperback is released on March 24th, 2010. Additionally, the trade - which collects the first five issues of the series - ships out on the same date as "Haunt" #6, affording new readers with the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the series. In anticipation of the trade's release and the upcoming sixth issue, CBR News spoke with Robert Kirkman about his thoughts on the opening arc of "Haunt," where the series is heading in the future, and much more.

CBR News: Robert, now that the first arc of "Haunt" is completed, how do you think it reads in one fell swoop? Are you pretty happy with how it turned out?

Robert Kirkman: As far as [writing] opening story arcs go, I don't think that I'm that great at it. I like to build stuff a little bit too much and sometimes the act of getting to the point isn't as entertaining as I mean for it to be. Historically, over the course of my career, my opening arcs on books aren't very good representations of what the books are going to be. The opening issues of "Invincible" are certainly entertaining, but not nearly as cool as the stuff that comes after, and I guess you could say that about "The Walking Dead."

"Haunt," on the other hand, I'm actually very proud of. I think the first five issues are actually a pretty clear indication of what's coming up in the book, and I was able to cram a lot of cool stuff into the earlier issues - more so than I usually do. I'm really pleased with how the whole thing came together.

How do you feel the characters of Daniel and Kurt Kilgore have developed from the first issue to where they are now - do you feel like you've gotten a better sense of them?

Oh, yeah. Definitely. As people start reading issues #4 and #5, you realize that there's a lot more going on between those two than what was originally hinted at. We're going to explore that a lot more as the series goes on. And Daniel Kilgore as the main character of the book, I think there's quite a bit more to say about him. The second arc of the series, which runs from issues #7 - #12, is largely devoted to Daniel and us getting to know him. The first arc ends with him being brought into the fold of the spy organization that Kurt works for, so [the second arc] is going to be a fun new beginning to the series, kind of like an opening arc.

The first issues [of "Haunt"] kind of focus on Kurt a little more than they do Daniel. Right now, we're transitioning to focusing on Daniel a little bit more than Kurt. As we peel back those layers and learn more about Kurt in the first arc, we're going to be doing the same with Daniel here. He'll have to train to do that new job. We'll get to know him more, so I'm pretty excited about that. There's a lot more to learn about that guy.

At the beginning of "Haunt," Daniel and Kurt have a very bad relationship with each other. Now that they're forced into being around each other all of the time - Kurt can't do anything without Daniel, and Daniel can't really shake him off - how do you feel their relationship has progressed?

The interesting part about that relationship for me is that they didn't really know each other well at all [before Kurt died]. Daniel was as surprised as the readers to find out how much of a horrible person Kurt was before his death. Aside from not really liking each other and the tension that comes from that, they're learning quite a bit about each other. As they do that, they'll get to know each other [more]. The tension will always be there, but hopefully they'll understand each other a bit more by the end of issue #12.

How has the concept of Haunt itself, the entity formed when Daniel and Kurt combine, evolved from when you initially started working on the series with Todd to the point you're at now?

It's extremely complicated, much more so than I thought it would be, moving forward with the series. Who's talking when? Who's controlling what? Wrapping your head around that and establishing that in a way that readers can understand and keeping it straight in your head - it's a pain in the ass. [Laughs] I'm getting the handle of it a bit more, and there will be some clarification on the rules as we move forward to explain how Haunt works.

But those rules are starting to come into focus. When Kurt is emotionally charged, there are repercussions for Daniel - he gets weaker. If Haunt is shot at point blank range, the costume/exo-armor works like a bulletproof vest and he'll break a few ribs.

I've got to give credit to Todd on that, actually. He was the one pressing to make sure that Haunt had weaknesses and wasn't too indestructible, and he's right - it makes the character more interesting. He was the one always saying, "I know he can do all of this cool stuff, but what can't he do? What are his limitations? What hurts him?" He was always the bug in my ear steering me towards that stuff.

One of the cool things coming up that people might not be expecting is that there's a pretty heavy supernatural element to this series, because one of the [brothers] is a ghost and they form this magical whatever-the-hell-it-is thing. We haven't really dealt with that much, so moving forward, there will be an increasing amount of supernatural elements to the book. The book is going to change a little bit as we move forward.

There are already a lot of genres at play in "Haunt." There's the supernatural element in Kurt's presence as a ghost. Kurt's also a professional spy, so there's an espionage angle. When he forms together with Daniel, they create something of a superhero type of character. Does that keep it fresh for you, more or less having your pick of genres to play with within "Haunt?"

I just can't make up my mind. [Laughs] I just throw it all in there! We're going to be putting in some historical non-fiction in there, too.

It should get interesting when he signs up for clown school in issue #18...

Yeah, we'll work up some straight romance to throw in there, too. [Laughs] No, it keeps things interesting. I'd like to think that over the course of a person's life, you move through different genres. One day your life is a comedy, one day it's a horrifically depressing drama, and that's how things go. Some days, it's more of a horrific drama than it is a comedy. I don't know. None of my books really stick to their genre consistently. I like changing things up.

For different arcs, I'll probably lean more towards one than another, just to unify the stories and keep them thematically the same throughout trade paperbacks. The first arc probably leans a little bit more towards espionage. The second arc, maybe less so. The third arc is going to be pretty heavily supernatural. And then our fourth arc is going to be all about clowns. [Laughs]

The next issue, "Haunt" #6, focuses on Mirage, Kurt's former lover and fellow spy. What can you say about the issue?

It'll be neat with the issue and the trade coming out on the same day, because the trade tells that opening story. By the time you get to "Haunt" #5, you see how Mirage's story sort of intertwines with Kurt's, and issue #6 focuses on that. It goes back in time and tells the same story that happened in issues #1 - #5, but from Mirage's point of view. You'll see her dealing with Kurt before his death and little things you didn't see in the first five issues that affected that story. Along the way, we'll learn a bit more about her and her relationship with Kurt.

This is also the first issue where Greg Capullo takes over for Ryan Ottley as the new monthly artist.

I've been a big fan of Greg's for years. He hasn't done a lot of comic books as of late, but he's really hit the ground running - there's absolutely no rust on that pencil. When people see issue #6, I think they're going to be pretty thrilled. It's slightly different from how the book looked when Ryan was working off of Greg's layouts. It has a little bit of a different look to it. But people are familiar with Greg's work and how it looks when Todd's inking it, so it will be cool to have that vibe back in comics. It's been a while, and it looks spectacular. I couldn't be happier.

The sixth issue comes out on the same day as the first trade paperback, so everything "Haunt" related is all out there in more or less one shot. What's the thought process here?

A lot of people wait for the trade these days. Some creators complain about that, but it doesn't really bother me. I understand that it can technically hurt some sales of the book if nobody's buying the book, which kind of defeats the purpose of doing a trade if the book isn't selling well - I definitely understand that. But you don't really go see a movie so that there's definitely a DVD. It's not the consumer's fault that the industry is in the shape that it's in, so I don't know how I really feel about the whole thing.

But for people who are waiting for the trade, the trade is finally coming out. For those people that have held off on the book, shipping the next issue on the same day is a bit of an enticement to get them to jump on the series. For people still on the fence that haven't really tried the book yet but are interested in giving it a shot, this is a convenience thing. We're trying to make it as convenient as possible for people to jump on the series. That's why we've done so many second printings, to make sure that the book is available for people. Now they'll be able to get the first six issues for something like $2 [an issue]. I don't know what the math breakdown is, but it's definitely cheap!

It's all about making things as accommodating as possible for the readership. So if you want to get the trade, you can do that. If you want to wait for the next trade, you can do that, too. If you really enjoy the trade, you can run back to the store on that same day and grab the next issue. If you want to put the trade in a plastic bag and buy another trade to read, you can buy two trades! If you want to keep one in a safety deposit box and another one in a bag so you can look at it and have another one as a read copy, you can buy three! [Laughs]

Looking ahead, you've talked about how the upcoming arc focuses on Daniel's spy training and the arc after that is a bit more prominent on the supernatural side of things. How far down the road have you mapped out? Do you have a pretty good sense of where "Haunt" is headed?

I like to keep things loose in case I have a better idea, but I pretty much know where we're going to be at issue #25, and I have plans for after that. It's really important when you're doing a regular series to keep things as compelling as possible. One way to do that is to plan ahead. You can do it by the seat of your pants and that's fun, I've done that before - I won't tell you on which books! - but when you have a plan, you can put exciting events in where they need to be to keep people compelled and make sure that there's enough track lead ahead so that there aren't any bumps along the way. So I try to think ahead. I think it's cooler when you're reading a comic and you have the sense that the writer knows exactly what's coming up and is able to put the pieces in order and hint at certain things and follow up on subplots in an overarching long-term sort of way. That's what I like to do.

The first "Haunt" trade paperback and "Haunt" #6 arrive in stores on March 24th, 2010.

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