NYCC: Gale Anne Hurd on "Dead Man's Run," "Walking Dead"

This weekend's New York Comic Con was a busy one for "The Walking Dead" executive producer and Valhalla Entertainment CEO Gale Anne Hurd. Not only does "The Walking Dead" season two premiere tonight at 9PM on AMC but the #0 issue of "Dead Man's Run," her new comic with writer Greg Pak, artist Tony Parker and Aspen Comics, is out in time for the convention as well.

Taking a break from her packed New York schedule, Hurd spoke with CBR about both the second season of "The Walking Dead" and "Dead Man's Run," telling CBR that she's already given fellow executive producer and "Walking Dead" comic creator Robert Kirkman a copy of her book.

"Robert and all the people at Aspen and Image [Comics] and Skybound [Entertainment, Kirkman's Image imprint] have been very helpful. It's certainly nice to have their support. It's a world they know as well as anybody," said Hurd.

While Hurd's production company, Valhalla, first came up with the idea for "Dead Man's Run," the man bringing it to life is Pak, the Marvel Comics creator behind popular titles "Incredible Hercules" and "Incredible Hulks."

"It's my second [series] with Aspen, the first is still in its run, ''The Scourge,' written by Scott Lobdell and drawn by Eric Battle," added Hurd, touching on the limited series that debuted from Aspen last summer.

The comic is about a man named Sam Tinker who is literally trying to escape from Hell. "It deals with, essentially, a prison break from Hell; our hero finds that he's died and, sadly, hasn't gone to Heaven!" laughed Hurd. More importantly, Sam quickly discovers he is not the only one in Hell. "Unfortunately, his innocent sister has ended up in Hell along with him, so he sets his mind on breaking her out."

Touching on the book's villains, Hurd explained that outside of the regular denizens of Hell, Sam would have to contend with some very dangerous antagonists.

"Hell is populated by the worst criminals and mass murders throughout time. So we get to deal with a whole host of villains and this especially interesting female warden," said Hurd. As for supporting cast, Hurd said that there would be a few key characters popping up in to help or hinder Sam.

"There are a couple of key characters; there's a former prison guard type character who is very significant, as well as the warden. So that's sort of our core," said Hurd.

"One of my executives at Valhalla, Ben Roberts, ['Dead Man's Run' was] something that he was really excited about. We'd been talking about it for a while, and we pitched it to Frank Mastromauro, who's one of the heads of Aspen Comics, and he loved it," said Hurd. Explaining that she had long been a fan of Pak, when Mastromauro asked who Hurd wanted to write the series, the producer had no doubts in her mind.

"I met him a few years ago at New York Comic Con, and we'd been talking for a while about doing something together," said Hurd, saying she and Pak had been talking about collaborating "almost as long as the [''Walking Dead'] TV series!"

Though there were no plans to spin the comic off into a television series at the moment, Hurd told CBR she felt the limited series format made for an easier adaptation to the big screen.

"'The Walking Dead' makes a fabulous comic book, but as Robert says, it would not have made a very good movie because it's the continuing saga of these survivors, there's no natural ending. So a limited series comic book, which at this point is what ''Dead Man's Run' is, might make for a good movie," said Hurd. Though she does feel the characters in "Dead Man's Run" are compelling enough to sustain a television series, Hurd's first concern is publishing the limited series. "You first have to get the comic book right, and then you go from there," she said.

Turning to the comic book-to-television property she is currently producing, Hurd said that one of the things she was most excited for fans to see in the new season of "The Walking Dead" was the fact that they were able to do another extended premiere for season two.

"It's exciting we were able to get another 90 minute slot, just as we did with the premiere of the first season...we get to ratchet up the tension and the stakes for our group of survivors," said Hurd.

The executive producer then laughed and added, "And there are quite a few close encounters with zombies -- some that don't end well!"

While the season is split into two parts, the first seven episodes airing beginning tonight and the second half returning in February, Hurd explained that the show's arc was untouched by the break. "I think it was important that we really have the dynamic seventh episode right before we break for quite a few weeks," added Hurd.

Hurd then said that season two gives some of the secondary characters like T-Dog, played by actor IronE Singleton, and Carol, played by actress Melissa McBride, a chance to come into their own.

"We get to see how each one of them responds to the ratcheting up of the jeopardy and the alliances that they form, as well as the conflicts," said Hurd.

The producer added that though there were herds of zombies popping up in the second season, there was no conscious effort to amp up the number of zombie encounters to increase tension or make the premiere feel like a huge television event.

"The way that it works in the writers' room is, you start with where the characters are and where they're going in a particular direction throughout the season and a particular episode and what those conflicts are," explained Hurd, adding, "We really see that any zombie encounter is an opportunity to illuminate character."

Even so, Hurd admitted with a laugh that she still gets the chills from the show's "undead cast members" on set.

"Greg [Nicotero's] creations are so real that they don't require a lot of CGI after the fact and when you see someone with sort of gross innards and human intestines hanging from their mouth it really tends to be better than any diet you ever tried because all of a sudden, lunch doesn't seem like a good idea!" laughed Hurd.

Despite the inclusion of Hershel Greene's farm this season, a major plot point in Kirkman's comic book, Hurd said that the show is not interested in simply bringing the comic exactly as is to the screen.

"We don't want to follow the comic book to the point where people say, 'Oh, it's like ''Watchmen," it's a panel-by-panel adaptation,'" said Hurd. "This is very much two parallel tracks in which we are inspired by the comic book."

Despite all the excitement surrounding both "The Walking Dead" and "Dead Man's Run," Hurd said what she had been looking forward to most at the con was interacting with fans.

"I know there's some people in the industry who go, 'I'll come down and make my appearance and I'll be inside one of those bubbles and then I'll leave.' But I'm also a fan and a geek myself, so I love to see what else is out there and meet other creators," said the producer. "I love going to the convention like every other fan. I just get lucky enough to be on a couple of panels!"

Proving her geek cred, Hurd enthusiastically rattled off a list of creators she was thrilled to have met at previous NYCCs, including Pak and DC Comics writer Gail Simone, citing Kirkman's "Invincible" as a great comic she is currently reading.

"Obviously, I'm a big Marvel fan, I'm really looking forward to 'The Avengers!'" added Hurd.

Bringing the interview to a close, Hurd revealed that the most important lesson she has taken away from the show is to always be prepared for the possibility of a zombie apocalypse.

"I've got my crossbow, I've got my axe and I have a ranch that has solar power and a well!" laughed Hurd. When asked if she had room on the ranch for a plucky CBR interviewer, she laughed again.

"I'm not going to tell anyone where it is!"

"The Walking Dead" returns tonight, October 16 at 9PM on AMC. "Dead Man's Run" issue #0 is available at NYCC from Aspen Comics; issue #1 hit stores in December

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