NYCC: Robert Kirkman Spotlight

Did you know ,a href="https://www.comicbookresources.com/tag/robert+kirkman">Robert Kirkman partially based Axel from "The Walking Dead" on the writer's one-time Marvel Comics editor Axel Alonso? According to Kirkman, Alonso would pepper their conversations with "You follow me?" a saying that gave Kirkman such a kick, he bestowed the catchphrase upon the grizzled prisoner. Facts and stories like this flowed from the writer during his New York Comic Con spotlight panel, much to the enjoyment of assembled con-goers.

After a whirlwind of a weekend thanks to non-stop appearances and signings, Kirkman was openly tired during the panel, but that didn't stop the charismatic creator from entertaining the huge room of fans. Sitting onstage along with "Walking Dead" editor Sina Grace, Kirkman ran through a slideshow that had been previously shown at the Skybound panel before jumping directly into a Q&A session that hit the obvious questions about his influences, delved into some meatier territory and ended with one unpopular fan's spoiling of the previous weekend's "Breaking Bad" season finale.

Kirkman started off by discussing his Album series of graphic novels with Charlie Adlard. The first of which, called "The Passenger," will be out next April and tell the story of a robot running amok on a rocket on its way back to Earth. He also talked up "Thief of Thieves," an ongoing story of an art thief turning over a new leaf. Kirkman explained how the origins of "Thief" came from his decision to write in a similar way to television by getting a group of writers together to collaborate on story, then break off and do scripts on their own. Nick Spencer will be the first co-writer for the February-launching title. "Invincible" will continue on schedule, thanks to fill-ins by Cory Walker on #85 and #86, both issue of which have been in the works for a while. After talking about how fun it is to write both "Super Dinosaur" with its crazy armors and "The Infinite" with its big guns, action and pouches, Kirkman explained that the next arc of "Walking Dead" will feature the characters exploring the area around their walled-off city, meeting their neighbors and expanding the cast. With all that said, he jumped right into the questions and answer session.

The first questioner asked whether Kirkman comes up with exit strategies when he's in big rooms like this, considering how much time he writes about zombies. "I don't, because it's all fake, right?" he said to the crowd. He did note that Chandler Riggs, who plays Karl on the "Walking Dead" television series, showed him up at an earlier panel when he answered the question about what he would arm himself with in a zombie apocalypse by saying a flamethrower with a bayonet.

Speaking of the TV show, the writer reiterated once again that the seasons will not always match up with the trades. He also said that going back and revisiting some of these stories he wrote years ago has been a lot of fun and that the continued inclusion of Shane on the show will change a lot of story elements moving forward. He also responded to one fan's question about deciding which version of "Dead" story elements he develops end up -- comics or television -- saying that they're very different characters at very different places, so it's not much of an issue.

Kirkman also explained that the news of Frank Darabont and the writers from season one no longer working on season two was "blown out of proportion" and is something many shows go through. "I've seen 10 episodes of the second season, and it's going to blow you guys away," Kirkman promised.

On the subject of podcasting, Kirkman said he loves talking with them, slipping in "We might be doing something like that soon."

Kirkman also discussed the differences between writing for television -- or the upcoming "Thief of Thieves" -- and writing his own comics. "The whole idea of a writer's room is to argue," he said, noting that the end result is often akin to polished steel. However, he still likes to just go in his office and bang out a series of pages on his own.

Because of all of his different projects, from the horror of "Walking Dead" to the maturing superhero drama of "Invincible" and the all-out awesomeness of "Super Dinosaur," Kirkman said he rarely gets writers block because when one book stumps him, he just moves onto another. Also, while he might get depressed writing a "Walking Dead" issue, he can then get himself pumped back up writing "Super Dinosaur." "I sit down and I write the comics, and the thing I'm most concerned with is if I'm having a good time," Kirkman said.

A few questions revolved around Kirkman's influences. He credited the social satire of George Romero's zombie films as important to "The Walking Dead," which he once again explained was spawned from wanting to know what happened to the characters at the end of a typical zombie flick. On the comics side of things, Kirkman pointed out two books that shaped him creatively: Bob Fingerman's semi-autobiographical "Minimum Wage" and what he called an under-appreciated book, Erik Larsen's "Savage Dragon," which showed him that one person can have their own long-running series and do whatever he wants with it. When a teacher whose students are Kirkman fans asked for recommendations, he suggested "Dark Knight Returns" and "Watchmen" for the middle-schoolers, adding, "You probably legally can't do that," even though he was around the same age when he first tackled those seminal works.

One fan asked if there was any character at Marvel or DC that Kirkman would take over if given carte blanche, to which he responded, "I've gotten that offer. Not from Marvel, because they hate me, but from DC." He turned them down, saying he just doesn't think of stories for other peoples' characters anymore. He still likes to read those comics, but he'd rather have full control of his characters to do with them as he pleases.

The panel ended with a bespectacled young man walking up to the microphone and asking Kirkman about a character's death on the season finale of "Breaking Bad," which the writer said he watched earlier in the panel. The crowd booed and hollered at the impromptu spoiler as Kirkman tried to diffuse the tension and close the panel by saying they had planned this gag ahead of time, a tactic that helped -- a little.

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