"The Walking Dead" comic book is always an eventful series, and franchise creator Robert Kirkman and Skybound editorial director Sean Mackiewicz discussed the latest happenings Thursday afternoon at New York Comic Con's "Skybound's The Walking Dead" panel, taking place at the Empire Stage -- one of the biggest venues within the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
Fair warning: This panel addressed the latest events in "The Walking Dead," so spoiler warning if you're not caught up.
After some pre-show shenanigans with crowd members in walker cosplay, panel moderator Entertainment Weekly's Dalton Ross introduced Kirkman and Mackiewicz to a warm greeting from the audience. The first question from Ross involved the time jump in May's "The Walking Dead" #127, which started the "A New Beginning" story arc.
"It was by design," Kirkman said. "We'd been doing the book for a long time, and we just got through 'All-Out War.' I made sure we didn't publicize it in any way, so the audience didn't know that we were doing any of that stuff. I did want people to pick that issue up and go, 'Wait, I don't know who these people are.' As the story unfolds, you start to see, 'Oh no, these are the characters I know, it's just been a long time since the last issue. Holy crap.' It was supposed to be a little bit disorienting."
Ross also asked about what went into the new look for an older Carl. "That was something [series artist] Charlie Adlard and I had discussed," Kirkman said. "It was exciting to us. There's always been a limitation to Carl because he is so young, but now that we've moved in time a little bit -- he's definitely not an adult, but now I feel we can do a lot more with that character. Be on the lookout for issue #134."
Speaking of new changes to the series, "People lost their shit," Mackiewicz said. "Robert has a very playful sense of storytelling. It's always going to zig and zag. We learn to disappoint people in entertaining fashion." "I think as long as you're disappointing people, you're doing a good job," Kirkman quipped.
Ross pointed out that readers haven't sen the Kingdom or the Sanctuary since the time jump. "There's a lot left to reveal," Kirkman replied. "A lot of characters that haven't been seen. Definitely Michonne being one of them."
Turning to questions submitted by fans via Twitter, Ross asked a query involving Carl wearing glasses to cover up his missing eye. "It's a practical decision," Kirkman answered. "If you had a giant hole in your face, I think you would cover it up. That's really about Carl's insecurity about it. We'll be exploring that a lot moving forward. You can expect Carl's look to possibly evolve over time."
Is Carl losing his eye a possibility for the TV show? "It's definitely an option," Kirkman said. "We certainly wouldn't shy away from something like that."
Next question concerned Rick's status post-"All Out War." "This current plan for Rick and the outcome of 'All-Out War' is something I've been working towards for at least a few years now," Kirkman said. "Everything up to this point was pretty much planned before the show existed. It's about five years I've been working towards this. I never really change course."
"There are changes I would make," Kirkman continued. "I have a road map for the book, but I love having the ability to change on a dime. There have been certain deaths that I just decided to do that issue, because I feel in life, tragic events can happen without any preparation, and I like to infuse that into the book."
"Negan was never going to die at any point in 'All-Out War.' I love him too much," Kirkman said. "But he'll die eventually. Don't get too comfortable!"
Next Twitter question: Will readers see Negan's bat Lucille again? "Yeah, definitely," Kirkman responded. "I think that's another big, 'Where did that thing go? What's going on with that bat?' These are questions you should be asking, and you'll probably be asking them for a while."
How much time passed between issues #126 and #127? Kirkman said he likes to keep it "malleable" and doesn't want to nail it down, but it's roughly two years.
Moving to audience questions, the first fan at the microphone asked which character Kirkman "dislikes the most." "I like them all," Kirkman said. "There really hasn't been a character that I've disliked in any way. I enjoyed putting Spencer in terrible situations, that was a lot of fun."
Next question was similar -- "Who's your favorite character to mess with?" "Well, all of them," Kirkman replied. "Looking at the story, it would be Rick, because certainly the worst things have happened to him or Carl. But I don't look at it that way. I'm just trying to tell an engaging and entertaining story, and that involves horrible things happening [to the characters] from time to time."
Is there a chance Morgan will appear again on "The Walking Dead" TV show? Kirkman said it's mostly a matter of figuring out logistics. "He will appear on 'The Walking Dead' show again," Kirkman said.
Speaking of Rick Grimes, Kirkman said the interesting thing about the character is that he's "as normal as possible," as opposed to a bulletproof super-cop often seen in entertainment.
Next fan up asked which character in "The Walking Dead" reacted most similarly to how Kirkman would behave in a zombie apocalypse. "Eugene, maybe? The guy who lied so people would protect him," Kirkman said. "Just being honest!"
An audience member asked Kirkman about the differences in Dale's death between the comics and the TV show. "I was in the room when we decided it, so I'm also partially to blame," he replied, saying that the writers felt that the season had gotten to the point where zombies weren't as clear as a threat as they needed to be, and that Dale was a character that was "offering them a level of comfort and stability" that the show wanted to take away from the characters.
What was the panel's favorite death scene from the comic? Mackiewicz said Glenn's isn't his "favorite," but, "it just affects me." Kirkman said it was a toss-up between Abraham -- because it was so sudden -- and Tyrese.
A reader asked about the process of choosing what to use in the letters column, which Mackiewicz called a "laborious" process at times, but ultimately rewarding. "It's fun. Everyone's a fucking whackjob out there," Mackiewicz said. "I am too."
A younger fan asked which character from the show Kirkman would want to associate himself with to survive during a zombie apocalypse. "Carol's pretty tough," Kirkman said. "She'd probably open cans for me."
Kirkman on "Walking Dead" diversity: "We try to keep our cast as not white as possible."
Kirkman told the crowd that he's frequently the person pushing the TV show to make changes from the comic books.
Is there a chance Rick and Negan will have to team-up against the new threat of -- here's another spoiler warning -- talking zombies? "It's possible," Kirkman said. "It's not likely at all. But there certainly is a threat on the horizon that may require their unique skill sets, as I like to say, because I'm a big fan of 'Taken.' But I'm going to say probably not.
A fan asked Kirkman why Rick hasn't lost his hand on the TV show. Kirkman said that while that move opened up opportunities in the comics, it would make things difficult on the TV show. "So we wimped out."
Another young fan at the microphone: "Will there ever be an end to the zombie apocalypse?" Kirkman: "Your about my daughter's age, so not until you're in college!" Kirkman continued, saying that logically there would be a time that the zombie population would deteriorate. "It really is a game to outlast them. It could end at some point, if all the human beings don't die before that point."
As he's said before, Kirkman told the crowd that he knows how "The Walking Dead" -- but that it won't be for a while.
Last question, from another (very) young fan: "What was your favorite episode and issue that you wrote?" "I hate them all," Kirkman joked. "Episode that I wrote? Probably the episode with Carl last year. As far as the comic book goes, it's always the next issue. So right now I think #143 is my favorite issue."
Keep reading CBR all weekend long for more from New York Comic Con!