SDCC: Kirkman and Company Go Skybound

It's the last day of Comic-Con International in San Diego, but there's still much to see! "Walking Dead" creator Robert Kirkman led a panel spotlighting comics from his Skybound imprint, with "Ghosted" and "Birthright" writer Joshua Williamson, "Tech Jacket" artist Khary Randolph, the "Manifest Destiny" team of Matt Roberts and Chris Dingess, "Clone" creator David Schulner, and moderator and Skybound Editorial Director Sean Mackiewicz.

Kirkman began by talking about his new series "Outcast" with artist Paul Azaceta. "It's pretty great seeing the response," he said. "It's my second attempt at doing a horror series, I hope this one works out."

The series, which is a new take on exorcisms, "is a very happy book," joked Kirkman. He also recapped the announcement that CInemax has greenlit an "Outcast" pilot.

Next up was "Birthright." "Most books I've done in the past few years have been horror books," Williamson said, "but with this one I'm tackling fantasy." In it, a child is kidnapped to a fantasy world where "he becomes a hero." But when he returns after a year, he discovers that his father was accused of murdering him. "What do you do if you accomplish your birthright ... what do you do next, and what do you do when you have to come home after it?"

Wiliamson noted that in most popular kids' fantasy, the heroes return to normal life afterward "with no consequences," even though their experiences should have a profound effect on their ability to operate in the mundane world.

He praised artist Andrei Bresson and said that every email from him ends with the phrase "Rock the Fuck!"

Mackiewicz said that, though most fantasy draws on Tolkien, the look and feel of "Birthright" is more influenced by Middle Eastern lore.

"Manifest Destiny" came next, which Mackiewicz described as being "about the real-life adventures of Lewis and Clark," with monsters.

"I just tried to think of stuff that I was scared of as a kid," Dingess said of monster creation.

"Chris gives me awesome stuff to work with," Roberts said.

Dingess added that the monsters were "tied into Americana," but joked that "that might go away as I get lazier."

Randolph spoke next about "Tech Jacket," his new series with writer Joe Keatinge. "It's everything I like about comics," Randolpjh said. "It's straight up Saturday morning cartoons meets anime meets stupid stuff."

"Every issue I look at the script and say, I don't know how Joe expects me to draw this shit, man," Randolph said.

"But you pull it off every time," Kirkman said.

Kirkman then spoke about the time jump in "The Walking Dead," noting that "characters are in different places, some characters seem to be missing," and that the coming months will reveal more about what's gone down. October will see two issues, #132 and #133. "The title of issue #132 is 'Happiness,' and as you can see it doesn't look too happy."

"There is some strangeness coming," Kirkman added. "There is a wounded zombie, which is strange because they don't usually respond to pain."

Kirkman also showed a slide of an edition of the "All Out War" storyline that would publish artist Charlie Adlard's raw pencil art.

Before moving on to Schulner's "Clone," Mackiewicz singled out fans in the audience with homemade "Clone" t-shirts. "That's very interesting," he said. "Our lawyers will be in touch."

"He's not joking," Kirkman added. After some banter, Kirkman waived off the issue.

Beginning in #16, "Luke will get a little dirty," and his heroism will "exact a cost," Schulner said. "We will see how far Luke will go to protect these other versions of himself, and are these people's lives worth more than his own, or his wife's or his daughter's." The arc is in progress, with #18 available now.

Back to Williamson for "Ghosted," Mackiewicz mentioned new cover artist Dan Panosian. The book began as "Ocean's Eleven in a haunted house instead of a casino," with things spiraling out from there for the conman hero. "For whatever reason, Jackson is a magnet for the supernatural," Williamson said. "His shadow is the Grim Reaper, and only other ghosts can see that."

Jackson, "who usually avoids conflict," has to tell someone his father died, Williamson said, while the cause of the uptick in hauntings starts to become clearer in the coming months.

Next up was "Invincible," Kirkman joked that "a few years ago we had an arc called 'Everyone Dies' where no one died, and now we have an arc not called that where everyone's dying. We like to keep everyone guessing." The arc will wrap up in #114, then Battle Beast returns for a one-off story in #115.

Issue #113 will introduce a major new character, and Kirkman noted that "the status quo of 'Invincible' is that the status quo is constantly changing."

Kirkman continued with "Thief of Thieves." "[Andy] Diggle, who took over the book, has been absolutely amazing," he said.

"Passenger," Kirkman's graphic novel with Adlard, which had been previously announced but never released, was re-announced. "My daughter was in pre-school and now she's eight," Kirkman said of the development timeline. It will debut in 2015. "It takes place on this tanker that's moving oil from deep space back to Earth," he said, a mission complicated by space pirates and "this extremely terrifying-looking robot."

"Air" will be Skybound's first original feature, starring Norman Reedus and Djimon Hounsou.

The floor was then opened to questions.

Schulner said the idea for "Clone" came up when his wife was pregnant and "I began progressing through these different parts of my personality I wasn't prepared for." From there, "I thought, what if someone had to literally confront all these different personalities?" He added that the book "eats up plot," to the degree he couldn't keep up, at which point he brought on writing collaborators Aaron Ginsburg and Wade McIntyre. "We write TV shows for our day jobs," he said, making the writing table approach natural.

Asked about comparisons between Negan and the Governor, Kirkman said, "Negan is worse than the Governor began Negan is erratic. Because of that, he is infinitely more dangerous." He added that, "between the two of them, Negan is definitely the one you would not want to leave alive."

A fan suggested Skybound should work with Clive Barker. "I love his work," Kirkman said, adding that as a kid watching "Hellraiser" once a year was his only opportunity to watch horror because "my parents were assholes." He said that there hadn't been any talks with Barker, though, wanting to quash any rumors; Mackiewicz noted that the question came up referencing Barker's work on "Next Testament" for BOOM! Studios, but Kirkman said, "nobody reads those books."

Kirkman was asked "if you could live in any of your books as any character, which one would it be?" Kirkman joked, "I don't know, 'Super Dinosaur?' But awful things happen to those kids." He concluded by deciding "none of them."

And with that, the panel wrapped up.

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