SDCC: Robert Kirkman's Skybound Entertainment Takes Flight

With multiple shows now on the air and a rapidly increasing publishing line, there's plenty in the world of Skybound Entertainment to discuss -- good thing there's a panel for it at Comic-Con International in San Diego. The panel, moderated by "Community" and "Odd Couple" actor Yvette Nicole Brown, included "Walking Dead" creator and writer and Skybound Entertainment co-founder Robert Kirkman, Skybound Entertainment co-founder and CEO David Alpert, Skybound Interactive president Dan Murray and director of media development Rachel Skidmore.

Brown took the stage to applause, saying that Skybound is "near and dear to her heart." She introduced a video that gave an overview of the company, showing clips from Skybound's three series: "Walking Dead," "Fear the Walking Dead," and "Outcast." The presentation also included shots of the company's games (Superfight), collectibles, comics (like "Green Valley" and "Birthright" and "Horizon" among others) and multimedia properties. Brown then brought out the panelists.

"In working on 'The Walking Dead' and seeing it grow from the comic to the TV show and lunchboxes and video games, I've been involved with all of them like the TV shows to make sure they stay true to what it's meant to be, which allows us to expand. That relates to Skybound, which keeps the creators involved in these ancillary adventures and that makes for better product," said Kirkman. He said that doesn't happen with other publishers.

Alpert added that most people in Kirkman's position "don't like to share their toys." But Kirkman likes using his platform, Skybound, to empower other creators. Kirkman said that "Walking Dead" gets their foot in the door at other companies, and they like helping out other creators because of that.

Murray, who runs video games for Skybound, said that they want to do more games like the Telltale "Walking Dead" games. "That means working directly with the developers and that means integrating our writers and creators, and how do we bring it to the fans," said Murray. "We're also looking at developers as creators. There's so much amazing game content coming out of independent developers, we have a few titles like 'Oxenfree,' and another called 'Giant Cop' that we announced this week."

"It's about a giant cop, a Godzilla-sized cop!" said Kirkman enthusiastically.

Murray continued, talking about the card game Superfight. "It's a social card game, a game about arguments, and you have characters and attributes and you match them up and people argue about who would win in a fight. We launched the video game version of the game, and it's on Steam now for only $8.99," said Murray.

"No one would have stopped that purchase if they saw it was $9.99," said Kirkman, feigning shock that the game was only $8.99.

Murray and Kirkman then started playing the game, involving a 30-foot-tall sloth that shoots fire out of its ass vs. an Abraham Lincoln with Wolverine claws on a skateboard. Brown said "Sloth is gonna kill, one fart and he takes out Lincoln." Kirkman had Lincoln's back, though, saying that he'd "kill the sloth with the Wolverine claws." Brown polled the audience with applause, and Abraham "Wolverine Claws" Lincoln soundly won.

Superfight's creator had offers from major companies, but he turned them down because they wanted to take the game from him. "He approached us to do a Walking Dead expansion and we fell in love with the game," said Kirkman. "Those corporations offered him a buy out, but he would have lost the game. We offered him a partnership. That appealed to him more."

Skidmore talked about bridging the gap with new media. "It's a little of everything. We're making VR, we took Superfight and turned it into a web series. We're taking traditional people and putting them with internet people and seeing what they come up with. That can be writers in television that are working in the internet now. The most exciting thing we're doing, you can see 'Gone,' our first 360-live-action series on Milk VR, you can watch 11 episodes. JT Petty was the creator of that project."

Brown talked about "Gone," calling it an immersive experience and saying you'll "look crazy playing it. I think I punched someone, I punched Robert while playing it. A little girl is taken, and she's taken right in front of your eyes, and you can investigate everything - the car, the parking lot, the weird guy by the fence. And you can check out the entire environment." Brown said you'll lose hours playing it. Skidmore said there's more of Skybound's partnership with YouTube star PewDiePie coming as well.

Kirkman began talking about Cinemax's "Outcast," running through the setup which follows Kyle Barnes who is "plagued by demonic possession." He wants to reconcile with his ex-wife and child and is determined to figure out this phenomenon. "But what he finds is just trying to fix his life is going to require, in a sense, saving the world," said Kirkman. "He's drawn into a much bigger conflict with these demons. They treat demonic possession as a solvable problem."

Alpert said Kirkman pitched the series by talking about "The Exorcist." "After they get the demon out of her, where did the demon go?" said Alpert. "Did she just go back to school? Her life has been changed."

"She's never gonna look at a cross the same way again," said Kirkman.

"It's an ongoing story because it's not about solving this one specific case, it's about an investigation into why and why did it happen and how do I go on living," added Alpert.

The topic switched over to AMC's two "Walking Dead" shows. "Season 7, we will pick up literally a second after we left off," said Alpert. "It's fair to say it's the most intense episode of television we've ever produced. Given the nasty things we've put on TV, that's saying quite a bit. It'll be intense. Beyond that, we're getting Ezekiel. We're getting Shiva, a tiger! Someone tweeted at Robert that he's a sellout for putting tigers on TV. We didn't understand."

"'Putting tigers in the Walking Dead? Sellout!' I'll sell out like that all day long, tigers are awesome," joked Kirkman about the tweet.

"Fear the Walking Dead" will return, and Alpert says that they've gone from having a boat with supplies and now they're left with nothing. We're gonna get some intense stuff when we come back, introduce some new characters, and take the action up another level."

Brown teased that there's more news to share, saying that there should be something she can also do with Skybound. "You do comics and TV shows and virtual reality," said Brown. "I've been silly up to this point, but this is real: I can announce today that we are about to announce, I'm going to be working with these fine people on something very awesome. We are working together for months and I'm so excited. These people ask you, 'What do you want to do? What are you passionate about?' And then they make it. I want to do something really awesome - we can't announce it yet or what platform it'll be on, but it's amazing and built with love. Something's coming between me and Skybound."

"I love you," whispered Kirkman, and Brown returned the love.

With the panel turning over to questions, a fan asked if there were plans for "Invincible" to jump into other mediums. "There's a chance," said Kirkman. "We're always working on 'Invincible' behind the scenes, it's a big deal for us."

"We're going to tease that we're going to tease you about something in the future," said Alpert about Invincible's multimedia future.

Alpert said they have big things coming in animation, and that they're working with a big name in the medium -- but can't announce it yet. "This is a tease of a tease, this panel is a Russian nesting doll," joked Kirkman.

Kirkman said that the identity of Negan's victim in the season six finale was not chosen via "eenie, meanie, miney, moe," but was actually planned out well in advance with showrunner Scott Gimple. And Negan's favorite word, "fuck," will be lifted out for airing on AMC. "It's still a bunch of BS because of cable rules, but when you watch the Blu-ray later, it will have the profanity in it, Not every scene, but key scenes will have alternate takes with the word 'fuck,'" said Kirkman. "The season six Blu-ray will have his scene with all the f-bombs."

A fan asked Kirkman about Daryl and the book he found at the women's shelter, wondering how that helped his development coming to terms with Alexandria and then being shot by the Saviors. The book was about adult survivors of childhood abuse. "It's a Daryl thing that he didn't reveal it to anyone else," said Kirkman. "You see how that changes him in the season, his interaction with Dee, and how he allowed that guy to take advantage of him to an extent. We'll see more of his evolution, assuming he's not dead, in season seven.

Kirkman said it's far to early to introduce the Whisperers in season seven. "There's a lot of big stuff we gotta introduce in the show before we get to them," said Kirkman.

A fan asked if Jeffrey Dean Morgan was close to what Kirkman wanted for Negan. "Jeffrey from minute one was exactly how we'd pictured Negan without even knowing it," said Kirkman. Kirkman said he loved him in "Magic City." Brown said that Morgan left the set of "Good Wife" to come and audition for "The Walking Dead." "We wanted Jon Hamm but he wasn't available," joked Kirkman. "That's not true!"

Kirkman then talked about casting Ezekial with Khary Payton, saying that he got the role because "he had a tiger as a kid, with a Battlecat saddle and everything." Brown called shenanigans on that, though, but that didn't stop Kirkman from letting out an "I have the power!" He-Man cry.

Brown then brought screenwriter and "Green Valley" author Max Landis on stage. He immediately hugged Kirkman and Alpert. "Remember when we did that panel at MorrisonCon and everyone loved you and hated me?" said Landis -- who admitted that he had to pee really bad. "Last time I took out my dick at comic-con I got in real big trouble with Thomas Jane," said Landis. "I'm excited to be working with Rob. I'm going to piss my pants whether I'm excited or not. I can feel it slowly -- women, you don't know how this feels because you don't have a penis, but it comes to the tip and then goes back up."

Landis then recounted a story, SDCC 2012, where he met Brown while drunk trying to get into a party she was sitting at working the door. "I was serious about that, I wanted to work the door and meet people," said Brown. Landis said he wasn't on the list she had on her, so when he was turned away he said, "Don't you know who my dad is?" and then listed a random list of disparate movies all directed by random people. "At one point I said 'I own three women!'" The story got reported in the press negatively, with someone thinking that he was seriously name dropping his actual father -- John Landis -- and that Brown was horrified.

"I enjoyed our time!" said Brown. "You're delicious to me!" Then Brown switched to Landis' "Green Valley" comic, which is coming out through Skybound soon. Landis set up what the book is, without going into it because "it's a J.J. Abrams thing." It is set in medieval times and stars four knights, but "in the second issue, four knights get cocky, they're the Knights of the Round Table, they make an arrogant mistake and suffer horribly for it. All of their lives are ruined. A year later they argue and fight. One of them has become a hoarder, one is suicidal, one is the Jason Bateman trying to keep things together and one just wants to go get laid. Then a kid shows up and doesn't know things have fallen apart. He asks for their help, saying a wizard has come to his village with dragon." The knights wonder if they should tell him that wizards and dragons aren't real, and they tell him that they don't have time for his imaginary dragon. But the kid says a dragon literally killed his father, with 500 witnesses. The knights are shocked that dragons are real, and the "answer of what the wizard and dragon are is the kind of story I want to tell. It's about these guys and their relationships."

Brown said they have five minutes left in the panel, and Landis teased that the pee he's holding in is starting to "dribble out of his nose."

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