Even though "The Walking Dead" creator and Skybound Entertainment Founder Robert Kirkman unfortunately had to cancel his appearance at this years Comic-Con International: San Diego, the show -- and in this case, celebration -- must go on. And for Skybound, there was a lot to celebrate at their Five Year Anniversary panel.
Hosted by video game journalist and GameTrailers TV's Geoff Keighley, the panel featured "Walking Dead" Executive Producer David Alpert discussing Skybound's multiple cross-media projects, Alpert speaking with Telltale Games CEO Kevin Bruner about the "The Walking Dead" video game, a first look at the full-length trailer for the company's first feature film "AIR," starring Norman Reedus and Djimon Hounsou, and more.
Fans gathered in the massive panel room for the presentation, which kicked off with Keighley informing the audience of Kirkman's absence and introducing the panelists and Skybound President Alpert. Alpert started off by discussing the start of Skybound and philosophy of founder Robert Kirkman.
"So much of what we did with building Skybound started with Walking Dead," Alpert said, further explaining that it started as a comic book but expanded it so much more. "It was very organic: we started doing t-shirts, we started doing novels, we started doing games. Let's not look at this as a transaction to do. Let's treat it like a thing we love. Let's do it right."
Alpert explained that Kirkman's philosophy of "Creators should create" led the way to making great products from the things you personally love. Alpert used the example of Telltale Games' "The Walking Dead" and how Kirkman's influence and hands on approach created something great.
Keighley spoke to Skybound's ever-expanding projects in various mediums, from television to video games to now film. As for what medium he's excited to go into, Alpert said, "We're going to start doing some animation. It's something that's been a long time passion of mine." Alpert also mentioned that they're venturing into radio: "Very old school medium. As old as it gets," he said. "As long as it's cool and it finds someone who loves it, that's great."
From there, conversation moved onto the origins of the tabletop game "Superfight" and Skybound's partnership with creator Darin Ross, who joined the stage. A clip was then shown showcasing the upcoming "Superfight" mobile app made in conjunction with 505 Games. The video showcased how the app works and featured the actual playing cards fighting and blasting each other.
As for any future cards and expansions Ross would like to see, he joked about "The Gilmore Girls expansion." "We have the Luke Danes card, we know we've made it."
Keighley talked about Telltale Games' "Walking Dead," which was met with applause from the audience. Telltale's adventure/horror game taking place in the world of "The Walking Dead" first began in 2012 and consisted of five "episodes" that comprised "Season One." The game was met with much critical and fan acclaim and its success spawned further installments: a special "400 Days" episode, a full second season in 2013, and a third season set for release in 2016.
"They understood that it wasn't just another zombie game," Alpert said of Telltale Games. "They understood there was something special about the walking dead and were able to boil that down to its core components."
While talking about Skybound editorial director Sean Mackiewicz, he walked out onto the stage and was joined by Telltale Games Executive Producer TQ Jefferson. Once on stage, Jefferson spoke about the upcoming three-episode Michonne miniseries set for release in 2015. "The Michonne miniseries..." he started, which was met with much cheer, "it's the culmination of the conversation between Skybound and Telltale Games back in 2012.
"We felt it was time to roll out a playable character from the Walking Dead universe."
"Unlike [prior protagonists] Lee or Clementine who tend to shy away from Walkers, [Michonne] leans into it," said Jefferson. "She carves, she cleaves, she just leaves a swath of destruction in her path." He explained that this made for a different kind of gameplay compared to previous installments. It changes the dynamic of how the player encounters Walkers in the world.
Mackiewicz explained that the game takes place between issues #126 and #127 of "The Walking Dead" comic book series, in which fans might remember there was a time jump and Rick and Michonne were separated. This game examines that time period.
Alpert then talked about "Fear the Walking Dead" and what little he could say about it. "What's interesting is that in a way we learned a lot from working with Telltale about how to expand the universe," Alpert said, explaining that it showed them how to create characters and show different perspectives. "['The Walking Dead'] looked unlike anything on TV. It's got this rich, lush film quality to it. I feel like people flipped through the channels and stayed and got into it.
"We need to develop our own visual palette for 'Fear,'" he continued. Thus came the decision of the show taking place in Los Angeles. "What does weather do to zombies?" They discussed everything from how the air affects them to what would happen to silicon.
After that, they moved onto the upcoming film "Air."
"Air" takes place in a world where breathable air has nearly run out and humanity has retreated underground where a chosen few have been put in suspended animation and reestablish society when the time comes. Reedus and Hounsou star as two engineers/janitors tasked with guarding mankind's last hope - while trying to maintain their sanity in their near-solitary, claustrophobic environment.
The film also stars Sandrine Holt, who is slated to appear in the upcoming "Walking Dead" companion television series "Fear the Walking Dead."
"We just went nuts," said Alpert about when they heard the story. "It was similar thematically to 'The Walking Dead.' It was post-apocalyptic but it was about character."
"Air" director and co-writer Christian Cantamessa then joined the panelists on stage and talked about making the film. "It was my first film. When you do something for the first time, you want to work with people that think like you," he explained. Cantamessa explained that he was already a fan of Kirkman and 'The Walking De,' as is his co-writer on the film Chris Pasetto. "We wanted to be with somebody that understands the material and we think that [David Alpert] and Kirkman understand post-apocalyptic."
Fans were then treated to the full-length trailer to "Air," which arrives in theaters August 14, and Cantamessa then revealed some exclusives for the film at the Skybound booth: a Mondo poster for the film and the film's soundtrack, which is on vinyl.
"The film is like the movies I grew up watching, like 'Alien' and 'Blade Runner' and 'Darkstar,'" Cantamessa explained. "It's amazing to have the soundtrack on vinyl like it was when I was a kid."
A big question from an audience member closed out the panel: whether or not they were looking into bringing Kirkman's superhero property "Invincible" into other medium, specifically games.
"The short answer is yes. There's a couple of different games in process," Alpert said, but adding that nothing has been cemented as of yet. Alpert also said that while they haven't been looking in animation for "Invincible," they have been looking in live-action - but again stressed there isn't anything just yet. "Hopefully when we come back here next year, we'll have something amazing to tell you."