Image and Marvel comic writer Robert Kirkman began his solo presentation in Wizard World Chicago's Dave Stevens Room by staring at the elaborate slide projection system, looking slightly aghast, and saying "I'd like to say I have an elaborate presentation. But I don't. I'd like to say I have a lot of big announcements. But I don't." Despite the lack of traditional comics panel style revelations and props, Kirkman worked the room with the quick wit of a born comedian, responding to questions from the capacity crowd about every aspect of his professional career, from working at Marvel to planning multi-year continuing stories like "Walking Dead" and "Invincible," and covering everything from his hit "Marvel Zombies" to cult favorites like "Capes" and, yes, "Science Dog."
Despite his claims of being "tired," Kirkman remained on his feet and was animated throughout the presentation, and the crowd, somewhat lethargic at the beginning, was quickly won over by his enthusiasm despite Kirkman's cheerful teasing. The initial questions "Will you sign my books" and "How are you today?" prompted Kirkman to groan, "You guys are terrible at this!" Questioners were identified as "You with the stickin' up hair. You know, that's not a good look for you," or "You with the whiney, noisy kid."
When asked to describe his perspective on the constantly changing creative teams at Marvel, Kirkman said "Everybody hates it there. I'm Kidding! God! Either the books get cancelled or everybody leaves of their own accord.... Except for Bendis getting fired off of "Ultimate Spider-Man." But I don't think that's been announced yet." The writer identified "Ultimate Spider-Man" as one of the books he'd most like to write, but the character he'd most like to work with? "Darkhawk. Not even kidding."
One question (from the kid with the sticking-up hair) dealt with "Marvel Zombies," asking about the background of the zombified Colonel America, who was hinted to have served as president of the US in the Marvel Zombie-verse. "I was probably just commenting on the fact he made that bid for president back in the eighties. One of those things you try to slip in." He also notes that he'd be happy to do an encore on "Astonishing Ant-Man" if Marvel would approve the project, and noted that he "begged" fellow writer Dan Slott to get Ant-Man in his "Avengers: The Initiative" book. Kirkman also noted that both his revamp of the Stan Lee created golden age hero The Destroyer ("Might be the best comic I've ever written") and the Rob Liefeld pencilled "Killraven" are both currently scheduled to ship in December, and that he has another, as yet-unrevealed Marvel project in the works.
The first question about Kirkman's Image work asked about the fate of the proposed "Invincible" movie, based on the series, and superheroic main character, of the same name. "The chances are slim and none," Kirkman said, blaming studio executive change-over, but teased "There's gonna be a big announcement at San Diego about Invincible." One of the panel's youngest attendants, no older than 11, asked if Invincible's treacherous, superhero father Omni-Man might return to the side of the angels. Kirkman said that Omni-Man already "Kinda did that" referencing the recent superhero prison-break storyline, and promises Omni-Man's return in issue fifty-five, a "big action issue." The young fan responded with an enthusiastic "Oh. Cool!"
Kirkman also said that there will be another "Invincible" spin-off mini-series in September, by the team of Benito Cereno (writer) and Nate Bellegarde (artist) who produced the "Atom Eve" mini-series, and that the two books will be released together in trade paperback. Kirkman also said Invincible's new costume, first revealed in issue # 51, will be a "black suited Spider-Man kinda thing" and will not be permanent, and revealed that, after being tied up as part of the movie deal, the licensing rights for Invincible had reverted back to the creators, and that there is a very good chance of Invincible action figures being produced at some point. He also, somewhat ruefully, told the convention-goers that he had planned a mini-series detailing the back-story of Invincible supporting character The Immortal, and was planning on calling it "Civil War." When he went onto say that he was still considering writing a series with that name (noting that Marvel "can't copyright that.") the response from the audience was an enthusiastic chant of "Do It! Do It!" Which Kirkman ended with "OK, OK, I'll do it. Coming out in 2009."
The other major topic of discussion was "The Walking Dead," Kirkman's long-running zombie series currently being illustrated by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn. One audience member asked, "You received a lot of hate mail when (supporting character) Shelley was raped. Did you get a similar reaction for the scene where baby Judy was killed?" Kirkman asked, "Is killing babies more acceptable? Absolutely. Also beheading a black man? Totally fine. Showing a rape off-panel?" Kirkman grimaces, "Big no-no. Killing a baby? Totally cool. So I'm gonna be killing more babies!" And later added, looking at the "whiney, noisy kid," "Did you hear what I said about killing babies?"
Kirkman did say that a zombie baby Judy would be "distasteful" and notes that since the cast of "Walking Dead" has moved away from where she was buried, and that "Babies can't move that fast. She'd never catch up!" When asked about how much planning he puts into the long meta-story of "Walking Dead," Kirkman says that there are some plot points specifically planned out ahead of time "I knew [Baby Judy] would die before she was born," but isn't adverse to changing plans if the story (and sales) warrant: The cast of the "Walking Dead" was going to arrive at their prison fortress in issue seven, but Kirkman smiles and says that he "milked it a bit because the book was selling really well." He says he avoids both flash-backs and story-jumps in "TWD" because "We've all seen Lost," and he feels it can be disappointing and disorientating for the audience.
He also briefly discussed his newly launched horror/superhero hybrid "The Astonishing Wolf-Man" where Kirkman says "Sales (are) looking good. [Artist] Jason Howard quit his day job" and says a trade will be available in July."
As for the big question "What can we do to make Science Dog happen" which prompted a solid minute of applause... Kirkman said that he sadly has no new plans, explaining, "Talking dog comics don't sell that well," but says, "I think it's hilarious to do a Science Dog one-shot every 25th issue. So in 2099 when Invincible 100 comes out, we'll do a one-shot."
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