Robert Kirkman: A Walking Dead Update

Kirkman: A Walking Dead Update

The Walking Dead #58

Robert Kirkman hasn’t lost his taste for human flesh—not by a long shot. Kirkman, along with artist Charlie Adlard, have slowly amassed an army of zomb…er, fans with their work on The Walking Dead at Image Comics. Only months away from the 60th issue and a couple of months into the newest over-arc, “Road to Washington”, the surviving cast of the comic finds themselves on the move—heading to the capital of the United States—in search of answers and other survivors…if there are any.

Newsarama contacted Robert Kirkman to talk about the method to his undead madness in The Walking Dead and about several of the new faces—and the possibility of returning old faces—in the months ahead.

Newsarama: First off, everyone is on the move and you've introduced a couple of very interesting characters—first let's focus on Abraham Ford. He and Rick have gotten off to a rocky start; also, it seems that Abraham isn't as together as he appears to be...

Robert Kirkman: Like all characters in The Walking Dead, Abraham has had a rough time for the last year. That's affects everyone in different ways. As we've seen in issue #57, Abraham and Rick are starting to bond a little—and in #58 we'll learn a great deal of what Abraham has lived through. He's a very important character to the grand scheme of the series—I'm having a lot of fun writing him, I hope readers are enjoying him as much as I am.

NRAMA: You've also introduced Dr. Eugene Porter—he’s a guy that claims to be a scientist who worked on a human genome mapping project that led to the rise of the dead; he believes if they can get to Washington D.C. they'll find safety—and answers. Eugene doesn't do a lot of talking—but, he's kind of out-and-out calling the plays now. Can any good come of this?

RK: Well, to correct you there, he was involving in some government science work that led to him being aware of what caused the dead to rise—but he hasn't revealed what that is right now—and yeah, he claims he can end all this once he gets to Washington. So for the time being, our characters are helping him get there...but it's going to be a long journey. Do the characters believe Eugene? Not all of them—but really, they've got nothing else to do and if this kind of thing were to come up, how do you not help this guy? So they're cautious about him—but giving him the benefit of the doubt for now. This is The Walking odds are, in some way at least, this isn't going to end well.

NRAMA: Rosita Espinosa rounds out your new additions to the book; she appears to be developing a connection with Eugene and she has a wary eye on the group--especially Rick. She's new and provides a new avenue of potential storytelling--but does the same "No One is Safe" rule apply?

RK: That rule applies to everyone. Even the characters in Ultimatum. Everyone from the main characters down in this book could go at any minute. A character being new doesn't mean they're safe. That said, there's a lot to be revealed about Rosita and so I'd like to take a bit of time to get to know her before she dies.

NRAMA: Readers have witnessed a failed suicide attempt by Maggie—is this going to be a recurring theme with this character? She's lost her entire family over the course of the book. Is she becoming a liability to the safety of the group? Or is this just another example of the effects of dire circumstances on the human psyche?

RK: It's just another example of my trying to make this the most depressing comic book ever. I think Maggie will be okay, only time will tell. A suicide attempt can sometimes show people just how much they actually do want to live. It's entirely possible that this ordeal come make her come out the other end a stronger person. Maggie fans...(and apparently there are a lot of them, leaving her hanging in a tree between issues brought in a lot of mail) will just have to keep reading to find out.

NRAMA: As of last week, in #57--Rick, Abraham, and Carl are taking the trek back to the town where Rick and Carl were from before the story started; they've encountered some pretty rough characters...and Rick sort of loses it. As a parent, is this "losing it" a reflection of what you'd do if you were under the barrel of the situation that was about to go down in the issue? Are Rick and Carl analogs for you and your son at times?

RK: Well, writing the scene in issue #57 did kind of make my skin crawl….

My son is almost 3 years old now and the thought of something like that happening to my child or any child is pretty horrifying. Parents know how it is after you have a kid, seeing bad things happen to any kid is rough, even when it's completely fictional. So while I'd like to think that I'd do whatever I had to do to keep my son safe, maybe I wouldn't... I could be a coward. You never know until you're in a situation like that.

That said, Rick brutally murdered a guy and pretty much cut him to pieces, it's off panel for the most part--but he, in my mind, crossed a line. I like to think I would never be able to eviscerate a person no matter what the circumstances, but that's a reflection of what this book is really the things you live through change you in ways even you can't expect. Rick as a small town cop probably never thought he'd be doing all the things that come natural to him now. And he wouldn't be the "hero" of the story if he wasn't in the world he now lives in.

As far as Rick and Carl being analogs for me and my son—I'll go ahead and nip that in the bud. Not really ever. I mean, I pick up a little bit of interaction stuff from discussions with my son, but Carl is much older than my son...and Rick and Carl never sit around and watch The Real Ghostbusters or fight with foam swords or play hide and seek; so you know, there's not a lot that transfers.

NRAMA: Speaking of Carl--he's been absorbing more and more of the violence and futility of their conditions now that his mother is dead and can't keep him preoccupied with the other children; does the scene at the end of #57, where Abraham tries to protect Carl only to have Carl turn and watch his father's brutality, foreshadow darker behavior coming from Carl?

RK: All I can say is read issue #58, in stores February 11th, GUARANTEED.

NRAMA: Rick mentions checking in on some folks--does he mean Duane and Morgan Jones? The boy and his father who took up residence with hopes of waiting out the infestation?

RK: All I can say is read issue #8, in stores February 11th, GUARANTEED.

NRAMA: On an interesting note: Charlie Adlard just passed his fifty issue mark on the series as of issue #57....

RK: He did. If I'm not mistaken, The Walking Dead is now the longest running project in his whole that's neat. I'd like to think he's still enjoying it, but y'know—you'd have to ask him. The exchange rate with the UK just improved—so he just got a raise, so I imagine things are looking pretty good for another 50 with Charlie.

NRAMA: How comfortable is your writer/artist relationship at this point with Charlie? Could you imagine doing this project with anyone else at this point?

RK: It's so hard for me to believe that he hasn't been here since the beginning. I think we all agree that Tony Moore's original six issues are great—but damn, Charlie has made this book his own. The first book just looks weird to me now. I don't think I ever would have made it this far on the series without Charlie. He's a great collaborator in that he speaks up without hesitation; but, at the same time, if I've got something I feel really strongly about, he allows me the chance to talk him into it. Also, he's from England so he's totally fun to talk to on the phone. If he were to leave the book, I would seriously consider ending it. The Walking Dead without Charlie Adlard seems impossible to me now.

NRAMA: What can you tell us about the next arc of stories? Are upcoming issues going to focus on the long trek towards Washington D.C. or are readers closer to realization then they think?

RK: We'll be announcing the next arc of stories in coming weeks. We've got some cool stuff planned, so I urge readers to keep their eyes peeled and on the net—and in the comics... big stuff is coming up. But everything that's happening in the book is still part of the larger "Road to Washington" arc that's going on in the book. They'll be on that road for a while—and there are a lot of things that will happen to them along the way...but it's all leading to them, or at least some of them, arriving in Washington D.C and what happens after that—and oh, boy—let's just say I've never been more excited about this series.

NRAMA: Do you foresee a culmination or an end to the story? Will you ever take the time to focus on a different batch of survivor characters?

RK: No—when all the characters in the book die, we're done. I don't plan on ever just jumping to another group of people. We're following Rick and his group and we'll never leave them. This book is about the characters, if none of the regular cast appeared it would essentially be a different book. So no, I'll never just switch the cast...unless I change my mind. Heh, that's the awesome thing about having complete control over your series, I can make my own rules, baby!!!

NRAMA: Have you been approached about translating Walking Dead for film or television? If you were to go that route, what do you think would best serve this project—a series of movies or an episodic program on a premium channel like HBO?

RK: I've turned down quite a few offers because I'm waiting for the right team to come along. The book is very successful, Charlie and I are making a good living off the series so we're not sitting around dying for a movie deal. If something comes along that isn't perfect, we say ‘no’. I've got a boat, I don't need a solid gold boat and a crappy movie.

I'd love for there to be a TV show or even a movie if it would be great—but there's only one Mark Millar and for all the success he's had there are a dozen guys who have horror stories of their dealings with Hollywood, so I try to invest as little of my time on that aspect of things as possible. One time I flew to L.A. to have a conference call with a producer in Canada—it's a crazy business. If it happens, it happens...I'm just happy I get to keep writing the comics.

NRAMA: One last question, Robert, could you kill Rick Grimes and carry on with The Walking Dead? Or does he symbolize something more?

RK: If I keep doing horrible things to that guy, I'm going to eventually have to kill him or this book will become completely unrealistic. So yeah...he'll die, sooner or later—and I can pretty much promise that he will die before the end of the series. Unless I change my mind.

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