His zombies may be Walking Dead, but Robert Kirkman's future plans are as alive as ever, as the Image Comics partner discussed his comics, his new imprint, and his upcoming television show at Comic-Con International: San Diego on Thursday.
"He's a cultural zeitgeist, soon to be worldwide juggernaut -- aw, heck, he already is," said Sina Grace, the editorial director for Kirkman's new imprint Skybound, as he introduced the writer. "People were probably expecting some pyrotechnics... we've got a slideshow," Kirkman said. He then discussed his new imprint, saying that he was looking to support up-and-coming creators. "It's important to note that it's an imprint," he said. "I'm not taking any books away from Image Comics. I love Image Comics, I'm not going anywhere."
Grace then asked Kirkman, are people turning in their pitches? We're just starting out, we're just starting small -- it's a don't call me, I'll call you situation," Kirkman explained. "We're being very selective over things, I'm scouring the Internet, but I'm not accepting solicitations right now." Outside of sending pitches to Image proper, he said that currently the company "has more books than we can handle."
Kirkman then showed the audience the next cover of Walking Dead, where Rick seems to be squaring off against a horde of zombies. "Look, there's still zombies in the book!" Kirkman laughed. He added that "things are getting pretty tough for Rick, and it looks like there's a lot of tension going on in the town."
Yet the discussion then went back to Skybound's first title -- Witch Doctor. Kirkman then invited the series creators, Brandon Siefert and Lukas Ketner. "The pitch we used is House meets Fringe," Siefert said. "But that not quite accurate, it's more like Dr Strange meets Dr House." He added that for that there is a biological basis -- albiet a weird one -- for every supernatural case. The book is due out in 2011. "And it rocks," Kirkman added.
Kirkman played coy about the release schedule of Invincible, saying that "#74 will be in stores soon, and then #75 will follow, and then we will have #76." He did say that "Ryan Ottley is killing himself to make this book look good... as the pages come in, the scale of the war gerts bigger, and it's a breathtaking experience."
Grace then brought out the big guns -- "Tell us about the show." An audience member asked how he could get involved with the filming of the AMC live-action Walking Dead series. "I can't help you," Kirkman said, adding that the majority of the first season was already finished filming. When the fan vented about non-comics fans working on comics shows, Kirkman said that, "it's because I don't like you." Kirkman then nearly gave the audience a heart attack, saying that #78 would be the last issue. With some awkward silence coming from the audience, "that's a joke," he said.
Another fan said she was "a zombie virgin" before her husband introduced her to the Walking Dead. She asked if Kirkman had to give up any creative control on the show. "The thing about Frank is that he knows about adapting material," Kirkman said, adding that he is an executive producer for the show. "I was lucky enough to pick a team that was very respectful of the source material. There's nothing you wouldn't see in the comic -- it's going to be very true to the material."
Kirkman was then asked by a fellow Kentuckyian if there would be "a backlash" on the Walking Dead due to the recent proliferation of zombie films. "There aren't a whole lot of zombie comics out there," He said. "Am I missing something? Your question is stupid... are you just trying to bring me down? I know it's going to be a failure, what am I going to do?" Taking a different angle on the undead vein, a Marvel Zombies fan asked Kirkman if he would revisit the Marvel splatterhouse franchise anytime soon. "At this point, I wouldn't know what to do with it," Kirkman said. "I had a lot of fun writing Marvel Zombies 1 and 2, but I've already said my piece. But they've moved on and I've moved on, so the answer is no."
One fan asked if Kirkman was happy with his collaboration with Todd McFarlane on his Image supernatural actioner series Haunt. "Yeah, I'm happy with Haunt -- I wish it was coming out more often," Kirkman said. "Todd likes to ink, but sometimes he doesn't have time to ink." To mitigate the timing, Kirkman said, Jonathan Glapion would be coming in on Issue #8.
A Walking Dead enthusiast asked Kirkman that, rather than hire goodlooking people and ugly them up, "is it more cost-effective to hire ugly people?" "What I would say is you haven't seen these people without makeup," Kirkman replied. "Y'know. They're pretty hideous. Every extra who has been made up as a zombie on the Walking Dead is a freak show."
Witch Doctor came back into the conversation, as a friend of Brendan and Lucas's asked Kirkman what it was he saw in the book. "It is probably one of the most unique concepts that I've come across in a long time," Kirkman said. "If you guys run down to the booth and pick up the preview, it's like nothing you've ever seen before. And that's what I'm looking for -- stuff that's unique to comics and is really entertaining."
Kirkman then responded to a question over whether or not he was satisfied with going with AMC as opposed to NBC. "It didn't come together, but looking back on it, I see it as a blessing. It was very early on in the comic, and I don't know if it would have been a deal that I would have been comfortable with. And also, it's a network deal, so the things we're doing in the comic, they might have had to tone it down," Kirkman said. "That said, I certainly would have gotten paid more, because it's network TV, and network is huge."
One reader asked to learn more about Invincible character Kaboomerang. "Kaboomerang? He's the coolest character ever!" Kirkman said. "He has exploding boomerangs... that don't come after him." The Invincible writer promised that he would be a fan-favorite.
Another reader asked if Kirkman had to censor himself if a moment was ever too dark in his writing. "I have children now, and I didn't have children when I started working on this book. And everyone knows if you have kids it makes you a sissy," Kirkman explained. "I would think to myself, am I thinking this it's too harsh for the book, or am I thinking this because I have kids and I am a sissy? More often than not I can't look at it objectively... so I force myself to do it, so it doesn't look like I'm a complete girl about that stuff." The reader responded: "So should I stop reading Walking Dead to my kids?"
An Invincible fan asked if Kirkman could tease what would happen "It's early on in the Viltrumite War, but I will say that there has been a lot of time has passed on Earth while Invincible has been out fighting the Viltrumite War, so when he does return to Earth there will be a lot of changes." Another fan then asked about Wolf-Man: Kirkman responded that the Guarding the Globe #3 cover has come out, and his lycanthropic hero is front and center. "He doesn't die at the end of his series -- spoiler alert," Kirkman said.
But does Kirkman have any interest in any other characters owned by any other companiees? "I have no interest in doing anyone else's comics -- I don't even care," Kirkman replied, saying that there are too many books and too many people giving their input on popular franchises like Spider-Man. "It seems like such a pain in the ass, that it doesn't interest me. So: Nova."
Another fan asked about whether or not the Walking Dead TV show would be in black-and-white, as it is in the comics. Kirkman responded in the negative, saying that a black-and-white TV show would make viewers think, "'Oh, that's some old movie I don't want to watch. Next.' So I think black-and-white was a little "stunty"... so it's going to be in color on TV." Kirkman responded that the main consideration for continuing the show would be "mostly ratings. Tell your friends. But I'm very confident based on how the series has been received thus far... it looks really good, so it comes down to how it rates when it debuts."
Will Tech Jacket make his return?, a reader asked. Kirkman said that no ongoing was planned, but because there are only eight chapters -- too little for another trade -- "I may have to do more so I can do a second Tech Jacket trade paperback." He teased that another miniseries might be in the offing. Another fan asked about Guarding the Globe, and if Marvel forced the writer to change from the original title, Guardians of the Globe. "I can't comment on that in any shape or form -- yes," Kirkman deadpanned.
One aspiring comic creator asked Kirkman if he had any advice for any up-and-coming writers trying to break into the industry. "I would say, try and fine somebody to make a comic -- that's the best advice I can tell you. Breaking in as a writer is almost impossible, because reading scripts is so time consuming," Kirkman said. "Artists you can tell they're bad just by a glance. So you have to find an artist somehow and make a comic."Kirkman!