Word Balloon: Robert Kirkman - The FULL Story

Word Balloon: Brit Invasion Panel

On this edition of the Word Balloon podcast, host John Siuntres engages in a friendly debate with writer Robert Kirkman.

Yesterday, Kirkman released a video message explaining some of his reasons for leaving Marvel Comics, and becoming a partner at Image Comics. He's decided to focus on his creator owned original books, like Invincible, The Astounding Wolf Man and The Walking Dead.

Beyond that the video is a call to arms for fellow creators to focus solely on their original stories, instead of the licensed work from the big 2 comic book companies, Marvel and DC.

He explains further, that DC and Marvel should gear their main titles and stories on the younger end of the comic reading audience, and should leave more mature stories to smaller publishers. He's calling on the industry as a whole to come together and figure out a new publishing strategy for the entire comics business.

Kirkman came to Word Balloon in order to expand on some of these ideas.

The program begins with the audio of Kirkman's video message, and the discussion between him and Siuntres follows.

Some highlights from the discussion...

Why did he leave Marvel?

"When I went to Marvel, I though i was on the Bendis plan. I had done creator owned stuff it had gotten popular, and i was looking at how parallel our careers were..but then I realized Bendis ain't going anywhere...there is no 'Bendis Plan' ... I realized the books that i want to do at Marvel don't exist anymore. I want to do a run like Peter David had on Hulk or Walt Simonson's Thor...I wanna do an Amazing Spider-Man run that doesn't have to lead into the crossover or the side books... and there is no one who has the cache to say 'no' to major company events. Straczynski had to participate in events, and it did help the book's sales, but he couldn't say no to events...and instead of sitting around pouting about it, I left...and I'm not saying that marvel sucks now...they're doing what they need to do to sell books...

"I want everyone to understand, I'm not saying no one should aspire to write for Marvel and DC characters...I'm just saying that it shouldn't be the pinnacle of a comic book career...everyone who only does Marvel and DC books gets ushered out of this business eventually...There's no retirement plan in comics ...you write your Marvel or DC books and you're hot until you're not and then it's 'thanks for time, bye.' ...And if you're not saving your money the whole time your doing it, your kind of screwed...you've let your popularity die down...but if you do creator owned comics,that's your retirement plan...you think Mike Mignola is not going to be making money off Hellboy when he's 65? that's a retirement plan."

Kirkman wants creators to see the threshold to make a good living doing creator owned books isn't as high as some would think.

"I understand it is still a lottery...and not every creator owned idea is commercial...Invincible only sells 15 thousand copies, but it makes pretty good money because, The Walking Dead sells 25 thousand copies...and because there's not this huge corporation that it's paying for...that makes a pretty good chunk of change If you make a book that sells just 20 thousand copies, you make a damn good living."

While Kirkman sees contemporary creators who try to do both creator owned works, and books for the big 2, he believes they're hurting their opportunity to succeed with their original stories.

You can't put your feet on both sides of the fence you have to take that plunge...if I'm doing Invincible and I'm also writing Spider-Man, and I'm giving fans a choice to try my unknown book, or Spider-Man who they know, they're going to choose Spider-Man."

On his belief that if the big two suffered a mass exodus of talent, then DC and Marvel should then re-focus the majority of their titles to the teen audience instead of the Johnny DC and Marvel Adventure imprints.

"Kids are smart enough to know the Marvel Adventures Spider-Man isn't the real Spider-Man, and I'm not saying that to insult those books...I'm just saying they know it's a 'side' Spider-Man, and not the real Spider-Man (book)."

Any fear that this declaration could mean the end of any offers from DC or Marvel?

"I wouldn't have done this if I was not content to ever do another Marvel or DC book...and I know if I keep doing good books that people like...there gonna let me sell a book for them...

"I have books still coming from Marvel - The Destroyer Max book I'm doing with Cory Walker? That is one of the best things I've ever written, Image, Marvel, wherever... I am very proud of it. I gave it my all, and Cory is killing on that title... It was my first experience working with Axel Alonso and he is one of the best editors in the industry... My Killraven series with Rob Liefeld is going to rock ...it's new ideas at Marvel...they're almost like creator owned books, but they're not and that's cool. I went into them with my eyes open. I created more villains for The Destroyer's six issues then I did for the first 12 or 24 issues of Invincible and that's fine. I created those for Marvel, and it was blast . I didn't hate my time there.

"I'm not saying crazy stuff...I'm not trying to burn a bridge...I hope this doesn't offend anyone there...I have friends at Marvel and DC...I talk to Dan DiDio and Joe Quesada, they're not doing a bad job, and I'm not trying to say bad things about their companies. I'm playing nice."

Click here for the episode.

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