At Wizard World Chicago, Newsarama found writer Robert Kirkman walking through Artist's Alley, checking out the scene from a fan's point of view because he didn't have a table or booth location this year.
While he's talked a lot recently about Invincible and Walking Dead lately (see our coverage of it here here and here, Newsarama took the opportunity for a little one-on-one chat to find out more about Astounding Wolf-Man, Destroyer Max, and Haunt, the comic he's doing with Image founder Todd McFarlane. And while we were at it, we asked why he's not writing the newest Marvel Zombies series.
Kirkman said this week's Astounding Wolf-Man #7 has a huge impact on the story, comparing it to the jaw-dropping revelations about Omni-Man in Invincible that occurred around the same point in that series when it was new.
"Astounding Wolf-Man #7 is going to completely change the status quo of the series," he said. "In my regular books, I like to set up everything, then completely tear it apart. So that's kind of what's going on with Astounding Wolf-Man #7. People have been reading it, and I've heard a few comments where people are saying, well, you know, it just doesn't have that punch that Invincible had. It just doesn't have that extra oomph. But people forget that didn't come until issue #7 or issue #8 in Invincible. And there's more in issue #11. It takes time to build to that stuff. If you open with that stuff, it doesn't have as much impact."
Kirkman said the series is doing pretty well for Image and will start shipping more frequently soon. "It's selling a little bit less than Invincible, but that's totally cool. We don't even have a trade out, and we always get a bump on the books when we get a trade out. [Series artist] Jason [Howard] just quit his day job. That's why the book was bi-monthly, because he had a day job and I was doing so much stuff," the writer said.
Readers can expect the series to start coming out monthly with issue #8, Kirkman said, and he's hoping that after this week's issue, fans will see that there's plenty of "oomph" in the series after all. "It will stand next to Invincible and Walking Dead as a worthy addition," he said.
Fans can look for more news about Astounding Wolf-Man's changes with Kirkman here on Newsarama soon, but for this quick chat in the middle of the con floor, we took the opportunity to ask the writer why his Destroyer Max series didn't show up in September solicitations for Marvel as expected.
"I think it was premature to say it was going to be showing up in September when they announced it. I hadn't really been planning on it being September. That may have been a mistake. But as far as I know right now, it's December," he said of the series, which is being drawn by Kirkman's Invincible collaborator, Cory Walker. "Cory is nearing completion of the first issue. I'm in Chicago, so I don't know, but he's supposed to have a bunch of pages done this weekend. We'll be done with issue #1 next week, and we'll be moving on from there for a December launch."
The series allows Kirkman to do a little "world-building" for Marvel similar to what he's done in Invincible and Walking Dead for Image. Telling the story of an older superhero who lives in his own superhero/supervillain universe in the Marvel "Max" imprint, it revives the Destroyer character originally created by Stan Lee.
"It may be the best comic I've ever written. I like all of my books equally. I've had as much fun doing them as I have on any other book. But most of the time I get done with a script and I'm like, 'Y-y-yeah, I'll try harder next time.' But when I'm writing this one, I get done writing a script and I think, 'Wow, that is totally neat.' I'm really excited for it. Destroyer has a lot of cool stuff in it. It's a totally cool character. It's a Max book, so I'm crossing boundaries. And I'm doing more crazy stuff in this one than I've ever done," he said.
Kirkman said readers who enjoy his work at Image didn't like his Marvel stuff as well will probably like Destroyer Max because Marvel is giving him free rein to create his own universe.
"It feels like I'm doing an Image book, and that's part of the fun for me. I don't own the character; Stan Lee created the character back in 1940-something. I'm just coming in and basically changing everything. [laughs] But it's completely free rein," he said. "There are different aspects I'm doing, and I'm bringing in all kinds of new characters and doing a lot of new stuff. That's what excites me -- being able to blaze a new trail."
Since Kirkman brought up disappointed Marvel fans, we had to mention that there are a few Marvel Zombies readers who aren't happy he's not writing the next volume of the series.
"Fans can kiss my ass! I am sick! Sick of it!" he joked, keeping a straight face for only a second then letting out a laugh. "No, I know I've become 'the zombie guy.' And it's ridiculous for me to complain about that because I've made a fair bit of money on that, and I've had more success than I deserve, and I've had more success than a lot of people that have much better work. And I'm very thankful that Walking Dead is so successful and Marvel Zombies is so successful. But at the same time, I don't want to keep beating that drum.
"And so when I was working on Marvel Zombies 2, I came up with the idea to kick them into the other dimension and leave it open to do other stuff, but I thought that was a pretty good place to end it," he explained. "And I knew when I was writing that, that I was kind of done with it. So I'm stepping aside. And Fred Van Lente's coming on to write it, and I'm excited to see what he does with it. I'm sure it's going to be just as cool. He's already said in interviews that he's going to try to top me, so the gauntlet has been thrown down, and we'll see! I'll be watching!"
Newsarama also wanted to double-check something Kirkman told us about Invincible and The Walking Dead the last time we discussed those series -- that he was working on getting a more regular shipping schedule for the Image books.
Kirkman said on The Walking Dead, issue #50 comes out this week, issue #51 is done and at the printer, and issue #52 is done and ready to go to the printer.
"I'm completely done with issue #53 and about to start #54, and Charlie is finishing up #53. There was a little bit of a gap between issue #49 and Issue #50, but what? What do you want from me?" he laughed. "No, it should be fun getting back on track with this series. And the story is getting exciting. They're on the move. If you've seen issue #49, you have a feeling what's coming."
For Invincible, issue #50 came out in June, and #51 is at the printer, while #52 is done and ready to be turned in. "I'm trying to catch up on both books," he said.
And since Image founder Todd McFarlane had talked during his panel about Haunt, the series he's co-creating with Kirkman, we asked the writer for the status of the series.
"We had some artist trouble early on, and that kind of pushed the book back a little bit, but we have a new team now," he said. "Things are going really smoothly. I'm completely done with the first issue. I'm working on the second issue now. I've just been kind of waiting for everything to work out. But I'm back on it now. We're launching it in December. I think we're going to announce the artist in San Diego, but Todd's very much involved. I've already seen the cover to the first issue, and it's totally cool. Todd's doing all the covers. So it's going to be excellent. I'm very excited."
The story of Haunt is about a CIA agent who dies and haunts his brother, Kirkman explained. "The initial storyline is about him trying to solve his own murder. Through his interactions with his brother, he realizes his ghost form can do different things with his brother, and they form a superhero. He can enter into the physical realm through his brother, and he forms kind of an ectoplasmic shell around him. That gives him superpowers," Kirkman said. "But his brother is a Catholic priest, so it's this kick-ass CIA agent who's got his wimpy brother. And he's like, 'No! Come on! We've got to do this stuff! We've got to jump from rooftops and we have to break into facilities!'"
But Kirkman said the comic isn't just about the action. "There's all kinds of drama. The guy became a Catholic priest because his CIA agent brother stole his girlfriend and married her," he said. "So now that he's dead, the girl's there, and he's having to console her. So you know, it's going to be very character-oriented and dramatic, as well as being action-packed. That's what I like, and that's what Todd's really into."
Newsarama had to ask, though -- with how busy McFarlane seems to be, with not only his toy empire but now his upcoming work as co-creator on the current Spawn stories -- how involved is the Image founder in the creation of Haunt?
"I expected Todd to just be, like, patting me on the head and saying, 'I'm Todd McFarlane! Kiss my scepter!' But it was totally not like that at all. I've been to [McFarlane Companies headquarters in] Phoenix two times to hang out and work with him on this thing, and he clears an entire day off his schedule, and we sit down in his office," Kirkman said. "And he's got the Cintiq tablet, and I'm sitting over his shoulder telling him what to do, and he's like, 'Oh yeah! I'll draw it that way! That does look cool!' Then we'll get into arguments and work things out."
Kirkman said McFarlane even contributed to the original idea of how the main characters' powers work. "One of the cool things is that I came at him with the name and the brother aspect of it. And he would come in and say, 'I think it's very important for superheroes to have a weakness, so maybe when he forms that ectoplasmic shell, he is draining energy from his brother and he can't stay in that form for very long.' So he would add really cool stuff like that," Kirkman said. "And there were a lot of different story aspects where he would say, well, if you went that way, it's really cool, but I think if it'd be cooler if you went this way. It was very collaborative."
Newsarama readers will remember the Haunt project came out of a challenge Kirkman issued to McFarlane during San Diego Comic-Con in 2006, asking when he would get back to creating comics again in front of a whole audience of fans at a panel. "Do you want to do a book with me?" McFarlane said from the podium during the panel. Kirkman agreed, and Haunt is the result of their work together on the promised project.
"He's designing all the characters. He's doing all the covers. He's going to be doing a little bit of inking on a little bit of the art, as far as I can tell. He might be inking it entirely. I don't want to commit him to that yet. But it's going to be a really cool book and believe me, Todd's not just supervising. This is hands-on all the way. And it's been great working with him," Kirkman said.