Robert Kirkman kick-started the Kirkmania Panel at Comic-Con International with a friendly greeting. "How is everybody today, is everybody alright?" he called out to the audience. "Anybody great? Awesome!"
The "Invincible" creator proceeded to ask everybody who reads his popular superhero comic book to raise their hands, prompting the majority of the room to comply. He then asked the room to drop their hands if they've read the book's latest installment, and a few hands still lingered in the air. "All of you people need to leave," he warned, saying he'd try not to spoil issue #64 for them but couldn't make any promises.
A slideshow launched showcasing Kirkman's plans for his three ongoing Image Comics titles. As previously announced, "Invincible" co-creator Cory Walker will return for two issues starting in "Invincible" #66. The storyline focuses on Allen the Alien and Omni Man. "It's going to deal with all of the novels that he wrote about how to take down the Viltrumites," Kirkman said. "Allen and Nolan are going to work for the Coalition of Planets and organize a battle plan [against the Viltrumite Empire]."
There's also a new "Invincible Presents" series coming out, this one focusing on Rex Plode and Atom Eve. The issue is an origin story for Rex, and it also chronicles his romance with Eve — which is important, Kirkman said, considering that Eve survived the events of "Invincible" #63. He apologized for the spoiler.
Also announced was Mark Grayson's return to his familiar yellow-and-blue suit in a special issue titled "Invincible Returns" #1, with a cover from David Finch. It also heralds the return of the tagline, "Probably the best superhero comic book in the universe."
Moving onto "The Astounding Wolf-Man," Kirkman broke the news that the series would end with its 25th issue. "We can't top this story. It's too big and everything's been building towards it," he said. "Jason and I have other projects we'd like to do together." He added that when people read "Wolf-Man's" finale, they'll not only understand why the series had to end, but they'll be happy with the ending.
Kirkman said that "The Walking Dead Compendium, Volume 1" will get reprinted in October. "Anyone who didn't get this book, it's a massive, cool volume that you can kill somebody with," he said. "I highly recommend it if you're planning on murdering anyone."
The writer then described the upcoming "Hope" story-arc in "The Walking Dead." Rick Grimes and his not-so-merry band of survivors will find a pocket of civilization near Washington, D.C. "It's going to be a different time for 'Walking Dead.’ It's the next evolution of the series and I'm very excited about it." Kirkman said the storyline could last a long time and will kick off early in 2010.
Deciding that his rundown on "Haunt" would wait until co-creator Todd McFarlane could join the panel, Kirkman handed the panel over to the fans. Every audience member who asked a question would receive a free comic book.
Asked if Oliver would stay around 10-years old throughout "Invincible," Kirkman said, "As he gets older, his aging will slow somewhat, but he'll continue to age ... eventually, the plan is for him to be older than Mark."
Will "Walking Dead" crossover with any other comic books? "Naw, that'd be kind of horrible, right?" Kirkman posited. "I'm trying to keep 'Walking Dead' as realistic as possible — except for the walking dead people."
Kirkman's done a great job of keeping books on schedule in 2009, but will he keep up the consistency next year? "No, no. It's 'Late Again in 2010,'" he joked. "We'll be making our ship months but there might be one month in 2010 where we don't solicit an issue so we can have a vacation or something. Or I can. I don't care about the artists."
When "The Astounding Wolf-Man" ends, will Wolf-Man find his way into other Image Comics books like "Invincible?" "Assuming Wolf-Man survives? Sure," Kirkman said. "They exist in the same universe. I don't think everybody in that book will die, so there will be at least some characters who can show up in 'Invincible' and other books after its conclusion."
A fan asked if there were any plans to bring "The Walking Dead" to television stations such as HBO and Showtime. Kirkman said he couldn't say anything publicly yet, but there are plans in the works and he might have an announcement soon. Would he consider a film version? "I would prefer a television show, but I am a bit of a — cover your ears, kids — whore," he admitted. "So, if Michael Bay wants to do a movie, I'm there. Exploding zombies!"
How will moving into a civilized community effect Rick Grimes's mental health? "The whole point of this is to see if the characters are even able to exist in a civilization at this point," Kirkman said. "They may be completely incapable after everything they've been through."
Has Kirkman considered bringing his Ant-Man character from Marvel to Image? "I shouldn't talk about this publicly, but in the 'Ant-Man' series, Ant-Man wasn't a registered superhero, so there was a bit where he posed as another superhero called the Slaying Mantis," he said. "I always wanted to have a character that looked exactly like Ant-Man but colored green show up in 'Invincible' called the Slaying Mantis, but I don't really wanna get sued, so... I'm still going to do it."
Asked if he's ever been stopped from making things too gory in his books, Kirkman said, "Not really with gore, sometimes with the goofy stuff. Cory's really good at reining me in." He recalled one such instance where Walker stopped Kirkman from writing a scene featuring Mark Grayson endlessly shaving his mustache to no avail, thanks to his hairy Viltrumite genes.
Another fan asked Kirkman if he's so nasty to his characters due to a personal history of child abuse. "My dad used to put cigarettes out in my eyeballs," he said grimly, before correcting himself: "Just my hands and my arms."
The next questioner was a big fan of Kirkman's kill-happy attitude and asked him if he could write the death of any pop culture character, who would it be and how would he do it. "That's an awful question! I'm not a hateful guy!" he proclaimed. After being pressed on how he'd kill Jar-Jar Binks, Kirkman said he'd tie his ears around his neck and strangle him to death.
A child came up and asked Kirkman if the "Hope" storyline would be anything like the prison story-arcs in "The Walking Dead." The writer said that he wasn't sure how many issues it would go on for but that it would be "as important a space in the series as when they lived in the prison. They'll definitely be there for a long time."
Another child asked a question on behalf of his father about the status of "Brit." Said Kirkman: "'Brit' will be back soon. We're working on that, but not ready to announce it yet."
Kirkman said that Mecha-Maid has a large role in the last issue of "Astounding Wolf-Man," noting that Gary would use her as a jet pack. He also added that she'll likely survive the series and wind up in another title such as "Invincible."
Will Kirkman go easier on Wolf-Man going into the final issues? "It's not really interesting to have people happy and safe," he said. "So it's all down hill. The last issue is gonna have eight pages of him being ripped apart. I hate myself, so when I create these characters, I hate them too."
Asked if Carl will ever die in "The Walking Dead," Kirkman teased, "I thought Carl already died... what issue is out now?" He clarified his statement and said that Carl will live for another five issues, at least.
An audience member asked if Kirkman thought that "Mayhem!" creator Tyrese Gibson was full of himself. "Possibly, and rightly so," he said. "Have you seen the guy? He's hilarious!"
Kirkman revealed that Battle Beast will have a larger role in the Viltrumite War. He also offered a new slogan for Twitter. "Twitter: it annoys the shit out of everyone."
Will Carl's killing of Ben be discovered by Rick? "A big part of issue #66 deals with that," Kirkman said. He defended Carl's current mental state, saying: "How messed up would a kid be existing in this environment? I think the answer is pretty messed up."
At that point, Todd McFarlane showed up to the panel to discuss "Haunt." McFarlane recounted the now infamous anecdote of Kirkman calling him out for not doing enough in the comics industry. McFarlane also said that he shoulders the blame for how long it took to release "Haunt," saying he didn't want to just slap his name on the product. Thanks to the layouts of Greg Capullo — who McFarlane claimed is the best artist in the industry — and Ryan Ottley's own work, the book is finally ready. McFarlane then called Ottley on stage to shake his hand. Apparently, it was the first time they'd ever met in person.
Regarding Haunt's character design, McFarlane attributed much of his look to Kirkman. "He was very strong-minded about what he wanted [him to look like]," McFarlane said. "It's one of the reasons we made him an Image partner. He pays more attention to comics than many others."
Kirkman praised McFarlane's role in the writing of "Haunt," which was met by a few audible groans in the audience. "I'm not kidding!" Kirkman defended. "I think you're a great writer, Todd. Peter David can suck it!"
McFarlane described the process of the Haunt suit: "When the costume comes out, he literally barfs it up from his mouth and it comes and it wraps up [his face]. His chin is bare, and the reason is when he barfs out the costume, for lack of a better word, it wraps up this way." McFarlane made a loud vomiting noise that Kirkman hoped was being recorded.
The pair finished their "Haunt" presentation by saying the first issue ships in October. "It took a couple of years, but we're gonna rock and roll with this one," McFarlane declared.
Returning to the questions, one fan asked if Kirkman was aware that Carl has become creepier than the zombies in "Walking Dead." "He's not that creepy," the writer defended. "I guess he's creepy. But I think he's cool. I think he's a little bad-ass."
A young child angrily asked a pointed question: "Why did you kill Atom Eve? She didn't do anything to you!" Kirkman told the young reader to pick up "Invincible" #64, which revealed that she's still alive. He asked if the child was a fan of "Battle Pope," which he was. "My fans are horrible parents," Kirkman sighed.
Kirkman said there would be compendiums for "Invincible," as well as an eventual complete "Astounding Wolf-Man" collection. He said there are no plans for "Walking Dead" t-shirts for girls, justifying the decision thusly: "I think girl shirts are demeaning to women. It's like women don't deserve real sleeves. I find that insulting."
Can "The Walking Dead" continue on without Rick Grimes in the picture? "I think so," Kirkman posited. "I'm not ruling out the possibility that Rick will die — in the next issue that comes out! It's definitely a concern of mine. Maybe it would [continue], maybe it wouldn't. Maybe one day we'll find out."
Will Kirkman do any "Invincible Presents" looks at the Global Guardians? "Uh, yes," he answered. "Stay tuned. There are things in the works that I can't really discuss here."
Finally, Kirkman was asked if he'd ever return to "Tech Jacket." "I'd definitely like to," he said. "I do have a plan for 'Tech Jacket' and want to get to it eventually, it's just a matter of time. I gotta quit doing things like 'Haunt.'"
As the panel closed, Kirkman asked if anyone else wanted free comic books. Like the blood-hungry zombies of "The Walking Dead," the crowd converged on the stage-bound Kirkman, tearing comics from the platform like so much man flesh.