When "The Walking Dead" first began roaming the earth, readers could dodge the flesh-eating bastards by steering clear of their local comic book stores. But in the years since the Image Comics series debuted, writer Robert Kirkman has unleashed his horde of zombies upon other platforms including the iPhone, the iPad and - very soon - television, as a TV adaptation of "The Walking Dead" premieres on AMC on Halloween.
Now, escaping the brain-craving roamers is even more complicated with an all-new wrinkle added to the mix: starting with last week's "The Walking Dead" #77, new issues of Kirkman and illustrator Charlie Adlard's zombie epic will infect comic book stores and digital outlets on the same day and date.
"I've been wanting to do this for a while," Kirkman told CBR News about shifting "The Walking Dead" to a simultaneous digital and print release schedule. "I wanted it to happen with 'The Walking Dead' #75, but it took a little bit longer to put together [than anticipated], so we ended up doing it with #77. It's something that I wanted to have happen before the debut of the television show, and I think it's something that everyone is working towards."
For the foreseeable future, new issues of "The Walking Dead" will hit digital platforms like the iPad and the iPhone on the same date that issue arrives in comic book stores, and from Kirkman's perspective, the new day-and-date release schedule is aimed to introduce new readers to the popular comic book series - something that's undeniably well-timed given the upcoming debut of the "Walking Dead" TV show.
"The sad fact is that not everyone goes into the comic book store, and I'd like to think that there are more people that want comics than the people who go into the stores - this is just a way to reach them," he said. "I look at it as a good thing for comics in general and I think that people will continue buying books at the retail specialty stores just because that's a unique experience that can't really be duplicated anywhere else. People that are accustomed to buying their books in print and prefer to buy their books in print will continue to do so, but there's a new audience out there that does not necessarily have that same infatuation with print comics that, you know, I do, or other fans do. This is for them."
Kirkman's plans for simultaneous digital and print releases extend beyond "The Walking Dead," as the Eisner-winning writer revealed: "All of my books will be like this very soon." He also doesn't expect that the move towards day-and-date releases will harm print sales of his books, saying: "My reason for thinking this is that 'The Walking Dead' has been on the iPhone for over a year now and it's been on the iPad since its debut on the Comics app. Sales have been climbing in the digital market exponentially since its debut, and sales in print have been climbing as well. It's not like one is stealing from the other. It seems that both of them are just continuing to go up."
As the digital movement progresses, Kirkman expects that day-and-date releases will become much more commonplace. "I think that eventually, we'll all be doing this. I think that there's a huge audience out there that likes comics and possibly the reason we're not seeing big jumps in comic book readership while at the same time seeing all of these big movies being made based on the comics is that there's a gap in availability," he said. "I think that as we move forward, more and more people will be doing this. I think it will only help our print business and it will drive more people into comic book stores looking for trade paperbacks. Hopefully, it'll bring a whole new audience into those stores with a whole new audience reading comic books. I see this as a good thing."
Digital comics are helpful not only in reaching a new audience, Kirkman said, but also in his own writing. "One thing I do like about the iPad, I use it almost exclusively for referencing my comics as I write, so digitally, I have thirteen trade paperbacks of 'Invincible' and 'Walking Dead' sitting on a bookshelf next to me," he explained. "I've been doing a lot of traveling because of [the AMC series] and I actually have every issue of my books on the iPad now, so I can just carry every comic I've ever [written] in my bag. It's way more convenient! Now if I'm on the road and I'm thinking, 'Oh, what did that guy say in "Walking Dead" #15? I really need to reference that and I don't remember it,' now I can just pull out the iPad and check it out for myself."
As readers look towards the future of "The Walking Dead" in this new age of day-and-date releases, it's important not to neglect the future of the series itself as Rick, Carl and their fellow survivors are on the verge of disaster once again in the upcoming "No Way Out" storyline debuting in issue #80.
"Things are about to get dangerous," Kirkman warned of the book's future. "It's one of those things that the book does - just when you think everything is going to be fine, things very much aren't. We're kind of moving into that phase again. There's been a lull in zombie action, and that's going to be changing. I just want to remind people exactly how dangerous this world is. Even though you may be living in a community that has big walls around it and you're seemingly safe, everything is not exactly what it seems. It's time to shake things up again."
"The Walking Dead" #78, written by Robert Kirkman and illustrated by Charlie Adlard, hits comic book stores and digital platforms on October 13, 2010. The AMC television series premieres on October 31, 2010.