Writer and Image Comicspartner Robert Kirkman gave a very up front question and answer session in the Oakland Convention Center on Sunday at the Image Expo. Kirkman, fresh off a panel for his Skybound imprint, was joined on stage by moderator Sina Grace, his "The Walking Dead" editor and artist on Image's "Li'l Depressed Boy." Kirkman reviewed the future of his many titles, his experience writing for television on AMC's hit adaptation of his "The Walking Dead" series, his all-time favorite character and more to a room filled with his fans.
The panel began by going throw some slides of Kirkman's upcoming comics. The first slide featured a set of teasers for the next "The Walking Dead" story-arc, "Something to Fear," which begins after the four-part "A Larger World" story ends. These stories deal with Rick and his fellow survivors further exploring their world and finding some communities they may not want to be a part of.
"We've been on-time now for like four years which is ridiculous," said Kirkman. "It's all because of Charlie Adlard, so thank him. He keeps us on schedule."
Kirkman then briefly talked about "The Walking Dead" TV show, reminding the crowd that a new episode was airing that night. "Pay attention to all these fantastic commercials and buy the products that they advertise in those commercials," joked Kirkman.
He asked the crowd if they were enjoying their time at Image Expo and, when he received an enthusiastic response, said it "was probably one of the best convention experiences I've had. So thanks for coming out, it was a lot of fun."
"Maybe we'll do another one," he added.
Moving on to "Invincible," Kirkman admitted that Mark Grayson would not perish from the Scourge virus. "He's not gonna die." In the meantime though, there will be a new Invincible flying around town while Grayson is sick with the virus.
"I do have kids now, so I put dinosaurs in every book I do," joked Kirkman when a slide revealed that Invincible would be fighting a villain named Dinosaurus in upcoming issues.
Kirkman is so in love with dinosaurs, in fact, that he always suggests that the TV show effects team puts dinosaurs in every scene of "The Walking Dead." One time they called him over and showed him a clip of the show where Lori hits a zombie with her car, only instead of a zombie they inserted a velociraptor on screen instead.
"Thief of Thieves" is Kirkman's new book with co-writer Nick Spencer and artist Shawn Martinbrough about a master thief. The book is unique in that it is written using a writer's room approach, with Kirkman serving as "showrunner" and different writers tackling each arc rather than him flying solo on the book. "I want to thank you guys because the first issue did extremely well. It greatly exceeded my expectations," said Kirkman.
Kirkman's Image Comics imprint Skybound just released the first collected edition of "Witch Doctor" by writer Brandon Seifert and artist Lukas Ketner. Kirkman told the crowd to go pick it up at their convention booth before remembering, "the convention will be closed by the time this panel is over, so you will not be able to buy it though."
"Super Dinosaur" #9 is out soon and the second volume of the collected edition should be out in June. "It's a lot of fun, I like working on this comic. It's a good break for me," said Kirkman. "I like doing something that my kids can be aware of."
Kirkman then asked the audience for any questions, which took up the vast majority of the panel.
"There will always be some divergences, but for the most part the TV show will follow the path of the comic," Kirkman answered when asked how he keeps "The Walking Dead" TV and comic book stories separate.
Someone asked about a scene in the TV show where Lori crashed her car for seemingly no reason. "She's just a woman driver," joked Kirkman.
Sophia was always supposed to be in the barn in "The Walking Dead" Season 2. They never had the actual actress in there when people peeked in the barn before her reveal, however. "Anybody who would have seen her wouldn't have recognized her anyways."
Telltale Games will be publishing a story-driven "The Walking Dead" video game in early spring. Glenn's story in Atlanta before he met Rick will make up the story for the game. Kirkman said it would "mostly be new story." The game will focus much more on how to survive in a zombie-infested world and less on actual zombie killing and feature Charlie Adlard-style artwork.
There will not be a "Battle Pope" movie.
"Are you people making me answer this question at every panel I do?" asked Kirkman when a fan wanted to know how the writer himself would fare in a zombie apocalypse. Kirkman said he'd kill himself right away. "I write 'The Walking Dead' so I know what happens. It'd be a one way ticket to rapesville."
Kirkman didn't have any good advice for a fan that asked about the business side of comics, but did stress the importance of contracts before you do any work with anyone.
The blue meth seen on "The Walking Dead" TV was, in fact, the same blue meth Heisenberg cooks up on another hit AMC series, "Breaking Bad." Someone on the production team actually managed to get the "Breaking Bad" production team to send them some of the fake drug.
Kirkman said the TV show writer's room has "never gotten heated because we're mostly a bunch of cool headed people."
The writer admitted it was "difficult sometimes" to write super-smart characters because he's "not very smart." He specifically pointed to his "Science Dog" stories as ones that were particularly hard to write. "I'm trying to make everyone stupid from now on."
It is not yet known what will happen to the new Invincible if Mark Grayson recovers and reclaims the mantle. "You'll just have to read and find out."
Running out of ideas is something Kirkman has never been worried about. If anything, he has too many ideas.
Tyrese from "The Walking Dead" and Best Tiger from "Guardians of the Globe" are two of Kirkman's favorite characters to write, although he was reluctant to name any at all. "I do have favorites but I'm not gonna say because you'll think I'm not going to kill them."
T-Dog from "The Walking Dead" TV show is "his own character" and is "definitely not" the same as Tyrese from the comic book. Tyrese isn't currently in the show and "that may be the case forever and it may not be."
The zombies in "The Walking Dead" are "always a threat," however the survivors "know how to better avoid them." The zombies will still kill people and still terrorize the survivors but are no longer a "huge threat."
An employee of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco used his question to plug the Image 20th Anniversary exhibit currently on display at the museum. Kirkman had visited the exhibit and said it was the only art museum he's ever been to that hasn't bored him.
Kirkman said he has "vague plans" for the ultimate ending of "The Walking Dead" and, if he had to, could begin to execute that plan over the next few years. However, he doesn't plan on wrapping the series up any time soon and pointed out that he is jealous of series such as "Cerebus" that have gone 300 issues with the same writer, Dave Sim.
"Once you have kids you kind of become a sissy," said Kirkman. Because of this, he's actually forced himself to make his stories more violent for fear that he's becoming too soft.
Kirkman thinks that the trend right now of .1 and .5 issues is "ridiculous" and that "nobody wants those."
The title of "The Walking Dead" was something he had heard zombies described as before and thought it "sounded cool." Kirkman was not aware, however, of a previously released comic book already called "The Walking Dead." The creators of that book have never contacted him.
"I'm a cog in that machine," is how Kirkman described working in the writer's room on the "Walking Dead" TV show. Sometimes he's "sitting on a couch" and sometimes he's actively coming up with the story. All of his ideas get discussed with other writers, as well. "It's a really weird collaborative medium."
He felt his weekly "Buy My Books" column here on CBR "let Jonah [Weiland] down." "It was me being blatant and coming on every week and begging you to buy my stuff."
Kirkman's favorite comic book series is Erik Larsen's "The Savage Dragon." "It always has been and I think it always will be. He recalled how he used to call up Larsen all the time for advice and one time proposed putting Savage Dragon in an issue of "Battle Pope." Larsen didn't think he was serious and said OK, which Kirkman jumped on and wrote Savage Dragon in to the series as a hot dog vendor that gets killed. "I don't think he thought I would actually do it."
The writer said he didn't have much involvement with "The Walking Dead: The Board Game" but did enjoy the game. "It's awesome, right? It's a cool, fun game." There is "definitely a possibility" of an expansion for the game that might be "available in time for Comic-Con."
Many of the actors ask Kirkman how to say lines on the set of "The Walking Dead" and sometimes even offer up alternate dialog suggestions for their characters to say. It's all part of the TV process, though, and nothing that offends Kirkman when an actor plays a part differently than he imagined it.
Kirkman has future plans for "The Astounding Wolfman" and said he plans to write a "The Astounding Wolfman vs. Dracula" series at some point.
He had a pitch rejected for a series called "Battle Planet" with artist Tony Moore right before he pitched "The Walking Dead". "I haven't really brought anything back that was turned down." He then told the story of how, initially, Image rejected "The Walking Dead" because it didn't have a "hook." So Kirkman made up a plot twist about aliens actually creating the zombies to upset Earth's infrastructure. Image loved the twist and approved the book. "I was lying the whole time," said Kirkman, who never ended up bringing the alien invasion plot in to the book.
Kirkman credited Image with saving "Invincible" when they made the writer move up the plotline of Mark's dad being evil from #25 to #7. Kirkman has no doubts that if that popular storyline hadn't been moved up, the book would have been cancelled early on. "If I had held on for issue #25, you people wouldn't be reading 'Invincible' today."
Kirkman closed the Q&A session by reiterating that he and Rob Liefeld are still "very good friends" who decided to put "The Infinite" on hold for creative differences. However, the writer does hope to return to the book one day. "If that was a corporate-owned book, one or both of would have been fired and the book would have continued on in a lesser way."