At San Diego’s Comic-Con International, Robert Kirkman fans and Image Comics readers gathered at the Take To The Sky: Skybound And The Next Generation Of Independence panel to hear Kirkman talk about his Skybound imprint at Image, discuss future plans and announce new comic book projects and creative teams.
Kicking things off, moderator Sina Grace began by introducing the Skybound panelists: writer Robert Kirkman, writer David Schulner, “Witch Doctor” writer Brandon Seifert, artist Shawn Martinbrough, and artist Todd Nauk.
He then showed a slide of the newest Skybound book “Clone,” which premieres in November, written by David Schulner with art by Juan Jose Ryp. Schulner told the audience that “Clone” was his first comic, being a playwright primarily, and would be “Exploring the moral complexities and dilemmas I would explore in my plays,” Schulner said.
He then explained that the premise of the book is about an everyday guy who finds a version of himself shot in the chest, warning the protagonist, “They’re coming for you, they’re coming for all of us,” Schulner said.
“Curtain up!” he joked to audience laughter.
Showing pages from the book where the protagonist vaults over a fence and gets into a fight, Schulner added that he was excited to work with Ryp.
The next monthly series announced is “Guarding The Globe,” Phil Hester writing with Nauk penciling and inking, coming out in September. Kirkman praised both Hester, who worked on “Wonder Woman” before the New 52, and Nauk’s work.
“I like big cast books so when Robert told me ‘Guarding The Globe’ was going to be an ongoing...it was just the right kind of book for me,” Nauk added.
They then showed an image of the cast fighting mechanized monsters, Kirkman saying that the main character of the series was “the universe” and that there will be previews of in upcoming “Invincible” issues.
They then spoke about “Witch Doctor,” which will return in “November” and will be written by Seifert with art by Lukas Ketner. They then showed an image for the first issue with a patient with a prehensile tongue.
“It’s this jerk Doctor who’s investigating and fighting supernatural diseases,” Seifert explained. He then promised the focus of the second miniseries will be on magic and the medicine cure, “Specifically things like witchcraft,” Seifert added.
They then moved onto “Thief Of Thieves,” announcing new writer James Asmus who joined the panel and will begin his run with issue #8.
“The numbers on issue #8 is still double on what I wanted the numbers on the first to be,” Kirkman said, adding that sales are going up from issue to issue to applause. The trade paperback for the first seven issues will be in stores in November, the same week as issue #8.
“There’s a bug, awesome finish in the first arc,” Asmus said, continuing, “From here it continues to subvert and surprise and blow up in your and everyone else’s faces in the best way.” Saying they planned out the next arc and the arc following with Kirkman, himself, and an un-named writer, Asmus promised, “There’s a bunch more violence in the next arc, there’s also multiple heists and the characters start blossoming and ricocheting off each other in awesome ways.”
Kirkman then praised series artist Shawn Martinbrough and colorist Felix Serrano, adding that the transition from Nick Spencer’s run to Asmus’ would be smooth because of that.
“It’s just a really fun book to work on,” Asmus added.
The panelists then moves onto “Super Dinosaurs,” Kirkman saying that starting in issue #13 the stakes would be raised on the book, “Yet still appropriate for young kids and still appropriate for old people if they are reading the book,” Kirkman said.
“This book is the only book I can do that my children are aware of...so ‘Super Dinosaur’ is here to stay,” Kirkman laughed.
He then moved onto “Invincible,” which will reach issue #100 in January, the 10th anniversary of the book, with Cory Walker and Ryan Otterly sharing art duties through issue #96.
“We’ve got some big stuff planned in,” Kirkman said, adding that readers will find out what happened to Monster Girl and Flaxen and the comic will really focus on the relationships between characters. Showing an image of the new Invincible, Zandale Randolph, Kirkman promised an origin story issue for him and said he will also appear in “Guarding The Globe.”
The name of the arc going into the anniversary is called “The Death of...?”Kirkman said, saying it was going to be a huge storyline culminating in the #100 issue, saying that they would be taking on the comic book convention of superhero deaths and turning it on its head, beginning with issue #98.
Turning to “The Walking Dead” Kirkman announced that the 100th issue had the largest comic book sales numbers since 1997, thanking the fans for buying the book. In October the second Compendium will come out while the omnibus volume 4 will be out in November, and the Volume 17 trade paperback back may come out closer to November.
“We’re going to be telling a different story with different threats,” Kirkman said, promising even worse odds for the survivors.
Opening the floor to audience questions, Kirkman described the very collaborative experience of being in a TV writer’s room for the first fan to the microphone. “I thought it would be fun to get a bunch of comics book writers to work on a comic book in the same way,” Kirkman said, explaining that was the idea behind “Thief Of Thieves.”
“It’s been very efficient,” Kirkman said of the process, adding, “The process seems to be working.”
The next fan to the microphone asked if there were plans to bring artist Brett Booth back to Image or Skybound. “There are no plans right now,” Kirkman told him, saying that he was a fan of Booth, “Since the backlash days.”
The fan then asked for advice on how to write an idea for a comic book or play, and how they differed.
“This is going to take a lot of time, can we give you our phone numbers?” Kirkman joked. He then told the fan that writing was an ongoing process of trying to make his work better.
“The first draft [of a TV show] I handed in was the biggest piece of trash that was ever made,” Schulner told the fan, encouraging him to just keep writing and developing his craft.
Another audience member asked Schulner why he liked writing comics versus television or plays.
“For comics I treat each page like how am I going to get you to turn the page?” Schulner said, adding that he enjoyed the challenge of writing cliffhangers into the issues.
The fan then asked if he could sit on the panel with them in an empty chair, to which the panelists invited him up.
“He’s going to get more questions than us!” Kirkman joked as the audience laughed.
Kirkman then told the next fan that asked if he ever gets burned out that, “It’s a good life and I don’t mind the hours because I love the work.”
The fan then asked if he had ends in mind for “The Walking Dead” and “Invincible.”
“I hope that my life would end before ‘Invincible ends,’” Kirkman said, saying that his life’s dream would be sitting on his deathbed and saying, “I don’t know what these young kids are doing on the book!”
However, Kirkman said there was a definite end to “Walking Dead,” saying that he wanted to get 1000 issues of “Walking Dead” out before he dies, to audience applause.
A fan wanted to know why in “Witch Doctor” scalpel was the name of his sword, actually Excalibur. “That was the first idea I had for the series,” Seifert said. He then said he spent a lot of time thinking about the clichés of medical dramas and medicine and subverting it, like using X-ray images as tarot cards.
The very last question of the panel came from a fan who wanted to know if the Kirkman can keep Eve from “Invincible” with the weight she’s gained. “It’s fun to do something that’s a little more realistic,” Kirkman said, promising Eve would be heftier for a while and concluding the panel.