There's more to Robert Kirkman than "The Walking Dead" – something he set out to show at the Skybound Entertainment panel Saturday afternoon at Comic-Con International in San Diego. The panel also featured Skybound Editorial Director Sean Mackiewicz, "Ghosted" writer Joshua Williamson and a surprise appearance by "Hulk" artist Matteo Scalera along with artist Matthew Roberts and writer Chris Dingess.
"It's Saturday, and I feel like I've been here two years," said Kirkman to get things started before covering his signature series. "'The Walking Dead' has always been about progression of time and building civilization over time, and a lot of people haven't realized what I've been building the book towards since issue #1…now things are going to escalate to the point where there are wars and huge conflicts on a larger scale." He noted that to make the feel of the story big, they'll be releasing 12 issues in seven months. To help artist Charlie Adlard, they will be welcoming on inker Stefano Gaudiano while Dave Stewart colors the covers.
In September, Skybound will also publish "The Walking Dead" in Spanish as a full run of trade paperbacks – a rare move in the American comics market. "I love producing books I can't read," Kirkman joked.
Talk shifted to "Invincible" where issue #105 will serve as a primer issue to bring in new readers. "It's not going to be a boring issue for fans of 'Invincible,'" Kirkman promised the established readership. Rather, it'll be the start of a new story and status quo, followed up by the rivalry between the title character and his father Omni-Man. The writer also teased the return of a fan favorite character in the story, though he wouldn't say who.
Meanwhile, "Invincible Universe" continues by Phil Hester and Todd Nauck. Coming up in the book, both the Slaying Mantis and the Astounding Wolfman will soon appear.
Things got into announcement mode when it was revealed that November will see the debut of "Manifest Destiny" by Dingess. and Roberts. The series will tell the secret history of the Lewis & Clark expedition across the American West. "There's a reason we got the Louisiana Purchase so cheap from Napolean, you guys. It's because it was full of monsters!" Dingess. said, adding, "We're creating a lot of cool monsters…and then we're killing them!"
"Dead Body Road" is another new series – a six-issue mini by Justin Jordan and Scalera. "I describe it as a Western noir," the artist said. "It's basically a story about revenge, and it's really cool." Kirkman called the book "A '70s revenge movie on paper" about a man named Gage whose wife is killed in a bank robbery in the first scene. "He's going to start finding out who did it, and basically his plan is to kill everybody," the artist said.
Williamson then announced that "Ghosted" has been promoted from mini series to ongoing after the release of one issue. The heart of the story moving forward will be about how the crime crew at its heart will find a way to capture a ghost, which has never been done before.
"Clone" creator David Schulner introduced incoming co-writers to the book named Aaron Ginsberg and Wade McEntire. The series as it moves forward will explore themes of identity and parentage as the lead tries to discover if he is a clone or an original human being against the backdrop of his being able to have natural kids. Issue #9 is out next week, and the writer said the next two issues will complete the major second arc of the series. "These issues coming up, I like to say I learned how to write comic books on issue #9. We're kicking ass now, and I really hope you guys get on board," said Schulner.
The writer then announced that "Clone" has been optioned by Universal to be made into a pilot for the 2014 television season. Schulner will write the pilot while Kirkman will executive produce.
Talk swung to "Thief of Thieves" and "Super Dinosaur" then as Kirkman said the Andy Diggle-written arc of the former is building to its climax now while Mega Raptor will soon return to the latter.
As fan questions started, Kirkman explained that "Image United" will return at some point but there is no definitive time. Similarly, he'd love to do more "Tech Jacket" in the future as well as expand the trade program for "Super Dinosaur" and "Astounding Wolfman," but doing a giant hardcover for the latter is going to take finding the right time on Skybound's publishing schedule.
Talk shifted across the Q&A to the differences between writing for comics and for Hollywood. Both Schulner and Dingess started in TV, and they had a steep learning curve getting used to writing comics. But at the same time, Kirkman said he had trouble getting used to the craft of TV writing, often turning in drafts of scripts with too much dialogue before being told, "You know this guy can just nod, right?" Kirkman smiled and said, "Oh yeah. I forget that things in this can move!"
Kirkman also said that Skybound is not looking for pitches at all. Presently, the company is simply keep their eye out for talent and signing people who they think will make cool comics.
The writer was also asked about his Top Cow Pilot Season comic "Hardcore" with Brian Stelfreeze. The late shipping of the last book led many to believe is was going to be a new ongoing series. But just because that hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it can't in the future. "We are actively working on stuff with all those books, and you should be hearing more about that soon," Kirkman said.