"The Walking Dead" has been independent comics' great success story since its debut in 2003. Created by Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore, with Charlie Adlard taking over on art from issue #7, the black and white Image Comics series began with police officer Rick Grimes awakening from a coma after a near-fatal injury to discover that the world he knows is gone and the undead walk the Earth. Over the course of 115 issues and counting, however, it has become much more, building up a world in which survival is paramount and ordinary people choose distinct, strategic, sometimes merciless paths to stay alive another day, while some, like Rick, see their loved ones slip away even after they've scraped by for so long. And, of course, there's the massively popular television series on AMC—but this panel's about the comics.
Kirkman and Adlard celebrated their achievement at New York Comic Con with a roomful of fans in one of the Javits Center's largest halls for a one-hour panel devoted to the series.
Kirkman began by crediting Adlard with keeping the book on schedule throughout the years. "We'd probably have, like, thirty issues" otherwise, Kirkman said. He also noted that the just-released "Walking Dead" #115 is sold out and is the highest-selling issue to date. The second print will have a four-side gatefold cover.
Beginning with #115, Adlard will be inked by Stefano Gaudiano. Adlard noted that he had never not inked his own work, but "we cherry picked the right guy in Stefano."
With the success of the color edition of "Walking Dead" #1, Kirkman joked that "you can look forward to a color edition of #2 for our 20th anniversary--a joke I've made like 20 times now." He also said that Image will begin publishing Spanish-language editions of "Walking Dead" trades in the United States.
An exhibition of "Walking Dead" art and memorabilia is currently running at Pillar 37 down the road from the Javits Center, Kirkman said, encouraging fans to have a look.
Kirkman mentioned "The Walking Dead Assault" mobile game, which is now available "on every kind of phone except rotary."
At this point, the floor was opened to questions.
The first fan asked whether the series would ever flash-forward, such as to see Carl as an adult.
"Assuming Carl doesn't die soon, I would like to have the series go until he becomes an adult," Kirkman said. He added that, though the flash-forward device works in some stories, "Walking Dead" he feels it would be "cheating."
Asked about Kirkman's state of mind given the characters and scenes he writes, Kirkman joked, "Charlie and I are rarely in the same place, and I wonder if there's something to that—'no, no, I don't need to go to that convention, I'll stay in England, a country away from you." He did say that he enjoys creating awful characters, such as Negan, who can "be beating someone to death in one scene, and then playing ping pong in the next."
Asked about the threats of zombies or the threats of humans in the series, Kirkman noted that the zombie apocalypse may have brought people together at first, but then "people were safe enough that they remembered they were people, and hey, I want your stuff, and your stuff...." He then joked that "we'll be introducing dragons into the series soon."
As to whether there will be character spotlight one-shots like those done for the Governor and Michonne, Kirkman said those are done "so retailers have something on their shelves for fans of the show when that new character is introduced." He can't say who's next without giving away upcoming plot points in Season 4, but said that there may be hints at tomorrow's "Walking Dead" show panel.
Kirkman said that "I feel bad about every character I kill off," saying it's sad to not write that character any more. "And last issue, when Rick died..." he joked.
After a few recent character deaths were spoiled (or, the audience acted as though they'd been spoiled, though Kirkman suggested this group should already know), Kirkman joked that there was no reason to not read the series--"You can bittorrent these comics, guys!" Then, "please buy the comics. I eat a lot."
"The only time I ever had to get on the phone with Robert about a script," Adlard said of times he felt uncomfortable with a script, "was the Michonne and the Governor sequence."
Kirkman added that "the Governor did a lot of things to Michonne that were not shown" and that he intended the scene as "cathartic," since Michonne's revenge would be on-camera.
Asked about the pronunciation of the character Jesus' name, Kirkman pronounced the name as it would be in English rather than Spanish.
Kirkman joked that the "Walking Dead" spinoff TV series would feature more Dixon brothers, "three of them will be triplets played by Norman Reedus," and "there will be an all-banjo episode."
Asked about a novelization of Negan's backstory, Kirkman said "we'll see," but added that his history will likely be kept to the comics. "He used to be a veterinarian," Kirkman said. It was not clear whether he was joking.
On the relationship between Rick and Carl, Kirkman said that at first he wrote it as his father as Rick and himself as Carl. "Then around issue #40, I had kids of my own, and that changed my perspective."
Kirkman said that, his first time on set, he thought "Wow, that's Rick—and he's real! And he's talking to Glenn, and it's real!" He added that he hadn't even met Steven Yeun, who plays Glenn.
He added that some of Adlard's odd set pieces made it into the show. "It's like you drew a table without using reference, and then they said, 'well, I've never seen a table like that before, but we have to make it!'"
Kirkman said "I kinda know how it happens," referring to how the zombie infestation began, but "that would be kind of boring" and take the story into science fiction. "There's only a handful of things that could have happened."