To celebrate the launch of our new comprehensive TheWalkingDead.com site, Robert Kirkman sat down with Skybound Director of Business Development Shawn Kirkham to talk about all things The Walking Dead.
Shawn Kirkham: So, to start off, it seems only right to talk about TheWalkingDead.com. What made you want to create this site?
Robert Kirkman: I’ve got a hunch that this internet thing is probably going to stick around for a while, and The Walking Dead seems to be reaching heights of popularity. So I feel like there should be a place where people can go and find out all about the comics, and all about the video games, and the tv show. They can also come to the site to hear about all the various things we’re doing, like events, or to get information on characters. I want to just have it be your one stop place to go find out everything you can about The Walking Dead. So that if fans need to know something about The Walking Dead, they can go to one site instead of a bunch of different ones.
SK: It’s The Walking Dead 10th anniversary here in 2013. It started as a comic book in 2003, and now it’s this whole property. You were peddling books at smaller conventions, and now The Walking Dead has taken on a bit of a life of its own.
RK: There’s a lot of exciting and interesting aspects to that. When I started writing The Walking Dead, I was living pretty much in the red light district of Lexington, KY, down the street from all the porn shops and stuff in a crappy little house. It was just my wife and I, and I was massively in debt. The Walking Dead was something that I was just going to try. I didn’t know how long it was going to last. I certainly didn’t think it was going to this long. I felt like a fool for pitching the zombie movie that never ends at a time when all of my books were getting cancelled left and right, so it was a pretty silly endeavor at the time.
It’s really strange to think about, because I’d always hoped that the series would last this long, and that people would still be invested in it and that I’d still be able to fulfill the promise of watching these characters grow and change over time. But I never thought that would actually happen. The television show, everything that came from that, all the merchandise, all that kind of stuff, I never really thought about the possibilities of that. I got into this business to try and make comics. My main goal was to do a comic book that was going to last for years and years. Something I could have fun with and get to tell long term stories with. That to me was the be-all end-all of my career. I never sat around going “I hope this will turn into a tv show” or “I hope there are action figures some day.” That stuff is just a very strange and awesome bonus that came out of all of this. But the fact that The Walking Dead has become what it’s become is absolutely shocking to me. I don’t know how it happened or why it happened, but I’m ok with it.
SK: The tv show is coming back on the air for the second half of Season 3. What are we looking forward to in the coming episodes? There’s a lot of drama. You’ve got the Dixons, you’ve got the prison, you’ve got Tyreese. Are we in store for batshit crazy?
RK: I’m very happy to say that we’re always having kind of a batshit crazy time. This is a pretty crazy show and there’s always cool stuff happening. I think people have seen from the first half of season 3 that it’s always a pretty explosive, fast paced show this season, and that pace is just going to continue to escalate through the rest of season 3. We’ve got a lot of big stuff in store. Rick and The Governor have not even met each other yet. They haven’t even come face to face. We’re going to be able to see that for the first time. We haven’t really seen Daryl and Merle interacting very much. This is where we’re going to see these two characters coexisting, and either working together or working against each other for the first time. That’s a really new element that’s been thrown into these episodes. So there’s a lot of really cool stuff to come, and a lot of things that people aren’t going to be expecting. This is the Walking Dead. Nobody is safe. Not every cast member is necessarily going to be making it out of this season, which is what the show is. It’s a crazy show. Crazy stuff is going to happen.
SK: Taking that same idea over to the books, issue 107 is out next week. Carl has been showing some growing pains, and trying to break out on his own and take down the big bad Negan. What do you have in store for that? What is on the horizon?
RK: Right now the comic book is really focusing on the threat of Negan and the Saviors. Rick and his group have built a somewhat sustainable fragment of civilization in the Alexandria community, and they’ve been brought into this larger conflict involving Negan and the Saviors. Carl’s gotten into a bit of trouble trying to take matters into his own hands. There’s this conflict looming on the horizon, and people are starting to question Rick and what his motives are with his new attitude of “I’m moving against Negan, I’m keeping that secret, I don’t want to trust the acting abilities of the people in Alexandria if they were to encounter Negan. I want people to think that I’m subservient, I want people to think that I’m working with him.”
But Rick has a plan. And coming up in these issues very soon, Rick starts to put the pieces in motion to carry out that plan. And things are only going to get more crazy and intense from there. We’ve gotten to a point in the book where the cast is growing and we’ve got all these other communities that are popping up that are like the Alexandria community. And we’ve gotten to a place where you are going to see big conflicts on a level that you haven’t really seen before in the Walking Dead comic. Even after 100 issues, I’m always trying to work with Charlie Adlard to come up with things to push the envelope, to do things you haven’t seen before so that people who have decided to stick with it 100 issues aren’t getting bored. My main fear is that people are going to get bored. So you know there’s going to be a lot of cool stuff.
SK: The Walking Dead brand has really branched out recently. There are so many great products now. What are your thoughts for the next year on the things that have come out of it, like The Walking Dead Escape, The Walking Dead novels, all that stuff?
RK: It’s absolutely crazy. There’s an obstacle course based on The Walking Dead. That’s nuts to me. I think it’s awesome. When we make decisions to expand The Walking Dead into new areas and do new things with it, I always try to come at it from a place of “if I hadn’t created The Walking Dead and I had nothing to do with this thing, is that a thing I would want to do?” I would want to play the Telltale game. I would want to run through The Walking Dead Escape obstacle course. I would want to play with the McFarlane Toys action figures. I would enjoy playing the Z-Man board game. I always try to be mindful of “what’s the value of these things?” I try to come at it from a fan’s perspective. When people want to do The Walking Dead perfume, I think to myself, that seems tacky. We’re not going to do that. I don’t want to do a The Walking Dead energy drink. There are definitely limits to what you can do with The Walking Dead and have it still be cool. But when it comes to things like The Walking Dead baby onesies, I think “I’d buy that, if I had a baby.”
SK: In the Walking Dead comic, we’ve seen the introduction of some pretty cool characters in the past year or so. We started with Jesus. We’ve got Negan. From what we’ve seen on the issue 108 cover, we’ve got Ezekiel coming up. Is there anything you can tell us about Ezekiel?
RK: I can tell you Ezekiel has a tiger. (laughs). No, I mean, like you say the world is expanding, so we always have to be introducing characters, because we keep killing characters. The Walking Dead is always supposed to be an evolution, a natural progression of civilization crumbling and who survives that, and how people carry on. In the first 20 and 30 issues of the Walking Dead, we’re meeting people like Allen and Donna, and Jim the mechanic, and characters that are very much like the characters that we know in our everyday lives. Our friends, or neighbors, our family members, our loved ones. I think Michonne was really the first character that kind of had started to adapt to this world. And that kind of hit a point where I started introducing characters like The Governor. Now, because people have been living so long in this world, we’re starting to see harsher, stronger people. The Walking Dead is about watching people be altered by their surroundings. Then we started introducing characters that had already been altered by the surroundings and were already darker, weirder, stranger, more deadly. And now that we’ve passed issue 100, were going to start to see more of those characters. Characters like Jesus, who is very capable of living out on his own, and Negan, who has allowed this world to twist him beyond anything we’ve seen before. And characters like Ezekiel, who have tigers.
SK: You mean more people are going to have tigers?
RK: If you’re reading The Walking Dead right now and you don’t want to see Rick riding on a tiger, you’re a liar.
SK: Haha, that would be amazing. Like Battlecat. (laughs)This coming week we see the release of The Walking Dead Governor Special.
RK: Governor special one shot? Yeah, that’s a thing.
SK: Any more plans to highlight characters who’ve existed in the series and give them a little extra spotlight?
RK: Well the Michonne Special and the Governor Special were both big successes sales wise. It does seem like people are responding to things that bring these characters to the forefront. So it might continue to be a thing we do from time to time. Along those lines, we’re going to be doing a thing for Free Comic Book Day where we collect the Michonne story from Playboy, and the Governor story that was in the Governor Special and the charity book, along with the Morgan story that a lot of people may not know about. There was actually a story that focused on Morgan that ran in an Image Comics winter special I want to say in like 2008? 2006?
RK: Was it 2005? Shows what I know. It was a long time ago. And coupled with that, we’re going to have a brand new Tyreese story, which is going to be pretty cool. The thing that excites me about this, the Governor story and the Tyreese story, is these are characters I’m now getting to write in the tv show, but I haven’t really written in the comics for a good long time. And this is really the only way to go back and play with these characters a little bit more and do a little bit more story with them. Because despite the fact that in The Walking Dead I’m killing characters at a pretty rapid pace pretty nonstop, I still miss these people. I really grow attached to these characters, despite the fact that I’m doing terrible things to them all the time. Characters like Tyreese and the Governor, and even characters like Abraham who just recently passed—spoiler alert if you haven’t gotten to that point—I miss these guys.
SK: Looking at the future of TheWalkingDead.com, what are we looking forward to? Are we going to have more interaction with you directly? Is there going to be more interaction with other bits and pieces of the Walking Dead universe?
RK: I think at its core, I would like TheWalkingDead.com to be “what’s going on in The Walking Dead Universe?” The idea is that if you come to this site, you’re not going to miss anything. I’m a fan of Star Wars and Star Trek and Game of Thrones and all that stuff, and you find out about something, and you’re like “oh wait, that thing came out and now it’s sold out? I didn’t know about that.” You know, that’s my fear as a fan. I don’t want anything to pass me by. If there’s going to be a cool event at Comic-con, I want to know about that. If there’s going to be a live streaming panel that somebody’s going to be able to watch online, I want to see that. This site is going to strive to be able to point everyone in those directions, so that you know about all that stuff. But it will also give a closer look at a lot of this Walking Dead stuff. I’m hoping there will be articles about cool things in the video game that you may not have noticed, big differences between the show and the comic that you may not have caught, nods to the comic that are in the tv show that people may not have noticed, a lot of fan interaction, a lot of exclusives. It should be a pretty awesome place. And I think we’re going to buy all the visitors to this website sandwiches at some point, so you might want to be here for that!
SK: How about cookies?
RK: Yeah, cookies. Maybe Indian food.
SK: Anything else you want to talk about?
RK: I should also mention that the Walking Dead Assault is also on sale today for 99 cents for a limited time only.
SK: Awesome! Well, that about wraps it up. Thanks for taking the time.
RK: No problem.