I met up with Robert Kirkman during last week's New York Comic Con and got a status update on all things related to The Walking Dead. Not only does he talk about Negan's impact on future issues, but also provides updates on new comic book action figures, the Cutting Room Floor, and more:
Are you interested in giving readers as much background information on Negan and The Saviors as we saw with The Governor and Woodbury?
Robert Kirkman: Yeah, I think Negan is the first real antagonist we've had since The Governor. We've had the hunters and others, but no one that has taken center stage for as long as The Governor did. Negan is definitely someone that is going to be important to the book long term. Whether he lives for a while or not remains to be seen, but he'll definitely have an impact on the characters and their future. And he'll have a huge impact on our stories moving forward.
The marketing for #103 mentioned that this was a great place for new readers to start. Do you see this new story arc as a fresh start?
Robert Kirkman: I always try to be mindful that anniversary issues are good jumping on points, but also good jumping off points and try to make every one of them matter. One thing I'm very proud of with issue #100 is that I think it did set a tone for a new kind of story and a new kind of Walking Dead. It does transition into a new era, where there are going to be different occurrences and problems that they're solving. It isn't going to be just "How are we going to live in this world?" and "The zombies are after us...". It definitely has transitioned into something bigger.
In that respect, these issues that are coming out now are really good jumping on points for someone who is a fan of the show, but hasn't been following the comics. I do like the fact that modern comics are such that there are all these different volumes readily available. You could get the issues 1 - 96 in two books and I'm really happy that comics have evolved to the point that it's all readily and easily available.
It would seem that The Walking Dead is bringing in a lot of new comic book readers. Do you find that more people are purchasing the larger volumes than the individual issues?
Robert Kirkman: I hear that anecdotally from a lot of comic book shops. They get a vast number of people who only watch the TV show and are asking how to get started on the comic book. The stores are able to turn them onto Walking Dead and even suggest other books. I think it's really great, because if we can get comic readers in any way, that's a good thing. As far as sales go, I haven't really broken down the percentages, but I can say that the collected editions as a whole greatly outsell the single issues. The majority of readers seem to be getting it in collected form, but the single issues are still selling like crazy, so I have no complaints.
The amount of work on your plate is drastically different from when you first started writing The Walking Dead. Do you find that it is getting more challenging to put 100% of your focus into the comic book series?
Robert Kirkman: Definitely not. I've always made it a point to make time for the comic books. That's what got me where I am and I think it would be a betrayal of my character to spend less time on comics. I've gotten a lot more comfortable writing comics, so I can do it in less time then when I first started out. I still spend just as much time on comics as I did before the TV show and I just sort of slot the TV stuff around it. I'm very dedicated to comics and consider myself a comic book writer first and foremost. I'm moonlighting in TV.
Has the creative process changed because of the popularity of the comics and TV series? I know you plan out major elements about the story, but what about the individual issues?
Robert Kirkman: It's definitely month to month, as far as turning scripts in. Or week to week or day to day, depending on how it goes. You'll have to ask Charile, because I won't tell. He's often bugging me for script.
I have everything mapped out, but it's basically about getting the time to write it down. I know where I'll be in issue 110, 120, 130.... 150 roughly, but it's about working my way up there and getting it all written down.
The release of Road to Woodbury is coming up. Is that something that you've enjoyed working on?
Robert Kirkman: It's been great working with Jay Bonansinga. He's definitely doing the lion's share of the prose writing, because it is something that I'm not very familiar with. Mapping out the events and characters is my forte, and what I'm doing on the book. It's really great to delve back into the story from the comic book series and reveal things that I feel enhances the comic book series to a certain extent.
Are you interested in having more untold Walking Dead stories turn up as novels after The Governor's trilogy wraps up?
Robert Kirkman: It remains to be seen. I'm certainly not opposed to it, but we'll have to see what time permits.
What's the status update of The Walking Dead: Cutting Room Floor?
Robert Kirkman: The status of that is that I'm the one holding it up. I kind of got hit with work on the show while I was putting it together. I could have put up a bare bones "not as cool as I want it to be" edition and have released it on time, but I want it to be a true behind-the-scenes look at what went into developing the story. I really want to cover the paths I decided not taking and things like that, so I want to take enough time to analyze the plots and make it a really cool book for people. I hope to have it out before the end of the year.
Will this cover just early Walking Dead or beyond?
Robert Kirkman: The book will cover the plots for 1-50 or 1-48
Is this something we can expect you release new volumes of every few years?
Robert Kirkman: Yeah, definitely.
We haven't seen a new set of comic book action figures in a while the TV show already has a second series out and a third on the way. Will we be getting more comic book figures in the near future?
Robert Kirkman: Yeah, absolutely. We're working on a new line that should be out early next year. I just met with Todd and went over all of that stuff a few weeks ago.
I recently spoke with Gale Anne Hurd and she mentioned that she wants to see The Walking Dead go beyond seven seasons and continue to cover new characters and stories. Would you like to see the series follow new characters and reach 100 episodes and beyond?
Robert Kirkman: I would be all for that. It looks like we would be able to do 100 episodes, especially if we keep doing 16 episodes a season. Continuing past that, everyone says that shows usually go seven seasons, but I'm seeing Dexter go nine seasons and Weeds, so people are definitely breaking that model. I am optimistic that if this show continues to hold its popularity, maybe we'll keep going.
But, we're lucky to get to season three and the fact that it looks good for season four makes me really optimistic. I'm just happy that people love the show as much as they do. I wouldn't want to bank on continued success for decades and decades, but it certainly would be nice.
Interested in more of our coverage of The Walking Dead comic book series? Read our previous interview with Robert Kirkman and check out previews art for the upcoming issues: