It is the greatest pop-exploration of a zombified post-apocalyptic landscape since Romero’s heyday and it has brought the un-dead to the mainstream. The Walking Dead is on-top of the mountain right now. The most eagerly anticipated book on many pull lists and the most anticipated show on television. The all-father of that world — Robert Kirkman — has gone from a well-respected member of the comic community blessed with the gift of anonymity, to a mega-star who causes lines to nearly stretch to the length of a city block just for a chance to shake his hand.
Robert Kirkman has made the dead walk, turned the living into monsters, and created a zed-horror re-birth, and as the third season of The Walking Dead drew near, he sat down with me at the New York Comic Con in the inner hull of the Skybound booth.
Why did you choose to do a prose novel when it came time to flesh-out the back story for “The Governor”?
Robert Kirkman: I don’t like flashbacks per se, and in the comic book series I think that it’s very important to continue moving forward. So for me, just going back for a number of issues and telling a back story seems to be something that would be a little bit too jarring for the audience that supported the comic book series. And, at the same time, I don’t like spin-offs. So I never wanted to do a spin off comic book where it’s like “Oh here’s another Walking Dead comic that comes out concurrently with the series”. I feel like that could weaken the brand and I’m really proud of the fact that if you want to read the Walking Dead, you can just read 1-through-whatever in comic book form. But there were good stories; you know, there were cool things I wanted to tell about the Governor, and bringing him into another medium like novels made it make a little more sense for me.
And so, I think being able to read the back story of the Governor in prose form — where it’s a little bit of a different experience — but tying it into the comic books, so that it does apply. And you can then go back into the comics with an extra understanding as to what happened before. I think [that] was a really cool thing, so I thought it was a fun experiment.
Now you say you don’t like flashbacks, and I’ve seen the first two episodes of season 3 and they look great, but there is bit of a time jump though between a season 2 and the beginning of season 3. Are you guys going to go back and show the winter, or anything like that? Is there any plan to explore what has happened since then?
Kirkman: No, no, I mean that’ll all be back story that we’ll reveal through telling the story. I mean, there will be things you will discover that happened during that time that we didn’t see. If you noticed nobody died over those months and so that story would be somewhat boring and I think that the opening scene of the premier pretty much shows what they’ve been doing during that time. They’ve been moving from house to house and I think that story has already been told.
Do you think Rick kind of has to turn into parts of Shane slightly, like he has to take on parts of Shane to actually succeed as the leader of the group?
Kirkman: I mean there’s definitely a darkening to him that you know could mirror Shane to a certain extent, but I think that Rick Grimes is just becoming a darker, meaner Rick Grimes. I don’t think that he’s going to be spiraling out of control and necessarily ‘losing himself’ the way Shane did, I mean he may teeter on the edge, we may see a little bit of that, but I think that Rick Grimes is a lot more together. So there will be differences.
Is this season totally going to take place in the realm of the prison and Woodbury?
Kirkman: I can’t answer that! But, I will say that there’s a lot of unexpected stuff coming this season that people won’t be expecting…cause it’s unexpected, but yeah, I mean our budget’s a little bigger. I think that the show is going to be pretty huge, and I think people will be surprised in the different directions that we go.
Can you see yourself ever passing off the baton on the comic to somebody else, or is it just done when you’re done with it?
Kirkman: No. I mean, I think it’s a story that I’m telling, it would feel weird to just bring someone else in and let them just continue the story, because I do have plans, and I do know what I’m doing. If I stopped anywhere before issue 300 at this point I would have to tell the next person “Okay, now this builds to this and then this builds to this and then we’re going to be setting this up and then this is going to happen and then you want to go here and do this, and these people are getting introduced… ” I mean, I have way too much stuff planned to ever pass the baton.
You’re not going to tell me any of that stuff, right?
Kirkman: No, no. Ha!
Any desire to direct an episode?
No, directing is work. I mean there’s Billy Gierheart, Ernest Dickerson, Guy Ferland, some really talented directors that work on this show and it’s just crazy work. You know, I see those guys at work like Michelle MacLaren, really talented directors that work on the show. There’s an art form to that. I certainly don’t think I have the skill set, nor the desire to do that much hard work early in the morning and that late in the night.
Last night, I was here and I saw you walking the floor — my wife was actually mesmerized by the Mattel booth and walked right past you. Do you appreciate the ability to still do that or is that a rare thing?
I mean I get stopped a lot, but if I keep walking I tend to do ok.
You’re not wearing a shirt that says like, you know, “I”m Robert Kirkman from The Walking Dead”?
Kirkman: “No, no, no I definitely don’t do that. I mean I like conventions, I like stuff. I like Transformers, I wanna look at the Lego Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I think that my son is really into new the Turtles and I think it’s a great cartoon and I love just checking that stuff out. One of my saddest moments, because I don’t have a lot of sad moments in my life because my life is pretty awesome, is the fact that I’ve been at every convention where they’ve shown footage for Iron Man 3 and I have never seen it. It’s like “I would love to watch that, why can’t I go to those panels?”
Go in cosplay.
Kirkman: I’d go, but I just don’t have time. I’m usually booked up, I have a panel against a panel and it’s just frustrating. I love going to cons.