(Photo by Megan Mack)
Interview by Bonnie Burton
You can’t be a fan of zombies and not know the name Robert Kirkman. As the creator of the award-winning comic book series The Walking Dead for Image Comics and the hit TV show The Walking Dead airing on AMC with a new season starting Oct 16, Kirkman is making us all a little more nervous when we hear something go bump in the middle of the night. Kirkman’s talents have also extended to other comics such as Invincible, Haunt, Guarding the Globe, Ultimate X-Men and Marvel Zombies, just to name a few.
StarWars.com chats with Kirkman about why The Walking Dead needed to give zombies and the people fighting them a story worthy of both comics and television. Kirkman also geeks out about Jawas, George Lucas and why Boba Fett would be great at fighting off hordes of zombies.
ON THE WALKING DEAD:
What was the genesis for your wildly popular comic book series, The Walking Dead?
The main idea that resulted in The Walking Dead is the fact that I do not like the way most zombie movies end. I’m a fan of zombie movies; they’re always entertaining; but they only have only one of two endings — everybody dies or the people who survive run off into the sunset and you never see them again. It always occurred to me that the most interesting stories could be told after that point. How do they continue to survive? Where do they go? How do they find food? How do they build shelter? How do people interact in a world like this one or two years later? Is society rebuilt or is civilization lost for good? These are the kinds of questions that I would always think about.
At the time I was trying to come up with a new comic book series and I just thought, “Wow, that’s a story that I could really kind of dig into and tell for decades. My main goal in life is to create a comic book series that I’ll be able to write for years and years for as long as I wanted and be able to control it and tell the stories I wanted. And that became The Walking Dead.
How has the experience differed for you working on The Walking Dead TV series on AMC of your own comic?
It’s been easy because the comic book still exists; I’m still writing every month — that’s what I do and I do whatever I want with those stories; and nothing has changed at all in any way in as far as how the comic is made. When it comes to the television show… I don’t know how to make a television show. I don’t act, I don’t operate a camera, and I don’t know any of the things that go into making a TV show. So it hasn’t been difficult at all to go, “Okay, this is a completely different medium that I know nothing about, let’s work with 5,000 very talented people to try to come up with how this works.”
A lot your comic book fans have been debating why certain characters and story lines have gone in a different direction on the TV show. Has it been strange seeing The Walking Dead morph into something else on TV? Is the writers’ room like a zombie battlefield where you are fighting to keep certain elements from your comic in the show, or are you more flexible with the adaptation?
Being in the writers room is actually really fun because we’re delving into stories that I told years ago. The material that we’re adapting into the show now is stuff that I wrote 8 or 9 years ago. Being the guy who wrote that stuff, I look back on it and think about how I might do something different or better. I don’t look at that stuff and demand that things don’t change. I’m actively excited about changing things and adapting it and making it better by doing different things with it. If anything, I’m the guy i the room saying, “We don’t have to do that! What are you talking about?”
Other people are actually trying to convince me to keep things in the show from the comic. It’s a fun process and it hasn’t really been that hard for me to let go on the TV show just because I’m surrounded by such talented people.
ON GROWING UP WITH STAR WARS:
You’ve been quoted in your most recent bio, that you wore out your VHS copies of Return of the Jedi, what were some of your childhood memories of Star Wars?
I actually saw Return of the Jedi first. I watched that VHS copy so much that I didn’t even know it was the third movie in a trilogy. I didn’t see Star Wars until I was in ninth grade. I lot of people debate whether or not to see the prequel trilogy first because if spoils the reveal that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father. I don’t think I ever didn’t know that Vader was Luke’s father. I guess I came across Star Wars in a weird way, but I guess that’s just how it happened.
As child of pop culture, you were a fan of G.I. Joe and Transformers as well as Star Wars. When you started drawing at a young age, did you ever merge your fandoms into one comic?
I don’t still have the drawings, but I know I drew Spider-Man and Batman with lightsabers and stuff like that.