Robert Kirkman is the mastermind behind The Walking Dead, the dystopian zombie epic about a Rick Grimes, a former police offer, trying to protect his son and other survivors. Fans are eager to devour Kirkman’s brain for details about the characters and future storylines. We caught up with Kirkman and licked…er…picked his brain for the latest on the Walking Dead comic and TV show.
WG: You have successfully written for comics and television, what are the biggest differences writing for each?
RK: Comics writing is a solitary job, sometimes you work with an editor or an artist on a project, but its mostly you getting your ideas across. For The Walking Dead show, I work with a group of writers. Working with them is like the writing process itself, you brain storm ideas, write drafts, etc. We use the meetings to create a framework for the story. There are also a lot more revisions, lots more. In comics, I can write down my ideas, sometimes the artist will have input, but mostly they just turn my ideas into drawings. Comics also include directions in the script that explain what the characters are doing, but that’s frowned on in TV scripts. The actors are given the freedom to play out the scene as their characters would without instruction from the writers.
WG: Do you prefer one type of writing to the other?
RK: No, I don’t really have a favorite. I bounce back and forth about what I like. Sometimes I want to hang out with people and I enjoy tossing out ideas with other writers. They may take one of my ideas and approach it from an entirely different angle that I even think is better than my original idea. They’re the ones who would get credit for it and vice versa. Again with comics, I can take my writing in the directions I want and on occasion it’s good to be alone with my thoughts.
WG: As a comic book writer, you’re probably familiar with the whole canon and continuity issues. In regards to The Walking Dead, do you see the TV show as a direct adaptation of the comics or its own separate universe?
RK: The show is adapted directly, but we’re not going to put in every single scene or incident for the show. There are some fans that hate what I’m doing, while others love it. I use the comic books more as a framework for the TV scripts and that wiggle room allows me and the other writers to surprise the audience. The comic book is always moving forward just like the TV show and it is an exciting working process for both.
WG: Are there any specific scenes from the comic book that you want to see in the show?
RK: A lot, but not a laundry list. I love to keep fans guessing and I’m not going to hold up things up just so I can get that one scene on TV. I much prefer the fans to be waiting in suspense, rather than them predicting what’s going happen. Again, I do have a hit list but I won’t mention it.
WG: Do you plan to be involved in the entire run of the show?
RK: I plan to be with the show till the end I don’t see why I would leave. It doesn’t keep me from writing comics. I’ll write for the show and then I’ll write a comic another day. As long as they keep filming, I’ll be on set.
WG: Will you ever make a cameo on the show?
RK: I despise cameos. I feel that that whenever a director writes himself into the script it ruins the movie. I was watching Lord of the Rings, there’s the fellowship on their quest, and all of a sudden Peter Jackson is on screen. What is Peter Jackson doing in Middle Earth? I don’t know. So I won’t be appearing on The Walking Dead.
WG: What about throwing iN references to your other work in the show?
RK: I’m always trying to get my other stuff on the show if it makes sense. In the first episode, there was an Invincible comic the kid was reading but you couldn’t see the cover. Carl also wears a Science Dog T-shirt in the first episode.
WG: Can you tell us a few behind the scenes stories that haven’t made it to the Internet or the behind the scenes show?
RK: I have a few favorite anecdotes. In the background scenes we have a lot of dead zombie bodies and you can’t make out their faces. We use a prop company that has made dummies of famous people and these are reused in the background. You can be walking around and suddenly see Johnny Depp or George Clooney lying on the ground. Also whenever the woman who edits the clips together gets a good take, she makes people give a high-five to a bloody zombie hand. What’s funny is that she won’t leave you alone until you do. Then our props guy is always asking us if we would like to shoot some guns.
WG: Do you consider The Walking Dead the pinnacle of your career or do you see yourself working on bigger and better projects?
RK: I don’t consider The Walking Dead the highlight of my career, but it will probably be what I will be best known for. I don’t want to stop working and trying new things. I want to write for other genres, if I were asked to write a Desperate Housewives-esque series I would do it. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into any one thing.
WG: Will you continue writing comics?
RK: I will always write comics. I love it.
WG: What’s the future for The Walking Dead comic? Meaning, how far do you want to take it and any hints about what will happen in new storylines?
RK: I want to take the comic as far as I can. We just reached issue 100 and I would be willing to take it to issue 500. As for future story details, I will never review what will happen. I like the keeping the readers in the unknown.
The Walking Dead returns to A&E October 13, 2013, 9/8 C. The Walking Dead comics are published monthly through Image Comics.