Robert Kirkman is a pretty big deal these days. The creator of The Walking Dead comic book series has led his characters to their horrific deaths while amassing tons of regular readers and record viewers on the AMC show based on the comic. This past weekend was kind of a big one for Kirkman, a 36 year old from Richmond, Kentucky. In fact, from Thursday through Sunday, Kirkman’s success was very much on display at New York Comic Con, Madison Square Garden and through a little television show that again did the improbable by drawing in more viewers that football. Here are four crazy days of Robert Kirkman.
Thursday, October 8th
NYCC is a place where the hugely popular The Walking Dead comic book series has as much pull among fans as the AMC TV show. So a panel about the zombie property with none of the actors present had no issue filling seats. Kirkman was joined by Nerdist writer Dan Casey, who acted as moderator, for an hour long discussion on everything The Walking Dead. I do mean everything. Comics, the TV show, Fear the Walking Dead, video games, and novels, it was all covered. Kirkman began by addressing the new season of the show as the “most intense season of ‘The Walking Dead’ yet.” But we know by this point in the show’s run that no one involved is going to spill the beans on upcoming episodes. Or maybe he did and just masked the truth with sarcasm. Casey and Kirkman joked about killing fan favorite Daryl Dixon, which got some laughs from the crowd. But I promise you the popular fan saying, “If Daryl dies, we riot” remains as true as ever.
When talking about the companion series, Fear the Walking Dead, Kirkman spoke about needing to show the characters going through that process of adapting to the new threats in the world. So I guess that’s his way of telling the naysayers to be patient with the show. The bulk of the panel focused on The Walking Dead comic book series, which is closing in on its 150th issue. I will avoid spoilers here, but Kirkman spoke about a number of big events in the comic that may still happen on the TV show. A few of them have me quite nervous about the potential events of this upcoming season. That’s what we get for caring about characters on a show that kills everybody.
One character that kept coming up was Negan, a villain, who will surely turn up on the show at some point. But Kirkman wouldn’t admit that fact. He did half jokingly say that he would like Ed O’Neill to play him though. The crowd got to see the cover for issue 150 which will hit stores in January. Kirkman said he’s about 60 issues ahead in planning the story. So he’s already killing off fan favorite characters that we haven’t even met yet. One thing we haven’t seen in the comic, where anything can happen, is aliens. But did Martians almost show up on TWD pages? Not exactly. Kirkman revealed that when pitching the story to Image Comics he was told he needed more of a hook. So he claimed aliens were responsible for the chaos. But when the first issue came out, he admitted to his employers that he had lied. They ended up agreeing that it was the right move to leave them out. Almost 150 issues later, I think we agree.
Friday, October 9th
After an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers the night prior, Kirkman joined the cast and crew of The Walking Dead for a sold out fan premiere event at Madison Square Garden. The event was part of NYCC Presents New York Super Week, a group of events outside the walls of NYCC. Close to 20,000 people packed in the arena to see the season six premiere of the show. There was also a lengthy discussion with the cast. Yvette Nicole Brown moderated the chat that included a look at some of the cast’s baby pictures, appearances by former cast members (Shane!) and even the first inductee into “The Walking Dead Hall of Fame.” Scott Wilson, who played good ol’ Hershel, was presented with the honor. But his acceptance speech was interrupted by a video message from another departed character. The Governor, David Morrissey, sent over his regards to the man his character beheaded a few years back. Many photos and videos from the event have since been posted online. So everyone who couldn’t make it can revel in the awesomeness of Norman Reedus’ motorcycle entrance. He seemed to be driving slightly faster than he did on Sunday’s premiere episode. We also get to see what the cast looks like in fancy clothes. Not a leather vest to be seen. (Except for the cosplayers in the crowd.)
Saturday, October 10th
While Kirkman kept most of his attention on The Walking Dead, he did shift gears to talk about another comic-to-TV adaptation he’s involved in on Saturday at NYCC. The room may have been smaller than MSG, but fans were packed in to see Kirkman talk about the upcoming Cinemax series Outcast, which is also based on a comic he writes. This one trades zombies for demonic possession and, from the looks of it, is even darker than TWD. If that’s possible. The comic book series currently has 12 issues out. Comedian/writer/actor Jon Glaser, best known for his work on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and Parks & Recreation moderated the panel and had the crowd laughing by continually bringing up the half-marathon he ran the morning of the panel. In fact, Kirkman stopped at one point to emphasize just how serious the show is because he didn’t want the comedy on stage to mislead anyone. The show’s lead actor, Patrick Fugit, and executive producer Chris Black joined Kirkman and Glaser for the hour-long discussion.
Kirkman revealed that Fugit’s audition stood out because it was actually less depressing than the others they had seen. But with Cinemax looking to push the edginess of the show, expect to be thoroughly creeped out. A sneak peak scene shown to the crowd involved a little boy, a cockroach, blood, and drool. So take what you will from that. I won’t spoil it because I promise you will have some sort of reaction when you see it in the first episode of the show set to premiere in 2016. Fans of the comic series can expect to see some minor characters expanded to fill the time requirements of television. But don’t get too attached. This is still a Robert Kirkman story we’re talking about.
Sunday, October 11th
While the lucky thousands in attendance at MSG on Friday got to see The Walking Dead season six premiere a few days early, everyone else got their chance on Sunday night on AMC. The episode’s ratings were unable to match those of last October’s premiere when the world was anxious to see if Rick and co. would be able to find their way out of Terminus. But 14 million viewers is nothing to scoff at. It was the most watched show on Sunday night and even beat the usual king, Sunday Night Football.
The premiere, which felt more like a movie than an episode, ran 90 minutes with flashbacks in black and white, leading viewers from the events of the previous season finale to an epic parade of zombies. Rick and Morgan found a quarry with thousands of walkers trapped inside. That explains how Alexandria has managed to stay safe all this time. Rick proposed a course of action to lead the zombies away from their settlement before they break free and cause problems for our characters. Of course everything doesn’t go entirely as plan.
From two NYCC panels to a sold out Madison Square Garden and a season premiere larger in scale than any episode in their 5+ seasons, Robert Kirkman had quite the few days. After missing San Diego Comic Con due to throat surgery, the king of the walkers sure made his presence felt in New York. At his panel on Thursday, Kirkman revealed his thought process when writing: “If I was a fan, what would be cool to me?” It’s safe to say his fans find him and his work pretty cool.