If this weekend’s premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead makes you wish you could catch up with Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard’s original comic version, but you can’t quite justify spending the money on the first collection sight unseen, don’t worry. Come January, Image Comics will be releasing The Walking Dead Weekly, a weekly series reprinting the comic from the very beginning. I spoke to creator Robert Kirkman about the series, and what the success of the comic means to him, his other comic creations, and comics in general.
How did the idea of a weekly reprint book come about?
Being able to go into your comic shop every week and buy something is always a good thing. I think it’ll drive people into comic book retail stores, and I think that’s cool. The other thing about The Walking Dead is that it’s been going for almost eight years at this point, and I’m continually trying to think of ways to get new readers on board, and I was thinking, with [people coming in from watching] this television show, buying thirteen trade paperbacks for x amount of dollars is kind of a pain, but buying one three dollar comic book every week for a year may seem like an easier pill to swallow, and a good way to get in on the ground floor, read it in its original format… We’re going to be reprinting the original letters columns as they originally appeared, so that’s going to be a cool time capsule, to look back at those letters again. There’s a lot there that people haven’t already seen, and I think it’ll be a cool thing to do.
Was there a lot of discussion about running it as a weekly instead of a monthly, like the original series? The weekly format closer parallels the way the television series is delivered, was that part of the thinking?
I think weekly is just a more reasonable way to get the issues out there. If I were to do a monthly again, we would never catch up with the regular run of the [original] issues, so I’m hoping that this will continue until it gets caught up with the regular monthly issues, and then people can jump onto those.
Are you worried that The Walking Dead Weekly will hurt sales of the collected editions of the series in the short term?
I think there are a lot of different people buying comics books right now, and I think there’re a lot of people out there who really don’t prefer trade paperbacks. I’ve talked to a lot of people who tell me that they prefer reading comics in single issue form. There are people out there who prefer to read comics in trade paperback form. I think it’s important to service all of those audiences. You know, it’s good to finally come back around and service those fans who really like single issues. If you were to go back and buy all of our single issues now, it would be extremely expensive and difficult, but this is a way that you can get the comic book in single issue form and not have to sell your house.
One of the things that’s comforting to see is that, even with the television series and the announced series of prose books spinning out from the comic, the comic itself remains at the center of the whole thing – Something that I think the Weekly underlines, making the comic as widely available as possible.
No, definitely. I mean, TV is nice and I’m certainly happy to have a television show, but you know, I didn’t grow up wanting to have a television show, I grew up wanting to do comics, and so that’s still my focus. The Walking Dead exists first and foremost as a comic book series. I mean, we don’t really know the level of success the television series is going to have, although things are looking really good and it’s definitely a great show. A few years from now, people could go, “The Walking Dead? That thing was a comic?” I definitely don’t want that to happen, but sometimes the success of something overshadows its origins.
For the time being, I’m definitely very committed to the comic book series. That’s why I’m getting it out there, why Charlie Adlard and I are busting ass – mostly Charlie – to get it out there monthly, and to stay on schedule, and keep things moving, just because – we know that the reason that people are reading this comic and enjoying this comic book are the reason that they’re making a television show. To get a television show and then say, “Oh, we don’t have to put our book out monthly now!” would be… kinda wrong, I think. We’re remaining very dedicated to the comic book series, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Is that difficult with your schedule? I mean, as well as writing the comic every month – and the other comics you’re also writing – you’re also plotting the novels and working on the television series. Didn’t you spend some time in the writers room for the show this year?
I was in the writers room for a limited amount of time, just a week here and a week there, never a long stretch. But I did end up writing the fourth episode of this season, so I am participating in that capacity. I write a lot on planes, and I’ve been doing a lot of traveling, so I guess that helps. I guess I manage my time fairly well, it’s been tough, I can say, but I’m making it work so far.
With all the focus it’s been getting, do you feel as if The Walking Dead overshadows or pulls your attention away from things like [Kirkman's superhero title] Invincible or whatever?
No, definitely not. I don’t really put any more effort into Walking Dead than I do Invincible. We don’t really have any [other comics spin-offs] for Walking Dead other than the core book. Anything that is not the core book is a reprint of some kind. Actually, we’re doing spin-offs of Invincible and we’re not doing spin-offs for Walking Dead, so maybe I’m doing something wrong. But it’s very important if you’re going to do multiple books to treat every book with the same level of importance and the same level of detail, so between Haunt and Guarding The Globe and Invincible and even The Astonishing Wolf-Man, that just wrapped up, I put every ounce of myself into those books just as I do with The Walking Dead.
With all the attention you’re getting thanks to the television series, do you feel pressure to have to come up with new concepts or ideas to surprise people with, to show that you’re not just that zombie guy?
It’s not like The Walking Dead show happens, and I’m like “Oh, I have to come up with new ideas!” My problem is that I come up with too many ideas and I don’t have time to do them. I have, like, three or four new creator-owned books that are in the works, at various stages, that are coming out slowly because of me. That’s very frustrating. I have other things that I’m doing that may or may not be comics. But it’s really a matter of getting these things out and letting people see them, it’s not a matter of, “Hey, I have to come up with some new thing now that this Walking Dead show has happened.”
One of the frustrating things about being at Marvel was that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted, I couldn’t do creator-owned stuff. So I just stockpiled stuff, I had this big folder of notes, of things that I wanted to get to. And now that I’m out of my contract and I’m able to do whatever I want whenever I want, the difficult thing is, where do I schedule the time to do these things. I’m always coming up with new stuff, and hopefully there will always be new stuff on the horizon, because that’s what keeps me excited about comics. Hopefully people will be seeing new stuff from me soon.
Do you think that the success of Walking Dead – or its fellow Image Comics series, Chew – outside of the comics industry helps underline the potential for new ideas and creator-owned projects for comic readers and creators? When something comes along that doesn’t have Marvel or DC’s connections but not only is a sales success but also gets optioned for movies or television, does that show that the Image model “works,” for want of a better way of putting it?
Absolutely. Anything something like Chew comes along, in particular, where it’s a new idea and it’s got people talking about it, it’s reaching bestsellers list in the New York Times and it’s outperforming a lot of Marvel and DC’s lines, that’s a big deal. John Layman and Rob Guillory are able to do their own thing and have that success, I hope that it’s something that other creators who want to do that kind of thing see, and see that the climate is there right now for them to do that.
Image right now is experiencing an unprecedented period of success, with things like Morning Glories, like Hack/Slash, like Skullkickers and Turf, there are a lot of Image books out there right now that are doing better than we expected them to, at a time when Marvel and DC books are selling so poorly that they’re worried about their pricing being too high and they’re scrambling to figure out what’s going on. So I’m hoping that that’s an indicator that people are looking for new ideas and becoming more open to things that are original, aren’t the same things that they’ve been reading for decades. If that’s the way that comics are going, I’m very excited about that.
How important do you think the rise of digital comics is for that? Do new readers who don’t have the same expectations as those who’ve been going to comic stores for years help new ideas and series survive, because they’re not used to the Marvel or DC dominance of the market?
If you look at the digital audience as a mass audience, a mass audience doesn’t buy a comic book because it’s a Spider-Man comic book, they purchase things based on whether or not it looks cool. I think a mass audience is more accepting of new ideas, and if something looks good, they’re going to pick it up. A lot of manga, that thrives here, is driven by a new audience picking it up and giving it a shot. And that’s through the book market, which is more of a mass market [than comic stores]. I do think digital is helping things quite a bit from that part.
So, when January 2011 rolls around, Walking Dead will be available as the regular monthly comic, paperback collections, hardcover collections and now a single issue reprint starting from the very beginning. Is there a comic format Walking Dead isn’t in?
Give us time. If we find it, we’ll do it. [Laughs]
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