Robert Kirkman launches his new comic book label, Skybound, with this month’s premiere issue of “Witch Doctor.” He was in San Francisco at Wondercon promoting a preview issue and I got to interview him. I quickly turned the conversation to “The Walking Dead,” the TV version, which he was cool with. You can check out “Witch Doctor” June 29 though, and “The Walking Dead” returns to AMC in October.
Q: How do you enjoy the screenwriting process compared to comic books?
Robert Kirkman: I’ll be honest. It’s a bit of an uphill battle just because I’ve written so many comic books and it’s such a second nature to me the way comic books are written. Just to sit down and write a comic book is kinda like sitting down and having a conversation. It’s very easy for me. Then when I sit down to write an episode of “The Walking Dead” I always have go, “Okay, I’m writing in screenplay format now and this is how this works, this is how that works.” There’s a bit of a learning curve and luckily we’ve got good script editors and stuff on the show that make all the scripts match. They can come in and fix all my awful formatting mistakes.
Q: What are you excited to do in season two?
RK I am excited to do everything in season two. I think that season two, I don’t want to build it up too much, but it’s probably going to be the best television show ever made. Look out, “The Wire.” I think that season two has everything that people liked about season one but doubled.
Q: Well, my favorite part of zombie stories isn’t the zombies, it’s finding supplies to survive and fight them.
RK: That’s definitely going to be a huge aspect to the second season just because we saw them at the end of the first season hit the road after the CDC exploded. They don’t have supplies and they have nowhere to go and it’s getting dark. That’s where we meet up with our characters and that’s really dangerous. They’re going to have to find places to live and find things to eat, and there’s a lot of them. It’s going to be pretty interesting.
Q: Why did you need a shakeup in the writer’s room?
RK: Well, there wasn’t. Rumors get blown out of proportion. Basically, if you look at any writer’s room on any show from season to season, every writer in Hollywood is moving up in levels so staff writers become showrunners and become head writers and all that kind of stuff. You see people moving from show to show. The main thing that happened is Chick Eglee was brought onto the series to be the showrunner because no one expected Frank Darabont who’s a big time movie director to be as invested in the show as he ended up being. Once it was clear that Frank wasn’t going anywhere, Chick was like, “Well, I’m redundant here. You don’t need me to do the things that Frank is already doing.” So he just kind of went off to do his own thing and ended up on “Powers,” which we’re all very excited about. I think that show is going to be excellent. I guess that somehow got reported as some big shakeup but it was really just a case of you’ve got two showrunners here.
Q: It was also reported there were rehirings and more firings.
RK: Yeah, it’s ridiculous. No one was ever fired. You have to be hired back onto a show. You can’t really fire a staff writer. I wrote the fourth episode. I wasn’t fired. Glen Mazzara wrote the fifth episode. He’s the head writer on the show this season.
Q: Where it comes from is we love the show and we don’t want to worry that anything we love is going away.
RK: Definitely not.
Q: And there are shows that retool for second seasons and they’re terrible. Look at “Heroes.”
RK: Well, Frank Darabont wrote the first two episodes and co-wrote the third episode. I wrote the fourth episode, Glen Mazzara wrote the fifth episode and Adam Fiero wrote the sixth episode. Adam didn’t come back but everyone else is here. I don’t think anyone has to worry that there’s going to be a huge shakeup. That’s definitely not going to be the case. I think that the series is just going to continue and I think it’s going to get better because we’ve been able to expand on a lot of things.
Q: Where are you with the “Walking Dead” books?
RK: Well, we just shipped issue 83. Our 14th volume is going to be coming out in June. In the comic book series, we’ve
gotten way far ahead of where the television show is. They eventually settled into a place called Alexandria, which is outside of Washington, D.C. So they’re in the Alexandria area in a walled in community. They’re kind of safe. That’s the perfect place that they’ve been looking for. It’s got solar power. It was set up as a place for senators and government officials to go in the event of the end of the world, and it’s kind of return back to civilization for the characters. Right now it’s been overrun by zombies and they’re dealing with that.
Q: Are there any supplies left by issue 83?
RK: Oh sure. If you think about how many people died, our population’s gone down to like 1%. There’s going to be resources leftover. Issue 1000, they’ll still be finding Twinkies and stuff.
Q: Twinkies will last forever.
RK: They taste much better when they’re fresh.
Q: Is the appeal of these apocalypse stories more the survival than the monster?
RK: I think apocalyptic stories much more than anything are all about the world. I think that’s really the focus and I think that’s what makes them so appealing. The world is a threat in apocalyptic stories. The world is made up with people like Gary Oldman’s character from Book of Eli or people like the vampires from I Am Legend. It’s really about this alien world and what exists in this world that is alien to us and that’s the threat. I think that’s great. “The Walking Dead” is much more about people existing in a world ravaged by zombies than it is about them just fighting zombies as a monster.
Q: I also think about how I feel I’m good at choosing people in my life, but what do you do if these are the only people left, like Michael Rooker?
RK: That’s true. That’s really the core aspect of “The Walking Dead,” that the people that you’re with could be as dangerous as the zombies. That’s the fun part of it. You do kind of get stuck with some Michael Rookers every now and then. I should’ve said Merles. You get stuck with some Merles, because I can say having experienced it, getting stuck with Michael Rooker is actually kind of fun. He’s a cool guy.
Q: Do you think we’ll do okay if it all comes down?
RK: Oh no, we’re screwed. I don’t mean to be pessimistic or anything, but if anything half as bad as a zombie apocalypse were to ever happen, I would eat you. We’re not good people. We just aren’t. I hate to be cynical.
Q: So you’re the opposite of The Road that says we should still be good even when there’s nothing left.
RK: Well, I would like to think that but I just don’t have that kind of trust in humanity. I you think about all of the horrible things we do now to each other, not me personally, I’m actually a pretty good guy but you read the news and you’re like, “Really? Someone did that? That’s insane.” Those people are the people that do that when society is great. Think about what people would be doing if they had an excuse, if it was like well, there’s no laws, there’s no boundaries, I have to do anything to survive. It’s terrifying.