Interview: Robert Kirkman Tackles Sci-Fi in The Infinite

Posted by No_Name_ (17403 posts) - - Show Bio

If there is one person in comics that definitely has his work cut out for him and is constantly pushing himself to do more, it's Robert Kirkman. Kirkman's The Walking Dead is not only a successful comic book, but last year it became a very successful and incredibly popular television series on AMC. But when The Walking Dead took off, Kirkman didn't stop to take a breather. He pushed himself even further.

Kirkman has continued to release The Walking Dead on a monthly basis, continued writing his very popular superhero book Invincible, released his very first all ages comic book, made partner at IMAGE, developed Skybound imprint and now he's gearing up for the release of The Infinite, an all new ongoing sci-fi series he's been working on with Rob Liefeld published by Image and due to hit stores on August 3rd, 2011. We recently caught up with Kirkman to discuss The Infinite and to ask him how he's been able to juggle all of these new responsibilities, and what it's like to be considered a "cultural zeitgeist."

== TEASER ==

Robert Kirkman: I hope that this interview lives up to all the fuss it took to make it happen! [Laughs]

Comic Vine: I'm sure it will! We know a bit about the premise of the book, but what can you tell us about your new book, THE INFINITE, and why is The Infinite [antagonist] set on the destruction of humanity?

Robert Kirkman: The main thing is that The Infinite is led by this guy, the Imperious and he comes from further into the future than Bowen who for reasons we will reveal later deals with a time machine. So he's kind of this crazy guy who creates this device who no one else has been able to create. So what if this brilliant guy is able to create this thing that can change humanity is actually a madman? So he creates this device that takes him further and further back in time, gradually changing the world. So he's already affected Bowen's time line, and now Bowen is chasing him back in time trying to stop it.

CV: What characteristics did you use to distinguish the past and the present versions of your main protagonist, Bowen, and did you run into any challenges along the way?

RK: Its actually probably harder for Rob Liefeld. We're basically saying that Bowen had a bit of a growth spurt in his early twenties, which is fairly common among basketball players [laughs] so there is definitely a height difference that will help readers tell them apart. But other than that, using myself as an example, I'm 32 now and if I had to go back in time to speak to my 20 something year old self I think that would be completely irritating. I would have a completely different outlook on life, a completely different personality, no experience but all kinds of opinions. I think it's something a lot of people think about, you know? Like, 'Oh my God if I could only go back in time to talk to my sixteen year old self!' I think in most cases the first thing you would say is, stop being such an asshole! These guys are not going to get along very well, and they'll be butting heads a lot.

CV: So where did you come up with the idea for this new book and how did you team up with artist Rob Liefeld?

RK: Well Rob and I had been friends for years before I actually broke out in comics and he first found out about me through this little known series I did called Brick and he had been reading The Walking Dead since the very first issue. So way before it had become wildly successful, he actually contacted me to write a Supreme story and also a Youngblood story. So, I'm indebted to Rob because he really kept me from being homeless for a few months very early on in my career. Which is awesome. But I've also been a huge fan of Rob's work since I was 14 years old, so I've always wanted to work with him which I have already done with the Killraven series which Marvel still has to release and with IMAGE UNITED; but I have always wanted to create an original creator owned comic with Rob Liefeld.

For me, Rob is one of the creator owned greats. He's one of the founders of IMAGE, and IMAGE was his initial idea. He's the one that started going to the guys at Marvel saying, "Guys, we sould be doing our own thing," and it's really a historic thing to be the working on something (The Infinite) with a guy who has created as many things as Rob Leifeld. It's just amazing for me. As far as the story goes, I think kicking around the idea of a person teaming up with themself from a different point in the timeline is something I had been doing for a while. He and I have since been working on it for a while.

CV: Is The Infinite an ongoing series, or do you have a definitive conclusion?

RK: It is a story with a definitive conclusion, but it's also a regular monthly series, much like a Vertigo series. It may go up to 60 issues, but I pretty much know how it's going to end. The way the story is working is I am touching upon things that will appear in the last issue, in the first issue because of all the time travel stuff. So I pretty much have everything mapped out to an insane degree, but I don't want people to know exactly when the end is coming. Unlike a movie, you can sit and watch a fight scene and think to yourself, 'okay, I've been here for over two hours. I know that this is the last fight scene and I pretty much know the way this is going to end. I think one of the strengths of the comics medium is that we are much more free to tell our stories and we have the ability to let it grow and expand while we're telling it. We have the luxury of pretty much ending it whenever it feels right and we aren't held to a thirteen episode television season or held to a two hour movie spot, and I'm really going to be taking advantage of that in The Infinite.

CV: Fans probably know you best for your work on the horror comic The Walking Dead, so what made you publish a science fiction book and how does the creative process differ for you when you're writing sci-fi?

RK: Well anyone that's been following my career they know I have written The Walking Dead, and Invincible which is a superhero comic book, and Super Dinosaurs which is an all ages book and unlike anything I have ever done. I often hear from other people that fans kind of want me to just do another book like The Walking Dead, and in all honesty I probably would have been much more successful if I had done that, just because I haven't really done a series which translates directly to the fanbase of The Walking Dead simply because I like things that are all different. I like to work on a lot of projects, and in order to make those projects appealing to me, I like them to be completely different. I haven't really tackled science fiction before in any long term way. I mean, I kind of touched on aspects of sci-fi in Invincible but I've never done a science fiction epic, and I think it's about time.

CV: What would you say is your favorite genre to write?

RK: Romance? I definitely like writing action and not writing action. I think it depends on what I'm doing at the moment but I like to see a lot of action in my comics. I like to think that even though The Walking Dead is kind of slow burn, there are still great action set pieces. Honestly though the romance in all of my comics is always appealing to me, but I like to bounce around. I like writing the horror stuff and the sci-fi stuff.

CV: Last year was a really big year for you. You saw The Walking Dead become a successful television series, you made partner at IMAGE and launched Skybound Imprint. How do you manage all of this responsibility?

I stumble through life, working when I can. I'm not opposed to working. I've had an actual day job and I know what that's like really actually do work and the work I am doing is different, but I want to do whatever I can so that I never have to go back to having an actual job. I kind of feel like Im willing to put in the hours in order to maintain what I've got going...I guess it's sort of the drive that I have. I kind of feel the need to help other people do books by starting Skybound and doing more things.

CV: Was becoming a partner at IMAGE ever one of your initial goals?

RK: No, I never knew it was even a possibility. I didn't think they were willing to bring on new partners into the company. I didn't think we would ever be expanding in that way. It was actually kind of a joke I made for a while when my books started selling for IMAGE. I apparently called into the IMAGE office as much as any of the other partners and moreso than anyone else that wasn't a partner, so around the IMAGE office they would jokingly refer to me as the fifth partner because I was always calling and speaking to the accounting department and the production department, and just being really hands on about everything.

CV: What are some of your responsibilities at Skybound?

RK: Skybound is really a function to build a company around me so that I can continue to be a little bit more hands on. With The Walking Dead TV show and anything in that arena. I used to actually go in and put panel boards on the pages, and photo shop on the walking dead pages...so up until a year ago I was still doing a lot of work on my books that people didn't even know about. First and foremost Skybound was to build the infrastructure around me so that I could focus more on writing scripts and less on the administrative stuff that I had been doing on all of my books. At the same time it's also a place where I can bring in new people and get their work seen by people who may not normally look at it. I can sort of use my cache from The Walking Dead to get people to try a book they may not necessarily have heard about.

CV: Do you see a definitive end to The Walking Dead? Do you know when you want it to end?

RK: The concept of The Walking Dead is that it's the zombie movie that never ends, however I do know that nothing can last forever and that I do want it to end. However, it's years and years away. I would like to see the book hit issue 300 before that happens. We are coming up on issue 100 now and I feel like we are just getting started. I have a lot more ideas and there are still a lot of cool places to go...I feel like it hasn't even hit it's mid point yet. So I'm still as excited abut the book as Ive always been but I think people will shocked in the end when they see just how long the story will go.

CV: Do you feel like you would ever relinquish the responsibility of writing The Walking Dead if you ever become too busy?

RK: I will never let that happen. I always keep in the back of my mind that the only reason that there is a Walking Dead television show, for example, is because of that comic. There is a dedicated fan base that enjoys and supports that comic book and has provided me with the means of even doing a television show and make a living. As long as there is a Walking Dead comic I want it to be there month in and month out just like it's always been. So I'm doing pretty much anything I can to ensure that the book continues to come out on time, that the story and characters don't change because of the TV show and that I'm not censoring myself. Unless Charlie or I got really sick, we're not ever stepping away from The Walking Dead.

CV: You're creating a lot of new properties and with this newest venture, The Infinite, do you see that as a potential TV show or a movie and is that something you think about when you are writing a comic?

RK: Its something that every creator thinks about these days because there's always an interest. Not every comic book gets adapted but there are always people calling and asking questions and talking about the possibility of turning it into a movie or television show, so it's always something that's there. So if you're asking me if The Infinite would make a kick ass trilogy of science fiction movies, I would have to say absolutely. I would love for that to happen. But at the end of the day, Rob Liefeld and I are comic creators and we really just set out to do a kick ass comic book. It's a fun thing to think about but at the end of the day the fact that it's a cool comic book is enough for me.

CV: What is it about The Infinite that you are most excited about?

RK: Looking at time travel which is a concept that has existed in science fiction for decases, but one that I get to look at with a new set of eyes and try to come up with new angles dealing with time travel that haven't really been done before. I think that for me is the coolest aspect of the series.

CV: You've been called a "cultural zeitgeist," so do you feel that title holds a lot of responsibility?

RK: I don't know, I think I was just in the right place at the right time. It all comes down to luck really and I try not to put too much stock into what people say about me, especially the positive things [Laughs]. The positive things I ignore, I don't know I guess I just like being depressed. I mean, what does that even really mean? I just want to tell cool stories and hope that people enjoy them.

#1 Edited by katanalauncher (937 posts) - - Show Bio

Looks interesting, but I can't imagine Kirtman writing so many monthly on going books simultaneously without diminishing quality. 
Also, surprisingly Liefield's art doesn't look too bad here.

#2 Posted by doordoor123 (3721 posts) - - Show Bio

Its not that I dont like the art, but I just dont feel drawn to the style.
#3 Posted by CaptainCockblock (3672 posts) - - Show Bio

SHOULDER PADS AND GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNS! 
 
Looks like a typical Liefeld book, let's hope Kirkman's writing balances it out.

#4 Posted by danhimself (22270 posts) - - Show Bio
@Babs:  was this a phone interview or did you get to meet Kirkman?  either way I'm really jealous of you....if I had to choose one writer and say "that writer is my all time favorite writer" then it would have to be Kirkman...I haven't read a single thing that he's written and been even a tiny bit disappointed with it....every issue of The Walking Dead is my favorite issue so far....I'm sure that Infinite is going to be awesome and I can't wait to check it out
#5 Posted by SuperXAsh (506 posts) - - Show Bio

cool. look forward to this.

#6 Posted by maxicere (936 posts) - - Show Bio

Liefield sucks...

#7 Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus (6885 posts) - - Show Bio

I shouldn't even speak my opinion on this thread, seriously. Y'all know I'm a Liefeld fan so, I'll just stay silent on this matter ::zips lips right up:::

#8 Posted by skaarason (683 posts) - - Show Bio

INVINCIBLE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

#9 Posted by AlbinoBlacksheep (130 posts) - - Show Bio

like it looks cool

#10 Posted by Battlepig (214 posts) - - Show Bio

Being a journalist myself, the announcement of the creative team of The Infinite combined with the chance to interview the popular part of said creative team would have led me to ask one question. But that would have meant that the interview would have become more than just a silly PR-piece of "My God, you're so amazing! This is so amazing! Your comics are so amazing!"
 
That question would be: Why aren't you worried that having Rob Liefeld draw your new book will be something that will turn fans off?
 
You've done enough ego-stroking in the interview for Kirkman to be happy and be able and willing to answer at least this one "evil" question. But alas, we're stuck with a silly PR-piece that goes "ZOMG teh krikman is lyk so kewl!"

#11 Posted by Eyz (3095 posts) - - Show Bio

KIIIIIIIIIIIIIRKMAAAAAAN!!!
 
 
Uh... is that Liefield's art here? Oh man..oh god...

#12 Posted by Michiel76 (182 posts) - - Show Bio

I really love the walking dead, and people that have read my posts before know that i'm tottaly biased  towards non-superhero comics (big fan of european stuff aswell) 
So i'm really looking forward to this one, i mean time travel can turn into a real nightmare when you haven't thought your stories through.
But if one person could pull off something like this it's Kirkman.
I'm really looking forward to a new ongoing Sci-fi comic series that is not star wars or trek.
 
Rob Liefeld.................... Seriously though i do respect the guy very much indeed, he accomplished a lot but also had plenty of misfires.
In the last 20 years there haven't been many artists that have actually thought up a character that has so many fans like Deadpool has.
(sure he may not have made Deadpool great, but he did copy Slade wilson all by himself...... heh) 
But man why do all characters look the same in Liefelds art and why does his art hardly evolve, his early work on new mutants looks exactly the same as The Infinite including shoulderpads. The characters look bland and uninspiring, if only he would copy some Mass Effect costumes and weapons it would look sooo much better allready. When i look at the main character in the Infinite i see swordsman from Liefelds avengers run.
 
I thought i would never read a Liefeld done comic again but since Kirkman is writing it, i'll probably be on board for the whole run, i do applaud Kirkman for teaming up with Liefeld though, i mean if you are buddies why not work together and make a great comic.
But i just wish after 20 years Liefeld's art would be......................better.

#13 Posted by WobblySnake (19 posts) - - Show Bio

I dont hate Rob Liefelds art like almost everyone else seems to, but i do think that his characters seem to always look really angry. And strangely proportioned. I dunno i guess their heads look a bit miniscule in comparison to their bodies?
Either way i cant really fault the guy cause he created Deadpool, even though his Deadpool always looks angry as well..  Oh well, no amount of complaining will change the artist, seeing as theyve already started. 
Still, im sure it will be a good book with Kirkman writing it. I love Invincible and ive enjoyed the little ive read of Walking Dead.

#14 Posted by No_Name_ (17403 posts) - - Show Bio

@Battlepig said:

Being a journalist myself, the announcement of the creative team of The Infinite combined with the chance to interview the popular part of said creative team would have led me to ask one question. But that would have meant that the interview would have become more than just a silly PR-piece of "My God, you're so amazing! This is so amazing! Your comics are so amazing!" That question would be: Why aren't you worried that having Rob Liefeld draw your new book will be something that will turn fans off? You've done enough ego-stroking in the interview for Kirkman to be happy and be able and willing to answer at least this one "evil" question. But alas, we're stuck with a silly PR-piece that goes "ZOMG teh krikman is lyk so kewl!"

Believe it or not Rob Liefeld has fans, not everyone has disdain for him. He wouldn't be publishing the damn book if he thought it wasn't going to sell. But hey, I'm just using common sense here. Books cost a lot of money to make.

If you were indeed a real journalist, I think you would have found a much better way to ask a question like that than what you posted above.

#15 Posted by fodigg (6144 posts) - - Show Bio

Liefeld. Ugh. No thanks.

#16 Posted by RedK (2521 posts) - - Show Bio
@danhimself said:
@Babs:  was this a phone interview or did you get to meet Kirkman?  either way I'm really jealous of you....if I had to choose one writer and say "that writer is my all time favorite writer" then it would have to be Kirkman...I haven't read a single thing that he's written and been even a tiny bit disappointed with it....every issue of The Walking Dead is my favorite issue so far....I'm sure that Infinite is going to be awesome and I can't wait to check it out
feel the exact same way about him, everything the guy does is amazing, hopefully in the far future his name will be among the likes of Stan Lee and varios others as one of the men who changed comic books for the better and introduced some great and hopefully long lasting characters
#17 Posted by fodigg (6144 posts) - - Show Bio

I'd be slightly--slightly mind you--more excited to meet Brubaker than Kirkman. But both are awesome in my eyes.

#18 Posted by cbishop (7075 posts) - - Show Bio

Okay, I have mixed feelings about this.  I'm a fan of Liefeld, just because the guy has created SO many characters, but I have to admit: this doesn't look much different from Cable or Brigade (although I still contend that his bodily proportions have gotten WAY better).  I'm COMPLETELY curious to see how Rob's art works with Kirkman's writing (having not read the Youngblood stuff).

 

Babs, any chance of a follow up interview with Liefeld, to hear his thoughts on the project?  And when is there going to be a Zombie Jesus collection? :)

#19 Posted by Battlepig (214 posts) - - Show Bio
@Babs said:

Believe it or not Rob Liefeld has fans, not everyone has disdain for him. He wouldn't be publishing the damn book if he thought it wasn't going to sell. But hey, I'm just using common sense here. Books cost a lot of money to make.

If you were indeed a real journalist, I think you would have found a much better way to ask a question like that than what you posted above.

I do believe he has fans. Everyone has fans. But the vocal majority is against him. So putting Liefeld on a book and then advertising it heavily - it's not without its risks. But then again, putting a golden child like Kirkman on it, that might make up for quite some thing. There, that could be a possible answer.
 
The question was phrased correctly. I am not calling anyone a hack, I am not insinuating anything. Also, it's an open question. Kirkman could not answer with yes or no, but would have to explain the move, giving us valuable insight into the whole ordeal. You could ask this question about any comic book that has slightly extraordinary art. Like, I could ask the same question about the Red Hood and the Outlaws book that has Kenneth Rocafort on it who is - as far as I can tell - also a love/hate artist. Basically, if Kirkman would have wanted to go the safe route, he'd have taken any other artist that does good but ordinary art. But he decided to go with Liefeld. So why is he not afraid? Is it because Liefeld can offer something nobody else can? Is it because it wouldn't matter if the book didn't sell? Is it because there was nobody else around? Is it because Liefeld doesn't have any work? Now, all of these possible reasons are either more or less likely. Some are outright crap, but they're possibilities. 
 
Sure, it was a provoacative question, I admit. That's the point of it. It is a question designed to leave the path of an ordinary interview that is just basically stroking the celebrity's ego. It also probes beyond the usual blahblah they spout that you could read in any press release. And celebrities aren't that scary, I tell you. Sure, you need to tread softly, but most of the time, they can stand a critical question or two. I once even got away with flat-out asking a band whether they were selling out. It was an absolutely amazing interview in the end that had some really interesting insight in the life of a rockstar. It also makes your interview different from every other one out there. Naturally, that makes the game much harder and gives you way more responsibility to re-tell the story correctly, but it's usually worth it. And with this method, I have only really pissed off one celebrity and it wasn't even my asking a question. In 2006, I pissed off Missy Elliot, because I refused to go get her coffee at the nearest Starbucks. Funny story, if you want to hear it.

As for my feelings towards Liefeld. I don't really mind the guy that much. Sure, there are better artists out there, but there are worse ones, too. Liefeld impresses me to the point where he does a rather good job at conveying motion, for example.
#20 Edited by Undeadpool (526 posts) - - Show Bio

@Battlepig: I'm wondering where you're finding things like this "vocal majority." Because the phrase is usually "vocal minority" and I'm pretty sure that's what we have here. Rob Liefeld sells an INSANE number of books, but the people who speak the loudest are almost always the ones who speak most negatively.

This applies to other fields too: Transformers 3 got abysmal reviews, but the movie is monumentally popular. Dragon Age II got some of the most aggressive vitriol I've ever seen, but the game outsold the first one. The problem is that when you're on a site like ComicVine, or CBR and everyone hates someone like Liefeld, that opinion gets transferred to the "real" world as popular opinion when in reality it's maybe 1,000 people. If Kirkman worried about alienating potential fans, he wouldn't have written half of what he's put into Walking Dead. Or Invincible for that matter.

Staff
#21 Posted by Battlepig (214 posts) - - Show Bio
@Undeadpool said:

@Battlepig: I'm wondering where you're finding things like this "vocal majority." Because the phrase is usually "vocal minority" and I'm pretty sure that's what we have here. Rob Liefeld sells an INSANE number of books, but the people who speak the loudest are almost always the ones who speak most negatively.

This applies to other fields too: Transformers 3 got abysmal reviews, but the movie is monumentally popular. Dragon Age II got some of the most aggressive vitriol I've ever seen, but the game outsold the first one. The problem is that when you're on a site like ComicVine, or CBR and everyone hates someone like Liefeld, that opinion gets transferred to the "real" world as popular opinion when in reality it's maybe 1,000 people. If Kirkman worried about alienating potential fans, he wouldn't have written half of what he's put into Walking Dead. Or Invincible for that matter.

Sure, the market statistics and the vocal majority might differ, but the vocal ones are the ones that are heard. They're also the ones that need a proper slap every now and then. And that's why interviewers should occasionally push it. Not for the sake of pushing it, but to get more insight and new information. The same goes for the Transformers films. I'd ask Michael Bay about the stupidity of his films and see where it goes from there. Doing interviews like this, it takes courage.and a lot of diplomacy in the beginning, but usually, the creators themselves are quite happy to answer these questions. And Dragon Age... I have no idea. I don't really play video games, I'm afraid. Well, I have a Game Boy that has Super Mario. But that's about it.
 
But back to Kirkman. See, you're already speculating. This is what makes it interesting. This is precisely why I'd ask my question. To clear that up, because market reality and fan bitching aside, any answer to that question will give us insight into the behind-the-scenes of an industry we're all very interested in. Something we usually only get to hear about in press releases that read no different from any interview on comic book sites if you look past the form. My theory is that The Infinite needs something in its art that only Liefeld can deliver. Or it's something Liefeld is really good at. Question is: What is it?
#22 Posted by UnosInfinitos (148 posts) - - Show Bio

"The Infinite", I like it! I'm not sure why though....

#23 Posted by lapis2 (40 posts) - - Show Bio

uhg Liefelds art is so bad on so many levels.  He cant even draw a gun well.  Is it me or do all of his characters mouths look like they just ate something sour?   Just because somethings popular doesnt mean its good.  I personally cant read any book he draws, the art is just frustrating for me to look at.  I do respect the guy for being in the business, wish I was.

#24 Posted by Undeadpool (526 posts) - - Show Bio

@Battlepig: It's fine that you didn't play Dragon Age, it's still a good example. When it came out, people went out of their way, literally, to slander it. It got negative reviews on Metacritic the DAY it came out (despite having more content than you could get through in a 24 hour period), my point was that in spite of all the negativity on the internet, the game still sold. No mainstream reporter would have asked Bioware: "In spite of all the negative feelings out there, why are you releasing Dragon Age II?" I'm not sure what I'm "already speculating on. I read the letter's section for Walking Dead, and I can tell you that, unless he faked those letters, a huge, vocal population were incredibly angry at him for what had happened in Walking Dead. Dude got called a racist misogynist and even a pervert. I'd say he took risks and thus far they've panned out. For every fan that complains that he's "gone too far," there are four people buying his books because he doesn't limit himself based on what a vocal minority says.

Liefeld, as much as I personally find him distasteful, does really, really well with bombastic action and larger-than-life characters. Maybe that's what Kirkman needs. Kirkman wrote a whole article comparing him favorably to Jack Kirby, so it's clear that he likes Liefeld. And that's fine, it looks like Liefeld's come a ways since I last saw him. He's still not someone I'd buy an artbook from, but he's found what he's good at, and he's found people willing to pay him for it. At the end of the day, the vocal minority can scream all they like, and they certainly should, but Liefeld moves units. So my point that there's no point in asking Kirkman "Why're you hiring this guy that some people don't like?" still stands. There is a large group that doesn't like Jim Lee or Humberto Ramos (or pretty much any artist you could name), but if either of them were the artist, it'd likely be a whole other story.

Staff
#25 Posted by craigbo180 (196 posts) - - Show Bio

I feel like I am one of the only people who actually likes Liefield art... on this site anyway.

#26 Posted by Jotham (4564 posts) - - Show Bio

I think the comic he's talking about is called "Brit," not "Brick."

#27 Posted by IronRinn (2 posts) - - Show Bio

It has been a long time since I've seen any work from Liefeld. It seems that the he has managed to conquer his fear of drawing feet. It doesn't keep his work from being terrible, however.

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