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.