Robert Kirkman opened his San Diego Comic-Con 2019 panel addressing the elephant in the room: "Anything interesting happen lately. Anything in the Walking Dead Universe anyone is upset about?"
After getting a hearty laugh from the room, Kirkman pressed, "Anyone here want to do me physical harm? I just want to make sure before we get started with this panel."
After feeling reassured that the crowd intended him no harm, Kirkman admitted that he had no real plan for the panel, so things immediately jumped to the Q&A.
The first question was deep, as a Walking Dead fan asked how the events of the series had manifested the improved world and society that Kirkman's time-jumping finale proposed had been established. He stated that through different kinds of people learning to ban together, and to value the things they took for granted before the zompocalypse. They had done just that.
Asked what the hardest thing he had to write (the uninformed fan said "draw" originally and got zinged by Kirkman for it), Kirkman admitted it was crowd scenes. He told a story about how worried it was about making Charlie Adler draw more horses in the later installments; Adler actually loved it. At the end of the anecdote, Kirkman joked he was happy that this panel was only as wild as talk about horse drawing, rather than a lynch mob swarming him.
One fan asked if Negan was still around and could one day come back - Kirkman joked about mulling it - but then indicated that a revist to the Walking Dead world, through Negan, could actually happen.
"I probably said too much, I regret answering that question."
On the other hand, a question about whether or not Heath survived got a much more clear answer from Kirkman: "Maybe he is? (Whispers) He's not."
Talk moved to Invincible, and what's to come from that series. There's a cartoon in the works, and Kirkman took time to answer some of the more specific questions about jokes and elements of the comic (Kirkman was proud to have come up with one "Parking in Rear" joke about a goverment agency.
One fan asked if, in turn, we could also see any other creators taking on an Invincible one-shot or spinoff. Kirkman, while stating that it's possible, also joked that he's too insecure about being shown-up by another creator, before settling on the fact that it's at least possible that he could one day revisit it.
Kirkman stated that he has no regrets about any of his works - though he misses some specific Walking Dead characters (Tyreese, Andrea - even Axel). He said he could've let got of Andrea only because he knew he was ending the series - but that was still a head-trip for him.
The next answer prompted Kirkman to tease that he has several secret projects in the works that he's excited about, and thinks fans will like too. He also admitted to wanting to work with a whole host of other creators (Stuart Immonen, Sara Pichelli...) if he can find the time.
After retelling how BAM Comics got him into the industry, Kirkman was put on the spot to reveal who he would cast in a billion-dollar Invincible movie. His pick to star as all the character in Invincible: Ed O'Neill. When The Rock was thrown out, Kirkman said that The Rock was busy with better things to do - while also giving Hobbs & Shaw a free plug in the process.
When asked if he ever got stuck while trying to plot The Walking Dead, Kirkman recalled trying to have the series really explore Rick and Lori's marriage coming apart, but that the idea of divorce compared to a zompocalypse kind of stalled out in the process. Kirkman further admitted that when stuck, he simple took hard veers to get himself out of a corner - like with Lori.
There was some challenge to the final issue of The Walking Dead and the premise of the time jump. Specifically, the idea of there being little to no zombie sightings, in a world where death still results in zombification. Kirkman pointed to low numbers of zombies, better safe zones, and normalization of a world where it's a part of life, as his explanation.
When asked if The Walking Dead show has done stuff Kirkman wishes he had done, Kirkman admitted that there's definitely some stuff, even though he stressed they had worked on a lot of ideas collaboratively for a long time. He then made sure to point any fan anger over The Walking Dead TV series toward Scott Gimple.
A question about the strength of Kirkman's naming system for Walking Dead characters had Kirkman admit that he had no grand vision. He even talked about how Negan was originally named after the Grand Nagus, leader of the Star Trek race known as the Ferengi, until he released he was infringing.
When asked for some sagely guidance about how to make creative visions into successful projects, Kirkman stated that doing something that excites yourself is key as is one other strategy: having multiple projects. He gave the example that while doing Walking Dead and Invincible, breaking off into an Astounding Wolfman made him both excited for the new thing, and thrilled about the old projects as well, when he eventually returned to it.
Kirkman gave a fun anecdote about how he lied to Image Comics chief Jim Valentino about The Walking Dead having aliens, in order to get the book made. It was only the success of The Walking Dead that Image forgave all. However, Jim Valentino did do one big thing for Kirkman: Had him change the title from Night of the Living Dead to something he could actually own: The Walking Dead.
The original ending of The Walking Dead (indication that Rick builds a new society that just as quickly falls to the zombies) was a "young writer's" decision, according to Kirkman. As an older, (somewhat) wiser man, Kirkman wanted the ending he went with because it gave weight and meaning to what the character had endured and fought for, a hopefulness he much prefers.
When asked about his change in plans about the ending, Kirkman joked about seeing the criticism about The Walking Dead's repetitious storytelling online. While he saw the story more of an escalating learning process to rebuild society, Kirkman admitted he feared one day getting too repetitious, and wanting to end the story before it got to that. His plotting of events that he wanted to cover equaled out to the book being 193 issues "I just couldn't get to 200!"
A very young fan (too young to be allowed to watch Walking Dead) asked if there's someone else's property he'd like to work on, Kirkman stated that he loved things like Transformers, but his son rags on him for now wanting to do something like Spider-Man. A child abuse joke then ensued. However, in the end, Kirkman pledged to sign the kid's skateboard - and threatened the rest of the crowd against asking the same.
When a comic book store owner thanked Kirkman for titles like Walking Dead and Oblivion Song to generate sales, Kirkman thanked him for selling his wares. They joked about the symbiotic nature of their relationship, before the guy asked Kirkman what happened in his childhood to make him write so many stories with similar themes of trauma. Kirkman explained growing up happy until his father "blew up" the family and moved them to a rural Kentucky area. That new isolation forced Kirkman to become more introspective and creative. He stated that nothing bad happened to him, before joking "Nothing I'll talk about."0comments
One fan was agitated that Kirkman was only appearing alone at the panel, suggesting it was ego. Kirkman joked his way around the aggression, before honestly stating he was nervous about his particular panel after ending The Walking Dead, and making it awkward for others. The fan knew Kirkman from a previous personal experience, and got an autograph for his trouble.
Kirkman concluded that George Romero's movies inspired his idea to tell a much longer-running zombie apocalypse story - and he did just that. He ended by thanking fans for taking this journey with him.