Walking Dead comic writer Robert Kirkman may be King of the Zombies (or at least crown prince to George A. Romero’s Z-monarch) but he also toils on a number of undead-free titles, including the superhero-filled Invincible, the kiddie-aimed Super Dinosaur, and Thief of Thieves. The latter details the adventures of a light-fingered master criminal named Conrad Paulson and is produced by Kirkman in collaboration with other writers, including Andy Diggle (The Losers) whose first issue hits stores May 29.
Below, Kirkman — who is also an executive producer on the Walking Dead TV show — talks about Thief of Thieves. Then, click on, to exclusively read the first four pages of the new (blood-drenched) issue.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you doing?
ROBERT KIRKMAN: I’m doing great. I’m in Georgia. I’m doing prep for episode 3 (of the next Walking Dead season). Earlier this morning we were out on the rural roads of Georgia scouting. You know, “Oh, we can film on this street. We can film on that street. And watch out for that car!”
Ah, the glamor of Hollywood. What was the last line of dialog you wrote for the show?
You expect me remember that? I don’t know. “Look out!”
Okay, so for those people who are unfamiliar with Thief of Thieves, could you talk about the character of Conrad Paulson and the world in which he lives?
Sure. Thief of Thieves is the story of Conrad Paulson, who’s this internationally-known master thief. He’s basically the greatest thief who ever lived. But in order to become the greatest thief who ever lived, he had to turn his back on his personal life. So he has an estranged wife, he has a son who is an adult now that he wasn’t really there for when he was growing up.
The story takes place at a time when he wants to change his life. He’s trying to reconcile with his wife, he’s trying to be there for his son. But nothing is really working out in his favor. His son is trying to follow his footsteps and become a criminal, but he’s terrible at it so he’s really mucking things up for Conrad and it’s definitely not helping him fix things with his wife. So his life kind of sucks.
I do like the fact that his son is just not a good thief. The usual fiction trope is for the offspring to be every bit as good at something as the parent.
I like it because it’s the one good thing he did as a father. He was like, I’m not going to teach you to be a thief because I want you to be better than me. So he forced him to go to college, he wanted him to be a better person than he was. But it was actually the most dangerous thing he could do because now this guy had all the desire to be a thief and none of the skill. So it puts him in great danger.
Andy Diggle is writing the new arc of Thief of Thieves — why did you reach out to him?
We do Thief of Thieves like a television show writers room. So we all get together, we break story, and then we divide that story up into story arcs and we break off and then we write those story arcs. So this new story arc coming up is by Andy Diggle, who is a fantastic writer who created The Losers, which was a movie and which was pretty cool. He’s big in the crime world, he writes a lot of crime comics. He’s so good at writing heists I think he may actually be a criminal.
I have this image of you keeping these writers in your basement and you coming down in a robe to shout oblique instructions to them.
What must you think of me? No, it’s more like, “Wow, this is hard! You’re a better writer than me. Go!”
What can fans expect from the upcoming arc?
The story thus far has been Conrad turning away from his life as a master thief. We’ve never really seen him at the height of his skills. He had to do a minor heist to steal some evidence to keep his son from going to jail and that led to some problems with a Mexican drug cartel and so he had to do a little bit of heist-action to make that problem go away.
But he’s kind of backed himself in a corner because the cartel is owed a bunch of money from his son and they are going to kill his son if Conrad isn’t able to make them whole. And the only way he knows to make them whole is to do a big heist. And so this arc is really the first time in the series that we’ve done a really huge, really involved heist that just shows exactly what Conrad does and who he is and why he’s so good at it. We’re finally getting to see this guy in action. It’s going to be pretty huge.
Last year it was announced that you and AMC were developing Thief of Thieves for TV. Has there been any further progress on that?
We’re still moving forward. We’re trying to nail all that down right down. But these processes can be very long and involved. That’s something that we’re still trying to figure.
Have you yourself ever stolen anything?
My wife’s heart.
We recently ran an interview with Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige in which he seemed to say that there was no chance of your Marvel Zombies comic ever becoming a film. To which I say: “Boo!”
You know, I can see that being a little brand-damaging. You don’t want to see Tony Stark eating somebody’s brains.
I think people do want to see that. If there’s one thing people love more than zombies, it’s superheroes. And if there’s one thing people love more than superheroes, it’s zombies!
[Laughs] Yeah, maybe Feige is just being coy and he’s got it in the works.
I smell an exclusive!
Sure, buddy, plaster that all over the Internet.
Next: Check out page 1 of the new Thief of Thieves.