Entertainment Weekly’s Ultimate Guide to the Walking Dead is on sale now and can also be found with a collectible cover on newsstands. As part of the book, we spoke to Walking Dead comic creator and TV show executive producer Robert Kirkman.
When he wrote his first issue of The Walking Dead comic book, Robert Kirkman never could have envisioned that his story about a Georgian sheriff’s deputy in the zombie apocalypse would become a global phenomenon. We chatted with the man who started an empire to get his thoughts on the past, present, and future of the graphic novel that started it all.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What is your favorite issue of the comics and why?
ROBERT KIRKMAN: My mindset is that I don’t like any of them, and every month I’m trying to do a good one. That’s the kind of the thing that keeps me going, like, “I’m going to try harder and make this one better.” So, I like to think that every issue is better than the last, but I know that’s not the case. I guess if I had to pick one favorite moment in the story, it’s probably issue 50 where Carl and Rick are alone after the prison attack, and Rick is seemingly dying, and it’s just an entire issue of Carl trying to survive on his own, and thinking he can’t survive on his own until realizing that he really can. That was a fun story and a big turning point for Carl, and I actually got to write that episode in the show, so that was a lot of fun too. Thinking back, maybe I’d pick that one.
You’ve mentioned before wishing that you hadn’t gone and chopped Rick’s hand off because that now poses logistical issues that always need to be considered. What else in the comics do you ever wish you could take back or change?
There are constantly things in the show where I’m like, “You know, the show’s Carol is so much better than the comic book Carol.” I like the comic book Carol. There are definitely some cool stories that were done with her, but it didn’t do anything as cool as what we do in the show with her. So, there are things like that where if I look at the show and I look at the comic, it’s like, I kind of wish I had done something like that in the comic.
Besides Rick Grimes, who is your favorite comic book character and why?
You know, I don’t really have a favorite. I tend to kill those, just because when I find myself real attached to a character, or if I find myself wanting to write them more and more and steering more story toward them, I kind of realize that that means that audience investment in that character is extremely high, and I don’t want it to affect the story too much by focusing too much on that character. And that tends to make me want to kill them.
When you are doing something big in the comic book, like killing a main character, do you communicate that to showrunner Scott Gimple and AMC in advance?
No, there’s no communication whatsoever. They have no approval over what happens in the comic. Scott Gimple is an avid reader of the comic, and prefers to experience the comic book as a reader, so he gets the advance issues as they’re published, but he doesn’t read scripts. He gets mad at me if I give him any kind of indication as to what’s coming, because he doesn’t like spoilers. So, they’re kind of a hundred percent in the dark, which I guess is pretty remarkable, and I would probably say it’s a testament to the trust that AMC has in me. I mean, I guess to a certain extent, at this point, the comic book is kind of a workshop of future seasons of the show, and it’s fun to think that I can just completely torpedo the story if I wanted to.
You have an endpoint in mind in terms of how the story finishes, right?
Yeah, I know exactly how it ends, and I’m always taking baby steps toward that point as I’m telling the story. I know what the end point is, and at the end of the day, I want this entire long narrative to be a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. We’re just spending a lot of time in the middle, so, I kind of have to know what that direction is, and I have to know what that end point is to be able to keep building towards it. I think that’s the only way to keep it alive.
For all the essential exclusive Walking Dead scoop, pick up the book right here.