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Comic-Con 2011: 'The Walking Dead's' Robert Kirkman (Q&A)

The creator of AMC's zombie drama lost money his first year at Comic-Con but the connections he made led to his Image Comics partnership.

Robert Kirkman
Getty Images; AMC
Robert Kirkman

With hundreds of thousands of people attending San Diego Comic-Con every year and the July 20-24 event quickly approaching, The Hollywood Reporter chatted with the big names in television to discuss their favorite memories and tips for attending the annual event. THR’s Live Feed will talk Comic-Con with actors, writers and producers in the days leading up to the event so check back soon for interviews and the latest news on panels and screenings.

Robert Kirkman
Geek Cred:
The Walking Dead comics and AMC series, Invincible
Upcoming: Image Comics’ Skybound and Super Dinosaur
Comic-Con panel: Saturday, July 23, 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m., Ballroom 20.

THR: What’s one thing that stands out from your first Comic-Con?
Kirkman:
My first Comic-Con experience, in 2001, was absolutely horrible. I was a self-publisher doing a book called Battle Pope and I got far too big a booth for the popularity of my book and ended up losing quite a bit of money on that endeavor. In general, it was an amazing experience despite the relatively nerve-wracking loss of money at the time when I had relatively no income.

I met a lot of people that were doing self-publishing at the time. I also got to meet some of the creators of Image Comics and talked to Erik Larsen to for a while, which ended up leading to me becoming a partner at that company. I did all my books there and continue to do all my books there today.

THR: What’s the best thing a fan has said to you at Comic-Con?
Kirkman:
Being able to meet my fans and have conversations with them is unique to the experience. It’s something the comic book industry gets to enjoy more than other industries. Novelists have book signings, Hollywood has their events where they get to see some people from the fan base, but Comic-Con is an experience where I can be at a bar sitting in a chair, just hanging out and people can talk to me at night. It’s not just everything that happens on the convention floor. That entire area of San Diego is fans and creators mingling and talking. It’s great to get that kind of interaction and have a conversation with somebody about what you’re doing. It’s much more intimate than fan mail, and you get to have people tell you what they like and what they don’t like. Thankfully, for the most part, they’re telling you what they like.

THR: Best bars, restaurants?
Kirkman:
The Top Gun barbecue place, Kansas City Barbeque. It’s across the street from the Convention Center and they filmed a scene from Top Gun there. It’s got a nice patio area where you can eat outside and I always try to hit that place because it’s a lot of fun. The Hyatt bar is usually the hustlin’ and bustlin’ place where the majority of the comic book creators go when they don’t have anything else to do.

Comic-Con 2011: Full THR Coverage

THR: What makes a kick-ass panel?
Kirkman:
If you just sit up there and you spout out information, that can be dull. I prefer Q&A panels where you can joke around about nonsense between your exclusive preview;  it makes for a much more lively panel.

THR: What questions would you recommend fans not ask during panels?
Kirkman:
Asking what’s coming up is always a bad because oftentimes, I can’t talk about certain things and I definitely don’t want to spoil things. I was grilled at a Walking Dead panel about why the series wasn’t being filmed in Los Angeles. That’s not my call to make, so that kind of stuff is always fun. You always get the one guy who stands up and wants to yell at you in front of a bunch of people. It doesn’t happen that often, but I would beg people not to do that because I can be pretty mean on panel sometimes. I usually just make fun of them until they sit down. It’s a good laugh for everybody else, but I’m sure that’s not the way that person wanted it to go.

THR: What panel would you stand in line all day to see?
Kirkman:
Anything involving Bruce Campbell. If there was anything involving the Evil Dead movie series, I would wait in line months to see that panel. As for things that are actually happening at Comic-Con this year, I don’t really know. I hear those Twilight panels are pretty awesome though.

THR: What’s your dream panel?
Kirkman:
I’d love to see a panel with David Simon and the cast of The Wire. That would never happen. I think it’s a shame that the best show on television ever doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. It would have been really cool to be able to attend a panel with those guys and get to hear them talking about their experiences making The Wire.

THR: What tips do you have for Comic-Con first-timers?
Kirkman:
Keep your eyes out on the convention floor because all the biggest celebrities are in costume. I heard a story recently about Sigourney Weaver walking around dressed up as Batman. I don’t want to out people because it is really sad that they have to wear costumes to be able to walk the convention floor without being bothered. A lot of these people that are mega-famous, they just want to shop. I know Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio have done it.

THR: If you were to dress up, what would your costume be?
Kirkman:
I met Simon Pegg in person for the first time, and he was wearing a rubber mask of one of the Joker’s henchmen from The Dark Knight. I don’t know if people realize this about rubber masks or if you remember from being a kid, but they’re awful. They don’t breathe well, so you’re basically walking around with rubber around your head. He was all sweaty and miserable. My costume would probably be Cobra Commander from the 1980s GI Joe show because he just has a blue cloth that hangs over his head. It would be a pretty awful costume.

THR: Will Season 2 of The Walking Dead take Rick and company to Hershel’s farm?
Kirkman:
They’re heading to the farm, it’s going to be awesome. The first season was all about being in the city, and dealing with zombies in the streets. The second season is about zombies in the woods and what’s behind that next tree. It’s a much more rural setting. It’s all the same characters, and they’re going to be dealing with a lot of plots from the first season, but the setting is going to be almost completely different. I didn’t realize how cool it would be until I was on set, running through the woods doing location scouting a couple weeks ago. Atlanta was almost a character in the first season, and I think it will be that way with Georgia in general in this upcoming season. We’re going introduce some new characters. We’re going to be seeing Otis, Herschel and Maggie, all characters from the comic book series. And possibly some more surprises before the end of the season. It should be pretty exciting.

THR: Besides The Walking Dead, what comics will you be promoting at Comic-Con this year?
Kirkman:
I’m promoting Super Dinosaur and we’ll be seeing a full-size Super Dinosaur guy walking the aisles and posing for photographs at the booth. That’ll be really exciting. I’m also promoting a new science-fiction series that I’m launching with artist Rob Liefeld called The Infinite. We’ll have a limited-edition hardcover version of the The Infinite No. 1 in its entirety for sale at our booth. We’ll be debuting the comic right there at Comic-Con.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit