'Walking Dead': Can Eugene Survive?

During his Emerald City Comic Con panel, Robert Kirkman singled out one character for an oncoming demise ... or did he?
Gene Page/AMC

Fans of The Walking Dead's Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt) might have found reasons to be nervous about the character's fate during Robert Kirkman's spotlight panel at Emerald City Comic Con Saturday.

Answering a fan's question about the pacing of the latest season — which was characterized by the questioner as having strong first and mid-season finale episodes, with the in-between episodes being stretched out too far — Kirkman said that it was important to have a variety of pacing throughout the entire season, so that the show worked as a whole.

"If we didn't take the time to take a large portion of an episode to build up Eugene, you wouldn't be upset when we kill Eugene later this season," he said, prompting audible gasps from the audience.

Kirkman responded to the shock by saying that he was only joking.

"It means we're not going to kill him off!" he told the audience. "If I say that, it means he's not going to die."

The Walking Dead creator also answered questions about whether or not the show was toning down elements of the original comic book storyline, which at times has been more violent, and featured longer-lasting repercussions for characters.

"There's no conscious effort to tone down the violence," he said in response to a suggestion that the TV show was tamer than the source material. "I don't know if you've ever watched the show, but I'm constantly watching cuts where I'm like, 'Well, that's not doing to make it into the show … My God, the beginning of season seven, that made me uncomfortable."

When asked if the show would move to permanently physically affecting characters the way that the comic does, he suggested that budget and the need for visual or practical effects is more of a factor in a character losing a limb onscreen when compared to a comic book, but teased, "I don't want to spoil things, but there is some stuff coming up."

Responding to a question about whether or not the existence of the TV show had changed the way he wrote the comic, he had a surprising answer.

"The fame of it all and the success of it all was something that I worried would be really distracting," he said. "It was really important to me to keep that purity, because if I lose that, I'd lose what made the comic cool … If you notice, the things being adapted into the show now are things that happened in the comic after the existence in the show. I can't help but feel that something happened. That was clearly me being all, 'They're never gonna get to this stuff in the show, and if they do, they're not gonna adapt it,' and I went hog wild. I feel like it did change the comic in some way, but it made it more awesome."

He jokingy added: "Issue 200, I'm bringing dragons into the comic."

Asked whether or not the show is more consciously mirroring the comic book now than when it initially launched, Kirkman suggested that was more down to the attitude of the showrunners than anything else.

"Frank Darabont and Glen Mazzara did not follow the comic book as closely as Scott Gimple does, because he was reading the comic before the show started … Frank and Glenn would be, 'let's do this awesome thing,' and I'd say 'yeah, it's awesome, let's do it!' but Scott will say, 'Well, if we do that, we need to remember to be heading towards doing this in season 8, and in season 9, and then if we get a season 10, we need to do this [referencing the comic]."

Other topics covered in the hour-long session included the ways in which The Walking Dead's success had changed him ("Well, I didn't buy these pants at Walmart, so it's affected me to that extent," he said. "I bought them at Target"), the upcoming season of Fear The Walking Dead ("It's going to be a much more intense season" than any before, he promised), the possibility of a television or movie adaptation of his long-running superhero comic book series Invincible ("I don't know, man, maybe we're close"; the comic book will end a 14 year run with this year's 144th issue), and, in response to the final question of the panel, his favorite on-screen Walking Dead death.

"Favorite death scene?" he wondered aloud. "You know, Eugene." And then, without another word, he walked off-stage. A joke or a sign of things to come? The only way to find out is to keep watching the remaining episodes of the season, Sundays on AMC, it seems.