Creator of ‘Walking Dead’ talks comics, producing



By Dave Steele

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Tuesday’s Behind the Lens event, sponsored by the Student Activities Board, featuring Kentucky’s own Robert Kirkman, gave fans of “The Walking Dead” an intimate opportunity to pick his brain regarding his success as a comic book writer, as well as an executive producer.

Kirkman answered questions by moderator Beth Barnes, director of the School of Journalism and Telecommunications, about his role in the comic book world and how “The Walking Dead” transcended from the comics to cable.

His hilarious yet informative elaboration on everything from the role of his hometown of Cynthiana in the series, to what he would do if zombies actually attacked, kept the audience engaged. After the discussion, audience members lined the walkways of Memorial Hall with a chance to bring their own insight and questions to the table. Kirkman met with the Kernel for an interview before the presentation.

Q: To casual fans who skip the credits, how would you describe your role as executive producer of “The Walking Dead?”

A: Well, I think the role of executive producer is really a mixed bag, it’s generally everything; all of the EPs get together and we decide which directors to hire for certain episodes. We’re also responsible for staffing the show, so we look at the various writers that are going to be brought on to do things, pretty much everyone is hired through that process. As far as production goes, we oversee production, special effects, acting; we work in conjunction with everyone, whether it be makeup or clothing and all of those various things, just to make sure that everything is running smoothly. We also act as liaisons to the production crew and the network. You know, the boring stuff.

Q: In past interviews you have expressed that you are happy to lose fights over the show’s adaptation of your characters. Of the characters that made it to the show, who would you say has been the most interesting to watch make the jump from comic to cable?

A: It’s hard to pick any one person. I think every actor is doing a fantastic job adapting the characters in their own way, adding their own little slivers to the portrayal of those characters. I think that Chandler Riggs is doing a really good job as Carl. It’s really special for me to see that character come to life in the show. It’s pretty exciting to see him go from page to screen.

Q: In the context of your manifesto regarding creator rights, what advice do you have for any student with ambitions of creating their own comic book series?

A: Really, just do what you want. I think I’ve made a career out of doing things that I enjoy and anytime that I find that I’m not enjoying what I’m doing, I stop and do something else. The whole point of having a job like this is enjoying what you are doing. The manifesto is about people that get entrenched in this corporate comic structure and they don’t really feel like they can escape it. That kind of stuff can really grind you down and to a certain extent, I believe it can ruin your career. Just don’t lose sight of working for yourself and doing what you want to do.

Q: Describe the first moment you laid eyes on a zombie. Was it love at first sight?

A: I definitely enjoyed it. I saw “Night of the Living Dead” on television late at night, it was actually on Fox 56 when that channel first came into existence. I didn’t really even know what I was watching; I think I came in pretty late in the game. It was the scene of Barbara going through the yard to try and get to the gas pump, and, yeah, I guess I could say it was love at first sight. It was really cool and entertaining and I didn’t really even know what it actually was. It was kind of a strange thing to come across while flipping through the channels while my parents thought I was asleep.

Q: Who was your favorite comic book character growing up and how did it inspire your work?

A: The guy I idolized the most while growing up was Eric Larson, who was a Spiderman artist that eventually struck out on his own path with a bunch of guys from Marvel Comics that founded Image Comics. I think that seeing him become the master of his own domain and being able to create his own things within the context of his series really inspired everything that I want to do. When I sit down and write an issue of “The Walking Dead,” I can do whatever I want, I don’t really have to answer to anyone or ask anybody’s permission or really worry about anything at all other than telling what I feel is the best story.

Q: If you could have any superpower from the comic book world what would it be?

A: I’ve heard there’s psychological tests when if you choose flight it says something about you and if you choose invisibility it says something about you, so I’m always kind of careful to answer this but I guess I would choose flight, that’s a good one, right? If you choose invisibility you’re a shady character I hear, so I would never say that.