During even the most casual inspection of books in your neighborhood comic shop, it would be difficult not to run across the name Robert Kirkman. As a writer for such major comics publishers as Marvel and Image, Kirkman is involved with a staggering number of projects. Currently writing a script for one of his own titles in development by Paramount Pictures, the ubiquitous author just seems to be adding on more work and is quickly becoming one of the hottest talents in the comics industry.
"I'm writing Ultimate X-Men, Marvel Zombies 2, Killraven, Invincible, The Walking Dead, The Astounding Wolf-Man, and my project with Todd McFarlane, Haunt," Kirkman explained in an e-mail interview with PWCW. In addition to his writing responsibilities, he is editing two more titles for Image. "It's a lot of stuff, but I enjoy the work, so that's good."
Kirkman is uniquely positioned to be so prolific because he works for Marvel on a work-for-hire contract on already popular titles like Ultimate X-Men, and for Image as a creator-owner of indie books like Invincible. "I think Marvel knows that my Image work builds a strong fan base that helps me become more of a bankable name for them, so the two publishers are completely happy with my jumping back and forth over the fence," said Kirkman
A perfect case-in-point of this crossover phenomenon is Marvel Zombies 2, the upcoming sequel to the bestselling Marvel title. While using the recognizable characters of the Marvel universe, Kirkman is showcasing the appeal of a well-written zombie tale, which he has done for nearly 50 issues in another wildly popular project published by Image, his cult-favorite series The Walking Dead.
"I thought Marvel Zombies would be a fun series that would let [Marvel] editor Ralph Macchio and I work together, and then be largely forgotten. I never expected it to be the huge hit it became," said Kirkman.
Perhaps even more surprising than his success is the speed at which it happened. As recently as 2002, Kirkman had written only a single title, the self-published Battle Pope. A religious parody, the title only lasted a handful of issues. But that was enough, because as Kirkman said, "that got my foot in the door."
Based on his self-published work, Image first hired Kirkman to do a miniseries, and while at work, artist Cory Walker and Kirkman pitched Invincible. The story, much lighter in tone than most Image titles, is about growing up the son of a superhero. Once published, the book caught on with both fans and the media, becoming one of the bestselling Image title since Spawn and garnering a Book of the Month award from Wizard, the popular comics magazine.
Recently, Paramount Pictures optioned Invincible. "I've been contracted to write two drafts of the screenplay. We'll see where it goes from there."
In perhaps his boldest move to date, Kirkman publicly challenged Todd McFarlane—as well known for producing toys, collectibles and even video games as for his comics—at a panel discussion during this year’s San Diego Comic-Con to not only do more comics, but to work on a comics project with him. "He opened the floor to questions and I threw down the gauntlet: 'do more comics,' ” said Kirkman. “That led to us cocreating Haunt together. It's been a pretty surreal experience.” The book is slated for release in early 2008.
Kirkman described Haunt as the story of two brothers: “One dies, haunts the other, and together they become a superhero,” he said. “There's obviously more to it than that—but that's the basic premise. It's a cool horror-themed superhero book. It'll probably lean more superhero than Spawn does these days."
Looking to the future, Kirkman remains optimistic and ambitious. "I've got more ideas for creator-owned books than I have time to do them. I'd also like to do a lot more screenwriting when time permits, and I have a few Marvel Comics projects coming up on the horizon. Maybe a novel? Who knows?"