AMC's The Walking Dead is a massive multimedia story line these days, spanning comic books, novels, video games and, of course, the highest-rated series on television. At the epicenter of this sprawling narrative empire is its creator, comic-book writer Robert Kirkman.
So fans were understandably excited this week to see Kirkman offer himself up for a Reddit AMA ("Ask Me Anything") session. Many of his comments had implications not just for the comics he continues to write each month, but also for the show and other extensions that remain loyal to his vision.
We compiled a few of his more interesting responses, which cover everything from his willingness to kill off beloved characters to his complicated feelings on the TV series' high-profile turnover of showrunners:
1. He's not afraid to kill off Rick.
Q: Is Rick Grimes a "safe" character?
A: Absolutely not. Although when I look in Andrew Lincoln's piercing blue eyes, I feel safe.
2. Even Daryl, a popular show-only character played by Norman Reedus, could get killed off.
Q: How does popularity, if at all, affect the survival rate of characters? Have you ever killed a character just because they were popular and you wanted to shake things up?
A: In my opinion, I feel like characters ripen like fruit. So while I wouldn't say the more popular a character is the more likely they are to die; they do have to reach a certain level of popularity before they've "earned" the death. No character is too popular to die. (Suck it, Reedus!)
Q: How's your relationship with Reedus and the rest of the cast? Does it influence their character's fate?
A: It honestly doesn't. Everybody knows the score and everyone knows what they're getting into when they sign on. I think I have a good relationship with all the actors.
3. He supports AMC's decision to fire the first two showrunners but says he was "only on the sidelines."
Q: I was wondering if you could speak at all about the circumstances surrounding the trend of multiple showrunners (Frank Darabont, Glen Mazzara, Scott Gimple) and what you thought each of them brought to the show?
A: Our showrunner musical-chair routine is not entirely uncommon in television. There have been countless shows that have changed showrunners and some even from season to season. It's unfortunate that this show exists under such a microscope and the behind-the-scenes drama has been pushed into the spotlight … but it's a small price to pay for the success that we've had, so I'll take it.
It would be wrong for me to go into any details on the various changeovers because for the most part I was really only on the sidelines during the changes. Although, I will state for the record that I do agree with AMC's decisions in each case and strongly feel they were only acting with the show's best interests in mind.
I think Frank [Darabont] set the show up with a solid foundation to build upon and gave us a directing and visual style for the show that we still use because it's superb and has been a big part of what makes us stand apart on television. This show wouldn't exist without him and his work on the pilot still holds up as one of our strongest episodes. We were lucky to have a director of his caliber involved in the show from day one.
Glen [Mazzara] was a shot in the arm that the show needed in its second season and his instincts to move story up and really heighten the pace at times was a welcome addition to the show. The level of energy he brought to the show is something we still try to maintain. Personally, Glen was very good to me as a novice television writer and I feel that he was a great teacher whose lessons I still use often on the show. I owe him a lot.
Scott Gimple is an absolute rock star. I think that looking back at Season 4 as a whole it is by far our strongest season. The show is intense when it needs to be and slows down and digs into the interpersonal character drama in ways we never achieved without him. Scott's been integral to the show since he came on board for Season 2 and honestly knows more about this world than I do. (And he definitely remembers the ins and outs of the comic book WAY better than me). I think we'll keep him.
4. He hated the CDC episode in Season 1, but not because it was terrible. He felt it gave away too much.
Q: Why did you not like the mention about France (being a last human stronghold) at the CDC in Season 1?
A: I feel it revealed too much of the world and gave the characters too much information. I prefer the way they're more in the dark about the rest of the world in the comic. For instance, for all they know in the comic, the outbreak is contained on this continent.
5. He likes how The Walking Dead video game series by Telltale Games captures the mood of the series without requiring lots of his input.
Q: How much do you have to do with the Telltale seasons of The Walking Dead? I really enjoy them, but damn they're brutal.
A: At this point, I feel like if I got too involved, I'd just screw things up. I was slightly more involved in Season 1, I think, but really it was just a matter of me approving their story when they ran it by me. The team there did an enormous amount of work to get the tone and feel in line with what I do in the comics before they ever came to me.
Before we started Season 2, they asked me a lot about where I was going in the comic and some things they should avoid, and I gave them some notes, but for the most part, those guys have taken the ball and run with it … to what I think we can all agree is great success.
6. But he hates Activision's critically panned game The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, which he blames on AMC.
Q: Why did you allow them to make Survival Instinct?
A: I'm pretty sure there's an AMC logo before the title of that game and not a picture of my face. If there was a picture of my face in front of the logo, then I'd be completely responsible for that. I can only oversee/be involved in so much … and my efforts were focused more on the Telltale games series.
In all honesty, it was at least cool getting to play Daryl Dixon, right? Right? Come on, guys.
7. Rick's hand wasn't cut off on the TV show because it would require too much CGI and complicate action scenes.
Q: In the Nerdist podcast you said that you wished you hadn't had (*Spoilers*) Rick's hand cut off as it was hard to draw him buttoning up a shirt (and a lot more, but this covers it). When it came time to do the same in the show, you didn't. Was this a financial CGI decision or just a "I get a re-do" decision.
A: To clarify, I think cutting Rick's hand off when we did was great for the comic. It's just that in another medium it would be harder to pull off. We cheat in the comic because things aren't moving. You can't do that on the show. You'd see Rick not being able to reload his gun and things like that.
The CGI of cutting off Rick's hand would be expensive, but we did it with Hershel's leg so if we felt strongly about Rick losing a hand, we'd do it.
8. He has no plans to stop writing The Walking Dead comic books anytime soon.
Q: I remember reading an interview from a while back in which you said you planned on having The Walking Dead span about 300 issues. As of now, is this still the plan for you, or could it continue indefinitely?
A: I do plan on doing at least 300 issues, but if I'm having this much fun, then I won't stop there. Also, if I suddenly start having a lot less fun, I may end it earlier, but I don't see that happening. I'm in for the long haul, and Charlie Adlard is too. As far as a new group/location … not exactly … although there are some really cool changes coming up in issue 127.
For more, read the entire AMA session on Reddit. Also, in case you missed the news, Walking Dead repeats will be coming to broadcast TV with TV-14 edits.