Robert Kirkman has to be one of the hardest working individuals in entertainment. The famed Comic Book writer, who wrote The Walking Dead and Invincible, has played a major role in those titles making the leap from the pages to the small screen. He is credited as the creator for the television series’ Fear the Walking Dead and Invincible, while also acting as an executive producer for The Walking Dead. This doesn’t even begin to cover some of his lesser known, but equally acclaimed, works such as Oblivion Song or Clementine. So when Robert Kirkman conducts a Comic-Con panel, even one via zoom during a pandemic, nerd culture has to listen:
What becomes apparent quickly is just the barrage of titles Kirkman is working on or related to. One of the interesting titles he mentions is the Image Comics series Oblivion Song. Debuting in 2018, the series is a sci-fi dystopia following Nathan Cole, as he attempts to rescue the more than 300,000 Philadelphians lost to Oblivion. Fire Power is a series about a powerful fire-wieder who has turned his back on a life of heroism to be a family man. And Clementine is a graphic novel, set in the world of The Walking Dead, following the popular black teenager who was a breakout character in The Walking Dead video game.
Each of these titles represent the wider promise of Image Comics as a brand. Similar to the impact of the weekly magazine 2000 A.D. in the 70s and 80s, Image Comics is an alternative to the known entities that are Marvel and DC. While Image borrows heavily from those standard bearers, the publisher attempts to take fantasy stories in new directions, giving readers our comfort food while introducing us to the new. In fact, it was Image Comics where the cult hit Invincible made its debut in 2003, long before its Amazon Prime inspired viral popularity. Here, Kirkman reminds viewers that a film adaption of Invincible is still in the works.
A live action Invincible sounds intriguing, but it’ll have to be unique to the comics and cartoon, from a storytelling perspective, to be a worthwhile endeavor. Kirkman even alludes to this, by expressing that he can’t reveal what new angle a live action movie will take. Nonetheless, what works about Invincible is the balance between subverting the tropes of superhero storytelling, while also allowing viewers to indulge in some of those tropes. I believe the Amazon series was even more successful than The Boys in terms of striking that balance, and a live action movie will open the story up to comment on our current era of Superhero-dominated cinema. The comic and TV series offer a Spider-Man inspired cipher, juxtaposed with a unique take on the Superman, or Übermensch. Hopefully, the movie can avoid being a Xerox copy of its predecessors, giving longtime fans of Invincible something familiar while experimenting with new ideas.
Then, there’s The Walking Dead, currently the longest running AMC series in history. The series is currently gearing up for the premiere of its 11th, and final, season. Strangely, however, Kirkman’s panel only briefly alluded to this fact. Nonetheless, The Walking Dead, as a brand, isn’t really going anywhere. It seems that just yesterday the spin-off/prequel series Fear the Walking Dead made it’s debut, but that show already has 6 seasons under its belt and isn’t stopping anytime soon.
In 2020, AMC introduced audiences to the spin-off The Walking Dead: World Beyond. It follows a group of teenagers who are the first generation to grow up during the zombie apocalypse (I can’t tell if this is a better metaphor for the first children growing up in the social media age, or the pandemic). That series seemingly has the least to do with Kirkman from a creative aspect, and perhaps it shows in the horrific reviews from both audiences and critics. There’s a sense that the Walking Dead franchise is stale and is spreading itself too thin.
But just when you begin to think that, Robert Kirkman throws some aliens into the mix! Rick Grimes 2000 is a limited comic series, an alternate reality of The Walking Dead where fan favorite Rick Grimes teams with his son, Carl, to battle an alien invasion. The idea sounds like Kirkman has been watching a lot of Rick & Morty, but also feels like the progression of a franchise that has exhausted so much of its original premise. We’ve seen a similar story play out on the big screen, when the Fast & Furious crew took a car to space. Nevertheless, Rick Grimes 2000 sounds so far out there that it may be worth a read based on the unpredictability alone, a feeling Kirkman often strives for.
Kirkman’s dialogue eventually turns attention to a potential live action movie on both The Walking Dead, and another film centered on Rick Grimes. Kirkman, understandably, refuses to give any details on these projects, leaving us to wonder what new direction this long-worn franchise could possibly go. We do know the original plan for the Grimes movie was to show what happened after Grimes exited the TV series in 2018, when he was flown away via helicopter with mortal injuries.
The Walking Dead, on the other hand, is very much removed from the peak of it’s popularity, frustrating viewers with convoluted storytelling, controversial twists, and the killing of beloved characters. A movie will have to find a way to give the franchise a fresh start in order to bring back some of those lost fans. However, with so few details it is hard to speculate how the movie can revitalize the franchise. But perhaps that’s a good thing. The live action film adaptions of Kirkman’s work are such unknowns at this time that our energy and attention is better placed with the amazing works we have currently. Kirkman, for the last 20 years, has created a tapestry of fantasy entertainment in comics and on TV. There’s definitely something out there of his that you haven’t watched or read, so dive into those properties. Better to appreciate what’s already at our fingertips, than pine for a future that’s not yet known.
The final season of The Walking Dead premieres Aug 22 on AMC. Invincible is available for streaming on Amazon Prime. You can read free digital comics, or order all paperbacks or hardcovers, owned by Image Comics at imagecomics.com