Two years ago, The Walking Dead architect Robert Kirkman taped a “Mission Statement” video to encourage fellow comic-book writers to take a stab at developing original stories and characters that they themselves would own. It was a prescient statement: Kirkman became the most recent poster boy for creator-owned-comics success when powerhouse producers Gale Anne Hurd and Frank Darabont adapted his ongoing Walking Dead comics series into a successful AMC show. The Walking Dead’s finale hit the target-demo bull’s eye, boasting 4 million viewers aged 18-49, more than any basic-cable drama ever. However, this high was followed by a curious mass exodus of the show’s writers, who had drafted a finale veering so far from the source material that fans began to wonder whether switching up the roster would kill The Walking Dead’s momentum. In January, Kirkman (also a writer and executive producer on the series) sat down with Darabont to map out season two, which will return in October with 13 episodes. In advance of this powwow, The A.V. Club spoke to Kirkman to shed some light on the writer controversy and the show’s future.
The A.V. Club: What happened with your season-one writers?
Robert Kirkman: I don’t know where anyone got that they got fired. Basically, Chic Eglee was brought on to be the head of the writers’ room and be a showrunner while Frank was running the first season. He thought Frank was going to go off and direct movies after the first season. But when Frank decided to stay, Chic decided to do his own TV show [FX’s comic-book adaptation Powers] because he didn’t want to be working under Frank anymore. Which is totally understandable, because Chic ran Dexter for a few years, and he worked on The Shield. And a lot of the writers decided to go with him. No one got fired. It’s really not that big a deal; writers change from season to season all the time.
AVC: It seemed a bit abrupt.
RK: I completely understand that. But they made this decision before the ratings came in. I knew this was going to happen before the show started being aired.
AVC: Why do you think people like zombie stories so much?
RK: Oh, you know, they’re awesome. [Laughs.] By design, a zombie story always has to be about the human character. So if you’re doing a vampire story, frequently people will make the vampire the main character. You can’t really do a story where the zombie is the main character. So zombie stories speak to the audience a little better than some other horror genres.
AVC: How many requests do you get from friends wanting to play a zombie on the show?
RK: Quite a bit, actually. I’d like to be able to tell everyone “yes,” but there are only so many zombies you can get into a show. And everyone on the show has friends that are doing that. We’ll probably never run out of zombies.
AVC: Next season, will we be seeing any comics personalities or celebrities making zombie cameos?
RK: There are a few people who have asked me, and there may be some fun cameos for comics fans popping up in the second season. I don’t wanna call these people out; it might annoy them. Honestly, Stan Lee asked to be a zombie on the show—that’s possible.
AVC: There’s that rumor that Charlie Sheen was supposed to guest-star.
RK: [Laughs.] I wish! But sadly, no. We are talking to Mel Gibson, though.
AVC: You’re kidding.
RK: Of course I am. I would like to know where all these rumors are starting. I’ll start creating rumors for fun. I’d just love to talk to Mel Gibson. How interesting would that be?
AVC: This season ended up deviating radically from the comics.
RK: At the onset of the comic-book series, I didn’t know how long it would last—I didn’t know if it’d get canceled. So I was trying to get as many big ideas, as many stories in there as possible. But this is something I really pushed for the show: I came into the writers’ room the first day and said, “Look, I don’t care about the comic.” I don’t want people who’ve read the comic to be bored. Like, Frank came to me with the CDC storyline, and I was pretty much into anything that’ll keep the show compelling.
AVC: Most fans of the book are dying to know if you’ll include the plotline where Rick ends up losing his hand.
RK: I will point out that Frank Darabont is involved in this show, and he has to have a prison in everything he does. I don’t know if you knew that? But I wouldn’t want to spoil anything by answering that question about Rick’s hand. We’ve already cut off one hand! We don’t want to be redundant.
AVC: With all these writer switch-ups, will you continue to write for the show?
RK: That’s the plan, but I’ve always maintained that my main focus is comics. I want the Walking Dead comic-book series to continue at the same pace it’s been going.
AVC: You’re working on several other books, too.
RK: I’ve got Haunt that I do with Todd McFarlane. And I just launched a new book called Super Dinosaur that I do with my Astounding Wolf-Man co-creator, Jason Howard. Super Dinosaur is going to be my first all-ages comic. And then I’ve got an Invincible spin-off that I do, called Guarding The Globe. And there’s another book that I’m working on behind the scenes that will be announced in summertime.
AVC: Invincible is also an ongoing series for you. Now that there are a few superhero shows on TV, has there been any interest in adapting that?
RK: There’s a lot of interest in it, and there’s nothing really concrete to report yet. So I’ll just remain mum for now. But there’s a lot of exciting behind-the-scenes on a bunch of comic books that I’ve done. So things are going really well here.
AVC: How well? What have you splurged on in the wake of The Walking Dead’s success?
RK: I bought a complete set of Garbage Pail Kids the other day! That’s not very expensive, though. Who’s my favorite? I like the blond guy who’s blowing his head up. He’s pretty cool. And then they did a sequel later where he’s blowing his butt up. That’s pretty funny. I like to buy a lot of stupid toys that I asked for Christmas as a child but didn’t get.