Robert Kirkman: The Boy Made Good

Besides being a great writer, Robert Kirkman might just be one of the smartest guys working in the comic book industry. Today it was announced that Kirkman is being made partner in Image Comics, a fascinating development, since there haven’t been any partners added since the company was founded by original seven founders, Erik Larsen, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri, Todd McFarlane, Jim Valentino, and Whilce Portacio. You want more, check out the article in The New York Times, of all places.

It’s no secret that we’re fans of Kirkman here at iFanboy, and he’s appeared on the video show more than anyone else. Some interviews were fun. Some didn’t seem to go as well, and others were just weird. We never turn down a chance to talk to him. The fact is, we meet a lot of people doing this show, and we really like Kirkman. Since the beginning of our audio show, there’s been no book we’ve recommended more than Invincible to superhero fans looking for something new, or to people who didn’t think superhero books could be fun anymore. I wish that some of the conversations we’ve had when the camera was off got captured, because he’s a great guy. I’m not telling you this to brag, but rather to illustrate that he’s just a good guy who loves comics, and has a sense of humor about himself. Not every comic he’s ever done was great, by any stretch, but he’s done more great comics than many creators ever do.

Personally, I’ve been a fan since the very start. This isn’t to say I’m so cool that I knew before everyone else, but that the very first time I heard the term Battle Pope, I was interested. He got me that fast. I read the smallest description for the book, and instantly wanted it. I had to get my LCS to special order it, and it took a couple months to come in. And for at least once in my life the book actually exceeded my expectations. It was fun, funny, witty, daring, and just very good. It had Tony Moore, unknown at the time, on art duties. It was exactly what I was looking for in an edgy indie comic book. I remember my first trip to San Diego in 2000, when I ran across their booth, and got one of my first sketches ever from Moore, and they were so friendly and happy I was reading the book. I didn’t really know their names at the time, but I remember that moment.

Flash forward a bit, and Kirkman starts releasing a bunch of books from Image, and I didn’t read a one of them. Among them was Invincible, a new superhero book that I wasn’t the least bit interested in. Perhaps I didn’t put 2 and 2 together to know that I might like it, but for whatever reason, I didn’t pick them up until later.

It turns out that this was a mistake. When I finally grabbed the first Invincible trade paper back in San Diego, it only took me a couple days to start reading it (as the stack was smaller in those halcyon days). The introduction by Kurt Busiek really got me. It’s rare that I take much heed of an introduction, but in it, Busiek went on to mention a lot of the reasons why he initially didn’t bother with, or notice the book, and I knew exactly what he was talking about. So when he went on to say that he’d made a huge mistake, I sat up. I’m not going to say whether I was on the toilet at the time or not, but that’s frankly none of your business.

The book delivered. It was entirely classic and at the same time, completely fresh. I can’t explain what the special magic of the book is, other than it’s the perfect blend of action, fun, humor, and drama, and that the art complimented what the story was doing exactly. When Cory Walker moved on, Ryan Ottley more than filled the void he left, and the book kept getting better and better. To this day, I can’t think of a more consistently exciting read when a new Invincible trade gets released.

That is, unless we’re talking about The Walking Dead. Make no mistake. This book is a game-changer, and besides his smarts, and personality, I’d be willing to guess that The Walking Dead had more to do with Kirkman’s ascension at Image than anything else. This book is a juggernaut, and 50 issues in, the numbers are still going up on the monthly issues. That just doesn’t happen in a book that doesn’t change its creative team. That just doesn’t happen in a book that’s about zombies. That just doesn’t happen in a book that’s black and white. This book defies convention. It is the thing that should not be. This is all due to the simple fact that it is a very good comic book, if not one of the best. It’s always good, and it’s good to everyone who reads it, not just comic book people, or zombie fans. It’s better than the best zombie movies. What makes it so good? You’ve got a great cast of characters, and you learn to care about them, and you just don’t know what’s going to happen.

If you listened to my conversation with B. Clay Moore, who was working at Image as their PR and Marketing person at the time, you’ll get a good idea of how smart Kirkman was back at the start of The Walking Dead. He told Jim Valentino, then head of Image, that The Walking Dead was about zombies caused by aliens. When the book came out, Moore asked Kirkman where the aliens were, to which Kirkman replied “There are no aliens! That’s just something I said to get the book picked up!” It was ballsy, and for most people, it would mean they weren’t going to work much more. But Kirkman knew his book was good, and he succeeded, gaining professional respect, rather than scorn.

I haven’t even mentioned Marvel Zombies, a book completely unrelated to his The Walking Dead work, but one that ushered in an era at Marvel, where we’re still seeing alternate zombie covers, for reasons I don’t completely understand. The book was pretty good. It was fun, with fantastic art that was a fairly unexpected direction from artist Sean Phillips. The best part about it was that the sacred cows of Marvel were lead unapologetically to the slaughter. The greatest heroes of Marvel had all their dignity taken away, and were made the butt of countless disgusting jokes. When you think about how valuable these characters are, it begins to dawn how impressive that really was. And of course, it was hugely popular, because when Kirkman gets something right, he gets it very right.

And starting now, he’s got a say in everything Image Comics publishes. Image is no slouch. They publish a huge range of material from all over the creative spectrum. It was a company founded by comic book artists, and now, sitting in one of the big chairs is a guy who made himself comics royalty, all by the age of 29, who knows what it is to claw your way up the ladder based solely on your talent and your love of comic books. I say a hearty congratulations is due to Robert, and I think this is a great development for comic book readers everywhere.


  1. This book is a juggernaut, and 50 issues in, the numbers are still going up on the weekly issues.


    I know it’s a typo, but god damn, I’d love me some weekly Walking Dead. 

  2. It never happened:

    *waves hands*

    That would be awesome though.  Charlie Adlard would look like a zombie after that. 

  3. That is awesome news.  Kirkman is a badass.

  4. I am delighted to see Mr. Kirkman get this kind of well-deserved recognition, even if I have absolutely no goddamn idea what it means. Does he get a key to the Imagemobile? A pass to their Mighty Ducks luxury box?

  5. *Claps* He deserves it.  Just goes to show what hard work can get you.

  6. this is awesome news, I love when fellow Kentuckians do good.  I was working at a comic shop in Louisville when Battle Pope first came out and loved it.  My d-bag manager however made it a point to bury the thing b/c he found it offensive and even said when I asked why "I don’t want to help him in his fifteen minutes."  Ha!  Congrats sir, you are a talented writer and an even smarter business man. 

  7. @Jimski – I’m pretty sure he gets his own McFarlane Toys Robert Kirkman Action Figure. (Josh Flanagan with iFanboy Kung-Fu Microphone Grip sold separately).

  8. I like him.

  9. I remember the first time I heard about Walking Dead.  It was on an iFanboy podcast and I thought, "Zombies?  Really?  I thought these guys were cool.  Nerds. Psshawf"  Then on the forums, I read someone elses praises.  Then the praise started showing up everywhere.  I was introducing my ex-girfriend to comics at the time and she was a big fan of the 28 ______ Later movies, so I thought I’d give this silly zombie book everyone was talking about a try.  I got the first trade and read it.  Later that day I went back to the store and bought the rest of the trades and issues up to the point that I was current with the monthly schedule and read all those…the same day.  Then I gave her the books and she did the same thing.  It was incredible.  In one day Walking Dead went from "a silly zombie" book to my favorite title.  The next Wednesday, I decided to give that teen superhero book by the Walking Dead guy a try…and had almost the exact same reaction.


    When Kirkman nails it…he hits grand slams out of the park.  I’m really excited for what this means to image as a company.  I can’t wait to see what comes out of this.

  10. Go Kirkman!

  11. Newsarama spells out something I should have concluded on my own, namely that this basically means Mr. Kirkman is sticking with creator-owned books for the foreseeable future. (Not that he had 40 Marvel books to begin with or anything.)

    Normally, I’d hear something like this and say, "Oh, no! Now he’ll never do that run on Longshot I always wanted!" Hearing this, though, I thought, "Good! More like Walking Dead, por favor."

  12. This is a GREAT story. A really good guy actually reaping the benefits of quality work. Great Job RK!

  13. Kirkman deserves it. He is the big mover that keeps that company in the headlines right now. They do other good stuff, but none as good as his work nor as lauded publicly.

  14. This is very good news.  Kirkman definitely deserves it and now I know the reason why there isn’t too much stuff coming out from him at Marvel right now.

  15. Is Kirkman the first/only writer on a board of otherwise(at least initially in their career) pencilers?

     If so, that’s quite cool, too.

  16. Kirkman’s awesome.

    Also, Josh, it’s awesome that you used the phrase "halcyon days" 

  17. Strangely, I was watching some old Con shows last night as I’m psyched for the upcoming San Diego show (sad, I know), and Kirkman is always a highlight of the interviews. He’s funny, whip-smart, and damn it all just a guy you wanna go for a beer with and shoot the breeze! This is great news for him, and richly deserved.

    On a side-note, regarding the interview that above screencap is taken from, he certainly seems to have taken a shine to you, Josh. Hope the missus isn’t getting jealous? 😉 

  18. My Robert Kirkman story is that I was at Heroes Con with a couple friends, and we each gave him a Marvel book to sign.  He then asked if we’d read Invincible.  My friends hadn’t, so he gave each of them a copy of the first trade.  I said, "Oh, I’ve read the first hardcover, I’m not sure where that ends –"  meaning I was trying to figure out which trade came next .  And he just slapped the second hardcover in my hands.  I have no idea if it was because we were obviously there for his Marvel stuff and he wanted us to try the Image line, or because we were girls, or just because it was the end of the con and he didn’t want to carry all that stuff home and was unloading them wherever he could.  But  it was really generous and unexpected and, as other people have expressed on this thread, it’s always good to see nice guys do well.

  19. @ohcaroline – That’s a great story, and he comes across as the sort of dude that did it from appreciation rather than just off-loading merch at the end of a con. I already liked the guy, but now he’s shot up a level or two to ‘legend’.