Interview with Skybound’s Shawn Kirkham

I admit it: I’m a Walking Dead fanboy. I’ve read all the issues of the comic, played through the full Telltale game on Xbox 360, watched all the seasons of the TV show, read both published novels, and read most of the interviews online by the creators of the comics and TV show. I’m fascinated by this world and why so many of us are hooked. That’s why I’m very excited today to bring you a conversation I had with Shawn Kirkham, Director of Business Development at Skybound, the company behind The Walking Dead, on the future of the comic and novel series’ and the world of the Walking Dead.

BookGateway (BG): Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some of my questions Shawn.

Shawn Kirkham (SK): Thanks for having me Scott. Please be gentle.

BG: To get to know you better: You are about to be marooned on an island (it’s good to know ahead of time, right?) and you get to take three books. What are they?

SK: The classic three items on a deserted island question. I’d have to say Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft and 1,001 Ways to Cook Coconut. 

BG: We can’t always prepare for the apocalypse, so let’s say it happens right now and – for better or for worse – you only have the book(s) you were currently reading in your backpack. What book(s) did you bring with you as you (foolishly) make your way to a big city?

SK: In my bag right now are Blackdog by K.V. Johansen and Quarterback of the Future by Mike Florio.

BG: Now that we know everything about you, on to The Walking Dead (WD). The WD is officially a cultural phenomenon. The zombies have invaded and overrun first comics, then TV, and now novels and video games. As Director of Business Development, what’s next?

SK: This October is the 10th anniversary of The Walking Dead.   There are some very cool and fun things planned throughout the year.  We find ourselves quickly approaching San Diego Comic-Con in July and New York Comic-Con in October. We’ll also be announcing soon the next step in The Walking Dead 100 Covers program with Hero Initiative.  Also at the Wizard World conventions this year, each paid attendee gets an exclusive copy of The Walking Dead #1 featuring a different cover artist for each event.  People can get all of the news and announcements about The Walking Dead at www.thewalkingdead.com.

BG: Everyone wants to know, so I’ll take a shot and get these two questions out of the way: will the comics and Telltale Games characters cross over? And will we see Daryl in the comics? (I had to try!)

SK: We’ve already seen some crossover of characters from the comics appearing in the Telltale game.  I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone out there.  As for Mr. Dixon, I believe he just had his own video game release.  Isn’t that enough?

BG: Zombie stories had always previously been a niche market. The WD has certainly changed that. Why is it that this world has captivated us to the point where it’s now mainstream to admit to enjoying a zombie story?

SK: With The Walking Dead it’s more than just a “zombie” story. It’s a story about the people who are put into the most horrific of situations and how they find ways to survive.  To me, it’s the interpersonal relationships that keep me coming back every month.  The zombies are more background players to the central story.

BG: The fiction novel marketplace is being flooded with cheap zombie romance (WTH?!) and fantasy books, similar to how Twilight nearly ruined vampires. This year we also see two heavily advertised movies featuring zombies prominently: World War Z and Warm Bodies (speaking of Twilight. Ugh.) How do you differentiate the WD from all the noise?

SK: I can’t say that I’ve read any “zombie romance” novels, but I know that there’s a place for everything in the market.  If someone is looking for those types of interpersonal relationships, they can definitely find them in The Walking Dead.   Early on in the series you’re put in the middle of the Rick/Lori/Shane dynamic.  Over the course of the series you find these types of themes popping up while the survivors try to cope with a new normal.  I think that’s truly the core of the series.  These are regular people trying to find some sort of normalcy in an apocalyptic world. 

BG: Just so I know my chances: What would make someone in a world like the WD successful? What traits would give someone a better chance of survival than other people?

SK: Honestly, I don’t think I have any of the traits needed to survive. So, I’m not sure I’d be much help to you. Maybe learn to use a katana sword. 

[SPOILERS]

BG: In the WD, becoming emotionally attached to characters can be devastating. Take the ending of the Telltale Game, where WE die leaving Clementine alone, or in (what I think is possibly the most emotional TV episode in the history of TV) when Carl talks to Lori as she lies dying and then has to shoot her. We know that Robert Kirkman (RK) is going to kill our favorite characters but we watch anyway. What is wrong with us? And why is RK so frakkin evil?

SK: There’s something magical about reading a book or watching a show and knowing that anything can happen to your favorite character.  That’s what keeps you coming back for more.  Is this the week that (insert fan favorite character name here) dies?  Who knows, but you’ll be there to check it out.

[END SPOILERS]

BG: RK has said that this is not a book about zombies but about people, “I mean the book is really just a bunch of guys standing around talking. I’m not trying to rag on my own book or anything, but at its heart it’s not just strictly a horror story” (IGN 2007). We’ve been watching these characters “stand around talking” for a long time now. What have we learned? What’s the moral of the story?

SK: What we’ve learned is that no matter what, against the greatest odds, humans find the will to live. 

BG: Final question about the comics. Back in issue 75 when the aliens revived Rick to… just kidding.

SK: I thought we ended spoilers!!! 

BG: On to the future. Speaking of Skybound specifically and where this series is going, RK said he could see himself doing this for 20 years. It’s been nearly 10 years since he said this and the series is exploding. Imagine that this series lasts a further 20 years. In 2033, where do you see the world of the Walking Dead? Will there be a series of books or just the current trilogy? Are we on issue 200 of the comics and if so what’s happening? Can you see RK giving up creative, day-to-day writing and control?

SK: I’m not one who looks too far into the future, but I can definitely see The Walking Dead lasting another 20 years.  Robert has always said that as long as people are still interested in The Walking Dead, then he’ll keep writing it.  If we make it to 2033, then we should be beyond issue 300. I think that would be an outstanding accomplishment.  As for what I think the world of The Walking Dead would be headed by issue 300, I can’t say for sure.  We’ve seen the world start to expand in the last few story arcs.  So I’d hope that we’d get to see more of the world and how other people have survived. 

BG: Thank you again for speaking with me. Congratulations on your company’s success and good luck in the future. (And tell RK I love him!)

SK: Thank you!


Skybound is the home of Robert Kirkman’s creator-owned work including his Eisner Award-winning comic book series, The Walking Dead, long-running Invincible, all-ages Super Dinosaur, Thief of Thieves and Clone as well as Witch Doctor and Invincible Universe. Since its inception, Skybound has created television shows, merchandise and a wide spectrum of platforms, games (The Walking Dead: Assault iOS app), and entertainment events (The Walking Dead Escape). Skybound’s successes include the comic behind the hit Emmy®-winning television show, AMC’s The Walking Dead, the highest-rated basic cable drama of all time in the U.S, also an international success in 122 countries and 37 languages. AMC is developing Thief of Thieves as a potential series. Skybound/Kirkman frequently top the hardcover and paperback bestseller lists. Your destinations for all news and merchandise from Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead and all Skybound titles is www.Skybound.com or www.TheWalkingDead.com

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.