At Comic-Con, it's not unusual to encounter a pack of flesh-hungry zombies. That's pretty much par for the course. Less common indeed, entirely unprecedented is to have an entire army of walkers officially organized by zombie-master Robert Kirkman at nearby Petco Park in San Diego, all part of the highly anticipated "Walking Dead Escape" event.
"Escape," in essence, is an obstacle course that casts participants in the roles of both human survivors and reanimated corpses. It's a bizarre, ambitious event even by Comic-Con standards, and one that even Kirkman, who created the "Walking Dead" comics and acts as writer and executive producer of the AMC series, can hardly wrap his own head around.
"It was one of those things like how I felt about the 'Walking Dead' show itself [before it started]," Kirkman told MTV News about the event's origins. "'We're going to have an obstacle course at Comic-Con!' 'Yeah, I'll believe it when I see it.' Well, it actually happened!"
"It's a chance to immerse yourself in the world of the 'Walking Dead' and get chased by zombies, climb over cargo nets, climb over cars ... all while zombies are chasing you," he added. "That should be a pretty cool change of pace from what people normally do at Comic-Con."
Another cool change of pace presented by "Escape" is the chance to get turned into a zombie by Greg Nicotero's KNB EFX Group, the same team that brings monsters to life every week on "The Walking Dead."
"It's a testament to Comic-Con," said Kirkman. "You come to Comic-Con and can get made up into a zombie by the KNB EFX team that works on the 'Walking Dead' show? That's pretty amazing. You don't get to do that kind of stuff just anywhere."
Well, you don't get to do that kind of stuff just anywhere yet. "Escape" makes its grand debut at Comic-Con this week, but Kirkman said that the obstacle course could very well travel to other cities before all is said and done. "Who knows what the future holds, but it's definitely something we're looking at," he said.
More certain than an "Escape" expansion is this: "The Walking Dead" will be all over Comic-Con this year. In addition to the obstacle course, the "Walking Dead" comic book series celebrates its 100th issue during Comic-Con, out in stores today (July 11), in fact. It's a bloody, harrowing issue that changes the game on numerous fronts. One such game-changer is the arrival of Negan, the leader of a murderous group called The Saviors and a villain that could very well give the notorious Governor a run for his money.
"What Negan does in issue #100, it's much more explosive than the Governor's introduction" in issue #27, which made a fan-favorite character lose a hand, Kirkman pointed out. "That says a lot. I think we're off to a good start. History will dictate which major villain ends up being cooler, but I think Negan has a very good chance."
But even as "Walking Dead" blows past the 100-issue mark, Kirkman said his eye is firmly on the future, not his past achievements.
"It doesn't feel like, 'Oh, I reached the finish line! I've reached this monumental thing!' Because I still, oddly enough, feel like I'm at the beginning of the story, which sounds stupid at this point," he said. "I really do have tons of other stuff planned for these characters. I'm more excited about the book now than I've ever been."
He's pretty excited about the show, too. "The Walking Dead" premieres its third season this fall, introducing long-awaited characters like the sword-wielding Michonne and the aforementioned Governor. Also making its introduction is the prison, an iconic location from the "Walking Dead" comics that was teased briefly in the season two finale. Mum's the word on what precisely will be shown at the "Walking Dead" Comic-Con panel on Friday (July 13), but it's safe to say that Kirkman and friends will be unveiling some never-before-seen season three footage.
"Oh boy, are we," he teased. "I've already watched a few versions of the Comic-Con footage that we're showing, and I think the room is going to get pretty loud. There's a lot of cool stuff planned."
Are you looking forward to experiencing "The Walking Dead" at Comic-Con? Tell us in the comments section below or hit me up on Twitter @roundhoward!