Robert Kirkman has plans for "The Walking Dead." Big, all encompassing plans that last for years and cross from the comic books, to the TV show on AMC and beyond. But first, he has to finish one of the longest arcs in the history of the Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment book that inspired the series: "All Out War."
SPOILERS FOR "THE WALKING DEAD #125" PAST THIS POINT.
In the April 9 released issue of the comic, main character Rick Grimes finally came face to face with his sadistic adversary Negan. The fan least-favorite villain has killed numerous characters, nearly decimated what little civilization was left in the zombie apocalypse stricken world and even thought he had killed Rick.
Instead, Rick wasn't only alive, he offered Negan a truce: help rebuild civilization, and all is forgiven. Negan agreed. Rick slashed his throat. Cliffhanger!
To find out more about the upcoming conclusion to the arc, Negan's final fate and whether the character will ever end up on the TV show, read on:
MTV News: At the end of #125, we get something that was promised all the way back in issue #100, Negan gets his throat cut with a knife... Is that it for him? And where are we going next?
Robert Kirkman: We're definitely going to go into some unexpected directions... "All Out War" has been a pretty fast-paced monumental storyline that's changing a lot of things about "The Walking Dead" universe. People are going to see how things are going to be wrapped up in the next issue, and I don't think they're going to be wrapped up in any kind of expected way.
They're going to lead into issue #127, which is going to be a really big deal. Everything about "All Out War" for me that's exciting has been how it's going to affect the stories going forward, and seeing this world evolve as people continue to live in it long term is really the main appeal to "The Walking Dead."
This world is evolving in a big way, because of the things Rick and Negan are doing. We're going to see that all take affect in #127. We're following up our twice a month run on "All Out War" with a double sized issue. Issue #127 is 44 pages of story for $2.99.
So it's going to be a very dense issue, which is certainly going to set the stage for what's going to come through the book for many, many years.
MTV News: Rick gave this very nice speech at the end of #125 about how they can rebuild civilization, which stands in stark contrast to where Rick was during the fourth season finale of show, where it seemed pretty definitively stated that there's no going back to the way things were...
Robert Kirkman: It's two different points in the timeline. If you go back to the comic book from the era that's now being adapted in the television show, that's very much in line with what Rick's mindset was back then.
But I do think it's an interesting experience to watch the television show, and read the comic, and see just how far Rick has come, how much he's changed over time. And where his mindset is now based on his experience.
Whether or not the show will get there exactly over the course of the next few seasons remains to be seen. We certainly do take liberties on the show. We can adapt things as closely, or as loosely as we like. That's a product of them being in two different timelines... The comic book Rick is much farther into this world than the television Rick is.
MTV News: Speaking of television show characters contrasting with the books, on April Fool's Day you put up that fake cover announcing that Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) would be debuting in the comic. Fan reaction ran the gamut, to put it lightly — but is that definitively where Daryl will stay? You've talked about it before, but is there really no chance of him coming to the comic?
Robert Kirkman: All April Fool's jokes aside, that's the final answer there. It would be very strange to pull an element from the show and shoehorn it into the comic because of his immense popularity. The comic book is on its own path, and I've certainly got far reaching plans for that.
I like that Daryl is the element of the show that is an agent of change, that really affects every story as we try to adapt them. Losing that by putting him in the comic would do a disservice to the show, and the comics.
As much as I love Norman Reedus, and everybody loves Norman Reedus, you'll never see Daryl Dixon in the comic. There, I said it.
MTV News: Another pretty frequent quote I've seen from you is that you have the comic planned through issue #200. Now that you've hit the quarter mark past issue #100, has that changed?
Robert Kirkman: The roadmap always extends. Every day it gets a little further into the future. Issue #200 is just a rough mark. I don't have things blocked out to actual issue numbers, but I know the next three, or four, or five evolutions to the story, and each one of those represents between 10 and 40 issues.
So I know where the story is going, and what direction it is. And then when it comes to individual characters, I know what their characters arcs are, and what they're going to be doing years from now, assuming they don't die.
What it really comes down to is how those character arcs align with each other, from character to character, and how that affects the far-reaching evolution of the overall story. That is very malleable, and does sometimes lead to new stories that expand the roadmap even more.
It's a moving target, but I have maybe another decade or so planned at all times. [Laughs] It's kind of crazy.
MTV News: What about the show? Season four was so strong, both in terms of reaction from the critics, and the ratings. So what do you have planned out for season five?
Robert Kirkman: I think season four is the strongest of the show so far, and I think five is going to continue that trend.
I just turned in the second episode script for season five, and all the writers are hard at work on their individual episodes. We're pretty much halfway through the fifth season, script-wise. And we've already nailed down what our finale is, and what our overall arc of the season is. The back half of the season is taking shape very quickly, and we'll have all the scripts written by the summer.
It's always interesting the way these things overlap. By the time people have seen the entirety of the season, we're already pretty much done with the writing on the first half of the next season. We're always quite a bit ahead. We'll be rolling cameras in May, so I'm very excited about that. We'll have another season of "Walking Dead" down.
It's strange for me, being on the fifth season, because I feel like we just started. Five is... On some shows, on some great shows, they run for five seasons and they're done. And it's like, "Wow, that show ran for a long time." I feel like we're still very much getting started, which is the feeling I've always had on the comics. So that's definitely a strange thing to realize, that five years have passed already.
MTV News: And the spin-off?
Robert Kirkman: As far as the spin-off goes, I'm actively working with [Showrunner] Dave Erickson on that, and we know when our proposed release date is — although I can't tell you that, obviously. We're working towards that show, and it's gonna be awesome.
MTV News: Getting back to Negan, [Producer] Scott Gimple has said he wants to get the character on the show eventually. You know, there is a guy AMC likes, who's just finishing up a run on a popular show on the network. Any chance you could snag Jon Hamm for the part?
Robert Kirkman: He's not tall enough! That's a joke. I think Jon Hamm would be perfect. I think after "Mad Men" has run, Jon Hamm is going to have a Tom Hanks level film career, so I don't think he'll be coming back to television anytime soon. Although that would be cool!
As far as Negan casting goes, Scott and I are always talking about who we would put in that, it's definitely on our minds, and there are definitely a lot of candidates. But I wouldn't expect Negan too terribly soon, although he is definitely in the plan. It's a 99% lock that he's going to be in the show eventually, so be on the lookout for that.
"The Walking Dead #125" is currently in stores from Image Comics and Skybound Entertainment. The show will return to AMC this fall.