SDCC11: Robert Kirkman’s SKYBOUND Panel Talks Walking Dead, Super Dinosaur, Invincible and More!

Robert Kirkman is perhaps best known for his hugely popular Walking Dead series, a long-running comic franchise that last year won the 2010 Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series and just last fall landed its own TV-series on AMC. And yet, Kirkman’s SKYBOUND imprint over at Image Comics has been churning out one huge comic hit after another that have absolutely nothing to do with zombies.

I hit the SKYBOUND panel on Friday in sunny Downtown San Diego to find out just what the small company has been up to lately. With Kirkman heading up the panel, also on tap were “The Infinite” artist Rob Liefeld, “Thief of Thieves” co-writer Nick Spencer, as well as Brandon Seifert and artist Lukas Ketner of Skybound’s recently launched “Witch Doctor” series.

The panel started with an overview of how the imprint is doing, with clear winners Walking Dead and Invincible hitting the biggest numbers in terms of sales. Kirkman’s own all-ages series “Super Dinosaur” has been rapidly gaining popularity, especially among the younger readers out there.

I may not necessarily be the comic’s core demographic, but an armor-clad, missile-equipped tyrannosaurus rex named Super Dinosaur sounds pretty damn cool in my book. I made a note to pick up an issue or two next time I hit my local comics store.

Next, the panel drifted into ‘Witchdoctor,’ a strange medical/horror mash-up that involves a man who wakes in a bathtub with an incision over his kidney, but when he visits the hospital, the doctors tell him he actually has two kidneys. The mystery to be solved: just what is the second kidney in his body and who surgically implanted it there? The background for the book sounds quite eery and  unlike anything I’ve ever read before:

In ‘Witchdoctor,’ it’s a sick world — literally. The universe is a living thing, and the monsters of legend are its parasites. Earth’s immune system — humanity — has been at war with supernature for all of history. But to fight a disease, you don’t need soldiers. You need doctors. Doctors like Vincent Morrow, excommunicated from the medical community and headhunted into an exciting new career in the black arts. Morrow serves the world with both hands — one in magic, one in medicine — as earth’s protector. Earth’s Witch Doctor.

Soon, the panel began discussing “Thief of Thieves,” whcih launch next year in February 2012. Co-writer Nick Spencer talked briefly about the story which focuses on thief Conrad Paulson whose  job has become his addiction. The main character eventually decides to change his ways, but since he’s still addicted to thieving, he decides to only steal from other thieves. The book’s initial story arc will introduce readers to Conrad (AKA “Redman”), as well as showcase his interaction with his various family members who play a supporting role in his activities.

Coming back full circle to the imprint’s core properties, Kirkman mentioned that they just published a deluxe edition of “The Infinite” which went on sale at the con before it hits retail outlets on August 3rd. Also discussed was how “Invincible” will soon be back on track and several new covers were shown on the big screen. During the panel’s Q&A, a fan asked Spencer about the status of his series ‘Infinite Vacation’ to which Spencer confirmed that the book would be wrapped by the end of the year and that the third issue is being drawn.

And while I was delighted to see the Q&A veering into all things Walking Dead, I was also interested to see what other properties Kirkman has been actively involved in. I made a mental note to catch up on ‘Invincible’ specifically, because I recalled reading some of the very first issues and getting completely hooked on the story-line. And yet, somehow or another, nearly 70 issues have gotten behind me and now I find myself with a desperate need to catch up.

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