Robert Kirkman came to mainstream fame with the blockbuster success of The Walking Dead, which he created for AMC based on his best-selling comic book. But while he is heavily involved in the show and is developing other series for television, Kirkman hasn’t gone totally Hollywood–he’s still a prolific comics creator, writing regular titles for Image Comics, where he is a partner, including Invincible, Thief of Thieves, and the just-announced Outcast.
Kirkman shared some insight into his superhuman productivity at Image’s recent Image Expo in San Francisco, saying frankly that juggling multiple projects is sometimes “a matter of borrowing from my personal life for my professional life.”
“I can tell you what issue of Invincible any given character was in, but sometimes I have to think about it to remember my children’s birthdays,” said Kirkman. “I’m a pretty terrible person to be around most days.”
But Kirkman quickly circled back to the topic, saying that a conversation he had early in his career with Image cofounder Erik Larsen taught him an important lesson about work-life balance.
“I didn’t have kids at the time, and in my twenties I would work 14 to 16 hours a day. I don’t understand how my wife stayed with me,” he said. “Erik Larsen told me, the work takes up as much time as you allow it. If you give it 16 hours a day, it will take all 16 hours. If you set a time to quit, you might not finish, but you will probably work faster the next time.”
Kirkman did admit to sometimes cheating on his own rules. “There are times I’m behind and I’ll tell my wife I’m sitting on the toilet when really I’m writing scripts,” he said. “I do that more times than I care to admit.”
“I have two kids, four and seven. My father owned his own business and didn’t have the luxury of taking time out–so I make sure to make time for my kids to make sure they grow up to be shitty people,” he added (facetiously).
An outspoken advocate of comics creators owning their own work–one of the founding principles of Image Comics, versus Marvel and DC, which commission work for hire–Kirkman also didn’t completely rule out the idea of selling full rights to The Walking Dead for the right price. “If Disney is listening, there is a number,” he said, half-laughing. “However, the Walt Disney amusement parks are built on a foundation of happiness. The Walking Dead amusement parks would be built on a foundation of misery.”