The monster success of The Walking Dead feels so inevitable now. The show, which has broken one ratings and social media record (the season five premiere earned 17 million total viewers and 1,320,056 tweets) after another, is the cultural phenomenon we need and deserve as a society reckoning with our own suddenly looming mortality. It may not be walkers on the horizon, but we live with the collective feeling that something is going to overrun our idyllic farm sooner rather than later.
Yet, things could have been so different had Robert Kirkman not gone to Wizard World in Chicago in 2000 and sat across from a successful, but miserable, comic creator. Kirkman, now famous for creating The Walking Dead comics and show went to the comics convention to peddle his first self-published comic Battle Pope, about a post-rapture, yes, pontiff, and his sidekick, Jesus. His booth was across from the creator (who shall remain unnamed) of a famous comic that had been made into a famous movie. He had everything that Kirkman wanted, but he looked desperately unhappy. “Watching that,” says Kirkman, “I was like, that thing he did is more popular than I could ever dream Battle Pope could be but he’s only got the one thing. I left that convention and I completely changed my career plan.”
As the October premiere of TWD season six, and the August 23 debut of spinoff series Fear the Walking Dead lurch ever closer, watch Kirkman talk about Battle Pope, and a comic creator to whom he owes a thank you for spurring him to create a groaning, shuffling entertainment colossus.