Last night, we met to discuss "The Living Dead Volume 1" by Robert Kirkman and Image. However, two things made this different from our usual book club meeting. First, there were a lot more people present. Second, and most likely the cause of the first, Robert Kirkman joined us to discuss the book (and his experience) in general. It was a not-to-missed event for an aspiring comcis writer or Kirkman fan (I am both).
For the first hour, Kirkman talked about his experience in the industry, on writing the Walking Dead and working with the big comics companies. I was struck by the fact that when he was breaking in, he worked an office by day and then had to stay up all night (until past 2AM) to work on his comics projects (it sounded sadly familliar to me). And while I knew a lot of these stories from reading them online, it was very different to hear it from "the horses mouth." (We will get to the horse in a second). I also learned things I never knew about Walking Dead, such as why the book is in black and white and how far ahead Kirkman scripts. As always, Andy Schmidt had great war stories about Marvel that made me feel like an insider (This time about the fifth week 2099 event).
The second hour, however, was more amazing. As anyone who has read my reviews at popsyndicate, Earth 2 or this site or knows, I am a huge Kirkman fan and think The Walking Dead is one of the best series ever written (I don't like it as much as Invincible, but I have a Superhero bias). I love the fact that, month after month, Kirkman surprises me and does horrible irrevocable things to the book's main characters including, but not limited to, killing them. I should note that Kirkman mentioned in the first hour that he sometimes regretted doing some of these things (e.g., killing characters that still had stories left)—not the decision, themselves, just the fact that it was done. The Walking Dead is not about zombies. It’s about survivors and the things that survivors do to, well, to survive. In fact, the title of the book is a reference to what these survivors have become.
So, I was quite surprised, when there was a vocal minority that really didn’t like the book. One person thought it was too predictable. Another thought there was far too much telling (especially on a long scene where a main character expresses his love for his wife to a horse he rides into town and a follow-up talking heads campfire scene where everyone explains how they arrived at the camp.) Still another didn’t like the book because there 1) were no real goals in the first volume and 2) the ultimate goals of the protagonists have to fail and everyone will have to eventually die. We debated the book for an hour (discussing plot and story structure). What was amazing, was the fact that I didn’t disagree with the people who didn’t like the book. I saw each and every one of their concerns/problems. Don’t get me wrong, I am still a huge fan of the book and highly recommend it. Now, I have some added perspective on what works or doesn’t work in the storytelling.
As long as I’m plugging, a new member of our club, Janine Frederick, is in the Zuda competition this month, fighting for a contract with DC Comics. Please, feel free to check it out here and vote for it if you like it) (It's called Aleksander Christov: Assassin)