If comics writer Robert Kirkman is remembered for two things, they’re likely to be The Walking Dead and Invincible—two huge cult books that became even bigger when they were adapted into television series.
And now, Kirkman’s in the curious place of bidding farewell to one while diving fully into the other. AMC just announced The Walking Dead will end after 11 seasons, and Amazon Prime Video followed last week’s first-season finale of Invincible by renewing it for two more seasons—which made my conversation with Kirkman feel a little like a victory lap.
I’m a big fan of the Invincible show, which builds a lively, intelligent examination of superhero morality around the odyssey of its young hero, half-alien teenager Mark Grayson.
Producing it as an animated series let Kirkman and showrunner Simon Racioppa keep the bright colours and simple (but not simplistic) aesthetic of the comics, which makes the occasional explosion of graphic violence feel even more shocking.
“I really have to give it to Invincible co-creator Cory Walker, who was our lead character designer,” Kirkman says. “It’s really, really fun to watch two superpowered beings fight in a city. Tons of movies do that really well. What has to be different about Invincible is that you’re worried about the people in the apartment buildings. The superheroes after the fight go, ‘Oh my God, I think 300 people died’. Like, that’s not great. These are natural disasters for the world of Invincible. And exploring that is one of the unique aspects of the series.”
As much fun as it is to fly around and punch criminals, Mark—voiced by Walking Dead breakout and recent Oscar nominee Steven Yeun—is very much aware that he’s the son of Omni-Man, an extraterrestrial hero who never misses the opportunity to remind his kid that with great power comes terrible, terrible responsibility.
Yeun is great, but J.K. Simmons is sublime as Omni-Man, showing different facets of the character over the course of the season for…reasons.
“I remember when we first met with him, we said, ‘This is a character who is a very loving, nurturing father who is also something very different and very harsh. You have to be able to be this warm and caring person while also being this very brutal person at the same time. And he just kind of leaned back in his chair and was like, ‘Yeah, I’ve done this once or twice.’ ”
Kirkman laughs. “So if you need someone who can perform a dual role, J.K. Simmons is your man.”
Of course, Yeun and Kirkman first worked together on The Walking Dead, so I have to ask Kirkman how he feels about that show declaring an end point this year.
“To be completely honest, it’s not a thing that I’ve processed yet,” he says. “We’re knee-deep in the expanded final season, so we’re a year or so away from the end. And I don’t deal with things when they’re a year out, but I’m sure I will cry.
“It’s staggering to me to think that we’ve gone 11 seasons,” he adds, “and with the various spinoffs and things that are planned, we’ll probably go another 11 years or so…so it’s not quite as definitive as it might seem, but it’s definitely something that I’m going to be processing. It’s an amazing, tremendous run that I couldn’t be happier with.”