Robert Kirkman Talks “Creator Activism”

by on 03/30/2015

A very, very, very, very long feature piece on Robert Kirkman went up on Polygon today, featuring a full interview, a biography of his entire career, and the business philosophy that keeps him going. For the TL:DR crowd, here are the most revealing bullet points….

Why Kirkman quit a lucrative job at Marvel to work for Image: No one, he said, reads books or watches movies and only ever aspires to create sequels to those books or movies. People don’t get into those creative jobs to make Pulp Fiction 2 or write Moby Dick 2. But that’s how the business of comic books works, he said. “We come into the comic book industry to create our own work and we eventually graduate up to Marvel and that’s the end of the story,” he said. What comics need to thrive are more independent comics, more people who create new ideas and own and control those ideas, the theory goes. I agree.

He believes his career, despite being on a meteoric rise, could crash at any moment: “All I’m saying is, creators should always try to keep their own best interests at heart,” Kirkman says. “This is a tough gig. I’m two days away from not being popular. When your career’s on a downturn, it’s very hard to turn that around, and so writing and writing well and doing new jobs well — if you’re working in video games or comics or TV or whatever — that’s an essential part of having a career. But recognizing the opportunities that come along, because they’re always happening, and knowing when to jump and when to pivot and when to change gears — it’s an essential part of making it. No matter how popular or successful you are — I always try to keep in mind that there have been many people way more popular than I’ll ever be that couldn’t get arrested now. You have to be aware that that unrelenting, zombie-like force is chasing your career at all times. Do whatever you can to combat that.” I have a friend in the business who has confessed to having the same fear.

Kirkman got his foot in the comics door by bothering Erik Larsen: “I knew a guy who was running a website that was doing interviews for people,” he says. “The website never got off the ground, but I found out that he had scored an interview with Erik Larsen, so I went to him and said, ‘I’m gonna do that interview!’ I had never interviewed anyone before, but I’d read the comic. I could talk about it. So I got a little tape recorder and I called the guy on the phone, and did a two-and-a-half-hour interview with Erik Larsen.” After the interview, Kirkman says, he would mark on his calendar dates to call Larsen back, just to chat with him. “I would just call him and be like, ‘Hey, it’s that guy that interviewed you, what’s going on? How you doing?'” he says. “So we kinda hit it off. It was through being buddies with that guy that then I ended up being able to leg up and pitch new books to Image Comics.”

The entire article can be read through here.

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