Comic scribe Robert Kirkman's most famous for penning The Walking Dead, and now he's teaming up with X-Force promulgator Rob Liefeld for The Infinite, a time-hopping scifi comic. Kirkman recently told io9 about crafting this tale of two Roberts.
You've worked on several genres throughout your comic career: horror with The Walking Dead, superheroics with Invincible, and so on. Why a time-travel science fiction tale with The Infinite?
It's something I haven't really done, and it always interested me. Science fiction is fun, and there's a lot of time travel stories out there with so many different elements. It's gotten to the point where people think there are time travel rules, like "Oh, you can't encounter your younger self!" or "Oh, if you change this timeline, that [other one] becomes an alternate dimension!" We don't really know if that's the case, so I really wanted to come in and take a fresh look at time travel, change the rules a bit, and have fun with the different ways it could work.
Are you able to divulge some of the mechanics of time travel in The Infinite?
The premise is that Bowen, a freedom fighter from the future, goes back in time to meet up with his 19-year-old self. They're together shaking hands, and [the younger Bowen] is learning things about his future self. We're taking the road in which there is one timeline — there's no multiverse, no diversions. The villain is coming back in time to rewrite the future, and Bowen is trying to stop him.
The book begins in a futuristic scenario in which the villain has won. What sort of storytelling opportunities did that open up for you?
It's extremely complicated because I have to know where certain events begin and end. For example, there's a scene in the second issue where Bowen travels to another time — you don't see where he goes or what he does, but he comes back and he's been changed. You're not going to find out what he's done until the end of the series. So there's a lot of things like that — things will happen and you won't understand it until two or three issues. It's the most layered and well-thought story I've ever worked on. I've done a tremendous amount of reading and charts. It's been a lot of fun.
How did Rob Liefeld sign on as illustrator?
I've been friends with Rob for a good long time. He hired to do some work for him very early in my career, so I like to say that Rob kept me from being unemployed for a while. But more so than that, I bought Youngblood, New Mutants, and X-Force when they came out. I've been a fan of Rob Liefeld for many years, and I jumped at the chance to work with him. He called me up one day and said, "I've got an opening in my schedule if you want to do something with me." We started talking about different creator-owned ideas and eventually came up with The Infinite together.
How long do you envision The Infinite running?
It's an ongoing monthly series, but we definitely have an end in mind. It isn't something like The Walking Dead which could go to issue 300 in 40 years. To tell this story with all of the different timelines, I had to have the end in mind before writing the first issue. I know how it ends but not the exact issue. Hopefully we'll get a few good years out of this.
If you could go back in time and talk to a 19-year-old Robert Kirkman, what would you tell him?
There's always that [impulse to say], "Oh, don't worry, everything's going to work out." To be honest, I wouldn't tell my 19-year-old self anything because I'm very happy how my life turned out, and I wouldn't want to do anything to fuck that up. I would probably do the Back to the Future thing and avoid my past self at all costs.
People expect that they'll get along with their younger selves. I disagree with that. One of the most fun things about writing Bowen interacting with his younger self is that the younger Bowen is inexperienced, talky, full of opinions, and completely annoying to the older Bowen. If I had to spend any time with my 19-year-old self, I'd tell him to stop being such an asshole. The Bowens are working together, but they're not getting along too well.
The Infinite is part of your new Skybound imprint for Image. Are we going to see any big Skybound announcements coming out of Comic-Con?
We'll probably be announcing several original Skybound title that aren't going to be by me, and I might have something of my own that I might be announcing.
Finally, let's sneak in a Walking Dead question. You've visited the set recently — how's it looking?
It was great to get back on set and see all the actors wearing the same clothes and driving the same cars — it was as if they had been filming when I was last there in September, making the show the whole time without me. So far, the second season is looking great.
Any last shout-outs you'd like to give?
If you love The Walking Dead, give The Infinite a shot. It's just like The Walking Dead, only instead of zombies, it doesn't have zombies.
The Infinite #1 hits stands August 3.