Writer Robert Kirkman has become one of the comic book industry’s most important creators over the past decade and a half, and not just because of the massive success of his creation, The Walking Dead, but also his work on books like Invincible for Image Comics, and for Marvel Comics, several years of Ultimate X-Men. Now Kirkman and AMC have teamed up once again, this time producing the six part documentary series Robert Kirkman’s The Secret History of Comics.
Although there have been several comic book documentaries in the past on television, most of them try to contain a nearly century old medium into a two or three hour narrative. But with The Secret History spread out over six parts, this is a deeper dive into comics lore than many mainstream audiences have ever seen. We got the chance to chat with Kirkman about the series, which is now about halfway through its initial run.
Although Kirkman is obviously someone who has had an enormous effect on the comics industry, he was also a lifelong fan of the medium long before that. Was making a documentary about comics the next logical step for him, after achieving so much success within the industry? “When AMC came to me about wanting to do something in the documentary space with comics, they really didn’t know what the subject matter would be,” Kirkman told us. “I kind of took it as a big responsibility, being such a big comics fan and being so entrenched in that industry as long as I have been. And having been a fan from a really young age, my thought was “I can’t really let someone else do this, I need to do it, and make sure this is as cool as it can possibly be.”
After getting the green light from the network, it was then Kirkman said “we rolled up our sleeves and said ‘what kind of stories can we tell?’ And we kind of settled on this idea of taking a lot of the behind the scenes stories, the lesser known stories of what went into the creation of these iconic comic books that have driven pop culture for decades now. And just peel the curtain back.”
With so many creators interviewed as part of this series, I had to wonder who Kirman’s favorite was. Unsurprisingly, Kirkman told us that “it was [the founding members of] Image Comics. Any time you can get those guys on camera, it’s pretty exciting. But I don’t know, it was cool seeing creators like Paul Levitz, Denys Cowan, and Stan Lee of course. Also the fact that we got great comic book creators like Greg Rucka and Kurt Busiek, guys like Neal Adams, they’re all pretty amazing.”
Of course, the comics medium also has a ton of urban legends surrounding it — was this something Kirkman thought to tackle in the series? Well, don’t hold your breath for that, comics fans. As Kirkman reminded us, “a lot of the urban legends are really not appropriate for television, sadly. There are a lot of the quirky stories, like the origins of the Hellfire Club in the pages of X-Men, weird stories like that. We don’t talk about that in this series….but I’d love to do a Secret History of Comics: After Hours, maybe air it at 1 in the morning!” he joked. (for the record, we would totally watch that series in a heartbeat.)
Speaking of the Image Comics founders, Kirkman himself has long been a huge part of Image Comics, with his Skybound label. Was it strange to create a documentary series about a medium that he himself had such a huge impact on? “Yeah, I try to ignore that aspect of it as much as possible” Kirkman told us. “I really wanted to try and avoid involving myself in the Image Comics part of the series, but that was something AMC wasn’t too keen on, because naturally they like it when we talk about The Walking Dead. It’s a little strange, but five of the six episodes don’t involve me whatsoever.”
Still, Kirkman’s Image Comics love shows through in this series, when asked what the most fun part was of making The Secret History, he replied “Any time I get to spend time with the Image Comics founders, that’s always the most fun part. I don’t think it can be overstated how big of an event that was. Not just for industry at large, but for creators rights and creativity, and seeing creative people get the ability to drive their own destiny. It’s a pretty great turning point in the industry.”
For Kirkman, his favorite part of making this series “was just seeing all the things our research team had dug up, how the episodes came together, and seeing some of the things in the episodes that surprised me. Because I didn’t think for an instant that there would be times in the show where I found out new information that I didn’t already know, or any secret history that I wasn’t aware of. But it actually happened more than a few times, and it was pretty great every time it happened.”
Comics have taken over pop culture now, and Kirkman’s series really gets to the stories that are the heart of why that is. “The stories that are behind the scenes that go into the creation of these comics are just as interesting if not more so than the comics themselves. Once you see what people are behind these comics, and how much effort and love and passion has gone into them, you’ll see why this is a medium that drives all of pop culture right now. It’s great.”
Robert Kirkman’s The Secret History of Comics airs Mondays at 10/9 Central on AMC
What do you think of this amazing documentary series? Are you hoping for a season two? Let us know your thoughts down below in the comments.
Feast on more The Walking Dead!
- ICYMI, check out last week’s review.
- Listen to Gabriel’s actor Seth Gilliam talk about the past and future of the show.
- Showrunners reveal the end to the war.
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