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Walking Dead creator promises most intense season yet

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The upcoming season of The Walking Dead is going to hit the ground running with all of the early episodes ending in powerful cliffhangers, franchise creator Robert Kirkman said during a New York Comic-Con panel hosted by The Nerdist's Dan Casey this week.

"This is going to be the most intense season of The Walking Dead yet," he said. "The first couple of episodes hit the ground running and there are big cliffhangers at the end of every episode. I'm watching cuts and I go, 'I gotta watch the next one!' I just hope that's how everyone else feels."

This season, which kicks off this Sunday on AMC, is expanding its use of computer graphics as it works to show the ever-evolving rot of walking corpses, Kirkman said.

"There are a lot of cool zombies this year," he said. ""A lot of green noses on set that are going to be taken out digitally.  To continue to decay them up."

Kirkman also sort of accidentally confirmed that the show has been, or soon will be picked up for a seventh season.

After answering a question and mentioning season seven of the show, Kirkman walked back the confirmation a bit, noting that he didn't want to get in trouble with AMC.

"We're talking about season seven," he said. "It's not official but given the success of the shows, I think there's some room for that sort of thing, there's a good chance it will happen."

Kirkman spent quite a bit of time during the panel discussing the comics, which while influencing the show, don't always dictate what happens on it.

For instance, Carol Peletier (played by Melissa McBride in the TV show) was a vastly different character in the comics.

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"The Carol in the comic was an attempt to show just how broken a person can become in a zombie apocalypse," Kirkman said. "The Carol of the show, which is a much better character, was made stronger by all of the horrible things that happened to her, things far more horrible than in the comic."

TV show fan favorite Daryl Dixon (played by Norman Reedus) is another example of the difference between the parallel stories of the show and comic.

Dixon doesn't and won't ever appear in the comic, Kirkman said. In fact, his character was created for Reedus.

"He was auditioning for the role of Merle Dixon (Daryl's brother)," he said. "We liked him so much we created a character for him.

"I would have to credit Norman Reedus a great deal for how that character developed on the show, a great deal."

Kirkman says he goes out of his way to make sure that the television show and the video games don't have any influence on him as he writes the comics, a series which will soon hit issue 150. He had the same sort of concern, he noted, when he had children.

"When you have kids you go soft," he said. "You don't like violence as much and news sort of weirds you out.

"I was starting to think I was getting soft (in plotting out the comics' story), so that's when I started to do the stuff with the Governor. So I overcompensated and it became way more confrontational.

"Try doing that on TV!"

"Then when the show came out and I was worried about the comic being changed by the show I added Negan who drops the F-bomb every other word and Ezekiel, who has a tiger.

"Try doing that on TV!"

And the comic continues to outpace the storyline of the show. Kirkman says he tries to stay 60 or so issues ahead of what's being published.

"That way I have a big runway," he said. "I always give myself the ability to change some things drastically in an issue when I'm writing. I usually have a good three or four or five years planned out that I know what I'm going to get to."

He said there have been several times in the comics when he realized what he was doing was boring or just didn't work. In one example, he decided to jump ahead in time significantly in the comic because writing out that period would have been boring to fans.

"A long period of security is boring," he said.

He's also occasionally decided to abruptly kill major characters in the comics.

Later, a fan asked Kirkman if he ever regretted killing someone off in the comics or the show.

"I regret all of them and none of them at the same time," he said. "It's harder on the show because those are actors and they are good people, but if I didn't feel regret I don't think I would have done my job.

"The point is that you're supposed to feel that loss."