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Kirkman discusses horror comic Outcast's transition to TV

The next big thing from Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead, is likely to be Outcast, a comic book about a young man struggling to understand his demonic possession.

In an on-stage interview at SXSW, Kirkman walked me through how the comic was picked up for a television show and why the comic version is more important to him than the television adaptation.

The comic book tells the story of Kyle Barnes, a man investigating why he has been plagued by demonic possession since childhood. Kirkman is working on both the comic and the show, which will star Patrick Fugit.

Kirkman said the television deal for Outcast was a "weird one." He was hanging out at a comic book convention in 2011, in between season one and two of The Walking Dead television show, when he ran into head of Fox International Sharon Tal Yguado.

The Walking Dead had already proven to be a tremendous success for Fox and Tal Yguado asked Kirkman what he was working on next.

"I was like, 'I have this idea for this exorcism thing I want to do next' ... and I kind of pitched her the rough idea for the story because it was the comic I was going to do next," he said. "I had no idea when I was going to do it, because the show was doing well and it was all very busy.

"And she goes, 'I'll buy that.'"

What Kirkman didn't know was that Fox International was already looking for another show from him.


The on-the-spot offer led to Kirkman selling a comic that he hadn't even started creating yet.

"I had done outlines and some plotting stuff and I knew the core of the story," he said. "But that it had already been sold as a TV show was very weird."

Shortly after that, he said, he moved his family to Los Angeles to work in the writers room for The Walking Dead's second season.

"So my life was working in the room on The Walking Dead, ignoring calls from Fox International and trying to work on this Outcast comic to try and develop it into something I could actually turn into a TV show," he said. "I was writing issues at the same time as writing the pilot, developing the pilot.

"It was strange because, with The Walking Dead, I was like at issue 60-something when the TV show talks happened, and by the time the show was out we were in the 70s as far as issues go. "

Outcast's seventh issue hits stands this week, but the writers' room for the show is already set up and active, Kirkman said.

"On Monday I'll be back in the writers' room on Outcast and we're developing issues I've written that haven't come out yet," he said.

When I asked Kirkman why he's bothering with the comic since the show is locked in and seems to be ahead of the books, his reaction was genuine shock.

"What?" he said. "You would be working under the assumption that you only do comics in order to get TV shows, which is not the way I see things.

"I actually prefer working in comics. I think other people think TV is awesome and they watch more TV and certainly on a numbers basis more people watch television than read comics, but comics are better," he said. "You all just haven't realized it yet."

Kirkman said on some level he wished the Outcast TV show would have taken longer to come together.

"That said, I love working in TV," he said. "The pilot is really cool and I'm really proud of it and I can't wait to see how the show comes out."

The first season will start shooting in July, Kirkman said, and by then all of the comics that encompass the season will have been released.


"We're moving at a good enough pace that I don't think the show, if it is successful and lasts past the first season, will ever catch up to the comic," he said .

The fact that the show isn't a guarantee — that Cinemax (which owns the rights) may not pick up future seasons — is another reason why Kirkman says he wants to do the comics.

"I'm in a position with comics that I can tell the Outcast story," he said. "I know the beginning, middle and end of Kyle Barnes' story I know how many issues I want to go. I know it's going to take a while. I know I can tell those stories because comics are accepting of that kind of stuff.

"I have no idea how Outcast is going to do on TV," he added. "It doesn't excite me to create one season and cross my fingers and hope that I can complete my story. That process sucks."

As with The Walking Dead show, Outcast will be an adaptation of the comic with some potential differences in characters and story.

"Because I'm working on both I don't want to write the same story twice," he said. "It's almost worse because with The Walking Dead I wrote that six years ago. So I can say, 'Let's change that' or 'I really like that. Let's tell that story again.'

"When you're doing it at the same time those differences help me and they keep me excited," Kirkman said. "So there will definitely be differences. But overall, Kyle Barnes will be Kyle Barnes in both versions and there will be a lot of similarities, but I want people who read the comic to watch the show and be excited and surprised."