When he wasn’t working on The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman oversaw a few projects at Marvel. During his time there, however, the comic book writer said he was “treated like crap.”
Between 2004 and 2010, Kirkman helped co-create the Marvel Zombies and The Irredeemable Ant-Man series. Although these storylines went on to become very successful in their own right, the narrative behind the scenes was not nearly as rosy.
Among other things, Kirkman has described the office culture prevalent at Marvel as “not a good fit” and “very restrictive.” He recalled clashing particularly hard with former editor-in-chief, Joe Quesada, saying:
“Joe Quesada and I do not get along. There were a lot of things that I got blamed for that didn’t really happen, and I would explain, ‘That’s not what I meant by that, what are you talking about?’ And then they’d get more mad with me.”
That complaint goes both ways, too, as Kirkman recalls finding word balloons on the covers of Irredeemable Ant-Man which he had not approved of.
“I’d be like, ‘Why would you put a word balloon on the cover of my book without telling me or running it by me or letting me write the dialogue? Or I don’t know, God forbid, letting me do the word balloon?'” Kirkman said. “Like, ‘This is a bad looking word balloon, I don’t like this dialogue, I would have taken my time to do this right. I don’t know why you guys just wouldn’t let me do this.'”
Grievances between Kirkman and Marvel execs ran so deep, in fact, that the company allegedly ceased to promote the writer’s work. Though budget shortages were often thrown around as an excuse, Kirkman suspects foul play.
“It got to the point where they wouldn’t promote some of my books. Because some of my books were lower tier books, and there’s a marketing budget,” he added. “It only makes sense to market the books that are going to make revenue as opposed to the books that are not going to make a lot of revenue. And that’s the other thing: I was completely realistic about my stature — or lack thereof — at Marvel while I was there.”
Kirkman has arguably exerted as much of an influence over the comic book world as have Marvel legends Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Whereas the latter two helped create the superhero genre, the former reinvented the zombie one.
Before The Walking Dead, zombie movies were – first and foremost – horror stories. By focusing on the surviving humans rather than the monsters though, as well as the moral dilemmas involved in their quest to stay alive, Kirkman gave the genre not just a brain, but a heart as well.