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I TOUCHED ROBERT KIRKMAN…But Not Inappropriately.

There are a lot of memorable incidents that have happened to me while attending Cons that have been burned into my personal mythology so that now, when I speak of them, they seem to be almost like a movie in my head complete with credits and a soundtrack.

There’s the time that my significant bother just strolled up to Brent Spiner and engaged in a conversation for no apparent reason like they were best friends and then walked away like nothing happened, making eye contact with James Marsters and sharing 30 full seconds of him smiling at me and me desperately trying to play it cool even though I wanted to lick the roof of his mouth, and, oh, SITTING SO CLOSE TO ROBERT KIRKMAN THAT WE MADE PHYSICAL CONTACT WITH EACH OTHER WITHOUT THE COPS BEING CALLED ON ME.

Yeah, that will be the one that rates the highest in my memorable incident brain crevice.

So here’s the story:

I was invited to be part of a roundtable press junket for The Walking Dead where Robert Kirkman, Frank Daranbot (Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile, The Mist), Gale Anne Hurd (The Abyss, Aliens, Terminator) and all the lead actors were in attendance.

Like most junkets, the people involved sit at tables and talk about their project with the press for about fifteen minutes. We journalists verbally compete with one another to get our questions out there (it’s like a UFC bout but with a bunch of out-of-shape pale people glaring at each other instead of throwing punches) so that we can then report on it. Most of the time these things are mechanical and everyone gets the same story.

But for this junket, it actually felt different.

For one, everyone was really excited about being involved with Robert Kirkman. All the actors on hand (Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, and Steven Yeun) professed a deep love for him (even the ones who didn’t read The Walking Dead before they were cast in the show are now die-hard freaks for the series) and felt a real need to keep the fans happy with this adaptation in order to honor Kirman’s work.

Gale Anne Hurd was giddy about the project, and was on-set for every episode out of the sheer pleasure of making an epic television show that rivals that of the traditional Hollywood blockbuster.

And there’s Robert and Frank, who sat down at my table (where Kirkman’s physical being came into contact with mine) and simply shot-the-shit with us for almost twenty minutes about making a television show that will be violent, dark, and a hell of a lot of fun.

And as a writer I was in awe, because, lets face it, when Hollywood options a graphic novel or comic series, they often fuck it up (Hello? Spawn Anyone?) and the writer/creator is often kicked to the curb and what we love about the story is then re-written in a way that will appeal to no one. But on this project, Kirkman’s vision is not only preserved, it is protected by Kirkman himself, as an Executive Producer and Writer. And, more importantly, it is protected by Darabont who cares about the show just as much as Kirkman does.

There’s a lot riding on this television series, and the guys involved know it. They understand the mania of the fan base and realize that if the show doesn’t get it right, then the blogosphere will light up like a frakken Christmas tree and that will be the end of it.

And judging by the first episode, they not only get it right, they blow it off the page.

But back to me touching Kirkman without getting tazed by his handlers.

As I sat there soaking in the conversation between him and Darbont about the show (as well as any writing talent that I could extract through osmosis) I realized that the guy is just a lucky Geek who happened to create a universe that spoke to a lot of people.

Listening to him talk about his work you get the feeling that, even though he is wildly successful now, he is just like the guy who is toiling away in Artist Alley down the hall from his panel, selling his self-published comics off of a website that is funded by his day job at Office Max.

No more, no less, than a comic nerd having fun telling a story

And that is what is so great about the guy.

And why, when he had to finally peel himself from my body to go to another table, I felt the loss immediately. It was like saying good-bye to a new friend who you instantly like even though you were prepared at the beginning of the meeting to think that he was probably a giant douche who would ruin your love affair with his comics.

So, as the weeks count down until the premiere of the show, I will happily wait to watch it (again) with my fellow fanatics and swallow down the anticipation glee rising in the back of my throat like bubblegum -flavored bile.

It’s gonna be so good, I promise.

Oh, and, I haven’t washed my right shoulder yet either.

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