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Robert Kirkman, the author of Invincible, genuinely adores superheroes.

2023-01-25  Sophia Zackary

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Robert Kirkman didn't know if his initial superhero idea would work for five issues when he began writing Invincible. Twenty years later, his 15-year collaboration with Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley on Invincible continues to be hailed as one of the pinnacles of contemporary superhero comics and has inspired a critically acclaimed and enormously successful animated series on Amazon.

"I don't think that I'm a creator that is pointing out the shortcomings of the superhero genre, or pointing out what I don't like about the superhero genre," said Kirkman. "I think that one of the reasons Invincible has done as well as it has." "Invincible is intended to celebrate all the elements of the superhero genre that I find so appealing. Therefore, it emphasises the strangeness and the bizarreness while also delving into and attempting to play with all the clichés, do new takes on them, and add my unique perspective to well-known superhero stories.

A wave of new independent superheroes developed by former Marvel superstars first appeared when Image Comics was founded in 1992, but those comics were deeply steeped in the exaggerated, extreme storytelling and aesthetics of the time. Eleven years later, Invincible made its debut. It retained some of those more bombastic tendencies, particularly when it came to the carnage on the page, but it also introduced more subtle character interactions as it looked at the intricacies of the tragic Grayson family.

Mark Grayson, the titular young superhero, was on an intriguing quest of exploration that carried readers through a vast new superhero realm. On the other hand, that quest also required him to discover and confront the truth about his father, Omni-Man, a Superman ape who masquerades as a hero but is a mass-murdering galactic conqueror preparing Earth for an extraterrestrial invasion. Although the stories became more graphic, they wounded Kirkman just as much as they did fans to see these characters being pushed to their awful extremes.

As a writer, there was a lot of material that was "extremely emotional for me," according to Kirkman. There is undoubtedly some challenge there, but the authors of everything that people appreciate constantly experience the emotions they are aiming to elicit in their listeners, viewers, or whatever, as they are writing the stories. As a writer, you undoubtedly experience some level of sadness or devastation whenever something tragic or tragical occurs. If you can channel that emotion into the story, I believe that's what makes the piece good.

Kirkman acknowledges that Invincible wouldn't be what it is without his creative team since they expertly captured that destruction on the page. The movie Invincible, in Kirkman's words, "is everything I liked about superheroes written down and seen through the prism of Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley." Additionally, Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley's filter is excellent. One of the best character designers that have ever created comic book characters is Cory. His visual ideas strike me as being distinctive. They are magnificent, sparkling, and thrilling. And for that reason, among others, he is ideal for managing that side of it the show.

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Walker turned over the art chores to Ryan Ottley after he drew the first seven issues. Ottley would go on to draw the majority of the series, but Walker would occasionally return as a guest artist. The top comic book battle scene artists, according to Kirkman, include Ryan Ottley. "He is put to work. He enjoys doing things. To depict these epic confrontations between characters who can topple buildings and topple school buses, we had to carefully design the storylines.

It's quite another to be able to demonstrate that. Ryan was always willing to put on his work clothes and do that. Throughout the 15 and 16, years that we worked on the book, he invested a tremendous amount of blood, sweat, and tears into it. Strangely, it came out so frequently because I would come up with weird situations with extreme detail, and he would say, "Yeah, OK, going to do this now."

The hardest part of writing Invincible for Kirkman was keeping up the sense of continuous escalation, but he managed to keep things moving by juggling different events. As the series went on, Kirkman said, "managing expectations" became a skill he believed he had mastered by the conclusion. To prepare the reader for whether there will be an upturn or a downturn, "each element of every plot was used. thereby ensuring that every new antagonist and each major conflict outdoes the last in some manner.

If we had continued the series for much longer, we would have undoubtedly been forcing ourselves into a corner from which we would never be able to emerge. Two persons swinging into each other like suns is not allowed. Nevertheless, having said that...

Image Comics

When it came time to wind up the comic in 2018, Kirkman initially envisioned an ending as a creative experiment, driving him to push the plot to a possible finale without truly committing to it as the official conclusion. This began to alter around issue 100 when an ending began to feel like a crucial component of the book's idea.

The goal of Invincible, according to Kirkman, "was always to play against convention, to take all the cliches from the decades and decades of Marvel and DC comics and intriguingly twist them." "And so, for the duration of the entire series, we reverse what superhero comics are. Comic books featuring superheroes frequently have endless plotlines. To have Invincible be a book with a beginning, middle, and finish got incredibly exciting for me, Cory, and Ryan because they evolve, creative teams shift, and they just keep going and going and going and going.

Because of his work on Invincible and The Walking Dead, Kirkman is known for including graphic violence in his books. For better or worse, this helps him elicit an emotional response from his readers. "I view [violence] as one of the available instruments in my toolkit. Everything involves turning dials. It all comes down to attempting to determine what would elicit the desired response from the audience for a certain scene and what will cause them to feel the way you want them to feel. In practically everything I do, it's undoubtedly a tool I frequently use. It almost seems like a crutch. Although I'm happy to confess it, I believe it's probably the most effective method for persuading someone to understand the seriousness of the problem. to graphically illustrate the stakes.

Particularly in the Invincible universe, I believe it to be incredibly vital, stated Kirkman. It serves as a realistic illustration for Invincible. How do you make the audience feel as though these stakes are truly high given that this is an animated series and a superhero universe? You present them with visual photos to demonstrate how bad the circumstances are, then! How defenceless the populace is in these universes where superheroes are destroying cities and ravaging natural areas. Some superhero tales demolish entire towns without making you feel anything. Invincible was designed to bring down a single structure while simultaneously making you feel incredibly sorry for the people within. You feel awful for Mark having to speak to his father.

Kirkman praises Amazon for allowing them to add the same amount of intense brutality to the animated series, and it makes sense given Invincible is likely the most faithful adaptation of a superhero comic: On the programme are the comic book writers. In season 1, Kirkman wrote the script and served as executive producer. For season 2, he is serving as co-showrunner. Walker, who served as the season 1 main character designer, transitions into a producer position in season 2, where he is now in charge of a large group of designers. Ottley is a consultant who makes suggestions at each stage.

The programme can capture the distinct aesthetic of the comic in a way that would not be possible in live action since it is animated. Kirkman sees the series as a chance to write a second draught guided by experience and how comic consumers reacted to the plot because it reads like an enlargement of the comic. The show's test audience in many ways was its readers.

Kirkman remarked, "I remember how every problem was addressed. I went through the fan mail. I wrote a letter section and answered readers' questions. Being able to say, "Well, they didn't like that character because I did this; let's see if we can make them like that character," in a writers' room is fantastic. The goal is to make people detest this character even more, so let's see if we can do that.

With the actors revealing fresh facets of the characters to explore, the series' impressive voice cast has also had an impact on the plot. Although we have known these characters for a very long time, we are now witnessing these interpretations from these incredibly talented performers who are moving the story in a different path. Along with Walton Goggins' Cecil Stedman and Seth Rogen's Allen the Alien, who joined Mark in last week's teaser announcing Invincible season 2's "late 2023" release, Kirkman praises the performances of Jason Mantzoukas' Rex Splode, Seth Rogen's Allen the Alien, and Jason Mantzoukas' Rex Splode for helping him better understand the character.

The core family dynamic is what drives the popularity of Invincible, and the show stars a trio of A-list actors in those three parts. Kirkman admires the way Steven Yeun modulates his performance using the comics as a guide, allowing him to naturally progress to the extremes he must eventually achieve. The role of Debbie, Mark's mother, has been substantially expanded by Sandra Oh's portrayal, which frequently reduced Kirkman to tears in the recording studio. And J.K. Simmons conveys the opposed wrath and tenderness that make Omni-Man a sad person in the particularly difficult role of the show's murderous father figure.

Kirkman must stay up with all of the most recent superhero media to work on a superhero TV series. The third iterations of the Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy franchises from the MCU, as well as James Gunn's planned ideas for the DC film universe, are all things that excite him. He continues to see every new superhero film. To avoid encroaching on Invincible's gory area, he selfishly wants DC and Marvel to keep out of the R-rated lane. He also regrets that Batman has been forced into darker live-action material rather than appearing in more family-friendly material. He does see a chance for the superhero train to slow down, but he is sure that it will always be moving.

"You think we're going back to a barefoot person racing through a building with firearms after we've seen people fly and shoot lasers out of their eyes?" asks my friend Rob Liefeld. There's no turning back now," declared Kirkman. "There is a level of the extravaganza that television and film have come to expect, and superhero stories naturally embody that level of spectacle. There will always be a place for it, in my opinion.

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2023-01-25  Sophia Zackary