Comics writer Robert Kirkman, best known for his The Walking Dead and Invincible series at Image Comics, has recently shared new details about why he left Marvel Comics. If you spend enough time around comic creators at conventions or on Twitter, you understand butting heads and disagreements are common — but it’s a surprise to see someone of Robert Kirkman’s stature to talk openly about his departure from Marvel Comics.
Kirkman recently shared a few stories on the ComicsTropes YouTube show which explained why he left Marvel. Stories range from being annoyed he wasn’t asked to write the words for a word balloon added to a cover of one of his titles to confrontations with editors. Possibly the most heated story Kirkman shared involved then Editor in Chief Joe Quesada. Kirkman explained he and other creators, like Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar, were planning an Ultimate crossover event. The issue arose when Kirkman asked how his part of the story would be collected. He explained the question came to him because Ultimate 6 was a series that ended up getting collected in the Ultimate Spider-Man hardcover, both written by Brian Michael Bendis, and the series Ultimate War was collected in the Ultimate X-Men hardcover, both written by Mark Millar.
“As a writer, if you’re writing Ultimate War you’re not going to write a very important Spider-Man scene that is continuity heavy that is going to be a missing piece when you read through the Spider-Man hardcovers,” Kirkman continued, “And I say, ‘Is this going to be an X-Men leading event, is this going to be a Spider-Man leading event, what is the way this leans?'” That way he doesn’t write too heavily on one character that doesn’t make sense in the collected edition. In response, Kirkman said Joe Quesada wrote him an email that read, “Why don’t you worry about the story before you worry about your X-Men royalties? Who cares about where a book is collected and who is getting the royalties from that story?” Kirkman added that Quesada said, “Why don’t you just focus on the writing? What’s wrong with you?”
Kirkman explained he likely didn’t say this in reply but, “I’m making nickel and dimes from you a------s, I’m making crazy money at the time from Invincible and Walking Dead and my collections are doing great, I’m working for nickels over here at Marvel and I’m getting treated like crap and get yelled at all the time for just trying to, like, put an extra level of care in the book. They resented the fact that I didn’t need them,” and this ended up being a constant problem.
His issues with Marvel Comics are nothing new: he explained at Image EXPO back in 2014 he thinks Marvel is a “poorly run company” not blaming the creatives, but the higher-ups for mismanagement.
In another anecdote on the show, Kirkman said he came to blows with an editor. He didn’t name the book or the editor, but for the story, Kirkman used Mr. Fantastic and Dr. Doom as an example. It was an editor he hadn’t worked with before — Kirkman had primarily worked with Tom Brevoort up to that point, who he “loves and adores.” Kirkman was asked to write an outline for a one-shot that was 22 pages long. Writing outlines was something Kirkman rarely did and had little time for due to all the books he was writing, but he agreed to write a one-paragraph outline for the unnamed editor after they said they didn’t know or trust Kirkman.
After delivering it, Kirkman said he got some nonsense notes like changing a whip to a jump rope or changing the color of a hat, “But the last note is don’t use Dr. Doom, Dr. Doom is used too often, use a different villain.” Kirkman said he pushed back since it’d require him to basically write an entirely new script. “That pissed them off,” Kirkman said, going on to say he was “chewed out” by the top brass at Marvel and he explained he thought the note was unreasonable since the outline was approved.
Once he explained what happened, Kirkman said they understood his point not knowing all the details, but from then on he was known as a writer who fought with editors. “That’s kind of why I was more than willing to leave as quickly as possible,” Kirkman said.