@’s by Skybound’s Shawn Kirkham!!!
MATT ADLER (MA): Now you are the Director of Business Development for Skybound— what does that job entail?
SHAWN KIRKHAM (SK): It's a little bit of everything, actually. From marketing, licensing, helping find new companies to partner with whenever we dream up how we would like to expand our branding, to running conventions, overseeing our webstore, our social media, our website, just a little bit of everything.
MA: You probably get this question a lot, but are you any relation to the artist Tyler Kirkham?
SK: Actually, no! It's kind of funny, I do hear that I look like Robert and we have a similar last name, so at conventions there's a lot of confusion ... people ask if I'm his brother, and then having Tyler's last name as well, sometimes it causes a little more confusion. Tyler and I shopped at the same comic store for a while, and I would actually get his artist's discount because I would say my last name, and they'd go, "Oh are you Tyler?" And I would say "Yes!"
SK: It helped save me a couple of bucks here and there.
MA: (laughs) That's pretty good. So how would you describe what Skybound looks to do as an imprint, that sets you apart from other imprints and publishers?
SK: Well, Robert has a very keen eye on talent as you can see from the stuff he's put out over the years. So he knows what he's looking for, in projects to put out, whether it be THIEF OF THIEVES, or WITCH DOCTOR or our upcoming CLONE book ... these are stories that he really thinks that the fans, comic buyers out there, need to take a look at, and by bringing them into the Skybound fold, it helps increase their visibility. And then we also have other aspects that we can help them with, in terms of editing, introducing artists to writers and vice-versa, promoting and creating awareness for their books in every form of media. It's all about really just telling a good story.
MA: Your previous editorial director, Sina Grace, recently stepped down to focus on his writing, and Sean Mackiewicz has taken over that role. How did Sean come to Skybound?
(Shawn calls over Skybound's new editor)
SEAN MACKIEWICZ (SM): I was recommended to Robert. Once we got on the phone, it seemed this partnership with Skybound was going to work out well.
MA: Have you gotten to know each other pretty well in that time?
SK: Yeah, Sean's a really good dude. I look forward to hanging out on his home turf for New York Comic Con.
MA: So from your perspective, what does Sean bring to the books?
SK: Sean brings a new eye, a fresh look at everything. Sina had been here from the start and had taken gentle care with everything, and was really attentive, and Sean, having worked for DC in editorial, he brings in some larger systems and larger themes of editorial.
MA: In a relatively short period of time, Skybound has been able to assemble a number of different talented creators, many of whom we haven't seen elsewhere. How do you find these guys?
SK: Robert has his finger on the pulse of what's going on in the comics world. He's always paying attention to new, upcoming artists and writers, and we always tend to look for things that he enjoys and that he likes. The guy knows a LOT of stuff about comics, and he doesn't rest. He's always paying attention. He has a pretty amazing eye and his success has proven that.
MA: As you mentioned, Skybound is coming out with a new series, CLONE. What can you tell us about that?
SM: CLONE focuses on Luke Taylor who comes home one day to discover a man who looks exactly like him, bleeding out on his kitchen floor. From there it’s a non-stop conspiracy thriller: Someone’s tying up loose ends on an illegal cloning project and now Luke and all the rest of the clones must die. It’s written by David Schulner, who’s the executive producer of NBC’s upcoming DO NO HARM, and illustrated by Juan Jose Ryp, who draws action sequences with so much intensity it pops off the page.
MA: What can you tell me about your plans for the New York Comic Con?
SK: Well, for the New York Comic Con we've got some really great things lined up. We've got a couple of panels that Robert's going to be taking part in; the Skybound feature panel, in which we discuss our upcoming titles, and we have some special guests from the Skybound books there. Then there's also the Kirkmania panel where Robert takes questions from the crowd. Two days later, on October 16, St. Martin's Press will release THE ROAD TO WOODBURY, the sequel to THE WALKING DEAD: RISE OF THE GOVERNOR novel that that Robert and Jay Bonansinga did last year.
MA: You're debuting two new hardcovers at the NYCC -- THE WALKING DEAD Hardcover Compendium and the THIEF OF THIEVES Hardcover, Volume 1 --- what do these hardcovers include?
SK: Well, THE WALKING DEAD Hardcover Compendium is a Red Foil version; it's similar to the one that we had for the San Diego Comic Con, which was the Gold Foil version. We sold out in San Diego, and we wanted to make sure that the East Coast fans and anyone who couldn't attend San Diego Comic Con had a chance to get a cool hardcover.
MA: THIEF OF THIEVES is one of your higher-profile new series, and I understand it's been optioned by AMC. How did that come about?
SK: In Robert's relationship with AMC, they were able to take a look at what he had planned for it, and they decided that they wanted first dibs on his next project because Skybound, Image and AMC have all had so much success with THE WALKING DEAD. Of course Robert and AMC would want to continue working together.
MA: The book was designed with a rotating team of writers in mind; what kind of role does Robert play on the series?
SK: Well, Robert and the lead story arc writer discuss the overall story for the series and they jointly plan out the execution of each writer's work on their arc.
MA: You mentioned the relationship with AMC; how has the success of THE WALKING DEAD TV show impacted Skybound?
SK: You can definitely see that awareness of THE WALKING DEAD as a brand has increased ... I mean, sales for the books have increased monthly in comics shops and the trades are always on the bestseller list. Last season, the Monday after the finale, THE WALKING DEAD Compendium Vol. 1 was #1 on Amazon's overall book list, beating out HUNGER GAMES and FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. It was the top book in the country for that day, which is pretty amazing to see.
MA: Are you personally excited about the upcoming season?
SK: I'm really pumped, actually. There's some pretty awesome stuff but that's for Robert and Glen Mazzara to discuss.
MA: You've recently launched a spinoff of INVINCIBLE, GUARDING THE GLOBE. Are there any thoughts about doing a spinoff of THE WALKING DEAD?
SK: Robert has actually said multiple times that THE WALKING DEAD will only ever be just this one comic book. He's got the novels which expand upon THE WALKING DEAD universe a bit, but there's only gonna be one THE WALKING DEAD comic.
MA: What are you most looking forward to coming up for Skybound?
SK: Well, I think the release of CLONE is one of the things I'm really excited about. It's a really cool book. I'm a HUGE fan of Juan Jose Ryp's art, and I think it's gonna be something that catches some people off guard. We've got a couple of other books in the pipeline that I can't really mention now, but I'm very excited about. And then of course THE WALKING DEAD-- I haven't been this pumped about THE WALKING DEAD in years, and I'm ready to see what terrors and horrors Negan is gonna lay out on our friends. I think it's going to be pretty brutal.
MA: Very cool. Well, that's about all the questions I have for you, but I really want to thank you for taking the time to talk with me.
SK: No problem.
MA: Check out all of Skybound’s new properties and material at their website here!
Matt Adler is a writer/journalist, currently writing for AICN among other outlets. He’s been reading comics for 20 years, writing about them for 7, and spends way, way, too much time thinking about them, which means he really has no choice but to figure out how to make a living out of them. He welcomes all feedback.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G