After an appearance at AMC's panel during the Television Critics Association's fall TV season press tour, Kirkman -- the co-creator of the comic book series that inspired the television sensation, which he also executive produces -- huddled with reporters to add some extra dimension to the fan-wowing Season 8 trailer that debuted at Comic-Con -- including a still-cryptic nod to the apparent time-jump that featured a bearded, increasingly white-haired, cane-needing Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln).
On the big picture on the upcoming season:
Robert Kirkman: It's a little early, but we all know it's the all-out war story. So, in Season 8, we're trying to do a more fast-paced season, a more action packed season, really focusing on momentum and we feel like over the first seven seasons we kind of set all of the characters into place and now it's kind of time to break them, to a certain extent.
On the surprising similarities between Rick and Negan:
We used to talk about how the Governor and Rick are two sides of the same coin, and I think Negan is probably a better illustration of that just because, or as Rick has advanced, Negan has advanced in the same way.
They're both very capable leaders, and they both have very strict world views and strict ideas about how it is they're going to keep their people safe. It's just that Negan has kind of shifted in a certain direction and gone down a dark path, but I think they are in their own way two people who are devoted to the people they feel are under their protection and under their leadership.
[Negan brutally punishes his own allies] to keep the other people in line. It's a very psychotic mindset but I think that Negan does truly believe that by doing that he's keeping people in line and keeping people protected.
On Daryl's lingering guilt that he may be responsible for Glen's death:
That will be a plotline for Daryl at some point in the next season. It's something that will be addressed.
On keeping the audience engaged going forward:
I think it's been all about an expanding scale for the last two season, and it's really hit its pinnacle this season. We've got all these different factions, all these different locations -- we've got the Hilltop, we have the Sanctuary -- and I think getting all these people together and kind of continuing to expand the scale in a cool way, but really using all these pieces to their fullest. We've spent a lot of time setting these characters up and now we're going to bash them against each other and see what happens.
But one of the things that really keeps "The Walking Dead" going is that every season feels like a different show and as we start to show more promotional material and you guys get to see episodes, you'll see this is another continuation of that. This is a very fresh take on the world of "The Walking Dead" and we're going to be breaking a lot of new ground this season.
That is an intriguing tidbit that we did throw out there on purpose, and we're hoping that people continue to question how that fits into the storyline and what it is. Comic book fans know where a scene that kind of looked like that would fall, but it also doesn't seem like we would be getting to that just yet if you were a comic book fan, so there is a mystery to that. You'll just have to see.
Don't quote me on this, but I'm pretty sure you'll learn in the first episode what that image means. [Laughs] You're going to quote me on that!