Robert Kirkman documentary series to tackle the good, bad, and ugly of comic book history

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Nov 13, 2017

Good news, fans of funny books: Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics is now airing on AMC. The six-part documentary series, about the history of the genre we know and love, promises it will give us what we’ve always wanted: a deep dive into the industry itself.

And it’s not always a pretty picture, as Kirkman — producer, comic book writer, and creator of The Walking Dead — told Vulture.

According to Kirkman, some problems stem from interpersonal feuds, while others are focused on rights ownership. Scores of iconic writers and artists created beloved characters for DC and Marvel, but because they worked for Marvel and DC, they did not own these characters.

“I think the main problem is that when Marvel and DC Comics first started and everybody was creating all of these characters, there were no set work-for-hire rules, there were a lot of verbal contracts, and there was not a clear understanding as to what these creators were actually doing. So, some creators understood that they were collecting a paycheck, other creators did not quite have that understanding, and that led to some very ugly business,” said Kirkman.

But Kirkman explains that this is why you rarely see new Marvel and DC characters, compared with the past: “[B]ecause people are aware of how it works and it just doesn’t happen.” In other words, creators and artists are more likely to want to retain their rights to the characters they develop.

Kirkman added, “But I think there are companies like Image Comics that offer great alternatives to the larger publishers that retain rights. And so, at the very least, there are options in the industry now that weren’t present before. So I feel like we’re at a pretty good place.”

Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics is chock full o’ comic book history, with interview snippets from creators, historians, and actors like Famke Jannsen and J.K. Simmons, who have brought characters from the page to the screen. Episode titles include “The Mighty Misfits Who Made Marvel,” “The Truth About Wonder Woman,” and “Image Comics: Declaration of Independents.”

You can find the first episode of Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics online now at AMC.