Legendary comic book writer and creator of The Walking Dead Robert Kirkman is looking to expand his media empire this summer with the adaptation of another of his own comic series: Outcast. The series is set in the sleepy world of rural West Virginia and follows a young man, Kyle Barnes (played by Patrick Fugit), who is plagued by a demonic presence. We meet Kyle living in self imposed exile, re entering the world to help the town preacher with the exorcism of a young boy.
The show will air on Cinemax takes a darker tone than its basic cable counterpart The Walking Dead as evidenced by the pilot, which was directed by indie horror darling Adam Wingard. From its opening moments Outcast will likely surprise pure horror fans who may have snubbed the popular zombie phenomenon, telling a chilling possession story that promises only to escalate as the series progresses. Wingard is best known for You’re Next, a black comedy twist on the slasher genre, but his roots in horror (Wingard directed segments of V/H/S and The ABCs of Death) show in his chilling scenes of possession and exorcism.
Outcast premiered at South by Southwest on March 14, followed by a Q&A with Wingard, Kirkman, Fugit, and showrunner Chris Black, moderated by Comedy Bang Bang host Scott Aukerman. Kirkman and Wingard shared stories from the making of the pilot and discussed the challenges and rewards of directing comic books to TV.
Kirkman credits his “slightly religious” upbringing to the genesis of this exorcism story. “This stuff has always terrified me,” he said, “and I think it’s somewhat therapeutic to try to face these things and work through them in a way that makes me money.” For his part Wingard was interested in putting his own spin on the exorcism genre in the way his past films You’re Next and The Guest were his own unique take on the home invasion and thriller genres, respectively. “There’s not that many exorcism movies I really like,” he said, noting The Exorcist and The Exorcist II as exceptions. For one thing Wingard tones down the religious themes common to other exorcism films. “If this is another advertisement for Catholicism, I’m not interested.”
Like The Walking Dead, Kirkman plans to have the Outcast series follow the same basic story of the comics, but it won’t be a direct adaptation. “We’re expanding certain characters; we’re expanding certain storylines… there’s going to be a lot of new stuff for people who have read the comics.” Kirkman continues to work on both the comic and the series, and is careful to keep the source material ahead of its adaptation. “If you’re worried about a Game of Thrones situation, we’re pacing ourselves well,” he joked.
He also discussed his storytelling strategy, and the importance of keeping the comic and television series separate in his mind. “I have to work on both things,” he said. “If I was doing the same thing twice I’d be bored.” Kirkman also keeps the limitations of both mediums in mind, using the comics’ ability to create vivid visual imagery and using TV’s ability to add sound and timing. “The both offer their own unique challenges,” he said. Fugit pointed out that while the series is horror driven, the characters are the focus, which is a signature element of Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comics. “It is supernatural, but it’s set in a realistic tone. It’s all character driven. It’s not driven by demonic possession.”
Kirkman also announced that the series has already been picked up for a second season, and will premiere on Cinemax on June 3.