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For Robert Kirkman's Skybound Entertainment, the Sky’s the Limit

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A message to Wikipedia: Skybound Entertainment isn’t just about comics. As of this writing, the company’s Wikipedia entry describes it as a comics publishing imprint. While it creates The Walking Dead comics and a whole lot more, Skybound is also making big leaps into online video, something that’s certain to increase.

Skybound will celebrate its fifth anniversary at the San Diego Comic Con this July. Comic writer Robert Kirkman became a partner at Image Comics in 2008 and started Skybound— an imprint at Image Comics—2 years later when The Walking Dead made the jump to TV. He founded the company with David Alpert, his former manager and an executive producer on The Walking Dead TV show.

While Skybound was all about the comics at the start, built with the idea of letting comics creators keep the copyrights to their works, it quickly expanded into other forms of media. With comics these days providing an ideal pipeline to movies, TV shows, and online video series, that’s no surprise.

“We have a pretty lofty idea of what we can be,” Alpert said in an interview with Business Insider. “Really what we think Skybound can be is the next-generation media company.”

From Comics and Cards to Video

The result is that Skybound is expanding in several directions at once. It has a 2-year first-look agreement with Universal Pictures and is launching a new TV series called Outcast. It’s launched video games based on its properties, as well as a card game called Superfight. It’s also created two online series, so far: Nerd Court, in which a judge rules on nerdy issues (such as Superman vs. Batman or Harry Potter vs. The Lord of the Rings) and Superfight, in which online personalities play Skybound’s card game of the same name.

If the products of Skybound’s digital division look fun to watch—and they do—the team behind them is having even more fun creating them. Superfight lets players do battle with unusual heroes equipped with even more unusual abilities, and filming leaves a lot of room for the unexpected.

Superfight has been a lot of fun,” says Rachel Skidmore, Skybound’s director of media development, who oversees the company’s online video projects. “We’ve been toying around with ways to make our panel card game more entertaining and more dynamic for the audience.”

Using cards from the game’s main set or expansion packs, players might do battle with Abraham Lincoln on a Segway, for example, or Lincoln might have Wolverine’s claws and fight Stephen Hawking on a velociraptor with laser eyes. “You argue at the table about why you would win. That’s the nature of the game. It’s really fun, [and] lasts for hours,” she says. “You make friends, you lose friends.”

Superfight takes Skybound’s popular card game online, with online video personalities playing out battles such as Abraham Lincoln with Wolverine’s claws versus Stephen Hawking on a velociraptor. 

The online version can’t last for hours, of course, and the show doesn’t have a budget for laser eyes or dinosaurs, but the production team has been having a good time bringing some of the outlandishness of the game to the real world.

“We dug into the decks to find some of the real cards that could be turned into live scenarios, and one of the examples is the ground is covered in poisonous snakes,” Skidmore says. “So we surprised our cast that was on set that day, and actually brought out snakes. Not poisonous snakes, but brought out snakes and draped them all around them during the episode, just completely cold. That was a blast. Everyone freaked out. It was perfect. We’re just looking for ways to do the craziest things we can, safely, on set with that game. That was probably my favorite day that we’ve had on set so far.”

To make the situation even worse, the players were handcuffed together before the snakes were brought out.

“They had to kind of just sit there in terror, while the snakes slithered all around them, and crawled around their necks and stuff. So that was fun,” Skidmore says. “They were really good sports, but they were relieved when the snakes were gone.”

Skybound is a small office so far, with 23 people on staff. People own their divisions, Skidmore says, but there’s also a lot of crossover. For projects such as the upcoming movie Air, which was produced by Skybound and stars Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead, everyone works together to see what related projects are possible and would make the experience more enjoyable for fans.

“That’s the fun part about being here: We could spin off into other stories within that world. We want to keep it all organic, and make sure that the stories are unique to the platform, but we do work together in terms of cross-platform initiatives,” Skidmore says. “Seeing the success of something like The Walking Dead living on so many different platforms and for so many different audiences, we replicate it when it makes sense. I handle the digital content, and so some things are completely unique to YouTube, while other things that we’re developing are actually attached to an IP [intellectual property] that maybe exists as a comic or as a movie.”

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