Back in 2003 writer Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore launched a small independent series from Image Comics about a band of survivors trying to make their way in a world that had been devastated by a zombie apocalypse. The series was called The Walking Dead and over the next several years big things would happen to it. The first was that Charlie Adlard began providing the art for the series on issue #07 and the covers from issue #24. Then, thanks to word of mouth, Kirkman’s magnum zombie opus became a huge hit.
The hit became a phenomenon thanks to AMC’s immensely popular adaptation of The Walking Dead, which premiered in 2010 and wrapped up its second season as the highest rated basic cable drama of all time and an international success in 120 countries and 250 million households. The television series drew more people to the comic, making its sales stronger than ever as the top-selling graphic novel of 2011. It’s on track to repeat that feat for 2012, and it reached its milestone 100th issue on July 11.
Kirkman continues to write The Walking Dead and serves as both a writer and executive producer on the television adaptation. So he’s a very busy man, but he still has time to produce other comics as well. This past February, he and his collaborators, co-writer Nick Spencer and artist Shawn Martinbrough, launched a series that is poised to be another Walking Dead-style phenomenon, the heist thriller series Thief of Thieves.
The titular character of Thief of Thieves is master thief Conrad Paulsen, a.k.a. Redmond. Kirkman and Spencer clearly did their homework when creating Redmond. He’s a fascinating character who shares traits with some of pop culture’s most interesting thieves. Redmond shares a penchant for elaborate planning and con games with Danny Ocean (George Clooney) from the Ocean’s series of films; the brooding of Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro) and the family issues of Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer), both from Michael Mann’s movie, Heat; and the expert cover identity of Frank (James Caan) in Mann’s underrated early crime thriller, Thief.
When readers first meet Redmond, he’s a man at the top of his illicit field, but he’s grown bored and become haunted by the sacrifices he’s had to make to become a master thief. Chief among those sacrifices are an ex-wife he still loves and a son he never really got to know. Redmond decides to retire and reconnect with his family. Unfortunately, his wife wants nothing to do with him. So Redmond lives a life of leisure much to the chagrin of a determined FBI agent who desperately wants to take him down.
The FBI’s machinations and the hard luck of his son, Augustus, force Redmond out of retirement and into action. By the end of issue #5, he’s devised a plan to save his son and is ready to put it into motion. That plan will impact the life of the book’s other major supporting players: Redmond’s wife and ex-partner in crime, Audrey; his tattooed former apprentice and Gal Friday, Celia; the FBI agent out to bring Redmond down, Elizabeth Cohen; and Redmond’s son, Augustus, who wants to follow in his father’s footsteps but lacks his old man’s skill, luck, and judgment.
In Thief of Thieves #6, on sale July 4, Redmond puts his plan into action and it involves a heist that will have severe repercussions for the series moving forward. Issue #7, in stores August 1, brings the series first arc to a close.
Now issue #6 may not seem like the best jumping on point, but Thief of Thieves has been selling incredibly well so there’s a good chance that your local comic book store might have later printings of the first few issues. The first five issues are also available digitally from Image Comics’s online store and the Comixology website.
If you like your comics in collected editions, you’ll want to wait until September when the first Thief of Thieves collection hits stores. September is also when the series second story line begins, which finds Kirkman and Martinbrough teaming with new co-writer, James Asmus.
Once the second story arc wraps, Kirkman will team with another writer for the third storyline of Thief of Thieves. It was an approach inspired by his work in the writers’ room of AMC’s adaptation of The Walking Dead. So Kirkman will be credited as a co-writer for each story, but his role is more like a showrunner for a television program.
The television-style approach to writing Thief of Thieves and its gritty, realistic storylines means it’s easily adaptable for the small screen and the AMC network is working to make that happen. In April, they announced plans to begin developing a Thief of Thieves adaptation. Kirkman and The Walking Dead executive producer David Alpert will serve as executive producers on the project which teams them with Charles “Chic” Eglee, who has worked on such acclaimed crime shows as The Shield, Dexter, and Hill Street Blues. Eglee will serve as a showrunner and executive producer; he previously worked with Kirkman and Alpert on the first season of The Walking Dead.
The developing television series and the growing buzz about the comic means that Thief of Thieves has the potential to become as big a hit as The Walking Dead, and because the comic series is still in its early days, it’s very accessible. So why not pick up an issue or two? You’ll be treated to a great, character-driven crime story and if and when the rest of the world discovers it, you’ll be able to say that you were a fan back in the day!