Robert Kirkman's long-running Invincible comic book series comes to an end on Feb. 14, in issue 144. But there's more to come from The Walking Dead creator's superhero universe, including a movie written, directed, and produced by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen.
The movie will attempt to capture some portion of Invincible's 15-year journey with Mark Grayson, the comic's eponymous superhero, and the people in his orbit. It all starts when a high school-aged Mark, son of a Superman-esque hero called Omni-Man, suddenly develops powers.
The filmmaking duo behind 50/50, This Is the End, and more faces a fresh challenge with Invincible: How do you encapsulate 144 issues of storytelling into a single movie?
There's an easy, simple answer: You don't. But that raises a whole set of other questions, many of which Goldberg and Rogen are wrestling with now as they plot out their plans.
"We are definitely telling the classic story of Invincible, and we are doing some directorial things that will make it more dynamic than just the straight-up story," Goldberg explained during a recent interview.
"We've come up with some conventions that I think will make it a more cinematic experience that fits in the timeframe more. But we're not reinventing the wheel here, we're not going to massively change Invincible. The core story of that comic and the core characters are what makes it great."
"We are definitely telling the classic story of Invincible, and we are doing some directorial things that will make it more dynamic."
The two aren't yet willing to discuss the scope of their story. That's as much a product of the comic's penchant for surprising reader as it is anything else. Even if you're just looking at the first dozen issues of the comic, there are two major plot twists that carry massive story implications.
"I think it is so rare that there's twists and plot that actually work," Rogen said. "It really is one of the best parts of the comic, that there are reveals that actually function as giant reveals that you really don't see coming."
Goldberg echoed that sentiment. "Kirkman does this crazy amazing thing that we're very much going to try to do in the movie, which is he lulls into a sense of security and convinces you you're in the first 20 minutes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind," he said.
"They keep referencing Steven Spielberg movies, where it's like warm and fuzzy and family and relatable, and then he just does the darkest part of a Quentin Tarantino movie, but completely grounded in reality which makes it even more fucking insane. And you don't see it coming."
That sort of narrative ebb and flow is something the two filmmakers have generally aimed to deliver in their work. 50/50 mixed cancer with humor; This is the End mixed horror with humor.
"In this he's doing it with family and warmth and stability, and insanity and the chaos of the world. It's that up and down," Goldberg said. "He's created this pace to it where when fucked up stuff happens you're not ready and you forget it's a comic where that can happen. To me, that's so incredible."
The two first appeared on Kirkman's radar years before the Invincible movie was announced in 2017. They'd hatched an idea for a comic book, and they brought it to him sometime before Kirkman's Skybound imprint launched in 2010.
"I met with him back when he worked for Image [Comics] and I said, 'We have a comic that we want to pitch you, how do we go about doing that?' He was like, 'You just did. Approved.'"
Goldberg laughed here. "I didn't understand. I was so confused, and I didn't get Kirkman. I didn't understand he had a dry, almost British humor to his personality, so I just thought he was fucking with me or something."
Rogen was similarly thrown by the response, and nothing ended up happening with that meeting. But years later, when Universal proposed an Invincible movie to the pair — fans of the book, both — they leapt at the opportunity.
"With Kirkman, from square one he was just like, 'Yeah man, we'll fuck around, we'll change things, we'll make it better. I've done this well, I've done this bad; I like this part, I don't like this part,'" Goldberg said.
"He made it super accessible, which is really nice when you're terrified you're going to fuck up his baby."
A big component of what makes it so accessible: Goldberg and Rogen don't just have the Invincible comics to work with. Kirkman handed them the keys to the entire universe.
"We can do anything we want. So many other properties come with a million [guidelines]. If we instead chose to do the Justice League movie, the restrictions that I assume come with that are phenomenally huge," Goldberg said.
"It's the opposite with Invincible. We've been given a universe where we can really go nuts, and thanks to how Kirkman has written the comics we can kill off people, we can do insane things that you just would not be given the opportunity to do, I imagine, with a Marvel or a DC film."
"We can do insane things that you just would not be given the opportunity to do with a Marvel or a DC film."
A big part of the pair's excitement, Rogen added, is introducing Invincible to the wider world.
"To us, the less people know about the source material in some ways, the more exciting the opportunity," he said. "That's one of the things that Preacher and The Boys and this has been really amazing to do, is that they're amazing and they have huge followings, but they're not nearly as famous as Spider-Man or Batman or Superman."
Now the two just have the not-insignifcant task ahead of taking their ideas and bringing it all home in a movie. They know their starting point and they have a sense of where the natural breaks in Kirkman's writing can help to shape one movie, or even a series of movies.
"The trick with this comic is not to get ahead of ourselves and do too much, too soon. Every reveal that Kirkman formed is worthy of a movie unto itself more or less. So we're just trying to stay calm and see the bigger picture," Goldberg said.
Just look at the Christopher Nolan trilogy of Batman movies. The Dark Knight gets a lot of acclaim from critics and fans alike, but can anyone really say it's a story about two villains taking on Batman? Two-Face plays a minor role in the story to the point that he didn't really need to be there.
That's not to say his appearance drags the movie down, but The Dark Knight's story could have worked fine focusing solely on Batman and Joker. It's a lesson Goldberg and Rogen are keeping in mind as they look to Invincible.
"Without ruining what we're doing what I would say is: I think some of the simplicity of the story is what drew us. Especially the opening, emotionally, how powerful it is and how relatable it is," Rogen said. "I think those are the building blocks we're going to lay down at the base before we go too crazy with the enormity of the world."