Robert KirkmanThis year’s Comic-Con will be celebrating 10 years of ‘Walking Dead’ comics, and what better way to prepare ourselves than an interview with the creator himself, Robert Kirkman? The Hollywood Reporter took Kirkman aside to pick his brain about everything from their third showrunner in as many years, to the overarching plot for season 4, to a quick dive into the new motivations of our beloved characters, ever in danger of being killed off as the seasons progress.

There will be comic spoilers below, which don’t necessarily mean show spoilers, but they could, so please consider yourself warned!

THR: How is the show different under Gimple’s leadership?
Kirkman: More than any other showrunner, Scott actually read the comics regularly and was a huge fan before the show existed and watched the first season and was a fan before he was brought on as a writer in season two. He absolutely loves the material. We are definitely going in some new directions and this will continue to be a different take on the material from the comics, but there will possibly be some scenes that are a little bit closer to the comic than we’ve done in the past. Season four probably has the most number of scenes that are adapted directly from the comic series or very close to what we did. A good deal of that is from Scott and the way he views that material and puts forth that extra effort to work it into the show in a way that it all works.

Andrea_The Walking DeadTHR: What kind of condition will the group be in after Andrea and Merle’s death?
Kirkman: These are big deaths they’re dealing with. Rick is still very much dealing with Lori’s (Sarah Wayne Callies) death and everyone is still missing T-Dog (Iron E. Singleton). These were some really big, dramatic losses that took place in season three, and that’s something that’s very much going to play into season four and how they move forward. A lot of those deaths and those actions from season three have direct results on where we pick up things up in season four. We’ll see there was a plan involved and these things do lead to other things, which in turn, makes them worthwhile. I miss these characters as much as everybody else, but you’ll see that they do benefit the story in some really cool ways and will lead to a lot of interesting things moving forward.

THR: We waited a few episodes in season three before we even met the Governor. Are you approaching his appearance the same way this year?
Kirkman: I couldn’t really say. We might not really expect to see him in the first episode and he shows up in the first episode back. Or it would be pretty shocking if he didn’t show up until the finale. It could be either/or or somewhere in between.

THR: The series took a major departure from the comics with Andrea’s death. How will we see her death impact everyone?
Kirkman: That death is going to loom large over the entire cast. Everyone is still reeling from it. Michonne (Danai Gurira) in particular is going to have quite a bit going on with her because of that loss. As we meet Michonne coming back this season, she’s on a mission to hunt down the Governor. It’s something she’s very obsessed with. It’s big part of her character this season. She did lose Andrea, and she lost her because of the Governor. She’s not willing to let that guy go or be out there. It’s something that may possibly be to her detriment, the fact that she’s so dedicated to finding this person. That’s something that very much informs her character this season.

THR: Carl could really go either toward the Governor or toward Rick. How will we find him handling a new group of people to care for at the prison, considering we saw him kill someone he thought was a threat in cold blood last year?
Kirkman: That’s something that has become huge part of Carl’s character. That event and the fact that he did that. It’s something that Rick has been somewhat terrified by; the fact that his son went to that place and is growing into that person. That’s informing both Rick and Carl’s actions as they move into this season. There are more people around, there are people from Woodbury that are now living there, and Carl is having to deal with this. His behavior is being guided by Rick and his role as father to him. There’s some interesting stuff coming up with Carl that I can’t reveal right now but there’s good stuff ahead.

THR: You’ve cast Larry Gilliard Jr. as Bob Stookey, who, in the comics, helps save the Governor after Michonne tortures him following her rape. How will you be approaching the violence that comes with this storyline this season? Or was Maggie’s torment from season three all we’ll see on that front?
Kirkman: Bob Stookey is very much the character that he was in the comic series. He also appears in the novel series and is a pretty big character there as well. Maybe that means we’re adapting some of the stories he was involved in, maybe we’re doing some other things he was a part of or maybe we’re going a different way. Like all of the other characters, though we may do different things with them, they are very much the they’re same characters that are being adapted into this world and have the same personalities and back stories. Bob will be someone who is familiar to the comic and novel audience but we’re definitely not married to doing those stories and could do different things there.

twd2THR: Some leaked photos from the set have surfaced with Andrew Lincoln’s hand in a bandage indicating that you may be setting up that story line from the comics. Care to comment?
Kirkman: It’s entirely possible that that could be some kind of spoiler for something that’s coming up or it could be that people are just misinterpreting those photos. I can’t really nail anything down, but I can say that there are some very cool and memorable aspects of the comic book series being adapted into season four, and it’s certainly possible that that’s one of them.

Some interesting takeaways for fans in that interview. One of the only vague questions Kirkman is able to confirm is the fact that Gimple’s love of the comics will likely inspire more storylines close to those in the comics. But comic fans are left wondering what else is left to touch on at the prison? I know I wasn’t the only one who, with 10 minutes left in last season’s finale, was shocked to realize: They’re not going to kill the Governor this season, are they? It seemed as if almost all the important beats from the comic were there, which made the announcement of Larry Gilliard Jr. being cast as Bob Stookey even more curious. Fans assumed the horrible things that happened to Michonne in the comics was replaced by softened threats to Maggie, but the way Kirkman speaks of new directions, that may not be the case.

But how can they drag out season four — or “Sofia it,” as I like to say — in a way that keeps fans interested while sticking so faithfully to the comics? Kirkman doesn’t go into detail, but I think it’s safe to say fans will be a little disappointed if we wait for an entire season, or leave it to the midseason cliffhanger, to see the Governor again.

Cynicism aside, fans can draw excitement from Kirkman’s promise that the more stunning deaths of last season — which is to say all of them — seem to have a thematic reason besides canon fodder and heartstring plucking that will reveal itself in season 4. And it will be thrilling to watch Carl’s development from a whiny kid who can’t stay in the house and is to blame for beloved Dale’s death (well, that and Hollywood drama…) to a layered, tortured young man who could grow to be hardened but lawful like his father or lose his humanity like the Governor.

Either way, fans will be dutifully glued to their television sets this fall to see how the season pans out. ‘The Walking Dead’ returns to AMC this October.