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Why Invincible Really Took So Long To Get To The Small Screen

Writer Robert Kirkman is no stranger to TV adaptations of his work. At this point, his zombie drama The Walking Dead is a franchise unto itself, with three TV series currently on the air and two more — plus some feature films — on the way. Outcast, based on the comic Kirkman created with Paul Azaceta, enjoyed critical acclaim and a two-season run on Cinemax. And yet, Kirkman's first hit comic book, the teen-based superhero story Invincible, took 18 years to make it from the page to the small screen. What gives?

As Kirkman explained to Looper during a roundtable interview, it all had to do with timing. It took a while for Kirkman to find the right creative partner for the show, which he ultimately did in Amazon Prime. More than that, though, lots of Invincible's appeal lies in the way it tweaks and subverts established superhero tropes. For that to work, viewers need to know what those tropes are.

"If this had happened 10-15 years ago, there wouldn't have been enough [superhero] movies and television shows to hit that critical mass to where the audience is primed for something like Invincible," Kirkman said, "which gives you everything that you get from cool superhero stories, but adds something a little different to the mix, and tries to break some new ground along the way."

After all, Invincible isn't your typical superhero yarn. While its initial premise — teenager Mark Grayson (played by Oscar-nominee Steven Yeun), son of the famous Omni-Man, gets his own powers, upending his social and family life — might sound familiar, there's more going on in Invincible than initially revealed. Without the background provided by The Avengers and Justice League, Invincible's twists wouldn't land nearly as hard as they do. In other words? For Invincible, the timing is just right.

Why Invincible and animation are a match made in heaven

Finding the right time and place to create Invincible was only one challenge. Deciding which format to air it in was another. After all, Invincible is a big story with dozens and dozens of characters (most of whom have their own superpowers) and action that unfolds across multiple galaxies. In live action, that kind of thing is very, very expensive.

"I think that the scope and scale that we're able to accomplish in Invincible, we never would've been able to do in live action," Kirkman says. "There are certainly many times on Walking Dead where they'd be like, yeah, this is a cool scene, but 200 zombies instead of 2,000 zombies. And there's not any sense of that in Invincible."

Certainly, the show itself supports Kirkman's argument. The first three episodes of Invincible, which dropped on Amazon Prime Video on March 26, are full of fast-paced, extremely violent action scenes that could be the climax of a live-action superhero blockbuster. Here, though? They can be the centerpiece of an episode, a subplot, or little more than background noise. In animation, it all works.

Besides, it's not like we'll never get to see Invincible in live action. Seth Rogen, who voices Allen the Alien on the TV show, is currently developing a live-action feature film based on the comic alongside long-time partner Evan Goldberg. Goldberg has experience with transgressive indie comics adaptations — he previously adapted both Preacher and The Boys for television. That project, however, isn't related to the animated show, and its release date is still pending.

New episodes of Invincible arrive Fridays on Amazon Prime video.