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'The Walking Dead' Comics Vs TV Show

A look at the differences and similarities between 'The Walking Dead' comics and TV show.

By Peter CarriveauPublished 8 years ago 6 min read

The Walking Dead has become a sensation on TV ever since it made the zombie apocalypse both believable and relatable. Whether watching or reading, it has made its scrappy group of survivors seem like mythic figures, as well as the person next door. Though the TV show has a great backstory to follow with years of storylines created by the comic, there is enough of a difference to keep even the most diehard of readers guessing as to where the story will go next. I’ll take a look at three differences and three similarities that keep bringing people back to The Walking Dead.

Difference: Daryl and Merle Dixon 

The Dixon brothers do not exist in the comic. They were created specifically for the show which is a big deal because of the amount of story time that has been devoted to them. Daryl is arguably the second most popular character after Rick Grimes and has developed a strong fan following on The Walking Dead. His evolution from an angry, bigoted loner into one of the most trustworthy characters on the show has endeared him to fans and has created a genuine emotional investment that people can relate to. The fact that he does not exist in the comics gives the shows creators greater flexibility in what they can do with his character. He could die at any time and this creates an uncertainty that will entice readers of the comic to continue tuning in to see what happens.

Take the cliffhanger ending of Season 6, for instance. Though in the comics it is Glenn that dies, driving the evolution of Maggie’s character, the shows creators could have just as much of an emotional impact if they were to have Daryl be the one who dies. His brother Merle was also a contributing factor to much of the storyline involving the Governor and his brave self sacrifice in search of redemption was heart wrenching and awesome to watch. It is this redemption that offers depth to the story allowing viewers to believe that anyone can change and do what is right when put into a situation to do so.

Difference: Judith

In the comics, Judith perishes at the prison while in the arms of her mother and Rick’s wife, Lori. A gut check indeed, but this is not what happens in the show. In fact, the survival of Judith propels much of the post prison storyline as Tyreese desperately tries to keep her alive with Carol while searching for the rest of the group.

There is a good reason to keep baby Judith alive as there is really no greater motivation for the group’s survival then to continue pushing on for the sake of her future. She represents hope and innocence and the fact that the human spirit can prevail no matter how devoid of these same things the world may seem. It also gives the show creators another ace-in-the-hole related to storylines. When there is no back story on a character is allows for new subplots to be created that will continue to draw in readers and watchers of The Walking Dead.

According to former show runner Glen Mazzara, all of the writers on the show were pushing to have Judith perish in the prison as she does in the comic. The show’s executive producer Gale Anne Hurd elaborated that keeping Judith alive gives the show's characters a reason to persevere. She also stated that if Judith were to have died, it may have made the show seem bleak.

Difference: Rick Grimes' Hand

In The Walking Dead comic book, Rick Grimes beats one of the prison inmates so severely that he mutilates his own hand in the process. The inmate was a serial killer by the name of Thomas Richards who was posing as a tax evading inmate when the group initially takes over the prison. He proceeds to kill Herschel’s twin daughters and is caught and beaten by an enraged Rick. After this incident, Rick’s hand is so mangled that he can no longer use it in the same fashion as a regular hand should function.

When the Governor tries to get Rick to reveal the location of the Prison, he severs Rick's right hand to get him to talk. In the show, Rick has two functional hands, enabling him to have much more flexibility as a leader and a fighter. The technical aspects of green screening actor Andrew Lincoln without a hand was the main motivating factor behind keeping his hand intact on the show. As Rick is on screen more than anyone else, the effects behind constantly having his hand edited out would be cumbersome and hard to believe.

Similarity: The Governor

In The Walking Dead comic, the Governor is the first real villain that the group has to face. The menace of the zombies is always present but they cannot plot, plan and torment the way that another human can. Enter the Governor.

Though more sadistic in the comic, the TV show did a fantastic job of making the Governor a complex character worthy of the great writing that Robert Kirkman puts forth in the comic. Professing to be the gracious and charismatic leader of Woodbury, his true colors come through as a psychopathic leader who will do whatever it takes to have the power he so desires. Actor David Morrissey brings to life a character that is deeper than a cardboard bad guy, a troubled man that is ultimately corrupted by his lust for power.

Similarity: Rick’s Character 

Andrew Lincoln is Rick Grimes, not just in name on the show, but also in the most convincing way an actor can be when portraying a fictional character. He has brought to life a complex character in the most believable way possible. One of the great features of The Walking Dead comic is the evolution of the characters as they endure hardship after hardship and no one exemplifies this more than Rick Grimes. Through the loss of his wife, the collapse of his sanctuary at the prison and the loss of member after member of the group, he is desperately trying to keep safe, and has played one of the largest roles in shaping the show. Andrew Lincoln has been able to make the audience feel every moment of this character's growth and has stayed true to the man he seeks to portray from the comics.

Similarity: The Setting

The TV show does a good job of following the bleak yet adventurous world that was created by Robert Kirkman. The zombies are convincing and the show continues to find innovate ways to shock the viewer with the varied nature of the creatures. The Walking Dead show has followed the progression of the comics well as we move to the equivalent of issue 100 of the series which includes the death of Glenn.

Though it remains to be seen who suffers the wrath of Negan’s bat, Lucile, people will continue to tune in due to the gripping story that has been created in the comic and continues to be carried on in the TV show. It’s the fact that the gritty atmosphere of the comic has been faithfully replicated that brings back readers of the comic, as well as bringing in completely new viewers just looking for an engaging show to watch. The casting of the right actors for the corresponding roles also has lead to a level of depth that makes the show so engrossing. Whether it is Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes or Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, the show has brought the characters from the comic to life with great casting.

The locations for the storylines are also spot on, ranging from the idyllic, yet ultimately futile, locations of Heschel’s farm and the prison engrossed the audience in the vivid scenery of a world on the brink.

The Walking Dead has become a phenomenon. As a watcher of zombie movies starting with George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, I did not think I would see the day when a zombie television show become one of the most watched shows on a weekly basis. Though there are differences that readers of the comic may not approve of such as the shows unwillingness to eliminate certain characters, even the most die hard reader has to appreciate the effort that has been taken to bring the zombie apocalypse to life.

Heading into Season 7 the show shows no signs of slowing down and in fact has seemed to gain momentum as time goes on. I know I’ll be tuning in on October 23, 2016 to see who suffered Negan’s wrath and where the story will go from there in the Walking Dead.


About the Creator

Peter Carriveau

Writer of many things who likes politics, comics, and vintage video games. When not writing, Peter likes spending time with his beautiful partner Angelica, and our two daughters.

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