AMC uses the framework of The Walking Dead comic but creates their own zombie world.
The toe-curling tension of the postapocalyptic zombie world in AMC’s The Walking Dead has locked in fans and casual viewers ever since the show aired its first episode in 2010. The gory show is based on The Walking Dead comic books created by Robert Kirkman with illustrations from Charlie Adlard. The ongoing comic book series is now in its 14th year and has 170 issues, while the show has seven seasons and a moderately successful spinoff show. Both mediums enjoyed unprecedented commercial success and are now firmly established in pop culture. In light of the season eight premiere, let’s analyze the show and look at some noticeable differences from the comic books.
As with all book-to-TV adaptations, the story lines of the comic books and the show overlap. However, there are both minor and — some would say — dramatic differences between the comic books and the show. The general structure is fairly the same: The Walking Dead is set in a postapocalyptic world and centers on former Sheriff Deputy Rick Grimes, who wakes up from a coma and realizes he lives in a zombie apocalypse. He becomes the leader of a group of Atlanta survivors who try to survive in the new world while protecting themselves from the zombies, aka the “walkers,” and from attacks by other groups of survivors.
In seven seasons, Rick Grimes has led his group of survivors from Atlanta to fragile safety. They travel and find refuge on Hershel Greene’s farm, which becomes swamped with walkers. The group find a haven in a grimy prison but get engaged in a war with the fortified town of Woodbury and its leader, the Governor. The group becomes separated, but they reconnect and encounter crazy cannibals. After a long trek they arrive in the seemingly safe Alexandria, but there’s trouble within and outside the community. On one of their scavenger trips, they meet the Hilltop community, who offer supplies in exchange for help against an extortionist community. This leads to a gruesome collision with Negan and the Saviors and then to the ultimate fight for power.
The nature of television demands that writers keep viewers on their toes and create several twists and turns per season. The changes in the plot or the introduction of brand-new story lines were often a result of either a financial or creative decision, viewer feedback and even pressure from diehard fans. These circumstances altered certain aspects of the show when compared to the original material. Here are some of the differences between The Walking Dead comic and the show.
Alternative Story Lines
In the past seven seasons AMC proved the show has a life of its own and the trajectories of the characters may differ from those of the comics. Several core characters’ personas have subtly changed, or they’ve become whole new characters. One of the shining examples is Carol Peletier, who has (arguably) the largest character arc deviation from the comic. Carol transforms from a suppressed and abused housewife into a calculating survival pragmatist who will kill people — infected or not — if they threaten the group at large. Think “Just look at the flowers, Lizzie.” However, in Issue 42 of the comic, she dies by suicide by walker.
Other examples include Lori Grimes’ death in season three. For many fans TV Lori became slightly annoying as a result of her contradictory behavior in the first two seasons. In the comic the Grimes family are together longer and she’s present until Issue 55. Her daughter Judith is still kicking it on television after seven seasons (!) but in the comic the baby dies with Lori in prison.
Just like Carol, Andrea undergoes a huge change from the page to the screen. In the comics she’s in her 20s, ends up in a relationship with the much older Dale and adopts orphaned twins. When the group arrives in Alexandria she’s in a relationship with Rick (see Issues 102 to 167). Comic Andrea has adventures for 13 years, but TV Andrea doesn’t have the same fate. TV Andrea is in her 30s and is a wishy-washy character who ultimately can’t decide between Woodbury’s and Rick’s groups. She takes her own life in season three after she receives a walker bite.
Rick’s group aren’t the only survivors of the zombie apocalypse, and they frequently come in contact with outsiders. In season six they meet the Wolves. In the comic Alexandria is threatened by an outside group called the Scavengers, first introduced in Issue 75. The Scavengers are quickly defeated, which leads to Rick’s overconfidence in handling Negan and the Saviors. In the TV universe the Wolves have a weak backstory, which is luckily resolved by the end of season six.
While The Walking Dead comic is filled with fascinating characters, it’s sometimes necessary to introduce original characters purposely created for the show. Characters such as Beth Greene, Herschel’s youngest daughter and Maggie’s sister, or Alexandria’s gender-swapped leader Deanna Monroe, serve as counterparts to established characters. Other characters are brand-new (see Sasha and Noah). Most often these characters are destined to fade into the background, but that cannot be said about one addition who has an immense presence throughout seven seasons: the antihero Daryl Dixon. The crossbow-wearing, motorcycle-riding vagrant became so popular that hard-core fans created merchandise bearing the slogan “If Daryl dies, we riot.”
In The Walking Dead universe death is omnipresent, and it becomes harder for fans to use the comic as a litmus test of how their favorite character will survive. Take, for example, the offscreen death of Carol’s daughter Sophia, who was discovered as a zombie in Hershel’s barn. In the comic Sophia is still healthy and alive. Then there are the swapped deaths of Tyreese and Hershel. In the comic the Governor beheads Tyreese, not Hershel. TV Tyreese dies after a walker bite.
However, Issue 100 of The Walking Dead comic reveals one of the most horrifying and haunting deaths in the comic history. The scene, featuring Negan and his Saviors, shows Glenn die at the hand of Negan’s barb-wire-wrapped baseball bat, Lucille. For some reason, the showrunners decided to bait the viewers and controversially ended season six on a cliffhanger before they dragged the scene out in season seven.
Besides the action, gore and small bits of humor, there’s still time for romantic relationships. Some couples were directly transferred from the page to the screen (see Maggie and Glenn). In The Walking Dead comic Rick becomes intimate with Andrea, but TV Rick starts a relationship with the kantana-wielding Michonne in season six. Show runner and writer Scott Gimple had the relationship planned out since Michonne’s introduction in season three. All is fair in love and the zombie apocalypse.