The Walking Dead Television Series Is Superior To The Comic Series [Opinion]

Posted by on October 12th, 2011

Walking Dead mastermind Robert Kirkman has famously said his most popular franchise was borne from wondering what happens after a zombie movie. Typically, a zombie outbreak story begins with a relatable reality, add zombies, initial crisis ensues, survivors band together and after a few casualties the initial crisis is solved. But when the credits roll, our main characters are left in a world changed forever.

What happens to them? How do they cope? How do they eat? Do they forget the past? Do they make a future?

The Walking Dead is that story and Kirkman is telling it twice. Once in the original comic incarnation and simultaneously on AMC as a surprisingly popular hour-long drama (returning with a second season this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on AMC) of which he is a writer and executive producer. There is a reason his second draft, initially reshaped by mastermind Frank Darabont, is more popular.

Thanks to more consistent relatable characters, key revisions in the canon story and new wrinkles added exclusively in the AMC series it’s way, way better than the source material. Some might disagree but we survive by pulling together and not apart, with a warning of heavy spoilers through the first season of the AMC show and the first 25 issues of the comic, I’ll explain my position.

Emotions simmer instead of boiling over

skitched-20111012-140235.jpg– Every disagreement doesn’t end in characters yelling at each other

When first reading TWD in anthology form on heavy recommendation from by NSFWshow co-host Brian Brushwood I was struck by one consistent, repeating pattern.

Character subtly makes suggestion.

Second character disagrees.

First character presses matter.

Both characters start yelling at each other.

I can understand what it’s trying to accomplish. The apocalypse is hard, the survivors are dealing with it poorly and this has left them perpetually on edge.

The AMC series subtly takes a different tone. All of our survivors, when not running for their lives, are muted and shell shocked. Like strangers meeting at a wake. This, more successfully reinforces the core theme of both incarnations: our survivors have already had a vital element of their humanity snuffed out. They too, are the walking dead.

– Carl killing Shane because he’s fighting with his father

The on-edge nature of the comic characters has no deeper ramification story wise than the murder of Shane at the hands of Rick’s son Carl. Rick confronts Shane about his leadership in not moving the camp further from Atlanta and blames his former best friend for a deadly zombie attack that kills a few of their band. It escalates to a point where Carl believes his father is in mortal danger and shoots Shane who played the father role to him during the current crisis.

It’s a waste of drama and tension brought on by one of the most annoying habits on the comics. Just HOW big of a waste? Let’s go into more detail…


Characters that shouldn’t have died are kept alive

– Shane

No TWD comic character benefited more from his transition from page to screen than Shane. In the pilot episode we are given a character informing conversation between he and Rick (seriously ladies, the light switch, turn it off) that reveals his to be an affable if doofy bro and his post-zombie but pre-Rick return interactions with Lori portray him as a far more sympathetic character. In fact, in the finale, we get duel skitched-20111012-140549.jpgreinforcements of Shane’s opposing nature. We find out that he attempted to rescue Rick from the hospital as the outbreak happened and although unable to extract him did ultimately save his life by barricading the door. We also, back in the present, watch him make a very drunken, rape-y pass at Lori who spurns him violently.

A rich, conflicted character, indeed. But more importantly, a rich, conflicted character who is still alive by the end of the first season.

The biggest money left on the metaphorical table in TWD comic series is not having Shane alive when Rick finds out that Lori and Shane were lovers. Kirkman has taken to first step to insuring that doesn’t happen again.

New characters are well drawn and add to the story

– Dixon boys

skitched-20111012-140722.jpgFull disclosure: Michael Rooker, who plays new character Merle Dixon, is a friend of this site, the NSFWshow podcast and has repeatedly been known to call me his son.

That being said, the introduction of wild-eyed, cokehead, racist Merle and his slightly-more-level-headed-but-only-in-comparison brother Daryl (portrayed by Boondock Saint Norman Reedus) were great additions to the cast and served to move along Rick’s story beautifully.

Take Merle, he’s an asshole, but he’s also really strong, wields a gun and believes he should take control of the band of survivors. This gives Rick a very early test of supremacy and an illustration to the viewer that in this world, when a good man does nothing a bad man will seize control. In the comic, Rick’s only conflict for leadership was with Shane, which unnecessarily complicated other plots by forcing us to reconsider Shane as an either incompetent leader or a bad guy.

Meanwhile, Daryl adds a survivalist dynamic that the suburban warriors of the comics didn’t have. He knows how to live in the woods as well as kill the walkers roaring around them.

Of course, all of this could change past episode three of the upcoming season. This will mark the point in production when AMC decided to give Frank Darabont his walking papers as show runner. But for now, we can enjoy the season premiere this Sunday of what will hopefully be a continuation of the best horror genre television series in recent memory.

3 Responses to “The Walking Dead Television Series Is Superior To The Comic Series [Opinion]”

  1. TheSwagger Says:

    I quit reading the comic during the second TPB (around issue 6 or 7) because I didn’t like the art change and was just not engaged by it. The show was really fun in season 1 and everything said here is true. Hopefully they don’t go and fuck it up with season 2.

  2. TheSwagger Says:

    I quit reading the comic during the second TPB (around issue 6 or 7) because I didn’t like the art change and was just not engaged by it. The show was really fun in season 1 and everything said here is true. Hopefully they don’t go and fuck it up with season 2.

  3. Bassam Says:

    I’m at the jail point in the comic, and at this point, the comic and TV series have diverged so much that I consider them to be two completely different entities. I can enjoy the comic for what it is, and enjoy the series likewise.

    I do agree that keeping Shane alive and making him a deeper character was a very good decision for the series.