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‘The Walking Dead’ Vs. ‘The Walking Dead’:
Comparing and Contrasting The Comic and The Television Series

Guest Article by Kevin Fischer

The Walking Dead comic started in 2003 and has been ongoing with well over 100 issues. It has spawned video games, novelizations and, of course, a popular AMC television series of the same name.

While the television series does a pretty good job of remaining faithful to the spirit of the comic, there are numerous differences between the comic and the show. They both follow the exploits of Rick Grimes and his group of survivors in the wake of a zombie apocalypse, but there are significant changes that seem to make the show less of a television translation and more of a reimagining.

By the way, for anyone who cares:

*SPOILER ALERT*

It’s not all black and white

One of the most obvious differences between The Walking Dead comic and the AMC series is the color scheme. A cursory glance reveals the superficial contrast – the comic is monochromatic with lots of black and white and varying shades of gray, and the TV show is, well, in color. In this day and age, it would be expecting too much for the show not to be in color.

This visual deviation seems pretty straightforward, but diehard fans of the show and the comics have noted a change in the overall experience with the different color schemes. For example, the show, while in color, employs fuzzier and more muted tones to create an effectively somber atmosphere. The comic, on the other hand, uses the stark contrast of black and white to create a more surreal tone that resonates with the reader’s initial disbelief and that shared by the protagonists in this zombie apocalypse.

While the monochrome scheme might have been a bit much for television viewers to swallow, it’s hard to deny the overly-amplified sense of dread and the overall bleakness reinforced by the limited color palette. AMC seemed to agree to some extent when they actually re-aired Season 1 and 2 episodes of the show in black and white.

Pacing differs greatly between the formats

Another key difference between the show and the comic series is the pacing of events. One of the key examples of this differential is in the show when the Shane/Lori/Rick love triangle is carried over for a full two seasons. Anyone familiar with The Walking Dead knows that it doesn’t end well and, eventually, Shane must be dealt with.

In the comic series, this was handled in Issue 6 (more on that later), leaving the way open for bigger, bleaker and more ambitious stories…like the prison Rick and his group of survivors hole up in for protection in Issue 12 and the Governor’s appearance in Issue 27. The television series also features the prison and the Governor prominently but, again, it took much longer to get around to causing a major rift between the timelines of the comic and the show. What you ultimately end up with is a litany of significant events defining the comic experience while the television series has just barely scratched the surface.

Major plot points are handled differently

Because of the aforementioned difference in pacing between the show and the comic, there were a couple plot points that were handled very differently. Fans of the show might remember how the first season ended with a trip to the CDC. In the comic, the exact nature of the outbreak was and still is a mystery, but the CDC plot point in the show offered a small hope for an explanation.

The comic flirted with the notion of an actual explanation too, however, it didn’t involve a trip to the CDC – it involved a so-called scientist named Eugene who was one of the ten top scientists employed by the US Government to weaponize the human genome. He claimed to have classified knowledge of the zombie origin and it all sounded pretty sweet until he was revealed to be a fraud. He turned out to be a High-School Science Teacher who bought the protection of others with his lies.

Characters and characterizations don’t always match-up

One major point of contention between fans of the comic and the fans of the show is the portrayals and interpretations of some of the major characters. Some of the major ones remain largely intact – like Rick Grimes is still a grizzled survivor brimming with the essence of leadership and full of life lessons; however Lori’s portrayal made her much more manipulative and hostile.

Merle and Daryl Dixon, the good old boys from the show have yet to make an appearance in any capacity regarding the comic. Andrea and Dale are also handled differently in the television program as opposed to their counterparts in the comic. In the comic, their romantic relationship isn’t an overly-dramatic assortment of maybes with Andrea’s character being very decisive and genuine about her feelings for Dale. Andrea, herself, is also handled differently coming off as more of a warrior filled with confidence and a courageous spirit.

Penchant for brutalizing the main characters

Historically, television programs have always had a bit of a problem permanently scarring or brutalizing the faces of their programs. The Walking Dead is no different in this regard and while, for the most part, our leading ladies and gentlemen have remained largely intact, this is not at all the case when you dive deeper into the black and white world of the comic.

Examples include:

  • Rick Grimes becomes a lefty – One of the most iconic and defining moments of the comic series comes when the Governor chops off Rick’s right hand in an attempt to shatter his spirits and give up the location of the prison. Eventually, Rick has to struggle until he’s able to manage with the left hand. This has yet to happen in the show and Kirkman seems adamant about not doing it for various reasons.

  • Carl loses face – Further into the comic series (Issue 83), Carl is shot in the head by a stray bullet. The injury isn’t fatal, but he does lose a good chunk of the right side of his head and his entire right eye. The event scars Carl to say the least and only solidifies his violent descent which we’re already seeing in the show…one just has to wonder if they’ll go the extra mile like they did in the comic.
  •  Andrea gets half of a Chelsea Smile – When Rick’s group make their way into the prison, they meet a couple prisoners who, for the most part, don’t pose a threat. One, in particular, is a seemingly mild-mannered man named Thomas who reveals his true colors when he tries to cut off Andrea’s head. She struggles and escapes, instead being sliced from the left corner of her mouth to her left ear. Currently, as of Issue 115, she bears this scar with pride as one of Rick’s most courageous allies.

Deaths are not always consistent between versions

The character deaths featured in The Walking Dead are another major difference between both versions of this sprawling saga. Everything from who dies to the actual circumstances surrounding the loss is handled differently, for the most part. Some of these changes are for the better while others have been extremely controversial.

For example:

  • The circumstances surrounding Lori’s death – In the television show, Lori is pregnant and dies during a C-section while giving birth to Judith. Carl, her son, is there to shoot her in order to prevent her from re-animating and, as of the posting of this article, Judith still lives. That, of course, is not how it happened in the comic where Lori was shot by one of the Governor’s men while fleeing the prison. Not only that, the fatal wound caused Lori to fall on top of the baby she was carrying, effectively crushing Judith.

  • The tragic fall of Shane Walsh – As mentioned earlier, the Shane/Lori/Rick triangle was wrapped up much sooner, but the circumstances were significantly different. In the show, Shane lured Rick out into a field where Rick, through sleight of hand, stabbed him. Carl shot Shane’s re-animated corpse. In the comic, Rick pleaded with Shane, invoking their legacy of friendship, to reconsider his intent to kill him and it was Carl who took the initiative and shot Shane in the neck when he wasn’t looking.
  • Andrea gives Dale a mercy killing – In the show, Dale is mortally wounded by a zombie and it falls to Daryl to put him out of his misery. However, in the publication, Dale was abducted by a pack of cannibals when he wandered off by himself only to awaken and find that half of his leg has been eaten. The joke’s on them, however, when Dale reveals that he had been bitten earlier and they’ve been eating tainted meet. When Dale is rescued by Rick and his group, it falls to Andrea to deal the final blow and prevent him from re-animating.
  • Carol commits suicide – Carol, so far, is alive and well in the show, but the comic Carol is a different story. Early into the published saga, Carol starts to experience a decline in her sanity as she starts to crave acceptance and companionship. Eventually, she decides to end it all and throws herself into the ravenous, undead mouths surrounding them. Andrea, once again, does what needs to be done.
  • Sophia dies in the TV show – The death of Sophia is a major plot point in the second season of The Walking Dead. As of right now, though, Sophia is alive and well.

There are many more, but those are just a few of the differences regarding the deaths in The Walking Dead.

Less like parallels, more like alternate realities

For every similarity between The Walking Dead comic and the show, there are tons and tons of differences that distinguish the two versions. In fact, the differences are so great that they feel less like parallels and more like alternate realities of the same situation with only a handful of similarities to really connect them.

While the changes have been a source of controversy for those faithful to the comics, they ultimately offer up something new and fresh, allowing both versions to be enjoyed without it feeling repetitive.

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