The Walking Dead is a popular television show on AMC. It is also a very successful comic book series, ranking in the top 20 in sales on average. The series also won the Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series in 2010. So, as a fan of both the comic and TV show, I decided to go back and reread the comics and see what makes this series so compelling and popular.
The comic book series and television series have differences. The premise is basically the same: Rick wakes up in the hospital, after having been shot, and finds a whole new and frightening world. But many elements are different. For instance, the walkers are different between the comic and TV series.
In the comic the walkers are slow-moving, even in the presence of food. The walkers on the television show move quicker than normal. They are not the running version from the remake of “Dawn of the Dead”, but they move quickly when motivated. Another aspect that’s different is that you see some intelligence in the television version of the walkers. At one point when Rick and the group are trapped in a department store, one walker picks up a block of cement and begins hitting the window. Another time you see a walker climb a chain link fence. Fortunately for the comic book version of our characters this is not so.
The other thing is that Kirkman has been using the television series to explore “What If?”. He takes events in the comic and goes a different direction than he did in the comics. Case in point, in the comic Shane and Lori have a one-night stand. In the television show they are together as a couple and sneaking off whenever they get the chance. So Rick’s return has a definite impact on the dynamics of the three people.
Another change is that in the comic Shane is killed before the team ever leave the campsite in which they are all staying. In television show we get to watch him become a dark and devious character well into the second season.
So if you haven’t read the comic, be ready to see the original ideas Kirkman had with his characters when he created the graphic novel.
In his introduction to the first collection of TWD, Robert Kirkman says, “I’m not trying to scare anybody”, but to “…explore how people deal with extreme situations and how these events CHANGE them.” Kirkman doesn’t waste any time setting up situations that can impact members of this group. We can see that starting with volume one. When Rick arrives at the campsite where Lori, Carl, and Shane are staying he is introduced to the rest of the group. One member in particular, named Jim, is interesting because he actually escaped Atlanta.
Though Jim is only in the book for a short time, he gives us a glimpse at how the whole situation with the walkers can change someone. When the walkers come into their camp, Jim goes crazy on one of them. He doesn’t shoot the walker; instead, he bashes its head in. During the fight he is bitten. His death is guaranteed. Kirkman does a great job of making you feel for him in this short time.
The second crucial momeny is later on after the group has target practice. Rick decides that since his eight-year-old son Carl has done such a good job shooting, Carl should be allowed to carry a pistol. Rick’s wife, Lori, is very angry and upset by this announcement. She changes her mind later on…
This whole scenario is interesting. The parents give a gun to an eight-year-old to protect them and tell him that he cannot take it out of the holster unless it is an emergency. The thing I find interesting is children in this age range tend to be emotional powder kegs. They can go from happy to mad in mere seconds. That gap in time is when crazy things can happen. In a span of 30 pages Carl saves the life of his mom and dad. This is a good thing. The problem is in saving his father’s life he kills Shane.
That is a lot for an eight-year-old to absorb and understand. Kids are going to have issues with the whole concept of the dead coming back to life. We tell them there is no such thing as the boogeyman when they have nightmares. We, as parents, come up with silly and creative ways to convince our children that there is nothing hiding under the bed or in the closet. Those ideas would not work with the concept of “if walkers were real”. In The Walking Dead they have to live with the idea.
Along with examining the impact of decisions made, Kirkman brings a couple of new ideas into the zombie mythos in this first volume.
First, is he calls them “walkers” rather than zombies. I like this. I grew up reading stories and watching movies where a zombie was a person brought back to life by a voodoo priest or priestess to do their bidding, and it’s a smart decision to remove that association for readers.
Secondky, another idea is shown when Rick and Glen go back into Atlanta to get more weapons. Glen realizes the closest gun store is much further into Atlanta then he has ever gone since the walkers rose. Rick has the idea of cutting off body parts from a dead walker and rubbing the walker’s body fluids on their clothes. He even goes as far as putting small pieces of the walkers’ bodies in their pockets. They actually walk through the walkers all the way to the gun store. Unfortunately as Rick and Glen leave it starts to rain. Amazing how fast that stuff washes off.
Tony Moore’s art is excellent. Nothing is overdone and the walkers still look gross and scary. The book is in black and white, which adds to the atmosphere.
I recommend The Walking Dead to fans of the TV show. It has the elements of the old zombie horror flicks like Night of the Living Dead, but with some new and interesting twists.