Major Spoiler Alert Six seasons of The Walking Dead have come and gone and 100 issues of the comic have been adapted to the smallscreen. With that milestone having been reached, it’s time to look back at some of my favorite moments from the comic to see if they were done justice on the TV series.
Spoilers abound in this editorial for the first 100 issues of The Walking Dead comic series from writer Robert Kirkman and artist Charlie Adlard – as well as major spoilers all the way up to the season 6 finale of the AMC television series of the same name.
Carl Shoots Shane
When The Walking Dead first fired up – all of us comic fans kept wondering why the hell Shane wasn’t dead yet. Season one went by…. All of season two… Almost… Look, I appreciate the showrunners’ decision to keep Shane around – Jon Bernthal was terrific (just look at him now as Frank Castle on Daredevil – man is a true warrior), but the tone of The Walking Dead comic book was established the moment little Carl blasts Shane with a bullet to the back of the neck after the dude goes crazy and tries to off Rick in the woods.
Issue #6, Shane finally freaks out that Rick is still alive and has ruined his plans to make a new life with Lori so he goes after the guy only for Carl to kill him in one of the most stunning comics that I have ever read. It was the issue and the moment that hooked all of us TWD readers for life. In the TV show – it doesn’t play out the same. Rick winds up stabbing Shane during the confrontation, murdering him only for Shane to quickly ressurect as a walker and THEN, only then does Carl shoot the now undead Shane to save his father. It was a cool moment, but it had the tough task of living up to an iconic moment in the book.
Verdict: The Comic Wins.
Michonne Tortures The Governor
In AMC’s The Walking Dead, The Governor character was never truly adapted into what he was in the comic books. David Morrissey did a terrific job playing a “version” of the legendary comic villain, but I feel like the writers felt uneasy about making that man as crazy and evil on the show as he was in the source material, instead opting to make him somewhat redeemable. Because of that, when Michonne attacks him on the show, she only winds up stabbing him in the eye after eliminating his zombie daughter.
The fight on the show was brutal and very fun to watch, but it wasn’t the revenge torture of the comic. In the source material, The Governor locks Michonne up and rapes her repeatedly until she escapes and catches him off guard in his room. In the book she nails his dick to the floor, scoops his eyeball out with a spoon (after she sodomizes him with it) then hacks his arm off with her sword. It was such satisfying and horrific vengeance that I never felt so happy while nearly puking at the same time.
I understand why they didn’t take it that far in the show (because The Governor never raped anyone on the series — also — he never made out with his zombie daughter on the show either — hint: not his real daughter in the comic). That being said – there was something special about the comic’s brutality that I missed not getting the full attention in at least some ways for the show adaptation.
Verdict: The Comic Wins.
The Prison Assault
The craziest, the greatest, the most insane storyline to this day in Kirkman and Adlard’s comic series was finally adapted to the TV series halfway through season four. Even though it took us a little longer to get there than I would have preferred – it winds up being worth the wait. When The Governor hacks off Hershel’s head and then utters his infamous “Kill them all” line before staging the assault on Rick’s group at the prison, I was in tears of joy all episode long. The change from Tyreese to Herschel in terms of who got the Governor’s execution order was maybe the only character death switch so far that I really liked more than the comic. Tyreese wasn’t around long enough at this point in the show for his death to have been that meaningful, so I liked seeing Herschel take the fall. It was fairly awful, but show Herschel was more interesting than his comic counterpart.
Now, the kill count on the show is nowhere near as insane as the comic mind you, but that’s because most of the casualties in the book were already dead by the time we got to this point. In the source material, the most tragic of these is Lori and her baby – who are gunned down by The Governor’s crew during the attack while Rick and Carl have no choice but to keep running. In the show, the baby’s fate is more ambiguous (eventually she is revealed to be alive), but this episode was so action packed, so emotional that to this day it is still my favorite of the series (aside from the pilot).
Verdict: The Show Wins.
When Dale is captured by the group of cannibal hunters after wandering from Rick’s group late at night, he wakes up (in the comic) to find that they have been sawing off his legs and eating them. Dale begins to hysterically laugh because he had recently been bitten and that’s why he strayed from his camp. “Tainted meat!” he yells while laughing like a maniac as the cannibals start puking and flipping their shit. It was one of the most entertaining moments of the series and every reader knew it would eventually make it’s way to the show – but that it would likely never be as beloved. Because well — Dale was killed off two seasons ago via walker attack.
On the TV show, they opted to sub Dale for Bob, a relatively new and less liked character. Sorry – I said it – I didn’t care for Bob. Great actor – loved him on The Wire. Didn’t give two shits about him on The Walking Dead. The scenario was pretty much adapted panel for panel, line for line but it didn’t have nearly as much impact because when it happened to Dale – it happened to a character that had been around for over 70 issues.
Verdict: The Comic Wins.
Carl Gets Shot – IN THE FACE
For comic readers, this is probably the biggest shocker since the prison assault which wound up murdering over half of Robert Kirkman’s cast when the Governor goes tank crazy. There are several moments in the comic that build to this – the wall to Alexandria is compromised and then a massive herd of walkers enters the compound after slowly being drawn to Rick’s new safe-haven after some previous firefights.
What happens in the show is damn faithful to the comics, sans a few things, a couple character switches and whatnot, but it all works out the same way to great effect. As Rick, his new chick with her dipshit kids, Carl and Michonne make their way through the swarm of zombies wearing the gut suits, the littlest one freaks out and gets eaten to death. This moment is so freaking horrific on the show that it trumps the source material big time… Was the kid annoying? Sure – but I don’t like seeing kids get eaten to death by monsters. I’m not sick. After that, the child’s mom won’t let go of her son as she is now being eaten to death while still holding onto Carl’s hand. Rick thinks fast and starts hacking her hand off with his hatchet in order to free his son. Just as screwed up on the show as it was in the comic. Shortly after, the other brother who I assumed would be shooting Carl – does so – Then Michonne stabs the little bastard for some extra oomf.
Charlie Adlard’s two-page spread of Carl saying, “Dad?” with a massive hole in his head is far more traumatic in the comic, because we all assumed he was dead as shit from that moment, so even though the TV series pulls the same move (and quite well I may add), it’s not quite as impactful. It’s also scarier in the book because Carl is much younger than his show counterpart. However, what follows in the show is just as riveting as it was in the comic as Rick and the survivors band together and figure out that they really can kick that much ass as they wipe out what seems like hundreds of walkers. It was an insane season 6 mid-season premiere and truly did justice to the comic moment from which it was adapted.
Verdict: The Show Wins.
Arrow to The Eye
Charlie Adlard said himself several times that he was taken completely off guard when he read Kirkman’s script that featured fan favorite Abraham taking a surprise arrow to the back of the head when in mid-conversation with Eugene. In the comic, the two guys are chatting about how Abraham is OK with the mulleted goofball dating his ex. In fact, Abraham is still talking about it for a while post-injury until he realizes an arrow is sticking out of his eyeball and then he falls dead to the ground during a shocking Saviours ambush.
In the TV show, they built this moment up so well – teasing fans, right before having the arrow’s target be the female doctor instead. I don’t even remember her damn name. She’s in the comic too sure – but I don’t give a shit. I’m sure non-readers had some fun with this scene since it was certainly shocking as well, but that arrow was better served taking out someone people actually enjoy – or who has been around longer. I like my casualties to be people I care about. I might be sick like that, but it makes the death – the moment – more impactful in the longrun. Seeing Dwight and Daryl Dixon face off on the show was damn intriguing however, considering the half scarred Dwight is the one who packs the crossbow in the comics and Dixon doesn’t exist in the source material…
Verdict: The Comic Wins.
Negan & Lucille Step Up to The Plate
The worst kept secret in terms of comic spoilers that have been coming to the TV show has finally come and gone. Sorta. Almost every Walking Dead fan on the planet knew that this Negan guy kills Glenn in the comics, whether they’ve ever picked up a comic or not. After Rick and his group of survivors are ambushed by the Saviours on the road, they finally meet the foul mouthed Negan and his baseball bat Lucille. Then, in issue 100 of the series, Glenn is picked out of the line and beaten to death in a display of public punishment for Rick’s actions against Negan’s crew, in one of the most savage and brutal deaths in comic history. I felt physically ill reading it…
So how does the season six finale stack up? Unbearable tension and agonizing build-up finds Rick and almost all of the main cast at the mercy of Negan who finally shows up in the final 10 minutes to deliver a near mirror text balloon speech (minus the hundreds of fucks for the broadcast version) to everyone on their knees. Jeffrey Dean Morgan was a great choice and plays the part perfectly – complete with those crazy ass smiles. The way tension was built during this entire episode was wonderful and had my stomach in knots. By the time Negan finally picks out who he’s going to make an example with, by beating them to death, we switch to a first person view and watch him smack the camera-man to death before we cut to credits. Blood drips down the lense and we don’t know who Negan has just murdered as the season finale comes to a close.
It’s a slap to the face of both comic fans and TV die-hards who were waiting for some resolution to the unbearable tension that they had just endured. When comic fans read issue 100, we felt powerless and defeated, just as Rick did as he watched Glenn murdered in front of him and couldn’t do a thing about it. In the TV series, we also felt helpless but instead of defeated, we felt cheated as the most maddening and gimmicky cliff-hanger in series history was forced upon the audience. Writers could argue that they were going for the fact that “we the viewers” wound up being Negan’s victim. We wanted blood so “we” got the bat instead. But that’s bullshit. Showrunner Scott Gimple should have fought this blatant marketing ploy because now the show has officially fucked itself and sold out.
They ended what could have been a masterful finale and sixth season by utilizing cheap gimmicks and a hook to hype up their seventh season? I can see the posters and merch now – Who did Negan kill?!?! Who was it?!?!?! Whoever it was, they deserved an on-screen sendoff and not a moment that will forever haunt Walking Dead fans. It could have been a special moment but now it will forever be the moment that The Walking Dead said “fuck you” to the fanbase. They couldn’t get Negan to say it on AMC, but they certainly implied it towards every single viewer instead. What a damn shame.
Verdict: The Comic Wins.
Overall Winner: The Comic 5-2. Obviously because I’m a snob. Look, when you’re a fan of an adaptation’s source material – you’re rarely ever going to think the movie or show is better than the book or comic you’ve been reading for years beforehand. Even above when I said “the show wins” – that’s a stretch because what I should be saying is “the show lived up to the comic”.