The Walking Dead: Show vs Comic
by: J.D. Cook
I have been meaning to write an article about the Walking Dead in some form or another for ages now. I just never seemed to find the time but thankfully this week I was in need of a subject for my newest Comic Book Commentary and just finished Compendium Two of the Walking Dead at work today.
Full disclosure, I did not know the Walking Dead existed before it became a T.V. show. I may have seen some issues in various Comic Book Stores throughout my life but if I did, I never really noticed. Thankfully the show brought awareness of the brand to a huge group of people who would never have gotten to read one of the most gripping and realistic zombie epics penned, drawn or adapted to television. Unfortunately that’s about as much praise as the show is going to get here.
The first season of the Walking Dead was an almost direct adaptation of the comic book for the first few episodes. It diverted things to the Center for Disease Control near the end of the season but it actually only helped to enhance the story. Then came season two…and the farm…so much of that damn farm. This is where things started to go off the rails with the show. Even though the show has some brilliant episodes they seem to be coming less and less. We’re getting the same ‘zombie almost gets the protagonist but they aren’t really in any danger‘ set up every week. The comic has it’s faults but they seem to be far fewer then the show. The narrative in the comics is tight, compelling, character driven and always interesting. Why the disconnect between the comics and the show?
The comics have had Robert Kirkman as the sole writer for their entire 11 year run. Take a moment to let that sink in. That is an entire series of stories plotted out by one man over a decade. There are no other writers contaminating the product with the comic, so to say. Kirkman can have an idea while writing the comic and play it out perfectly with no one else taking his characters in other directions. Yes I’m sure the show has meetings to plan their seasons and I know Kirkman has a lot to do with them but you can tell that there are multiple writers for the show because certain episodes are so much better than other ones. There are some episodes that just meander pointlessly and do nothing! The comic has moments that are quieter than others but the narrative is never bottled for a huge chunk of time. The comic feels like it is always moving forward.
As I’ve sat there watching the show the last few weeks I’ve found myself wondering a few things. First, why don’t people just declare open season on zombies and start hunting them. Second why aren’t their more settlements in the story? The truly interesting moments of the whole saga do not pit human against zombie; they pit human against human. Then I read Compendium Two this week and what do you think I discovered? Kirkman already developed my ideas better than I had even imagined them in the comic. I don’t want to spoil anything for future readers or even watchers of the show but things just keep getting better for the series.
Hopefully the show will eventually figure out how to match the pace of the comics but that seems more unlikely with every new season. Another big advantage the comic has on the show is that the characters are much more interesting. Andrea, for instance, is probably my favorite character in the comics up to this point. In the show she was one of my least favorite. I know the show likes to change things to keep people guessing but it needs to do it in a way that still keeps the characters interesting. Again I think it really just comes back to the fact that during production of the show there are hundreds of people involved who all slightly change minor things that add up to major departures. These departures hold the show back from being able to match the comic book.
If you agree or disagree with my opinion I’m really just happy to have some geeky shows on T.V. these days. I’m counting down the days until Game of Thrones returns!