Why It’s Great that AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ Isn’t Like the Comic Book

Norman Reedus stars as Daryl Dixon, a character that doesn't appear in the comics, in AMC's The Walking Dead. Credit: Gene Page/AMC.

I'd just as soon see Robert Kirkman never write another episode of AMC Networks' (NASDAQ: AMCX  ) The Walking Dead. Not because I hated the midseason premiere (I didn't) or because I dislike Kirkman's work (I'm a fan), but because I'd rather viewers get accustomed to the idea that the TV show is only a loose adaptation of the comic book that Kirkman has been writing for more than a decade.

That isn't likely to happen. If anything, viewers seem to want more Kirkman and callbacks to the comics. My Foolish colleague Leo Sun celebrated his scripting  of episode 409 in a recent column, citing his skill in developing characters. True enough. And yet I doubt The Walking Dead would work as a strict adaptation of Kirkman's comics. Here are four reasons why:

1. Your favorite character might already be dead.
Is there any character among the cast of The Walking Dead that's as popular as Norman Reedus' Daryl Dixon? I don't think so. And yet ... Kirkman didn't create him. Neither Daryl nor his now-deceased brother Merle (played by Michael Rooker) has appeared in "The Walking Dead" comic book. Season one showrunner and series co-creator Frank Darabont developed Daryl and Merle in concert with other writers.

2. AMC Networks wouldn't want it. 
AMC "owns" certain rights attached to the TV version of the property, including the Dixons. That's a key difference, and it explains why one of the two major video game series tied to the brand -- The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, from now-defunct studio Terminal Reality and Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI  ) -- stars Daryl rather than Rick, Carl, or any other character familiar to fans of the Skybound comic. (Skybound is Kirkman's comic book imprint, publisher of not only "The Walking Dead," but also great comics such as "Thief of Thieves," "Super Dinosaur," and "Invincible.")

3. There wouldn't be any surprises for fans of the comic.
Unlike Walt Disney's Marvel universe -- which suffers from a confusing division of rights that pits studios against each other -- the subtle differences in AMC's The Walking Dead appears to be feeding Skybound's "The Walking Dead," and vice versa. "The Walking Dead" #100 topped the charts with more than 300,000 copies sold during the show's summer 2012 hiatus. When it returned for season 3 that October, more than 10 million viewers tuned in. I don't see that as a coincidence.

4. It wouldn't be Kirkman's best work.
We know because he's said as much in interviews. Having the show is like having a time machine that allows him to change the history of the world he's created. That's a rare gift to a writer. Instead of regretting a particular character's demise or a badly executed plot point in the comic, Kirkman is afforded the chance to try something new and see how it plays. Fans and AMC investors are getting better work (and record ratings) as a result.

Now it's your turn to weigh in, fellow fans. Are you enjoying season 4 of AMC's The Walking Dead? Or would you rather see the network take more from the comic book? Leave a comment in the box below to let us know where you stand.

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Daryl and Beth try to find their way forward in episode 410, "Inmates." Sources: AMC Networks, YouTube.


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  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 12:37 PM, jack8599 wrote:

    I'm surprised you didn't mention the horrific sexism of the comics. At the prison, for example, the council was made up entirely of men. They explicitly said that was because the "women wanted to be taken care of."

    The earlier seasons of TWD were sexist. Women would just fall over and scream and cry when attacked by zombies, and left all the decisions to the men. Fortunately, things have improved; I'm assuming because the other producers and writers on the show wouldn't allow Kirkman's misogyny to run wild.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 7:24 PM, Rhb257 wrote:

    One thing they need to do is get them in contact with other humans who have set up a settlement or a govt in exile. We need hope for the future otherwise it is a slow slog to ultimate demise. Not a reason to keep tuning in.

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