The Walking Dead : Books vs. TV

I have been a huge follower of the Walking Dead for years now, it was in fact the graphic series that brought me back into the world of modern comics. I have the whole series bagged and boarded in my mom’s garage in Florida right now (I hope). Despite a very irregular publishing schedule in the early days, my son and I always looked forward to new comic Wednesdays, hoping for the next chapter in the story of the Walking Dead.

I was such a fan, I even read the lengthy letter column every issue, interested that the writer Robert Kirkman took the time to thoughtfully (or humorously) answer every question posed him by his fans. He gives great insight into his ideas for the story in those responses, and I always found them intriguing.

This¬† article will refer only to season 1 of the show, since I haven’t yet seen the 2nd season, and really wasn’t too keen on it, until I read Kimmy Karnage’s excited review of the finale here

Ok, here we go!
5 reasons the Walking Dead TV series is inferior to the Walking Dead comic books :

1. Black and White.

Right off the bat, the first mistake they made was not presenting this in black-and-white. It would have been a bold move for a modern TV series, and could have been used to great effect, as it is in the books.

The artwork in the books is amazing, particularly in the first issues, drawn by Tony Moore. The black, white and grey help to set the tone, and give the book that great classic cinematic flair.

When Tony Moore moved on to write and draw his own great series Fear Agent, Charlie Adlard took over art duties with a distinctly different style that was still used to great effect without color. Adlard has drawn all the issues since #6, to my knowledge.

Black and white would have truly helped the atmosphere and starkness of this story on the screen as well. It is, after all, a defining feature of the source material.

2. The characters are all wrong.

One of the things Robert Kirkman said over and over again in those old letters columns was that the Walking Dead story was not about zombies, but about the characters, and the different ways they choose to react to the horrific situation they find themselves in.

If you aren’t even going to bother staying true to the characters that were well-written, why bother with the adaptation in the first place? Just call it something else, and poof! You have a new story. I mean the core idea of a zombie apocalypse is not exactly original, but the selling point is your original characters and situations in this frame-work.

Robert Kirkman knew this when he was writing the original books. In fact, he said from the beginning that his goal was to write a zombie story that didn’t have to end after 2 hours,¬† because he found he was always curious what happened to the characters after the credits rolled on Night Of The Living Dead.

So, Rick is pretty well done, but that is only because his character starts off as the do-gooder, generic hero archetype. He goes to very dark places in the books, which I am sure we will never see on network TV.

T-Dog? Um, is that seriously supposed to be Tyreese? No fucking way. Take one of the toughest characters ever written and turn him into background noise…
I will never understand the logic here.

Merle and Darryl, what is the point? Although it is always nice to see Michael Rooker chewing on scenery, that contrived scene of him being left handcuffed on the roof-top and having to saw off his own hand = snoozeville. Boring, lazy and just a stupid side-plot that was never even resolved that I know of.


3. Shane.

Which brings us to Shane. His character is completely wrong.
Not only does he look much less physically imposing, he hardly acts like the complex character he is meant to be.

Add to that the way they monkeyed with his story-line to keep some love triangle drama going on to entertain the soccer moms, and they have pretty much destroyed his excellent story arc from the books.
As I understand it, they finally killed him off in the second season, but his demise would have made a much more effective first season finale, but we will get to that later.

4. Vatos.

Out of the incredibly short six episode run, one episode in particular stood out as a complete waste of time. It was (I think) the fourth episode, entitled “Vatos”.
You might remember it as the “gangsters with a heart of gold” sub-plot, where all these tough gang-banging thugs were really just threatening to kill our heroes to protect a nursing home filled with elderly people. This episode was just irrelevant and insulting, and completely unbelievable.
I was actually really angry at this silly pointless waste of an hour.

5. The 1st Season Finale.

Here is the worst crime against the story.
A complete change of the plot and actual point of the source material. The focus in the final episode becomes the search for answers to why the zombie outbreak happened.

This is something that the writer Robert Kirkman was explicitly against when he created his series. He wrote around that, and made it his mission NOT to try and explain where the zombies came from, just how his creations deal with them. This is one of the most attractive things about the story, the fact that he leaves this ambiguous.

Because somethings just ARE.
Sometimes shit just happens, and no one knows why.
That is where the comic series is most effective, because it’s focus stays on it’s characters and their immediate survival, not on the larger universe. It is a common thing in horror fiction of today to over-explain everything, and the season finale of the Walking Dead went directly against every thought that created it to begin with.

Who is responsible?

I blame the director, Frank Darabont.
He has a history of fucking with the adaptations that he has done, and some of them have been very popular. His adaptation of the Shawshank Redemption is somehow everyone’s favorite movie, same goes with his version of the Green Mile.
He is a director that has proven to be bankable and trustworthy to the suits, and I think it is possible that he thinks he knows best. And the producers are probably letting him do his own thing, since it has proven to be a great success on cable.
Oh well, at least I still have the books to entertain me…
And to all of you fans of the show, do yourself a favor and pick up the paperback or hardcover collections for a much more satisfying experience.

Walking Dead graphic novels – Grade : A

Walking Dead AMC season 1 – Grade : C

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