Both the television show and the comic book for The Walking Dead are money printers the likes of which we’ve never seen. Both are highly successful, especially for something with such a mature horror premise. The comic book is now in (as of this article) its 13th year, spanning 159 issues with no signs of slowing down or stopping. The television show will premiere its 7th season shortly, and also has a successful spin-off show.
For a number of reasons, there are some dramatic (and minor) differences between the book and show. Be it a creative decision, a financial decision, viewer feedback and pressure, or something else entirely, these changes have the ability to completely alter the complexion of the show if comparing it to the comic. For better or worse, it has become its own animal. As fans of both, we are fine with many of the differences. Some, however, just strike us as poor decisions.
Spoilers inbound! These are the 16 Worst Changes From The Walking Dead Comic To The TV Show.
16. Too monotone
A world overrun by zombies is not a light subject. If you lost your family and were scraping to survive, chances are you wouldn’t often feel much like laughing or goofing around. That said, it’s a bit difficult to sustain that level of seriousness without coming up for air. There have been lighter-hearted moments in the show (Carl and Michonne and the pudding come to mind), but moments are exactly what they are. Robert Kirkman treated us to a bizarre (and colored!) moment of levity in the back part of issue #75.
The only reason Image signed off on The Walking Dead was because Kirkman pitched the story as having a twist: it would turn out the zombies were being created as part of an alien plot to conquer the world (a la Plan 9 From Outer Space). With no intention to follow the pitch, Kirkman threw in a small story where Rick Grimes was beamed up from Alexandria and thrust into a world where all the dead characters of the comic were fighting for or against the aliens.
Granted it was just one time (so far) that Kirkman did this for us, but it was greatly appreciated. We can only hope that as time goes on we are treated to more of these asides (or even just a continuation of this story). As for the show, it could use a tonal break along these lines to break things up as we’re approaching the 84th episode. An annual Christmas special, perhaps?
15. A Tale of two Andreas
Many of the characters in the television show differ, sometimes greatly, from their comic counterparts. In some cases, the characters share little more than a name. Arguably, the characters changed the most was Andrea. In the comics, Andrea seems to be in her 20s. After losing her sister early in the books, she winds up forming a relationship with Dale (yes, the age gap is huge… and no, Dale is not nearly as obnoxious in the comics) and they wind up adopting orphaned twins Ben and Billy (more on that later). Much further down the line in Alexandria, she and Rick become a couple. The relationship becomes so long-standing that Carl has taken to calling her “mom.” Andrea is level-headed and resolute, a crack shot sniper, and one of the most respected members of the human communities thriving in the present day after “the jump.”
In the television show? Andrea isn’t painted so kindly. Time and again she shows, despite her desire to be a decision-maker, that she is not fit to be; culminating in her clipping Daryl with a rifle round by mistake and accidentally allowing Beth to attempt suicide on her watch. Andrea eventually abandons the group and makes a home in Woodbury (shacking up with undercover psycho, The Governor), but flip-flops between Woodbury and leaving with Michonne. Fan ire about Andrea’s television portrayal reached a fever pitch in Season 3, and Andrea wound up not surviving the season (although this may well have been coincidence).
14. The CDC Detour
It is bizarre that a group of survivors of the zombie apocalypse wouldn’t think to try the CDC as an option for safety and/or answers if they were coming from Atlanta. But that is the way that Robert Kirkman handled things in the comics; ignoring their proximity to the government office and just letting them on their merry way. After Season 1 showrunner Frank Darabont opted to go the CDC route, we came to understand why Kirkman didn’t do the same. The detour lasted all of two episodes, but seemed to drag and wound up contributing nothing to the show.
The survivors, on reaching the CDC, met Dr. Jenner… who decided to blow himself and everyone else up when he’d lost hope in discovering a cure for the zombie virus. Originally, Andrea was going to stay and die alongside Jenner, but was guilted into staying a series regular by Dale. Before the big boom, Jenner whispered to Rick that everyone living was infected with the zombie virus; a revelation that would have been much more effective if Rick had figured it out for himself, perhaps after his climactic confrontation with Shane. While going to the CDC maybe took care of one complaint viewers might see with the show’s logic, it was handled about as poorly as it could have been. Like in the comic, it should never have even been an issue.
13. Lori’s last breath
Lori Grimes, wife of Rick and mother of Carl, is another contentious character for Walking Dead fans. Her portrayal in the show, as with Andrea, was met with complaints and a general contempt. While never a fan favorite in the comics, her character in the television show left many cold and hoping for an early exit. As with the comic, Lori did not survive the prison. While we aren’t fond of Lori in the show, as opposed to Lori in the comic, it is a minor contention compared to how she died.
Part of what makes TWD work in both comic and television form is the fact that it can be brutally heartbreaking; even with characters you weren’t especially fond of. It was touching and terribly sad that Lori died giving birth to Judith… and that Carl had to put Lori down. Despite the gravity of Lori’s TV demise, it couldn’t possibly match that of the books. In the comic, Lori successfully survives giving birth to Judith. When Woodbury attacks the prison, Lori attempts to protect the baby and escape, only to be blasted in half by a shotgun… along with baby Judith. This is such a heart-rending moment that it probably is causing a physical reaction just from reading the earlier sentence (as it did having to write it). To ramp up our existential despair to another level, it is theorized too, that Lori fell on the baby, crushing her.
12. Why are dingleberries brown?
Call us hypocrites if you like… but we just aren’t nearly as fond of television Abraham as we are comic Abraham. Abraham, in the comics, is a take-no-prisoners type; quick to anger and quick to action. His depth comes from his emotional vulnerability and the bond he forges with Rick after they get together. It is surely a cartoonish and uninformed perception, but comics Abraham is much closer to our idea of a war veteran than television Abraham.
For all our previous talk of wanting some levity in the show, we weren’t referring to Abraham’s increasingly bizarre and complex folksy sayings that he’s been dropping. In some cases, as with our header, they’ve been wildly inappropriate for the mood of the scene (he drops that winner, pun intended, as he packs up to leave Rosita and follows it up with “that’s just the way shit is.“). This might not be a popular opinion, as the Twitter hashtag #abrahamlet, indicates. We just prefer our ginger army men gruff, not goofy.
11. The farm is a nice place to visit, but…
Boy, they sure did take their sweet time there, didn’t they? The Greene Family farm was featured in 12 of the 13 episodes of Season 2. We don’t blame Rick’s group for wanting to drag out the time they spent with food and housing and fields and such a nice porch considering the state of the rest of the world, but we didn’t really need to see so much of it. Season 1 did a very good job of establishing and explaining the characters on the show without confining them to an oasis like the farm, and so the argument that Season 2 was focused on character development doesn’t hold much weight. There was a good deal of infighting and plot development and intrigue in the 2nd season, and it’s not as though we dislike it completely, but we really could have done with more scenery throughout those episodes.
The show is arguably at its best, and most dangerous, when the crew is on the road. Attempts to put down roots tend to drag the pace down to nearly unbearable levels… and the farm was perhaps the most egregious offender. That said, without the farm, we wouldn’t have had the well walker. And the barn was pretty crucial to the development of the show and characters; it just could have happened a few episodes sooner.
10. Barn burner
Speaking of the farm, we have a minor bone to pick with an incident that happened there. Hershel Greene, a veterinarian and farmer and deeply religious man, initially refuses to see the zombies for what they truly are. Convinced that they are just sick people capable of being cured, he begins to round up any that come near the farm (including his own child in the comic, and wife and child in the show), and locks them away in his barn. Eventually the barn is bulging with the undead and must be taken care of.
In the show, the barn’s resolution is used to elaborate on Shane’s dissonance with Rick and the rest of the group… and his increasing belligerence and wild behavior. In an attempt to show that everyone is wasting their time on the humane aspect of humanity, Shane unlocks the barn, forcing the survivors to kill all the zombies within. The last zombie to come out of the barn is Carol’s daughter, Sophia, who the survivors had been searching for all season. The comic version, too, relies on depressing irony. The zombies in the barn begin to escape, and in doing so, bite and kill two of Hershel’s surviving children. While the show’s version is by no means a bad one, the tragedy born of delusion and naivete from the comics is too chilling to not prefer.
9. Who dis? New phone
Again, this isn’t a gigantic point of contention, but just an instance in which the nuance and the emotional impact of a device was used better by the comic. In the wake of Lori’s death, Rick is overcome by grief, manifesting itself as auditory hallucination. In the television show, Rick is in the prison and hears a telephone ring. A man’s voice informs Rick that there is a larger group of survivors. The conversation turns to questions about how Lori died, and the man hangs up the phone. Upon hearing about the call from Rick, Hershel picks up the phone and realizes that it is not working… at which time he confronts Rick. Rick receives more calls and discovers he is ‘talking’ to Lori and other dead folk, and there’s eventually a resolution that sees Rick come out more capable of being a father to Judith and being a leader to his group.
In the comics, it is quickly revealed that the phone call is coming from “Lori”. Shocked, Rick rips the phone out of its socket, only to have the phone continue to talk to him. Knowing that the conversations are in his head, Rick still takes the phone with him after leaving the house he was hiding in. He later reveals the phone (and his knowing craziness) to Michonne after she reveals that she still talks to her old boyfriend. They agree to keep the information to themselves, resolving this little plot point in a very human way.
8. Dexter becomes Tomas
When Rick and gang find their way to the prison, they find out that they are not the only people there. Nearly all of the prisoners holed up there are different between the two mediums, save Axel (who goes from jolly old biker type to nebbishy tweaker). Our biggest complaint, though, is the downgrade in leaders from Dexter to Tomas.
Dexter is a burly dude who, when Rick bursts into the cafeteria, offers Rick meatloaf. Dexter, helpful and hospitable, admits immediately that he had been convicted for murdering his wife and her side piece. When Hershel’s twin tween girls show up decapitated, Dexter is falsely imprisoned as he is the only one who supposedly was put in for murder. Behind bars even in the apocalypse, he decides to arm himself and the rest of the prisoners and kick Rick’s group out. In a scrum with zombies that forced Dexter and him to fight alongside one last time, Rick secretly shoots Dexter, ending the power struggle.
Tomas, on the other hand, is a cartoonishly evil prisoner with a nebulous backstory. The acting of the series has always been uneven, and actor Nick Gomez fails to give Tomas what little authenticity the wooden character could possibly have. Tomas is perpetually openly hostile to Rick and his group and only begrudgingly accepts Rick’s assistance. After failing to kill Rick twice in clearing out the prison, Rick lodges a machete in Tomas’ skull and we’re spared from having to deal with him for a third episode.
On his own merits, we loved Tyreese from the television show. That he would share the name of the comic book character, however, invites comparisons between the two… regardless of how different their backstories are. The comparisons are not favorable for TV Tyreese.
Both Tyreeses (Tyreesi?) are capable fighters with their hearts in the right place. Both of them favor using a claw hammer for doing damage to zombies up close. But that’s about where the similarities end. The television show Tyreese becomes a babysitter to Judith Grimes and twin girls Mika and Lizzie and, after being traumatized, develops a neurotic pacifist streak. He then endangers Judith’s life, when she is threatened by Martin, a captive Terminus resident that Tyreese screws up keeping imprisoned. Tyreese lies about killing Martin to the group… only for Martin to come back and kidnap/eat Tyreese’s sister’s love interest, Bob. Martin also manages to help the Terminus folk break into the church the survivors were staying in for one final showdown. Tyreese dies a heartbreaking death that features a number of hallucinations and Tyreese coming to terms with the latter part of his life.
Comics Tyreese was a stalwart character and capable leader. That he showed himself more than capable of leading the group consistently, created a terrific unspoken dramatic tension between him and Rick. Tyreese was killed in the Governor’s assault on the prison, beheaded by the Governor with Michonne’s katana (which was extra depressing considering Tyrese and Michonne had been romantically involved).
6. The botched pact
One character-building event in comic Tyreese’s tenure in the book has yet to appear, in any form, in the show. Perhaps the opportunity has passed based on the circumstances the survivors find themselves in, and it’s a shame because it is a very compelling and disturbing moment. In the comics, Tyreese has a teenage daughter named Julie (TV Tyreese had Sasha for a sister instead). Julie’s boyfriend, Chris, was living with her and Tyreese when the zombie outbreak began, and survived alongside them.
In the prison, Chris and Julie decide to form a suicide pact (at Chris’ urging) in order to “be together forever”. Chris shoots Julie but is discovered alive by Tyreese because Julie fails to shoot Chris at the same time (and for some reason Chris doesn’t have the mental wherewithal to shoot himself). It is here in the comics that it is revealed that anybody who dies, bitten or not, returns as a zombie. Tyreese stops Rick from killing zombie Julie, foolishly hoping to reason with her, but Chris instead shoots Julie in the head. Tyreese chokes Chris to death and informs Rick that he will wait for Chris to reanimate in order to kill him a second time, only slower. Needless to say, this is all a very disturbing sequence. We’re perfectly happy with how the show revealed all dead people come back, but it is a shame that the show has not yet used a failed suicide pact premise.
5. Didn’t hurt the brains
Any way you cut it, the event in question is deeply disturbing and profoundly sad. In the comics, we are talking about twins Ben and Billy. In the show, we are talking about sisters Lizzie and Mika. In both instances the kids (Ben and Lizzie) display symptoms that they are not right in the head. In both instances, the psychotic kids kill their sibling with a knife, expecting them to come back just fine because they left the brains intact.
The tragic story of Lizzie, Mika, and Carol is crushing. There is perhaps no sadder episode in the show. Carol is forced to kill Lizzie to keep Judith safe (with a scene reminiscent of Of Mice And Men) and it adds dimension to Carol and her suffering. In the comics, the adults debate the fate of Ben, and whether he is an irredeemable threat or in need of some care, when Carl sneaks away and shoots Ben. Taking the decision out of the hands of everyone else and shouldering the burden of having to kill a child, Carl shows an eerie and precocious initiative and sense of responsibility. It simultaneously catapults Carl into the category of “capable contributor” and marks him a threat. Ben very clearly represents a funhouse mirror version of Carl, in that both of them are children raised among the horrors and atrocities of a zombie wasteland where the concepts of life and death and right and wrong are more tenuous than ever previously conceivable.
4. Thomas Richards, Tax Evader
Thomas Richards was one of the prisoners found in the cafeteria by Rick’s band of survivors. On ascertaining that the little group were prisoners and not prison guards, Lori insisted on knowing the crimes for which the prisoners had been sentenced (as a way of potential threat detection). Richards, doughy, middle-aged, and sporting a wispy comb-over and glasses says he was in for tax evasion. After Rick’s group had begun to settle in, Hershel’s tween daughters are brutally decapitated. The blame immediately goes to Dexter, seemingly the only prisoner there due to a murder conviction.
Not much time passes before Thomas attempts to murder Andrea, giving her her facial scars in the process. It becomes clear that he is the one who murdered the Greene girls, and is beaten nearly to death by Rick in a fit of rage. Thomas is then imprisoned while awaiting a discussion on his potential hanging. Another survivor, Patricia, attempts to free Thomas in a misguided attempt and is immediately attacked by the demented Richards. Richards is killed by Maggie Greene (the twins’ sister) unloading a full clip in him in order to save Patricia. A character like Richards really could have livened up the show’s stay in the prison. While the character didn’t need to be a prisoner, it did rather artfully touch on the concepts of racial profiling (Richards was white and Dexter was black) and the failings of a post-zombie justice system.
3. Someone like Carol
Despite appearances to the contrary, we really like the television show’s version of Carol. She is a layered character, a complete badass (which may no longer be the case), and someone we’ve enjoyed following. We would not like to trade in TV Carol for comic book Carol. That said, many of the things that Carol brought to the table in the comics are things that we miss. Carol was a severely imbalanced person, desperate for affection and protection in the aftermath of the zombies. Following a failed relationship with Tyreese (he cheated on her with Michonne), she attempts suicide in front of her young daughter, Sophia. In the wake of the botched attempt she proposes a polygamous relationship with Rick… theorizing that society’s rules no longer applied. When that attempt failed, she attempted (unsuccessfully) to lobby Lori for the same thing. Rebuffed, Carol goes on to vent to a zombie that was being retained for experimentation. Carol gets close to the zombie and it begins to eat her, much to Carol’s delight (pictured above).
Society having been as rudely disrupted as it was, it does open the doors for the show to address the idea that previously restricted scenarios like polygamy are fair game. That the subject hasn’t been broached is a missed opportunity by the show (though it may be touched on soon with Negan and his presumed harem). It is also unfortunate that such a grisly suicide hasn’t been recreated in the show by some character or another.
2. Rick becomes a southpaw
Early in the comic books, Rick has his right hand cut off by The Governor (issue 28). It goes without saying that this has a major impact on the protagonist of the story. We understand that there are technical and budget constraints to this happening on the show, but it has caused the show to re-align the character of Rick Grimes; making him more mentally fragile and prone to bad decision making than he is in the comic books. A story with an invincible hero is not one that captures the imagination of millions, and Rick’s mutilation allowed his character to stay sympathetic and vulnerable even when leading his group more ably than his television counterpart.
Rick losing his hand (especially his primary hand) would throw his world into chaos on the television show. We are rarely treated to a differently-abled (that’s handicapped to the less enlightened) hero. Seeing Rick cope with fighting and survival and just daily function without his hand would make for compelling television and we can only (sadistically) hope that showrunner Scott Gimple finds it in his (sadistic) heart to make it so.
1. Blunted trauma
Issue 100 of The Walking Dead featured perhaps the most shocking and stomach-punching death in comics history. The scene, featuring Negan and his Saviors, plays out very similarly in the show, as he captures Rick’s survivors. He proceeds to make a statement by making everyone watch as he bashes Glenn’s brains in with his barb wire-wrapped baseball bat, Lucille. The images are haunting as Negan brutalizes Glenn, all the while making jokes. Glenn is shown, skull crushed, and screaming for his wife, Maggie. The issue then continues with Negan laying out the new rules of the land to Rick; that Negan will force Rick’s group to provide for the Saviors or suffer the consequences. It all makes for a horrific way to end the issue and keep readers waiting a month for the follow-up.
All of this will likely happen when Season 7 premieres. In a highly controversial and contentious decision, the show’s creators decided to end Season 6 with a mystery cliffhanger as to which main character is killed by Negan. Negan plays ‘Eenie Meenie’ to pick his victim and the camera shifts to a first person perspective, replete with a blurry lens and fake-looking blood dripping over the camera for effect. That’s where the episode ends; with the absolute corniest way to convey one of the most serious and devastating deaths we’re likely to see in the show. In doing so, it managed to cause an immense amount of backlash and fan ire, and cause everyone to wait six months before the resolution. The episode will no doubt replay the last few moments of the previous episode in order to build tension back up, but irrevocable damage has been done to the show and its audience base. Of course, most of us, the author included will still be watching when Season 7 premieres… just to see if the show redeems itself.