The Walking Dead is darkness personified. Though the AMC series has recently taken flack for its violence and subject matter, it doesn’t hold a candle to the comics. Whereas the TV show leans on the occasional humor and flickering romance to add much-needed levity, a sustained reading of Robert Kirkman’s comics is like getting stuck on a roller coaster in the deepest rungs of hell. Even if you try to exit the ride, you’ll never be able to clear the images from your mind.
When things get bad, they only get worse, and if things seem good, prepare yourself for disaster. While the larger differences between The Walking Dead show and comics are well documented, the truly chthonic nature of the source material deserves attention of its own. A quick review of the comic’s darkest moments will prove just how gentle the show is by comparison, and how hopeless Rick Grimes and the survivors truly are.
Here are 15 The Walking Dead Comics Moments Too Dark For TV:
15. The Governor Removes His Zombie Daughter’s Teeth and Kisses Her
There are a great many diversions from The Walking Dead comic and television show, but none encapsulate those differences more succinctly than The Governor. His repulsive treatment of his daughter is at the peak of his madness. Following a series of soulless acts, The Governor reaches his apotheosis when he yanks out his reanimated daughter’s teeth with a pair of pliers. It’s a gruesome image, but before we even grow accustomed to the visual, it’s immediately supplanted by something far worse: the Governor moving in for a full-on make out session.
Unsurprisingly, he vomits instantaneously, but reminds himself that he has yet to get accustomed to the taste of dead daughter flesh. When asked about this reprehensible moment, creator Robert Kirkman said, “[He’s] the worst case scenario for what living in this world does to people…I was just trying to think of the worst things The Governor could ever do.” Mission accomplished, good sir.
14. Dale Gets Cannibalized
In the valley of the apocalypse, it’s hard to recognize the lesser of two evils. The Hunters were loosely adapted in The Walking Dead show, and anyone familiar with the source material can easily understand why. As also happens in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, these post-apocalyptic warriors become full-fledged cannibals who use their own children as food. This primitive behavior is rightly seen as an end-of-the-line survival tactic, but The Hunters take things a step further by expanding their appetite to poor Dale Horvath himself.
After suffering a zombie attack and bite, Dale is knocked unconscious before awaking to a garish sight. With his leg roasting on a spit, Dale earns the privilege of watching the Hunters dine on himself. They taunt him between bites before he bursts into laughter and shouts, “Ha! Ha! Ha! Tainted meat!!” To Dale’s great delight, the Hunters spew chunks to rid themselves of the freshly-poisoned zombie flesh. Though a similar fate befell Bob Stookey in the show, his cannibalization doesn’t quite stack up.
13. The Medieval Torture of the Hunters
In both the comics and the show, there’s little doubt that Rick Grimes will do anything to survive. Though a man of great sensitivity, he also has the capacity for extreme brutality. Immediately after finding a legless Dale Horvath and realizing what the Hunters had done to him, Rick flips off the switch on sentimentality and embraces his inner sadist.
Taking the Hunters captive, Rick teams up with Michonne, Abraham, and Andrea to exert maximum hurt. What ensues is a series of executions and tortures that puts Rick in a league alongside the Governor and Negan himself. In slowly killing and mutilating the Hunters, the comic panels become so relentlessly disturbing that it’s little wonder they didn’t get adapted for the show. Rick even threatens to eat them in the same way they devoured Dale. Had AMC incorporated the real justice shown to the Hunters, Rick would have become a dubious hero with little to no contrast against the villains to come. Indeed, he later shows remorse in the comics for the atrocities committed against the cannibals.
12. Tyreese Kills His Daughter’s Boyfriend (Twice)
Julie and Chris found love in a seriously hopeless place. Like a post-apocalyptic Romeo and Juliet, the pair made a suicide pact with the hopes of living together in eternity. After mutually deflowering one another (the planned final act of their time on earth), Chris and Julie raise their pistols at one another. Though they plan to fire simultaneously, Chris gets too excited and fires early, breaking the pact and ushering Julie into the afterlife without him.
Enter Tyreese, Julie’s over-protective father who barrels into the room and witnesses the scene. While Tyreese sobs and clutches his daughter’s lifeless body, Julie quickly reanimates in her father’s arms before Chris shoots her a second time. In total shock, Tyreese lays Julie on the floor then proceeds to strangle Chris to death in a fit of rage. He then waits patiently for him to reanimate so he can kill him again. No wonder this plotline is completely absent from the show.
11. The Murder of Hershel’s Daughters, Part I
Zombie apocalypses don’t preclude the rise of serial killers. Though he seemed demure, helpful, and even a bit geeky, Thomas Richards was on no one’s radar as a bloodthirsty madman. As with many secret psychopaths, prison inmate Richards proved quite adept at masking his homicidal past and violent motivations.
Like a bursting dam, however, Richards’ impulses eventually broke free and drove him to murder and decapitate Hershel Greene’s dear daughters, Susie and Rachel. While Lori and the other survivors were left pointing fingers at one another, Richards hunted down Andrea and cornered her in a laundry room. Though he failed to kill her, Richards scarred Andrea’s face and pursued her out in the open, screaming, “Come back here, you slut! Time to get your medicine!” Seeing Andrea on the run, Rick came to the rescue and beat Richards to within an inch of his life, disfiguring his face beyond repair. After Richards is killed, his body is thrown to the zombie masses at the behest of the father in mourning.
10. The Murder of Hershel’s Daughters, Part II
As devastating as Thomas Richards’ rise and fall may be, it doesn’t hold a candle to the repercussions Hershel Greene is forced to bear. With no warning about his daughters’ demise, Hershel traipses down the prison’s corridors and hallways looking for Susie and Rachel, only to find them lying lifeless on the floor of the barber shop. The comic panel of him encountering the severed heads of his daughters is among the most scarring in the entire series. Falling to his knees in anguish, the gut-wrenching scene becomes full-blown hell when Susie and Rachel’s heads begin to reanimate.
Knowing where their father stands, the zombie heads glance towards Hershel, who cries out in horror and buries his face in his hands. Glenn, the willing compatriot that he is, walks into the room alone and shoots the reanimated heads before burying them in the prison yard. Later, when Thomas Richards is fed to the zombie horde, Hershel refuses to look away.
9. Everything the Governor Did to Michonne
Though he’s a barbarian in the show, the Governor is a veritable monster in The Walking Dead comics. Few moments match the unmitigated malice in his encounters with Michonne. Ordering his lackey to tie Michonne’s legs to the walls, The Governor prepares to assault her in a way that will “shatter [her] sense of security,” as he puts it. He proceeds to violate Michonne, pledging to do it “every day as often as I can, until you figure out some way to kill yourself.”
Amid all of the abuse, a signal of a coming judgment was forewarned. Battered and bruised, Michonne begins to cry, but not for the reasons you’d expect. Though the Governor tells her she earned it, Michonne speaks of a coming reckoning that would avenge his great many sins.: “I think about all the things I’m going to do to you and it makes me cry. It scares me.” Spoiler alert: she wasn’t bluffing.
8. Michonne’s Full Blown Torture of The Governor
If only the Governor had listened to Michonne. Though his attacks were sustained and sadistic, they are but a shadow of Michonne’s retaliation. After knocking him unconscious with her katana, Michonne strips the Governor down to his birthday suit and ties his arms to the walls. She then wakes him up, informing him that his genitals have been nailed to the wooden plank on which he kneels. Michonne proceeds to introduce her cache of weapons, all of which she intends to use before the Governor breathes his last. Among the items are a pair of plies, a hammer, a blowtorch, a spoon, and an electric drill.
The ensuing panels are too graphic to describe here, but Michonne holds true to her words and methodically destroys the governor with each of her utensils, leaving him emasculated, mutilated, sodomized and blinded. It is truly one of the most horrific depictions of torture in any form, comic or otherwise.
7. Rick Gets His Hand Lopped Off
The amputation of Jaime Lannister’s hand was among the most devastating moments in Game of Thrones. For a character of such strength and confidence, the loss of his swashbuckling hand was humbling beyond repair, and the ramifications of it are still felt several seasons later. Consider, then, the fact that Rick Grimes lost his hand very early in The Walking Dead comics. In issue #28, the Governor lopped it off shortly after his first encounter with Rick. It was a bold statement that would leave Rick with a stump, forcing him to relearn how to shoot with his left hand.
Though a moment like this would not be out of place on the television series, it would undoubtedly impair Rick’s strength and leadership. The producers of TWD have vocalized the logistical nightmare of using greenscreen and bluescreen to mask Andrew Lincoln’s injury, though it’s possible they’re saving it for a later date. Should this indelible moment from the comics get moved from the Governor’s résumé onto Negan’s, it will make for one of The Walking Dead’s meanest sleights of hand.
6. Carl Shoots An Unzombified Shane
Thanks to Jon Bernthal’s visceral performance, Shane’s slow-burning meltdown on The Walking Dead was highly effective. Though the show preserved many of the elements introduced in the comics, however, it abandoned a key one at the end of Shane’s life. After watching Lori choose her husband in an apocalyptic Sophie’s Choice, Shane’s world caves in and sends him fleeing into the woods. With Rick hot on his heels, Shane lashes out at him and holds his friend at gunpoint. His frustration flooding in, Shane yells, “You really did it for me, buddy! You really did it! Oh, yes you did! I’m nothing now, Rick! NOTHING!”
Shane even tells Rick that he wished he stayed dead, and before he reaches the boiling point, an adolescent voice rings out: “Don’t hurt my daddy again!” Boom! Carl stands holding a smoking gun, having shot Shane clean through the neck and saved his father’s life. In the show of course, Carl only killed his would-be stepdad after he’d reanimated as a walker.
5. The Decapitation of Tyreese
Hershel met an identical fate on the TV show, and his execution ranks among the most crushing moments on The Walking Dead. In the comics, Tyreese is also beheaded by the Governor in yet another show of malevolent power over Rick and the survivors. After trying to escape the prison with Michonne, Tyreese is overtaken by the Governor’s men and used as a bargaining chip. Holding Michonne’s katana above his head, the Governor urges Rick and Co. to stand down and save Tyreese’s life. Remaining true to his heroic self, Tyreese urges his friends to do no such thing, prompting the Governor to slowly hack off his head with Michonne’s prized weapon.
To further instill fear into the survivors, the Governor treats his victim’s head like a soccer ball and punts it away. Later, when Michonne stumbles on Tyreese’s reanimated head in the yard, she struggles to eliminate it but does so with tears in her eyes.
4. Maggie’s Attempted Suicide
Even in the apocalypse, suicide is still taboo. Though The Walking Dead has depicted all manner of death and destruction, it hasn’t reveled in attempts at hari kari in the same manner as the comics. However strong her relationship with Glenn may have been in the TV series, those bonds nearly broke on the written page when a series of crushing losses shattered Maggie’s psyche.
After the loss of her father and brother, Maggie struggled to cope with her depression and inability to get pregnant. Before long, Maggie checks out and finds solace in death, attempting to hang herself in the woods. The image of her silhouette dangling from a solitary tree ranks among the most disturbing in the entire series. Though she had clearly committed herself to the act, Glenn found her in time and cut her town. While Abraham was convinced that she had turned and needed to be put down, Glenn and Rick calm him until Maggie regained consciousness.
3. Carol Goes Insane and Commits Suicide
Of all the characters in the show, Carol bears the least likeness to her role in the source material. The Walking Dead comics depict Carol as a highly emotional and dependent woman who seeks affection to calm her spirit. Despite having a torrid relationship with Tyreese, Carol loses him to Michonne and becomes so devastated by his affair that she slit her wrists in an attempted suicide.
Now fully unhinged, Carol flings herself at anyone that will have her, including Rick and Lori. Carol attempts to be the third wheel to their healing marriage, kissing Rick unexpectedly and telling Lori, “I kinda want to marry you.” After putting her hand on Lori’s leg, Carol is roundly rejected and left alone. Sulking in her single status and blooming insanity, Carol turns to her last hope of physical affection: a zombie chained in the yard. Treating the walker like her therapist, Carol spills her guts to the zombie before literally doing so, stepping within necking distance of the undead. The zombie then rips into her jugular, to which Carol excitedly exclaims, “Oh good, you do like me,” before dying in Tyreese’s arms.
2. Carl Executes Ben
In both the comics and the show, Carl is a cold-blood killer. In season three, his decision to kill the boy in the forest comes close to encapsulating his inner rage. However jarring that moment may have been, it was eclipsed in the comics by his calculated execution of Ben, the puerile psychopath in training. Though he seemed to be a fairly well-adjusted lad, Ben showed signs of twisted behavior, physically domineering other children and even (allegedly) torturing and killing cats.
Eventually, Ben’s chickens come home to roost when he brutally murders his young companion, Billy. To prove his mental instability, Billy insists, “Don’t worry, [he’s] going to come back. I didn’t hurt his brains!” While the rest of the adult survivors debate the best course of action for the lunatic child, Carl takes matters into his own hands. Under cover of darkness, he sneaks into the van where Billy is imprisoned and shoots him point blank.
1. Lori and Baby Judith’s Death By Shotgun
When The Walking Dead finally bade farewell to Lori Grimes, it did so with a modicum of respect. The TV series allowed Carl and Lori to have a moment of closure (even if it ended in matricide) and baby Judith to survive. This is a far cry from the tragedy in Robert Kirkman’s source material, of course.
In the comics, Lori survives childbirth with ease, setting her eventual demise up for something far more sinister. After Tyreese gets beheaded and the survivors run for their lives, the Governor’s army gets mobilized. Rick and his family band together and seek shelter, but Carl sprints well ahead of his mother, leaving her exposed. Fleeing the scene with her child in her arms, Lori gets blown away by Lilly Caul (per the orders of the Governor), and the shot tears clean through her and Judith, killing them in an instant. Though Rick is devastated by the scene, he leaves them behind and orders Carl to keep running.
What other Walking Dead comic moments are too disturbing for the show? Let us know in the comments!