The Walking Dead (2010) is one of the most successful cable series of all time, with impressive viewership and unprecedented Nielsen ratings; its popularity has spawned both a talk show The Talking Dead (2011) and a spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead (2015). The show is based on a comic book series of the same name, and the television series relies on and recreates many of the characters, settings, and plots that appear in its source material. However, since the inception of the show, it has also made a point to not follow the comics exactly, changing and reimagining the story in ways that keep its audience guessing.
Now in its sixth season, The Walking Dead has promised to introduce Negan, one of the main (and nastiest) villains from the comic books, notorious for dispatching characters in pretty grim ways. Steven Yeun, who plays Glenn on the television series, said in a recent interview:
Rest assured that we don’t necessarily do what’s in the comics. There’s a clear divide in the way we tell a story on television, and the way that story is told in the comics, because it has to be. And everybody will have to see what happens, but we definitely tell our story in the way that television should be told… That’s the beauty of adaptation.
While this may be yet another red herring – the show has had multiple fake-outs where Glenn narrowly cheats death in its most recent season – the “will they or won’t they?” discussion over whether or not Glenn will meet his end in the season finale remains to be seen. Yeun, however, is correct that the show navigates the story in different ways from the comics, and sometimes dramatically alters and restructures its narrative.
Here are 12 Differences Between The Walking Dead Comics and The Walking Dead TV Series:
***This article contains spoilers for both The Walking Dead comic books and television series.***
12. Revised Deaths
The Walking Dead (2010) has a playful relationship with its source material – it often references the alternate timeline, but reinvents key moments. For instance, in the television series, Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) is attacked by cannibals who eat his legs; he taunts them saying that because he was bitten, they are eating tainted meat. In the comics, however, it is not Bob, but Dale (who had already died on the television show) who meets this fate. Similarly, in the comics, Tyreese is beheaded by the Governor with a katana; in the television show, this is how Hershel (Scott Wilson) is killed.
In the comics, Glenn is killed by Negan with “Lucille,” a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire. This death has been alluded to multiple times in the television series, including Glenn’s near death experience at Terminus, which is pictured above. With Negan’s promised appearance in the season finale (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the question remains: which characters will meet with Lucille?
11. Rick Still Has Both Hands in the TV Show
In a pivotal moment in the comics, the Governor cuts off Rick’s right hand after Rick refuses to give up the location of Woodbury. In the television show, David Morrissey’s Governor has come and gone, but Rick (Andrew Lincoln) did not lose his hand.
Unlike many of the changes from the comics to the television show, this change was largely practical. The difficulties of a constant special effect to modify the main character’s appearance was deemed to be too much money and work, and so The Walking Dead producers decided to forego the brutal dismemberment. Andrew Lincoln wanted his character to lose a hand, and has said that he spent two seasons trying to convince the showrunners to cut it off.
Maggie (Lauren Cohen) and Glenn’s (Steven Yeun) relationship is central in the television show, and was central until his untimely death in the comics. There are many romantic relationships in the comics that never made it to the television show, and likewise, many relationships that the television show added which had not previously been in the comics. In the comics, Andrea (Laurie Holden) is never in a relationship with the Governor, but she is a couple with Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) before his death (yes, that Dale), and later with Rick.
In the television show, Michonne (Danai Gurira) has started a relationship with Rick, but in the comics she dated Morgan and Tyreese (Before which, Tyreese dated Carol.). While Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Rosita (Christian Serratos) dated in both the show and the comics, in the television show, he breaks up with Rosita because of his feelings for Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and not for an Alexandra resident named Holly. To top it all off, Carl and Sophia date in the comics as well.
9. Shane Had a Larger Role in the TV Show
Shane (Jon Bernthal) had a relatively small role in The Walking Dead comics; he acted as the initial antagonist, but died in the first volume, before the group even left Atlanta. His role in the television show, in contrast, spread across the first two seasons, and he acted as both a friend and a foe to Rick over the course of that time. While Shane’s relationship with Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) was just a one-night stand in the comics, their relationship in the television show was longer, which created additional tension between Shane, Lori, and Rick.
Shane’s death is another example of how the television show reimagines the story of the comics. In the television show, Rick kills Shane in self-defense, and then Carl (Chandler Riggs) shoots the zombified Shane when he comes back to life. The reverse happens in the comics; Carl shoots Shane in the throat when he sees Shane attacking Rick, and Rick later kills the reanimated Shane.
8. Judith’s Birth and Death
In the television show, Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies), dies giving birth to a daughter, Judith, while in Woodbury Prison. In the comics, however, Lori – and Judith – suffer a different fate. When Woodbury is assaulted by the Governor, Lilly shoots Lori while she tries to carry Judith to safety. Lori’s body falls on top of her newborn infant, crushing Judith and killing her instantly.
Judith is still alive in the television show, and is safely living in Alexandria… for the moment, anyway. While it is unclear if Shane or Rick is Judith’s biological father, Rick does not seem concerned with her parentage, and fully embraces her as his daughter.
7. Daryl Dixon…
Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) is a clear fan favorite character, whose wild popularity among viewers of the television show has spawned the hashtag: If Daryl dies, we riot. Daryl is Rick’s foil in many ways, and their internal journeys have mirrored each other as they have traveled together through the post-apocalyptic landscape.
Daryl is particularly notable, however, because he does not have a counterpart in the comic series. Instead, he was created specifically for Norman Reedus after he impressed the showrunners while auditioning for the part of Rick. The creative team liked his performance and range so much that they created a character specifically for him.
Daryl’s influence on the group dynamic has been clear and strong from the first season in Atlanta, and he continues to be a major driving force and opinion as the group fights on behalf of Alexandria and the Hilltop in the most recent season.
6. … and T-Dog and Beth Greene and Sasha Williams
While Daryl’s added presence to the television show is often noted, he is not the only character that was created specifically for the television series. T-Dog (IronE Singleton), Beth Greene (Emily Kinney), and Sasha Williams (Sonequa Martin) were all developed for television, and do not have comic counterparts.
While Hershel had other children in the comics, Maggie’s half-sister Beth only appears in the television show, in part filling the place of Sophia, who died in the television show but not in the comics. In the case of Sasha, Martin had a similar experience to Norman Reedus – she auditioned for the role of Michonne, and the showrunners decided that they wanted to create a character especially for her. Because of Andrea’s death in the television show that is not replicated in the comics, Sasha has taken on some of Andrea’s personality traits and skills.
5. Terminus and the Wolves Don’t Exist in the Comics
While Terminus and the Wolves have counterparts in the comics, their names and characters are separate and distinct. This meant that as the characters in the television show moved towards Terminus, even fans of the comics were not sure where they were headed. It turned out that Terminus was based loosely on the Hunters, a group of militant cannibals. While the Hunters are nomadic, Terminus was a large-scale operation which attracted and then trapped unsuspecting survivors.
Likewise, the Wolves appear to be based on the Scavengers, an antagonistic group that threatened the survival of Alexandria. However, unlike the Scavengers, the Wolves are far from neutralized, and could easily also be affiliated with Negan’s Saviors. While the influences of the Hunters and the Scavengers can be seen, Terminus and the Wolves have illustrated the ingenuity of the television show, and its ability to keep fans guessing over what the future will bring.
4. Douglas Monroe Becomes Deanna Monroe
Douglas Monroe is the leader of Alexandria in the comics, but Deanna Monroe (Tovah Feldshuh) leads Alexandria in the television show. This is not simply a gender swap; Douglas and Deanna are highly distinct individuals whose personalities are so different that it seems likely they wouldn’t get along if they met.
Both are former congressmen, but while Douglas is a womanizing sweet-talker who tries to persuade multiple members of Rick’s party to sleep with him, Deanna is a pragmatic realist who is constantly struggling to make the best of a bad situation. Their personalities color the tone of each conversation that they have with Rick and other members of the community.
3. Sophia is Alive and Carol is Dead in the comics
Sophia’s disappearance and death was the focal point of the story in season 2, and was one of the first major differences that marked the television show as being completely distinct from the comics. In contrast to the television show, Sophia is still alive in the comics. She was adopted by Maggie and Glenn after the death of her mother, and she even dates Carl.
The television show creates an alternate reality in which Sophia dies and Carol lives. In the comics, Carol commits suicide-by-zombie after discovering that her boyfriend, Tyreese, has cheated on her with Michonne. But even before her death, Carol is a completely different person in the comics – she’s bubbly and flirty and even proposes a threesome with Rick and Lori. Melissa McBride’s Carol is instead a calculating and manipulative survivalist. Even though both versions of Carol begin in the same place, they have become completely different characters.
Before her death on the television series, Andrea was an extremely unpopular character. Many fans did not connect with her, and found that the choices that she made, especially in choosing to start a relationship with the Governor, were misguided at best. After being bitten by a walker, Andrea shoots herself in the head.
But Andrea has not died in the comics, in part because she never became entangled in the Governor’s affairs. Instead, she survives to see Alexandria, helping to keep the walled community safe as an expert marksman – this mirrors Sasha’s development in the television series. Andrea is also dating Rick Grimes in the comics. While this rarely bodes well for characters in the television show (we’re looking at you, Michonne), Andrea and Rick have dated for so long in the comics that Carl calls her “mom.”
1. The Comics Are Darker
Fans of the television show might think that it pulls no punches, but the comic is far darker and more violent. The television show has spared the Grimes children the worst of the violence – in the comics, Carl shoots Shane in the neck at the age of seven and Judith is crushed by her mother’s dead body shortly after being born. The TV show tries to be dark, but the comics never hold back. The Governor rapes Michonne and she mutilates him in retaliation – cutting off his genitalia, scooping his eye with a spoon, and cuts off his hand before cauterizing the wound with a blowtorch.
The television show obviously has to answer to certain standards that it needs to follow in order to air, but even at its most gruesome, it has never approached the brutality of the comics. With Negan and Lucille on the horizon, the television show has another opportunity to take the comics’ original darker and violent tone to the next level.
How do you think that the television show compares to the comics? What are the biggest differences that you see? Let us know in the comments!