Mythic swordsmen are a time-honored tradition, and the blade-wielding badasses enjoy a rich history in the world of heroic fantasy. As time has progressed, the idea of women who wield a sword as fiercely as any man has become a genre staple, and a welcome one. From Marvel’s Red Sonja to Kill Bill’s The Bride, women warriors elevate the stories they are in, and demand the respect they are due at the end of a bloodstained blade.
This has never been truer than it is of The Walking Dead’s Michonne. The dreadlocked, fierce-eyed sword fighter has become a vital component of Rick Grimes’ vision of restoring a society that has been decimated by a world where the dead walk the Earth. In both iterations of Robert Kirkman’s award-winning franchise, Michonne’s character remains constant. But it should be noted that there are differences between the two versions of her that need to be recognized in order to truly understand the level of depth and storytelling she brings to the table. Here are fourteen things you won’t know about Michonne’s character if you don’t read the comic.
— SPOILERS for The Walking Dead comics (and presumably, the AMC series) lie ahead —
14. Michonne was never intended to have a long story arc
Robert Kirkman has said in the past that the idea for a lone swordsman character with two armless pet zombies was an idea he had been cooking up for some time, but he hadn’t really had plans to do much with the character. It was simply one among a plethora of other ideas he had for the expansive concept of The Walking Dead, an inkling of where his vision of a “never-ending zombie movie” might go.
With Image having recently published the 160th issue of the comic, and Michonne having been around since issue #19, that has most definitely changed. The character has become a fan favorite, synonymous with The Walking Dead franchise almost as much as Norman Reedus’ wildly successful show-only character, Daryl Dixon. The katana wielding, sullen-eyed character of Michonne has received critical acclaim, and has even been voted in as one of IGN Entertainment’s Top 100 Comic Book Heroes.
13. She was a lawyer before the apocalypse
A good deal of Michonne’s past is still shrouded in mystery. Characteristically stoic, Michonne has never revealed a great deal of who and what she was before happening onto Rick Grimes’ group as they struggle to create a home for themselves at the prison ostensibly known as the Merriweather County Correctional Facility.
In the six-page special issue that Robert Kirkman wrote and first released in Playboy magazine, we discover that Michonne was in fact a professional, and in The Walking Dead Survivor’s Guide, her occupation is cited as lawyer. In the TV series, it indicates that Michonne once had a three-year-old son. In The Walking Dead #22, however, Michonne confirms that she actually had two daughters, a brother, two sisters, a boyfriend named Mike, an ex-husband, and a mortgage. She lived a mundane yet emotionally tumultuous life that was abruptly cut short when the outbreak first occurred and the dead rose to walk the Earth.
12. Michonne exhibits signs of mental illness
In a world as harsh and unforgiving as the one The Walking Dead is set in, mental illness must be expected, and Robert Kirkman doesn’t shy away from exploring the topic. One of the first instances of this is in shown in The Walking Dead #21, where the reader watches as Michonne discusses the trust issues between her and the group, and not having her weapons.
She talks about how they haven’t warmed up to her, and how she doesn’t care because it’s her very survival at stake. It’s not until Andrea walks in and confronts her in her cell that the reader realizes that she’d been talking to herself the whole time. Later, in issue #53, Michonne admits to Rick that she hears her dead boyfriend’s voice, and talks to him. She tells Rick that she sometimes imagines her boyfriend as being in control, and that it makes the world she lives in easier to deal with.
11. She stole Tyreese from Carol and kinda got him killed
Despite her role as a protagonist in the world of The Walking Dead, Michonne has a dark side that can sometimes manifest itself in vicious ways. Once she establishes herself at the prison, Michonne sets her sights on former NFL linebacker Tyreese Williams without compunction, despite the fact that she’s well aware that Tyreese is in a relationship with Carol Pelletier at the time. Michonne easily seduces the former Atlanta Falcon in The Walking Dead #21, intentionally ruining his relationship with Carol as well as causing the first of Carol’s (eventually successful) suicide attempts. Her actions also trigger a brutal fight between Tyreese and Rick Grimes, ruining that friendship as well.
Later, Tyreese and Michonne attempt an ill-advised tactical hit on the Governor’s Woodbury stronghold. Their raid ends with Tyreese being captured by the Governor and later used in an attempt to force Rick Grimes to open the gates to the prison. When Rick refuses, the Governor decapitates Tyreese with Michonne’s appropriated katana and attacks the prison. Later, Michonne uses her recaptured sword to dispatch Tyreese’s severed, reanimated head.
10. Michonne has no formal katana training
Much has been made of Michonne’s lethal swordfighting skills. With guns having natural drawbacks in a world full of walkers, the whisper of Michonne’s katana holds a clear and obvious advantage for her. Before the day the dead rose, Michonne’s only experience with swords had been as a casual fencing hobby. In The Walking Dead #26, we find out that Michonne studied fencing when she was young and picked up the hobby again during her college years.
When everything falls apart, Michonne goes from the apartment she shares with her boyfriend straight to a neighbor’s apartment. Michonne refers to the neighbor’s high-school aged son as a “little sword junkie” who kept a batch of razor sharp weapons at the ready in his room. When she returns a day later after being boxed in by walkers overnight, her boyfriend and his best friend have both reanimated and immediately attack her. She uses her katana as a scalpel, eliminating their threat to her — though she doesn’t have the heart to finish them off.
9. She figured out how to hide from the Walkers on her own
The first night of the outbreak, Michonne goes looking for food and supplies, including bandages for her boyfriend who has been bitten by a random walker. All she actually manages to find is her katana. After spending a sleepless night in a house down the sleep, Michonne returns to her home to find that Mike has died, reanimated, and has also turned his friend, Terry. Michonne takes Mike’s right arm, then gets them both locked up in another room after finding she’s unable to put them down.
Her food supply eventually runs out, leaving her hungry and increasingly desperate. She notices that the walkers don’t seem to be eating each other, and Michonne figures that she can perhaps use Mike and Terry as camouflage. In Image’s Michonne Special, we learn that it’s a tactic that works perfectly as she recounts her story to her walker entourage because there’s no one else around to talk to.
8. Michonne tortures the Governor after he rapes her
One of Michonne’s darkest moments comes when she, along with Rick and Glenn, are captured in Woodbury by the Governor in issue #27. The Governor rapes Michonne brutally, intending to keep her alive so he can do it again and again until she finds a way to kill herself. Over the next few days, the Governor takes care to keep her alive as he tortures her, even using her screams to torment Glenn, who has also been captured. The Governor tries condescendingly to console her after a particularly brutal session leaves her weeping. Michonne says she’s crying for him, because the things she’s planning to do to him frighten her.
After being released by Rick and Glenn upon their escape from Woodbury, Michonne doesn’t leave with them; she means to make good on her promise to the Governor. In Issue #33, she finds him, and after beating him soundly, she’s finally presented with an opportunity to kill him. She doesn’t do it, though; she wants him to last a while. The Governor passes out repeatedly, as she mutilates his genitals with a hammer and nails, drives a power drill into both his shoulders, rips out his fingernails, and chops off his arm with her katana. Refusing to let him bleed to death, she cauterizes the wound with an acetylene torch, sodomizes him with a sharpened spoon, then uses the same spoon to gouge out his left eye. Finally, she castrates him, nicks his femoral artery, then leaves him to bleed out.
7. Michonne saves Otis’ life to buy her way into the prison
Michonne’s introduction to the story is not unlike her introduction on AMC’s The Walking Dead. Rick Grimes and his family, along with the people he’s picked up along the way, have fought to create a home for themselves at the fortified prison complex. One of the stragglers they collect is the unapologetically racist Otis, who in this continuity has managed to outlive Shane by a pretty fair margin.
In issue #19, Otis is trying to get past the fences of the prison during the Governor’s initial siege on the prison in his horse and wagon, and has managed to get himself surrounded by walkers in the process. Michonne is suddenly next to him with her armless pet walkers and slashes through the horde of undead, allowing Otis time to get to his wagon, and presumably, his gun. Cowardly to the core, Otis opts to hide under his wagon instead of going back to fight. Michonne uses her good dead to buy her admittance into Rick Grimes’ group, coldly beheading her walker companions (formerly her boyfriend and his best friend) before she enters the prison.
6. Michonne has been suicidal and suffers from survivor’s guilt
While Michonne’s character has been developed and defined over the course of the over one hundred and forty issues she’s been in, very little is really known about her. No one even knows her last name. In the Telltale mini-series The Walking Dead: Michonne, Michonne’s mental illness resurfaces as she revisits a past now superimposed on her present, forcing her to relive the act of leaving her daughters Colette and Elody.
Her misery drives her to the brink of suicide, as she looks out at a world devoid of hope. During the fiery climax, Michonne re-experiences the torment of her separation from her husband Dominic and her children. As her world burns down around her, Michonne finally has to confront her demons, her anguish at being forced to leave them as her marriage fell apart, and her survivor’s guilt at still being alive when she knows in her heart that her daughters didn’t survive.
5. Michonne had a romance with Morgan
Michonne’s romantic entanglements continue when she meets Morgan, one of the longest running characters in the story at that time. Surprised at her own feelings for him after losing Tyreese, she confides her feelings for him in Rick in issue #62, admitting that she’s afraid of dying alone. When the group finds the Alexandra settlement, Michonne struggles to fit into what appears to be the resurgence of mundane suburbia. When she and Morgan get to commiserating, it’s not long before their bonding becomes something more.
Their relationship is turbulent from the start, as Morgan is conflicted over his feelings for Michonne after the death of his family. Michonne, for her part, is annoyed at his reticence, and too hardened not to be anything but blunt regarding Morgan’s feelings. Ultimately, the two manage to find a balance and take the opportunity to take things slowly. Their romance comes to a tragic end in issue #83, however, when Morgan is bitten during a walker attack on Alexandria (his comic book counterpart never grows into the stick-wielding badass he’s become on the small screen). Michonne maintains vigil with him until the inevitable end, and does what needs to be done.
4. She’s a great horseback rider
Michonne’s character has proven to be extremely adaptable over the years, and we can now count horseback riding among her many skills. When Aaron is brutally stabbed in an attack by the Whisperers in #155 “Tip of the Spear”, Michonnes first battles the hulking Beta, an opponent who could very well kill her, before she’s forced to break off her attack in order to save Aaron’s life. Michonne, still grieving the gruesome death of Ezekiel at the hands of the villainous Whisperers (more on that in a bit), demands that her companions promise to hunt down the Whisperers and finish them off before she takes off with Aaron.
Michonne rides hard, with a nearly limp Aaron in her arms for over an hour, racing against time as he slowly bleeds out. In the end, Michonne arrives at the Hilltop settlement and races through the main gates of the Hilltop with barely enough time for Doctor Carson to stabilize Aaron’s condition and save his life.
3. Michonne fell in love with Ezekiel
As the Alexandria settlement battles Negan during the events of the “All Out War” storyline (which may be on the horizon for the AMC series), the enigmatic King Ezekiel and the people of his Kingdom enter the scene. Ezekiel is a strong leader, and his fighting men turn the tide of the war against Negan and the Saviors. Inevitably, Michonne and Ezekiel find themselves fighting alongside each other, and once the heat of battle subsides, it becomes obvious that they are attracted to each other.
The two powerful personalities appear to be tailor-made for each other, and it’s not long before their relationship turns physical. It makes it all the more tragic when Alpha (leader of the Whisperers) infiltrates the Alexandria settlement and murders almost a dozen people, Ezekiel among them, leaving their heads on pikes as a warning to Rick Grimes and the united communities to not cross the line into Whisperer territory. Having been away at sea at the time, Michonne never has a chance to find the love she’s searching for with Ezekiel — or even to see him alive again.
2. Her relationship with Ezekiel is seemingly being played out on the show between Ezekiel and Carol
The currently developing relationship between Carol and Ezekiel on AMC’s The Walking Dead appears to be closely paralleling the romance between Michonne and Ezekiel in the comic book’s primary continuity. This may well be an indication as to where showrunner Scott Gimple may be planning to take the show for the second half of Season 7.
Between where the storyline is now and where it will be spans several weeks — and an ocean of spilled blood. One can only hope that perhaps, just this once, the ill-fated storyline will not play out as it does in the book. If in fact a relationship between Ezekiel and Carol is developing, perhaps it won’t be marred by the tragedy and horror of the burgeoning war between the three major communities and Negan’s Saviors. (Or, at least, they’ll give the pair a few episodes to shine before Alpha and her dead skin-wearing followers officially come to town). If the story does progress as outlined in “The Whisperer War” storyline, however, rest assured that misery awaits these would-be star-crossed lovers.
1. Michonne is set to become the leader of The Kingdom
Now that Ezekiel is dead in the comics, having been one the first big casualties of the Whisperer War, the thriving settlement of the Kingdom finds itself without a leader. Michonne mourns Ezekiel’s death as she prepares to leave for a life at sea once more. In The Walking Dead issue #151, Rick suggests that leaving once again would really mean that Michonne was choosing to run away from her problems, and would thereby only make her more miserable.
Confiding in his old friend, Rick tells her just how much he needs her, and how much the people of the Kingdom need her. Without Ezekiel, they are lost, and while they’re all good people, both Rick and Michonne know that none of them are leadership material. Michonne admits she has been considering taking on her old flame’s role for some time, and just needed the push. With Maggie settled in as the leader of the Hilltop and Michonne now eyeing leadership of the Kingdom, Michonne wonders who Rick will install as leader of the Saviors. Not so jokingly…she suggests Carl.
What else would non-comic readers not know about Michonne? Do you think the katana-wielding badass in it for the long haul, or will her luck soon run out? Sound off in the comments.
The second half of Season 7 of The Walking Dead premieres on February 12th, 2017.