While Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead comic book was certainly successful prior to the creation of its TV adaptation, it's hard to argue that AMC's dominant small-screen series hasn't greatly increased the reach and pop culture influence of the franchise as a whole. It brings to mind how HBO's Game of Thrones series greatly increased the profile of author George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels.
With 157 issues of The Walking Dead comic now in the books, one wonders just when the story of Rick Grimes and company might finally reach its end. A fan saw fit to ask Kirkman that very question during the San Diego Comic-Con 2016 panel for his company Skybound Entertainment over the weekend, and the often sardonic author responded with a surprisingly candid answer.
Here is what Kirkman told the fan about The Walking Dead comic book series' ending at Comic-Con (hat tip to CBM):
"The end has changed. There was one version that would have had it ending as soon as everybody reached Alexandria."
Whether or not this suggests Kirkman didn't anticipate just how popular The Walking Dead would become is debatable, but it definitely points toward a plan that would have seen the series come to an end much earlier. Rick's group reached Alexandria in issue #67 of the Walking Dead comic, which was released in 2009. Had Kirkman stuck to that idea, Walking Dead may never have even made it to TV, as the AMC adaptation didn't premiere until October of 2010. When one considers just how influential The Walking Dead has become on the TV landscape, it's difficult to imagine what the state of serialized genre dramas would be had it not arrived to shake things up.
While Kirkman has admitted the enjoyment he gets out of circumventing the expectations of Walking Dead fans by not playing things out on TV exactly the way events went down in the comic, the basic plot progression has stayed mostly in line in both mediums. With that in mind, one wonders whether Kirkman intends to bring both the comic and its corresponding TV series to their respective conclusions around the same time.
If that is indeed the case, The Walking Dead would likely only have a few more seasons left on the air, as each TV season moves through quite a bit of Kirkman's printed plot arcs. Either way though, it's doubtful that both stories would end in the exact same way, given the author's aforementioned penchant for surprises.
The Walking Dead returns for season 7 on October 23rd, 2016.