Robert Kirkman created The Walking Dead comic books back in 2003. Now there are over 160 issues in the series and it is still going strong. With that many issues, The Walking Dead has a massive amount of material to choose from. Sometimes, though, the tales get changed and original characters and stories are added to keep things from being too predictable. So Kirkman is aware that not everything he wrote for the comics is going to make it into the series.
And the longer the show runs, the more changes happen. There are characters long dead in the books who are still alive on the show, and characters alive in the books who died years ago on TV. Daryl has never appeared in a single page of the comics, but it seems impossible to imagine the show without him. So as the book universe and television universe continues to split, it can be easy to guess what parts of the book will have to be left off the show. But as Kirkman has learned over the last couple of years, sometimes those guesses are wrong.
CBR covered a moment when Kirkman spoke at Emerald City Comi-Con about which characters he did not expect to see on the show:
“A lot of the things that are adapted into the show now are things that happened to come in after the existence of the show, and I can’t help but notice that there is some kind of difference. Now you’ve got Ezekiel walking around, acting like a lunatic. Negan’s walking around — in the comic, he’s dropping the f-word every two seconds, and that’s something you can’t do on the show. We’ve got a freakin’ tiger that’s in the show now.
That was clearly me going, ‘They’re never going to get to this stuff, and if they do get to this stuff, they’re never going to be able to adapt it, so I’m just going hog wild. I had to prove to myself internally that I was not changing what I was planning to do with a mind towards how we were going to adapt it when we got there on the show. I went so overboard that I think it did change in the comic in some way — but I feel like it made it more awesome.”
On TV, Negan may not be swearing as much as his comic book counterpart, but he's just as vicious and ruthless, and still has the same moral code. His language may be toned down, but the things he does with his favorite weapon Lucille are just as gruesome. As for Ezekiel, it was probably his pet tiger Shiva that was Kirkman's biggest concern. But thanks to some impressive special effects work, the tiger is there, right at Ezekiel's side.
Clearly Kirkman never has to concern himself with having the TV show in mind while writing the comic. Because whatever crazy stuff he puts on paper is going to be fair game for the series.
The Walking Dead continues with 'Say Yes' on AMC @9pm.