- Books, Literature, and Writing
The Walking Dead Comic: Is It Better Than The Walking Dead TV Series?
Rick Grimes from the Walking Dead Comic
Here's your fair warning- if you haven't read all the available Walking Dead graphic novels, or watched both seasons of the Walking Dead TV series, don't read this article! You will spoil the plot and rob yourself of an unbelievable good time in the process. They're both worth consuming unspoilt, so close this window now and go and pick up a Walking Dead comic book: the walking dead the book version is well worth finding.
With Season Three of the very successful Walking Dead TV series almost upon us, and given the fantastic reception that Walking Dead season one and Walking Dead season two received both critically and in the TV ratings, many people are turning to the original form of the work to see what extra detail they can glean and where the next season might be taking us. The graphic novel has seen a huge increase in popularity in recent years, irrespective of the success of the Walking Dead TV series: previously the preserve of the classically geeky, bespectacled teenage fanatic, graphic novels are now popular among people of all ages. This is particularly true with the publication of, and widely successful reception of, compendia of graphic novels into proper, bound books. Available in this collected form, classics of the comic book genre, such as Watchmen, The Walking Dead, or the Sandman Chronicles, become far more widely available and successful to the average person in the street.
If you’re considering picking up the Walking Dead comic, or rather, the Walking Dead graphic novel to see how it differs from the Walking Dead TV series, or if you love the TV series but have always been put off the thought of reading comics or graphic novels of any sort, I would urge you to give it a go. The Walking Dead comic is a terrific introduction to the comic book genre, and you will undoubtedly enjoy it so much that you’ll soon be picking up other classics. Moreover, if you’re a huge fan of the Walking Dead TV series and are looking to find extra detail, to put some meat on the zombiefied bones, so to speak, then the Walking Dead grpahic novel will definitely do that.
As you’d expect with the adaptation of any form of book into a more visual medium, there is a lot of detail in the Walking Dead comic series that has been removed from the TV series, presumably due to issues of timing and the usual concerns of squeezing 98 (and counting) issues of a comic into a finite number of one-hour TV shows. However, unlike with many adaptations, the Walking Dead comic series actually moves a great deal quicker than the Walking Dead TV series. For instance, the character of Shane who grows to be Rick’s nemesis through the first one and half seasons of the Walking Dead TV series, is already dead about a third of the way into the Walking Dead Compendium One graphic novel. The character of Shane is stretched and embellished by the Walking Dead TV series to give it a prominence that simply isn’t there in the Walking Dead comic. Interestingly, Shane’s fairly rapid departure from the graphic novels does little to detract from his sinister presence- he lurks through the hundreds of pages that follow his death; occasionally present in flashback, more often as an unspoken, undrawn reminder of the potential for any of the characters to lose their sense of reality and proportion, and follow Shane down his path.
This stretching of a storyline that is relatively brief in the Walking Dead comic when it became adapted for the small screen is common to the treatment that the graphic novel is given in this instance. It might be that this is because the producers of the Walking Dead TV series are keen to glean as many seasons as they can from the franchise, or it might simply be down to the many differences between the two media. For whatever the reason, the tendency to stretch the plot of a few pages of the Walking Dead comic over several episodes of the Walking Dead TV series is one of the main reasons that the comic book version of the story is far superior to its TV counterpart. Rick’s injury, waking, recovery, meeting with Morgan and Duane, the unfolding of the zombie plot that he’s missed while unconsciousness, journey to Atlanta and his re-uniting with Lori and Carl can be read in the Walking Dead comic within an hour or so, yet provides grist to the mill of most of the first season of the TV version. The net result is that the Walking Dead comic is a faster-paced experience, with more happening and greater capacity for the characters to develop over time. The reader is more constantly surprised with the events of the Walking Dead comic, while the viewer of the TV series do little more for several episodes than watch people argue about whether to go in and out of Atlanta repeatedly for various reasons, and subsequently, go in and out of Atlanta repeatedly for various reasons.
There are characters in the Walking Dead comic book who so far have not made it into the Walking Dead TV series. This may be a function of the natural process of redaction that is central to the filming of any written story, or it may be something to do with making room for the increased presence of Shane and his storyline. For whatever the reason, some pretty interesting and seriously cool characters from the Walking Dead comic book have not made it into the TV series. The most obvious of these is Tyreese- the former NFL professional who joins the older characters part way through the Walking Dead Compendium One. The interesting background of this character and the impact that his relationship with Rick and several of the female characters has on the dynamic of the group is sorely missing from the TV series. In particular, when Tyreese’s relationship with Rick sours, it’s easy to see why it would be difficult to make room for him in a TV series in which Shane was still alive.
One of the main issues I had with the Walking Dead TV series when watching it was the pathetic female characters. The few women who were in the show were given little to do besides laundry, cooking, gossiping, and occasionally cheating on their spouse. They were victims in every sense- of their circumstance, of their gender and occasionally of domestic abuse. When occasionally one female character or another decides that she wants more from life than washing laundry in a river, this is treated as remarkable and becomes a focal point for the plot, usually causing disharmony with the other women in the show. By contrast, in the Walking Dead comic book, there are some genuinely fascinating and strong female characters- they are terrific sniper shooters, they are stone-cold and slightly insane ninjas, they form unusual and interesting relationships and allegiances, and they do quite a lot more than laundry and gossiping.
All in all, if you enjoyed the Walking Dead TV series, or to be honest, even if you didn’t, you should definitely consider reading the Walking Dead comic books- they’re a terrific read, beautifully rendered, and a first-rate introduction to graphic novels of all types.