I am a big fan of The Walking Dead. Scratch that, a huge fan of The Walking Dead. In my (not so) humble opinion, this is one of the best shows on TV despite a couple of its end-of-season-1/start-of-season 2 faults and misfires. For those that aren’t aware (and honestly I had no idea until about halfway through season 2), it is based on an extremely popular comic book series of the same name. Thanks to my brother-in-law (love you, man) and his Christmas present to me of an Amazon gift card, I went ahead and ordered one of the giant Omnibus editions of the comics to get some perspective on the show through the source material.
Now that I am through with reading the first collection, I wanted to revisit season one to see some of the similarities and differences between the two. The comic has certain strengths over the show, and the show made some very appropriate decisions to carry it above the book in many respects.
In both instances, I appreciate the fact that the story starts in the middle of the “zombie invasion” rather than at the beginning of the outbreak. The creator thought that every zombie-invasion book or movie starts with the initial outbreak and essentially nobody cares to see more of the same. So in both cases it starts out with Rick waking up from coma in an unexplained world full of walkers.
Also, The casting of the show is spot on to the source material. In most cases, you would think that the characters were being drawn from the actors rather than visa versa. But where the comic really shines is in character development that is somewhat missing from the show. Each character seems a little more fleshed out in the comic universe than was allowed to happen in the first season.
The show adds a ton of cool themes which were probably easy to put together as the creators took a retrospective look on what could have been improved in the comic. The chained doors in the hospital with “Don’t Open Dead Inside” painted on them is a great memorable touch. Also the zombie wife coming back each night to try and find her husband and child was a heart-wrenching moment made for the show. And Rick and Glen walking around downtown covered in zombie juice is simply fantastic as well as Rick coming back for Merle and only finding his sawed off hand.
Some other big differences:
- In the book they call the zombies “roamers” instead of “walkers”. I think calling them walkers fits a little better overall especially with the title. Although the book makes a big point of the dichotomy of the title really referring to Rick and his group ironically being the “Walking Dead”
- Shane dies almost immediately in the comic shot by Carl when he threatens Rick’s life. This was a great call by the show because the Shane/Lori/Rick tension was better explored over time. Carl’s penchant towards violence came from nowhere and was again better as a slow simmer in the show. And Shane turning into a walker and finished by Carl was a stroke of genius by the writers.
- Andrea and Dale are a couple in the comic rather than Andrea being the loner-type.
- In the comic they stay in the city for all of 5-7 pages. Good call by the show to stick with it longer.
- They also very briefly stay at Hershel’s farm in the comic which was a bad call of the show to stay there for what seemed like forever. Also, the dead girl in the barn is Hershel’s daughter rather than Carol’s daughter. This was an obvious choice by the show in my opinion since the audience had more emotional attachment to Carol at that point where when her daughter finally hobbled out of the barn it was a heck of a shocking twist.
- The show mixes up the characters a whole bunch. Merle and Darryl aren’t in the book at all nor is T-Dogg and some of the other random folks from the beginning couple of episodes. There are a few folks completely absent from the show, most notably a guy named Allen and his two twin boys who are somewhere around Carl’s age.
- The comic never goes to the CDC, the group goes straight from the city to a random neighborhood, to Hershel’s farm to the prison. I’ll chalk this up to a win for the comic, since the CDC side story was pretty stupid.
- Hershel’s farm never gets overrun in the book as it does in the show. In the book, Rick finds the prison and convinces Hershel and his family to move there with their group. This does nothing but break bad for Hershel.
- Tyreese is introduced as a character much earlier in the comic than the show.
- Carol is some sort of funky nympho in the book taking passes at essentially everybody including Lori (although Carol is technically dating Tyreese). In the show, she is much more of a scared/abused spouse to where her comic book personality had many more possibilities.
- Michonne does a lot more than stand around looking pissed all the time, including seducing Tyreese which leads to a huge knock-down/drag-out between him and Rick.
- Rick doesn’t chop off Hershel’s leg, he chops off Allen’s leg (who isn’t in the show). A lot more tragedy happens to Hershel in the book than the show, so the leg would have just been insult to injury. Allen also dies from his injury leaving his two boys behind.
- The show mixed the Governor and Woodbury in with the prison storyline which doesn’t happen in the comic. Perhaps this is to force me to buy Omnibus number two.
- There are only three prisoners in the book instead of the group seen in the show. They are all equally as crazy and judging by happenings in the comic, there is going to be some pretty messed up stuff going on in the rest of the season.
So which one is better? They’re both awesome in their own ways. Although I will always be a little more bias towards the show since I started liking the Walking Dead franchise from the show first, and after all I’m a MWTVG, not a MWCBG.