The Walking Dead Blueprint

I am not a fan of The Walking Dead comic book. There, I admitted it to the world wide interwebz. I read the comic up to the point where Rick and company escaped from the prison.

Why did I stop reading the comic?

First, the comic was too expensive. A few bucks for a couple of black and white pages was a little steep for a college student. Sorry, but it wasn’t worth the $3.00 cover price. Mainly, I stopped reading because the dialogue was infuriating which, for me, made the story unbearable. 

The dialogue characters spouted issue after issue was stilted and forced. I kept asking myself, “Do people really talk like this?”At some points in the story the dialogue was so over the top it wasn’t even funny. For example, Rick announces in one issue, “We are the walking dead!” Yes, the walking dead can be the zombies and the survivors. It’s called an allegory and most writers don’t have to shout it out to the reader.

tyrese walking dead comic

Yes, this is how people talk during the zombie apocalypse

However, it’s not completely Kirkman’s fault. Most comic book writers have to explain exactly what is going on frame by frame and page by page.

It’s not necessarily the limits of the writer (Not all comic book writers can be a Frank Miller, an Alan Moore, or a Neil Gaiman), but a limitation of the medium. To be completely fair, it’s the limitations of the reader.

walking dead comic panel

For those of you lost in the art of subtlety

How many times have you seen a fight in comic book and the characters battling it out are carrying on a conversation? It happens all the time. Pick up a Spider Man comic, an X-Men comic, even a Batman comic and you will see it. I’ve been in some fights, I’ve seen a lot more, and in none of them was there as intelligent conversation going on between participants. However, in comic books everything has to be explained in dialogue so the reader knows what’s going on and what is going to happen next. The general comic book reader does not like a page with no words on it. However, television does not have the same limitations as comic books. Really, the only limitation on a television show is the budget.

When The Walking Dead first aired it wasn’t the pop culture phenomena it has become. It wasn’t Spider-Man, it wasn’t Superman, and it wasn’t Batman. Very few people outside the comic book stores knew the existence of The Walking Dead.

The only thing the general population knew about The Walking Dead was what AMC promos and social media revealed. Maybe they heard some positive things from a friend who had read the comic.

By and large, most people had never heard of The Walking The Walking Dead not being mainstream gave the creators and writers more freedom than if the comic had already been well established in pop culture.

The creators used the source material as the blueprint for the show. They didn’t do a 180, like some other comic book-to-screen adaptations have done, and alienate existing fans. The show’s creators left enough of the source material in the series so it was recognizable to fans of the comic book.

However, they have added and omitted some things, the brick and mortar of the blueprint, that has made the show far superior to the comic book.

walking dead meme that says if daryl dies we riot

The over all driving force of the show are the characters. Daryl and Merle Dixon are not in the comic book series. Daryl’s character has added a dimension not seen in the comic book. In the comic, Tyreese has sex with Michonne, Dale and Andrea have a sexual relationship, Carol wants to be in a threesome with Lori and Rick, and Carol and Tyreese have sex.

The comic has just as much sex in it as it does zombies. Eliminating the needless sex (yes, sometimes sex in a story can be needless) gave the writers the freedom to fully develop the characters far beyond their comic book counter parts.

The series also changed the character of the Governor.

the governor from the walking dead comic

A one-armed, one-eyed Tommy Chong,

Instead of a raving psychopath, as he is portrayed in the comic, the Governor is a manipulator, a user, and a sociopath. He has convinced the people of Woodbury he is a benevolent benefactor with only their best intentions in mind. Michonne called him a “Jim Jones type” and that is the perfect description of the Governor (Phillip? Brian?). If he had been a carbon copy of the comic book the Governor would have been a caricature. He wouldn’t have been a character legions of Walking Dead fans loved to hate.

In the comic book, Lori is shot during an attack on the prison and kills baby Judith when she falls her (seriously). There is no real emotional fallout. However, Lori dying in childbirth, Carl having to shoot her before she “turns,” and baby Judith living has affected all the survivors. At the same time Judith is a symbol of hope she is also a reminder of what they have all lost. The Shane/Rick conflict, which was only glossed over in the comic, was drawn out over a season and half. The ramifications of the fallout have shaped Rick’s character and decisions for the past two seasons.

Who knows what Terminus and its denizens will bring to Rick and the gang in season 5. Whether fans of the comic book like or not it the choices made by the series’ creators have made The Walking Dead one of the highest rated shows on television. 

walking dead promo asking who will arrive

So far, they’ve all survived.

The Walking Dead blueprint has potential for most of the comic book-to-screen adaptations that have recently been announced. Gotham, from everything that has been posted on the internet, may be a lost cause.

Gotham is introducing villains and characters very early in Bruce Wayne’s life which changes the very nature of the Batman/Bruce Wayne dynamic. It is too early to tell whether Gotham will succeed or not, but tween Catwoman and Poison Ivy do not bode well for the show’s survival. However, it could be savable if they play up the grittier angle of the story.

Constantine, a character few people have heard of outside of the Keanu Reeve’s movie, would be wise to follow the blueprint. There are die hard Hellblazer fans, the comic Constantine is based on, who will follow the show. However, there is a lot in the series which may not, and can not, translate to screen. The show doesn’t want to alienate Hellblazer fans, but it can’t afford to  turn off the general television audiences which will decide if Constantine stays on the air.

DC has also announced adaptations of Fables, Sandman, and Metal Men. Very few people, outside the comic book stores, have heard of these titles. A property like Metal Men, who are living metal robots with the powers of certain elements, could definitely benefit from utilizing the blueprint. Metal Men was a silly comic with silly characters, but using the blueprint may inspire some good television.

Recently, the SyFy network announced it had green lit three obscure properties:  Romana, Clone, and Frank Miller’s Ronin. Ronin may be more familiar to older readers than either Pax Romana or Clone, but The Walking Dead blueprint could still be utilizes to trim down the massive story while playing up other elements of the story.

The Walking Dead has found a blueprint that works. Many properties have failed (Aquaman’s 2006 season lasted one season) and many have struggled (Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D) to stay on the air. Future comic book-to-screen adaptations would be wise to follow the blueprint. If they do, both fans and the studios win.

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