Robert Kirkman’s ongoing comic introduced readers to the world of The Walking Dead long before the AMC TV series mesmerized fans. In many ways the comic is more expansive and intricate than the limited world of the show. Between paring down content and going in new creative directions, the TV series has diverged from its source material in some major ways over its seven seasons. Here are 10 of the biggest differences between the comics and the show.
Spoilers for the comics and the TV series to follow.
Dale and Sophia live longer, and Carol dies
The Walking Dead is about the zombie apocalypse, so death is integral to almost every plotline. Beloved characters regularly die and are replaced by new players in both mediums, but the how and when are frequently different. For instance, Carol is still a fan favorite character on the show; viewers loved the cookies she made in Alexandria in Season 5. But comic readers never saw Carol in Alexandria … because she was already undead breakfast by then. In contrast, Carol’s daughter Sophia, who died in Season 2 of the show, is still alive and well in the comicverse.
RV aficionado Dale’s death also differs wildly between the show and the comics. He died at Hershel’s farm in Season 2 of the TV series, but in the comics he made it all the way to the prison and met The Governor before succumbing to a walker bite on his shoulder.
The walkers in Hershel’s barn were more deadly
When Rick opened the barn at Hershel’s farm in the television series and zombies started pouring out, including poor Sophia, it was basically like shooting fish in a barrel for Rick and his friends to take them down. The unveiling in the comics had much deadlier consequences. The door to the barn broke, and there was no planned response like in the television series. Several people were bitten and died, including Hershel’s son.
Carol’s character arc is totally different
Carol has changed significantly in the show since her introduction in Season 1. She’s gone from being timid and defeated to kicking butt, often at the cost of her humanity—although all her decisions are motivated solely by her love for her “family.”
In the comics, Carol never had this renaissance. She became despondent after a break up with Tyreese, who she had a relationship with in the prison, and after Rick and Lori rejected her offer of a polyamorous relationship. Eventually, she decided that death was her only option and let a walker tear her throat out. Her suicide devastated her daughter Sophia, who eventually came to consider Glenn and Maggie her parents.
Rick loses a hand
Rick’s gone through a lot in the years since the Walker apocalypse. One of his most traumatic experiences in the comics was when his right hand was cut off by The Governor the first time they met.
Rick’s been a lefty for a long time now in the comics, but in the television show both hands are working fine. There was a close call last year during Season 6 when Rick’s hand was cut during a walker attack, but it was just a red herring. TWD creator Robert Kirkman says he regrets cutting the hand off in the comics (in part because it makes it harder to draw Rick buttoning up his shirt), and it may not ever happen in the show.
The comics have some surprising couples
Apparently, walkers are better at getting people together than Tinder. The show has only hinted at the numerous romantic relationships characters have in the comics. Here are just a few of the comics pairings that didn’t happen (or have yet to happen) on TV: Michonne and Morgan, Tyreese and Michonne, Andrea and Rick, Tyreese and Carol, Andrea and Dale … the list goes on and on. I guess when you’re the last members of humanity that don’t crave brains and smell REALLY bad, there’s not much to do but explore your dating options.
In the show, Rick’s baby daughter Judith helps Rick maintain his humanity, and is an innocent inspiration for his whole crew, especially Carol and Carl. But in the comics, she never made it out of the prison she was born in. Although Judith’s mother Lori died in childbirth in the television show, she lived in the comic version—just not for very long. When the Governor led the assault on the prison, Lori was fatally shot in the back while carrying Judith. She fell forward, crushing and killing the infant.
Beloved characters don’t exist
Any time there is the potential for show favorite Daryl to get killed, the Internet explodes with “If Daryl dies, we riot” memes, but he’s nowhere to be seen in the comics. The producers liked Norman Reedus so much, they created a character just for him to play. They did the same for actress Sonequa Martin, who plays Sasha on the show.
Hershel’s daughter, Beth, is another TV character who was never in the comics. Beth was created to replace Sophia, who died on the farm in the TV series, but not in the comics. Beth has an extensive arc, culminating in a tragic death that has a huge impact on both Daryl and Maggie.
Terminus? What Terminus?
Mention Terminus to a fan of the show, and they can go on all day about cannibalism and the famous “tainted meat.” But there was no place called Terminus in the comics; the characters in the show’s all-you-can-eat Terminus buffet were based on “The Hunters” from the comics.
The Wolves did some serious damage to Alexandria in the series, but you won’t find a single carved “W” in the comic books. The TV show’s Wolves were based on characters called “The Scavengers” in Kirkman’s series.
People say the Z word
We all know that the walkers are zombies, but no one seems to know that in the television show. Characters call the undead everything from walkers to roamers, but the z-word is never uttered. But the comics aren’t afraid to call a spade a spade. ‘Zombies’ has been used in the comic, along with the other names.
There’s even more carnage
AMC isn’t HBO. Despite the infamous Glenn eyeball scene and frequent rending and biting of human flesh on the show, The Walking Dead creators have actually toned down a lot of the carnage from the comics. For instance, in the comics, Michonne takes revenge on the governor by scooping out his eye with a spoon, drilling a hole in his shoulder, and cutting off his penis; Judith is crushed by Lori in a heartbreaking panel; and Carol lets a walker tear out her throat, smiling eagerly while it happens. When Carl’s eye is shot out, the gory injury is front and center.
The television series is still far behind the comics chronologically, and there are bound to be even more differences as the seasons play out. I love both versions, but these sometimes subtle, sometimes overt changes keep fans of both mediums guessing.
Featured image of “The Walking Dead” via Image Comics
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