*Note: I am not giving my usual Wiki Pulls in this installment. There are a couple of Wiki entries before but they are nearly 100% spoiler free. Both the Walking Dead comic book and television show are currently ongoing and if anything their audiences are growing. I don’t want to ruin in any of the storylines for people who have yet to enjoy them. Normally I am the first person to yell “Fuck you!” when someone screams “Spoilers” at me but in the case of The Walking Dead I am making an exception.
The Comic Book
For the last installment of my SHOOT FOR THE HEAD series of essays there was no subject I could think of that would serve as a better exclamation point than THE WALKING DEAD. There can be no doubt that The Walking Dead has singlehandedly reinvigorated the Zombie genre worldwide.
I know most of you have at least heard of this little show on AMC. I mean it’s just one of the most popular television epics ever. People of all stripes, whether they are fans of the zombie genre or not, have become fixated on the story of a few desperate Americans trapped in a world where the dead walk and want nothing more than to devour them.
But did you know long before the show there was the comic book?
I was completely unaware the book was going to be released the day walked into my comic book store. It was a Wednesday, every comic geek knows what that means, which mean the new comics were in for purchase. My normal pull list of books was behind the counter but I’ve always been the consummate window shopper and that meant I looked at every book on the rack.
I was blown away by issue one of The Walking Dead. I read the damn thing at the rack, added to my pile, and bought it on the spot. Zombies aside it is one of the best comic books of the last 25 years. It is a tale of family and loss in a world gone mad and I have loved every gut churning heartbreaking issue.
Robert Kirkman took everything awesome about the zombie genre and turned it up to eleven. He paid homage to everything that came before and still forged his own trail into the fandom. To my way if thinking as both a writer and a reader Kirkman stands with both Romero and Brooks as the trifecta of Zombie Masters.
The Walking Dead Comic Book – (Wikipedia)
The Walking Dead is an ongoing black-and-white American comic book series created by writer Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore. It chronicles the travels of Rick Grimes, his family and other survivors of a zombie apocalypse.
First issued in 2003 by publisher Image Comics, the comic is written by Kirkman with art by Moore (issues No. 1 - #6) and Charlie Adlard (issue No. 7 onward). Moore continued to do the covers through issue No. 24.
The series received the 2010 Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series at San Diego Comic-Con International. A television series bearing the same name premiered Halloween 2010 on AMC. The series has inspired a Kirkman-approved prequel series of novels prolonging the comic book's timeline.
The Television Show
When it was announced that The Walking Dead would be coming to television as an ongoing series I was excited and terrified. On one hand I’d spent nearly my entire life wishing the Mayor of Hollywood would allow such a thing to happen. On the other hand if they fucked up one of my favorite stories of all time I was going to burn some random fast food franchise to the ground with my anger.
I’m an all of nothing kind of guy when it comes to zombies.
In August of 2010 the long trailer premiered at the San Diego Comic Con. It went up on YouTube the same day and watched a hundred times in that first week. Almost all of my fears were assuaged by that sneak peek. I will admit the image of the hospital doors chained with “Dead Inside” written on them and the hand of a woman, broken nails and all, reaching between the doors and through the gap was enough to give me nightmares.
The Walking Dead premiered on Halloween night 2010.
That night will be forever burned into my gray matter. The whole family gathered in my living room, sans my oldest daughter who hates zombies, and we experienced the show. We spoke very little as 90 of the most intense minutes of television ever produced played across my screen.
And how was it?
It was fucking amazing!!!
Often when things are so built up in a person’s mind that it’s all they can think of the reality is almost inevitably a complete let down. For me the best example of this phenomenon is the book Hannibal. I’d been a massive fan of both Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs and when it was announced that Thomas Harris was adding a third volume to the series I had the literary equivalent of morning wood. I was at the local Books and Company (any of you remember that chain?) when it opened on the day of release. Eight hours later I was tired and a seriously pissed off young man.
Lesson learned that day? Always go in with the lowest expectations possible. I managed to live that way for a long time, at least until The Walking Dead premiered.
The Walking Dead TV Show – (Wikipedia)
The Walking Dead is an American post-apocalyptic horror drama television series developed by Frank Darabont. It is based on the comic book series of the same name by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. It stars Andrew Lincoln as sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes, who awakens from a coma to find a post-apocalyptic world dominated by flesh-eating zombies. He sets out to find his family and encounters many other survivors along the way.
The Walking Dead premiered on October 31, 2010, on the cable television channel AMC in the United States. It premiered internationally during the first week of November 2010 on Fox International Channels. Based on its reception, AMC renewed the series for a second season of 13 episodes, which premiered on October 16, 2011. Two episodes into the second season, AMC announced that the show would return for a third season of 16 episodes, which began airing on October 14, 2012. On December 21, 2012, AMC renewed The Walking Dead for a fourth season of 16 episodes, which premiered on October 13, 2013. On October 29, 2013, AMC renewed it for a fifth season, which premiered on October 12, 2014. On October 7, 2014, AMC renewed it for a sixth season.
The series has been well received and has been nominated for many awards, including the Writers Guild of America Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama. It has also attained strong Nielsen ratings, surpassing various records for a cable series, including viewership of 17.3 million for its season five premiere, making it the most-watched drama series telecast in basic cable history.
The Walking Dead is one of the shows that have redefined television entertainment in the early 21st century. I would put it up there with The Sopranos, LOST, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and Dexter (Until Season 6) as one the most influential and important shows ever made.
I still collect the comics and I watch the show religiously. I have no idea where the story lines are headed and truth e told if someone offered me a look behind the curtain at what is to come I’d say no. I am so much a fan first of the series that I want to be surprised by what’s coming next. I want to discuss issues and episodes as they are released and shown. I can lose myself in the story and world of The Walking Dead like I have no other show since Star Trek. In the end that says everything.