The Walking Dead was first published almost ten years ago by Image Comics and has since gone on to become one of the best selling independent comic books of all time and has become a global phenomenon. With the first issue selling for thousands and spin off media including television and video games you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of The Walking Dead. With the television show having just reached it’s third series mid-season finale I thought that I’d take this time to look at The Walking Dead, talk about the differences in the various mediums and what makes the title so popular.
The Walking Dead comic is one of the most successful independent comic books ever printed. First produced in 2003 by Image Comics and featuring the creative team of Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore (later replaced by Charlie Adlard), the book quickly became a hit. I first read the book when it was picked at my local book club and was instantly hooked by it. I proceeded to read every available graphic novel and comic until I was up to date, and have tried to stay their ever since. But what is it with the book that one captured my imagination so greatly, and has since turned to massive disappointment?
The beauty of the book was that it was unlike anything else at the time, with most other zombie comic books at the time being mini-series’ that tended to focus on the more horror movie aspect, of people fighting for survival. The Walking Dead flipped this formula on its head, with the story starting months after the zombie outbreak and focusing on the survivors and their journey their relationships.
Instead of focusing on fighting zombies and fighting them physically the books showed the characters fighting their own inner demons, the struggle to come to terms with their losses and their need to find food and shelter. In many cases the un-dead were more of a background object than a central focus.
Unfortunately after a certain while the book recycles the same plots again and again. The Walking Dead seems to follow one particular story structure over and over again. The main group meets some survivors, they join together, they find somewhere they think they can be safe, half of them get killed, they meet more survivors, they join together, and on and on it goes again and again. New characters enter, old ones leave but the book always stays the same because nothing new ever happens.
Yes, there are some good things in the book, some great character moments and twists that genuinely shock the reader, usually relating to a sudden and gruesome demise of a character. Unfortunately these good things cannot stop the fact that there is little to no plot development. After reading the book for a hundred issues I just get the sense that Kirkman never intended for the book to run as long as it has, that he ran out of new and interesting idea a long while ago.
The Walking Dead starts as a great read, but unfortunately decreases in quality over time. If you haven’t read the books, but are a fan of the show or even just curious about The Walking Dead the books are a must read, but be prepared for quality to diminish over time.
Unlike the comic series the television adaptation continues to move from strength to strength. The television series is where The Walking Dead really took off and found a whole new fan base, allowing the series to become accessible to people who would never read the books.
The series is currently in the middle of its third season, with each season becoming more and more popular, with great new actors joining the cast and exciting new story lines that are brand new to the franchise.
The greatest strength of the show is that it doesn’t just completely follow the plot of the comic books, but instead tells its own unique story. As someone who had read the books this difference is what makes the show exciting, even though I know the basic structure of the plots the show is telling, the details are completely unknown to me, and can go in any direction.
My favourite part of the show though is the characters. The show treats the characters from the book much better than they ever were in the original source material. For example, in the books Carl is pretty useless, remaining very child like despite everything that’s happening to the characters, however, in the show Carl as quickly become a hardened fighter, engaging in combat with the zombies as much as his adult counterparts and proving to be a vital member of the group.
In addition the characters created just for the show are also some of the best, with Merle developing in depth with each episode and Daryl being the single best character in the whole franchise.
It feels like the television series is Kirkmans way of going back and correcting his mistakes, of creating a better crafted story than what he first produced. One of the finest examples of doing something better the second time round. A great version of The Walking Dead and one of the best shows on television right now.
The Video Game
The Walking Dead video game is a point and click adventure developed by Telltale games and is currently available for download on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3,with a disc release scheduled over the next few weeks. It is set within the universe of the comic series, but tells its own story that begins before the comic, and eventually runs concurrently to it.
The story begins with the very early days of the zombie outbreak, when people were still unsure what was going on and that the army would sae them. It’s refreshing to see this part of the story as it’s something that hasn’t been shown up till now, with both the comic and the television show starting up after the initial outbreak.
The game puts you in the shoes of Lee Everett, an essentially good man who had made some mistakes in his life and was on his way to prison at the start of the outbreak. Very quickly Lee encounters Clementine, a young girl left on her own. Over the course of the rest of the game Lee becomes Clementine’s protector and surrogate father figure and fights to keep her alive through the end of the world.
Despite being a game that crafts its story based upon the decisions you make, its core story is amazing. It once again focuses on the human aspect of the story rather than the zombies and shows just how delicate human relationships can be, with the wrong words chosen by the player having long lasting and potentially disastrous consequences for the survivors.
The beauty of being set in the same world as the comic books is that it can use what has already come before it to tell its own story with greater ease. It also allows you to meet a number of characters from the books before Rick does, with early appearances of both Hershel and Glenn.
A great, fun and easy to play game that crafts a great story that will have you massively engrossed. It’s very easy to start playing the game and fall in love with the characters, but be warned, just like in the rest of The Walking Dead franchise no one is safe from death, so try not to get too attached whilst playing.
All the best!
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