I know what you’re thinking – “Great, here’s another pretentious comic-loving hipster whining about how AMC is soiling the name of his beloved The Walking Dead. Kirkman already stated he views the TV show as a way to explore his existing story with different choices, so you have nothing to complain about. They’re completely separate entities. Go back into your basement where you live with your Mom and cry about one of your favorite comic book properties becoming mainstream, wiping the tears away with fingers covered in Cheese-Doodle residue. We get it, you liked The Walking Dead before it was cool, but nobody cares you poor attention-seeking bastard.”
Jeez Internet, take it easy! Trust me, I respect the fact that AMC’s zombie juggernaut is breaking records left and right, so enough of the population are eating up the show like a horde of walkers tearing through a few measly survivors, but the bitter, judgmental critic in me just CAN’T ignore how unfathomably frustrating Rick and the gang’s on-screen exploits are. I’m dumbfounded by the ratings numbers personally, as hype only builds while quality spans highs and lows more uneven than Lori’s emotional teetering, but I’d really like to know how many viewers have actually bothered to read the vastly superior comics.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying The Walking Dead is the worst show in TV history, because I’ll still watch it and overall I’ll still stay pretty middle-of-the-road on the whole thing, but I am saying the show doesn’t portray the graphic beauty and brilliant storyboarding that the comic is so well-known for. The show is nothing but a shallow zombie-drama that fails to deliver moments that have left me emotionally drained, physically sickened, and joyously entertained like Kirkman’s comic has.
I think it’s safe to say spoilers are to follow, between both the show and the comic, but I’ll try to leave out anything too different or show-stopping so you television fans can give the comics a try, which I emphatically recommend – especially if you think AMC’s show is as monumental as it’s become.Next
1) Emotional Impact Of Character Deaths
The best quality of Kirkman’s comic is hands down its ability to establish these wonderful characters, give them a proper backstory and personality, get us emotionally invested, and then have them suffer a horribly gruesome and grizzly death which hits you like a sucker-punch to the stomach.
Compare that to the show, and every single death has been like getting poked and prodded with a wet noodle – you don’t even give a damn. Hell, I’ve even found myself rooting for characters on the show to die not because I hate their personalities or actions, but because they’re lifeless wastes of space who don’t add important substance to the show.
Dale in general is a perfect example for the show’s character misuse, but his death is especially wasteful and forgettable. Jeffrey DeMunn’s Dale was nothing but a rambling old man who only interjected fartsy senior wisdom and lectured the camera, while the comic version of Dale was a savior to one of the most important survivors, not to mention being a lover to that same character – which raised some pretty morally ambiguous relationship points about what flies in the apocalypse.
Either way, when Dale is torn open by that field-wandering zombie that Carl let free, all I could think about was how such a prolific comic book character was unjustly re-invented for the screen without an iota of the same gripping presence. Then compare that to his death in the comic, and it’s even more disturbing, as Dale goes out in a blaze of heroic glory that saves the entire group from an outsider threat. I won’t say who or how, but I can guarantee you his final actions are in no way what you’re imaging right now. No guns or fighting – just trickery and self-sacrifice.
See pretty much every death in the show thus far – including Andrea.Previous Next
2) Terrible Season Finales
Another cornerstone of Kirkman’s comic are these epic, game-changing story shifters that are equivalent to television season finales, changing the tone of the comic and restructuring the group in ways that leave you breathless from intensity. The show on the other hand has done nothing to tie up each season in a way that drops any bombshells, and ends up causing more harm than good.
Season 1 of course has the grand CDC ending, which really was a bowl of fail-pasta covered in lamesauce. All that work just to get Rick into a building where some scientist can whisper a secret, Andrea can almost make a bad decision, and then have some crazy lunatic self-destruct a perfectly livable area? Cue Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again” and watch everyone drive into the sunset. Pass.
Season 2 was a little better, as Hershel’s farm is overrun by zombies and the group fights to get away safe. People are split up, there’s some decent action, and Andrea meets Michonne. OK, sure, even though season 2 was a steaming pile of nothing (which I’ll get to soon), I’ll admit the season finale was the only thing that made me continue on to season 3.
Don’t even get me started on the season 3 finale though. Whatever credibility was built during the first half of season 3 and our first glimpses into Woodbury are completely wasted by ending the season on such a sour note, leaving a bad enough aftertaste to overpower a strong seasonal start that had me gearing up for a brand new ass-kicking rendition of AMC’s The Walking Dead.
Why Season 3′s Finale Sucked:
I mean, why didn’t it? The whole Governor arc was left wide-open so he can lurk around the jail and attack at random, but with what army? At this point all he has left as backup are Martinez and Bowman, and even they are getting flaky on their maniacal leader. But still, even armed to the teeth, it’s 3 against a whole town now. Hell, the Governor couldn’t even beat Rick’s gang by attacking with like 20 foot-soldiers, what’s he going to do with three people? What could have been a grandiose shootout turned into nothing but an old-timey western where bullets fly freely but never seem to hit a single person. Didn’t Shane teach everyone how to shoot, dammit?!
Let’s not ignore the fact that Rick had the chance to take Woodbury for himself, and didn’t. I mean, OK, given the choice, where would you want to make camp? In the gloomy old jail cell which has a gaping hole in the back discovered by Tyreese, or the tried and true fortress that is Woodbury, a place that’s actually meant to house people in an entire town-like setting complete with amenities? Nah, let’s just pile everyone in a bus, leave the completely secure and walled-in town alone, and stuff everyone behind some chain-link fences that no longer are protected by guard towers because Martinez blew the shit out of them with his grenade launcher. Everyone can get a cell, it’ll be great!!
It’s the happy ending nobody wanted, that made zero sense.Previous Next
3) Inconsistent Quality From Episode To Episode
I’ve already pointed to the horrible ups and downs that The Walking Dead forces viewers through, but let’s really analyze it. Why is it that after one good episode, we’re always stuck with two stinkers? In Kirkman’s comic, I always feel on-edge about even the most mundane moments because shortly thereafter some twist always hits out of nowhere. Oh, everyone is happy in the prison and the convicts are nice? Let’s turn one of them into a closet serial-killer who mutilates two children and cause a tremendous commotion. OK, a horrid and disgusting example, but Kirkman’s comic never lets you catch your breath, and is relentless with how easily major characters can be killed and how quickly our survivors world can turn to utter shit.
The show on the other hand moves as sluggishly as a 400 pound man running a mile, only able to exert exorbitant amounts of energy in small spurts. For every attack or rescue Rick has to pull off, we’re given two following episodes where our shallow characters whine about their feelings, cry about the events, and blandly walk around with seemingly nothing to do. Honestly, the jailhouse story-arc should be done with by now, but apparently AMC thought it best to drag out this utter silliness for an entirely new season?
Season 2, Episode 4 – the original title of the episode is Cherokee Rose, but it can just been re-named “The Gang Finds A Zombie In A Well,” complete with a scene out of Looney Tunes where the survivors try to lower Glenn in the well without dropping him…BUT ALMOST DROP HIM! GASP! AHHH!!
Hell, I might have enjoyed it more if they DID drop Glenn and he died – at least the event would have been more in-line with Kirkman’s comic.Previous Next
4) Blandness Of Characters
Another super-sore point with me is how underdeveloped our TV show characters are compared to our comic characters. Want an example? Look no further than T-Dog! Seriously, was his only purpose to die in season 3? There were entire episodes throughout season 1 and 2 where all T-Dog did was stand against a tree in the background, sit on a stoop in the background, or walk aimlessly in the background. All and all, he’s a BACKGROUND character, yet all of a sudden is given a martyr’s death like we’re supposed to give a damn? Yes, I know some people are out there singing T-Dog’s praises after his move that saved Carol, but all I saw was another weak attempt at some moving moment wasted by having a character who didn’t mean a damn to the show.
In Kirkman’s comic though, I’ve literally become choked up over certain deaths due to the immense emotional connection and more vibrant personalities. I’m trying to think of a specific example that won’t give too much away, but I can’t even. Maybe because in the comic our artists can draw the exact emotion needed for that exact moment, or because it’s easier to create a backstory on paper with speech bubbles, but you learn so much about each and every survivor through the pages it’s hard not to feel some sort of connection. Sadly, I haven’t had that happen to a single character in the show. Rick could die right now and I wouldn’t bat an eyelash.
See Dale, Lori, earlier versions of Carl, T-Dog – the list goes on.Previous Next
5) The Comic Trumps The TV Show In Brutality
Ignoring the much gorier season 3 of The Walking Dead, AMC’s show hadn’t come anywhere near how graphic and grotesque Kirkman’s comic is, missing out on certain horror elements and more horridly squeamishness moments. Sure, I’m glad Glen Mazzara injected some much needed life into the show with much more approvable zombie deaths and some pretty gruesome scenes, but his unforgivable season finale seriously makes me question whether it was all worth it. The body count rose, creativity definitely improved, but it also doesn’t make up for the fact that seasons 1 and 2 were missing this new-found excitement for entirely too long. It shouldn’t have taken until the season 2 finale just to give us something worth biting into.
The comics on the other hand have literally made me cringe through some scenes – and not even deaths. Not to spoil any momentous events, but pretty far into the story something happens to Carl during a zombie attack, and there’s a full pane where he just looks at his dad displaying the wound, and my heart literally jumped into my throat. In the comic realm, Carl has seriously been put through the ringer, and I respect that character so much more than our now TV show “badass” who’s been desensitized to violence, and that panel literally knocked the wind out of me – something I don’t think TV Carl can accomplish.
The things done during Rick’s war with The Governor are entirely more brutal and vicious than the TV show. I’m not sure if that’s where they’re going with season 4, but up to now, Kirkman’s comic spilled gallons more blood than AMC’s version of the Woodbury vs. Jail territory war.Previous Next
6) Crazy Rick = Worst Rick
Alright comic fans, this is where I need your support – isn’t AMC’s version of Rick a total bitch? I don’t expect non-readers to understand, but he’s got so much more gusto and machismo in the comic, while also being entirely human. He’s a leader, father, but also an extremely flawed character who makes mistakes like the rest. Still though, he does so with much more gumption and presence than his show counterpart, which was really evident to me when he started seeing Lori’s ghost.
Ignoring the fact that apparently a zombie ate Lori whole, her death in the show came as a sigh of relief due to her increasingly annoying nature. In the comic, Rick starts hearing his wife’s voice on the phone, which is carried over into the show when Rick picks the phone up and hears voices, but then AMC took it a step too far in the crazy direction by making Rick start hallucinating Lori’s ghost. OK, he’s distraught, not sleeping, angry, depressed, Rick’s a whole lot of emotions bursting out at once, but to do something as cliched as having Lori’s ghost haunt him? I honestly couldn’t stand the scene where he wandered around outside the jail aimlessly trying to chase Lori’s ghost in the woods, striking a super-low character point for Rick. Honestly, this arc was nothing but laughable.Previous Next
7) Season 2
Where do I start with season 2, or “Rick And The Gang Work On A Farm” as I like to call it.
Certain points of season 2 were detrimentally inexcusable, from including entire episodes which just show our survivors jawing away with Hershel’s clan, botching Shane’s death compared to the comic, and dragging on the search for Sophia longer than necessary. Season 2 also happens to be the biggest offender of inconsistent quality mentioned before, only containing probably two hours of gripping television versus the other eleven or so hours of nothingness. The whole thing just felt like a ho-hum family drama taking place during a zombie apocalypse that apparently ignored a little plot of rural farmland leaving plenty of time for characters to argue about love-triangles, episodes to pass excruciatingly slow, serious life lessons to be learned – hell, at least it gave us plenty of time to learn why we should hate Lori!
Boredom, nothing but absolute boredom was found on the farm. Boredom, bland speeches from Rick to his son, the gang learning to shoot weapons, Shane’s inevitable downfall, Lori’s frustrating emotional rollercoaster, some deaths no one cared about, the before mentioned well-walker, and lots, lots, LOTS of downtime.
I feel like I slept through season 2 honestly. One minute I was watching the CDC explode, the next I’m watching Rick stumble upon the jail – or maybe that’s just how I wish it happened.Previous Next
8) The Television Show Is Frustratingly Safe
I need your help again comic book fans. Is it just me, or is Kirkman’s comic more dangerous and boundary-pushing? I can’t help but shake this feeling of safety and caution during the creation of AMC’s show. Kirkman’s comic is grittier, darker, and questions apocalyptic thinking in a way that absolutely has the biggest set of balls. No topic is too taboo. Love, survival, morality – storylines get deep and don’t avoid the dirty stuff.
Shane’s Death is the first instance that comes to mind, so let’s recap that real quick. In the show, the build-up to Shane’s death sees him at odds with Rick for most of season 2, until finally ending in a showdown with Rick at high-noon (or just at a random location away from the farm). Rick ends up killing Shane, his corpse reanimates, and Carl kills zombie Shane. My reaction – “OK, Carl killed a zombie, someone who has already been killed. Meh.”
Now jump to the comics and it’s something completely different, and entirely more meaningful/edgy. You’ve got the same type of standoff but Shane has Rick unarmed and dominated. Pleading for his life, Rick tries to reason with Shane, but it’s no use as he yells about how Rick never was meant to live and he was never meant to come back. But just as all seems lost and Shane goes to cock his shotgun, a bullet rips through Shane’s neck, killing him – and this is in the very first volume mind you. A child is forced to kill a human being, one who he grew close to and became connected with, but Carl did what he had to in order to save his father. Gut-wrenching, powerful, and completely out of left-field – and also the perfect way to set a precedent of deeply disturbing material.
Kirkman takes risks with his comic material that may seem too forward and progressive for AMC, but that’s also a major reason why his comics kick so much ass. The Carl example happens early on and is similar to the show, which is why I picked it to exemplify this point, but trust me when I say there are moments 10x more appropriate that I can’t bring myself to spoil. All I’ll say is Lori’s baby. Season 4, you know what to do.Previous Next
9) No Zombies?
So I guess I’ll be a little positive after being such a downer, because season 3 took care of my next complaint, but I still have to raise it just because of historical reasons.
I mentioned before that The Walking Dead show felt like a drama taking place during the apocalypse, and that’s majorly because entire episodes would go by with only one or two walkers seen in the background. Again, not to harp on a single season, but how can we NOT look to the farm for this. Am I correct in saying there were one or two episodes where we didn’t see a SINGLE zombie? I tend not to vividly remember because, well, there wasn’t much worth remembering in season 2, but one aspect I couldn’t understand was the lack of “walkers” in a show called The Walking Dead.
Season 1 did a decent job of peppering in the undead, even though we lost time when our survivors took refuge in the CDC – but that was understandable. What wasn’t understandable was how we survived most of season 2, from stumbling upon the farm all the way to the finale where there finally was an attack, with minimal zombie action. Otis and Shane’s wild ride was one episode, and Shane and Rick’s tussle was another – but what else?Previous Next
10) The Comics Are Perfect, Why Change It?
There’s an argument to be made that a TV show that differentiates from the comic is a good thing because of the reasons Kirkman has voiced before. It could be a totally different creative rehash of past events that keep comic fans guessing while reeling in new fans that may pick up the comics for a completely different experience. I don’t argue that – hell, I think it’s a novel idea. So what’s my problem? AMC’s The Walking Dead has been trying this for three seasons now, and has failed mightily in this respect.
Any way you look at it, Kirkman’s comic exists in a league of its own compared to the show. It’s the minors versus the majors. Rookies versus the Veterans. Pros Versus Joes.
But it’s not just here and there – it’s every aspect. Story, horror, gore, character depth, tension, action, entertainment, replay value, excitement, insanity, creativity, boundary ignorance, morality questioning, mental stimulation – the television show is nothing but a hollow shell of a larger, better, faster, stronger version of The Walking Dead. I know some people aren’t into reading and don’t want to suffer the stigma of owning a comic, but I can’t stress enough how hooked I was after only reading Volume 1 of The Walking Dead. Since then, I’ve never finished a volume in less than one consecutive reading, being entirely too gripping to peel myself away from.
If you’re struggling with the TV show, there’s no doubt you’ll appreciate the comic – it’s hardcore horror with an amazing take on a post-apocalyptic zombie world. If you love the TV show and think it’s intense, the comic will blow you away, but if the show is already too much to handle, then approach the comics with caution – but still try it.
I think I’ve said enough on the topic, but I want to hear what you think. Comic fans, do you agree with me? Television fans, am I being too harsh? Sound off in the comments!Previous