With “The Walking Dead” releasing its milestone 100th issue on July 11 and with Comic-Con upon us, it's a perfect time to take a closer look at the comic-book series and the hit AMC TV show it inspired, and let you in on the subtle to drastically different changes made between the two. The longer the TV series goes, the more it seems to deviate from its source material, so clearly not every difference will be discussed. However, if you haven’t left by now, you are obviously the huge nerd this piece is geared toward and want to know more. Spoilers abound. You've been warned.
Difference No. 1 - Rick’s Day Out
In the comic book, protagonist Rick Grimes is a Sheriff’s Deputy in the small town of Cynthiana, Ky. when the story begins. His television counterpart, on the other hand, is a Sheriff’s Deputy for King County, Ga. Once Rick is shot (which goes down fairly similarly in both renditions), the differences become more evident. Comic book Rick wakes up in the hospital and heads to the room that, on the television show, is labeled “Don’t Open, Dead Inside.” Of course, on the show, he doesn’t go in, but in the comic, he opens the doors and a handful of zombies attack him. One tackles him down a flight of stairs and in the process, breaks its own neck. This is Rick’s first encounter with zombies. On the show, he doesn’t see a full-on zombie (minus the arms reaching out of the aforementioned hospital room) until the girl on the side of the road with the bicycle. This, too, happens in very similar fashion in both renditions. The last big difference in these two opening acts is that the scene where Rick shoots the young girl zombie with the teddy bear never happens in the comics at all.
Difference No. 2 - Shaneless
Shane’s death (and perhaps Dale’s, as well) is one of the biggest differences between the television show and comic. Loyal readers of the comic book series were probably a little confused when Shane actually made it out of Atlanta alive. That’s because in the comic book series, Carl kills him in just six short issues. You see, comic-book Shane is no television series Shane. Sure, they both humped Rick’s wife Lori while he was presumed dead, but in the comic-book series, this is more of a one-night stand between the two, with Lori immediately realizing it was a huge mistake and Shane going all nutzo once Rick returns. In the process of this, Shane pulls a gun on Rick and is about to shoot him dead when Carl instead shoots Shane right through the neck to save his father.
The television series decided to ride Shane’s character out a little longer (whether it was for the better is up to you). His death played out a little differently, but there were certainly similarities. Rick being the one to originally kill Shane is the most significant of the differences between the two. As current showrunner Glen Mazzara put it, “Rick has to be the one to kill Shane. He needs to take control of the group. That's a huge loss for him, personally, for the group, but that's what's important about that: that it's at Rick's hand. We had considered doing it with a gun, but the knife was as personal as possible.” (MTV) Carl killing zombie Shane is actually the exact opposite of what happened in the comics. In the comics, once the group figures out that the dead rejuvenate, Rick goes back to where they buried Shane in the seventh issue and finishes him off for good. More on the whole rejuvenation thing later.
Difference No. 3 - To Live and Die with Dixons
If you watch the TV show, odds are you hate Merle Dixon. And with good reason: the dude’s a racist a-hole. But odds also are that you love Daryl Dixon. He’s the antihero of the series that you can’t help but root for. Yet, neither of these characters exist in the comic book world of “The Walking Dead.” There is a small glimmer of hope, however, as the actor who portrays Daryl on TV, Norman Reedus, has made several attempts to convince creator Robert Kirkman to write him into the comic book series. And according to Kirkman, he just might get his wish:
"I've definitely considered writing Daryl into the comics," said Kirkman. "Norman is always pestering me about it. All I can say right now is that if you have been paying attention to the Internet, we did just release a series of teasers called 'Something to Fear' for a new story arc that's coming up and it's a series of very threatening-looking people with very specific weapons and one of them has a crossbow." (IO9.com)
Difference No. 4 - Dale and Andrea Drama
Dale and Andrea have a very complex relationship on the television series. Whether you consider him to be a father figure to her or a mentor or a sort of moral compass, the two’s strained relationship (especially since the events at the CDC where Dale stopped Andrea from killing herself) can get very complicated and even aggravating at times. But surely the last thing you are thinking to yourself is, “Why don’t they just sleep together and get it over with?” However, that’s exactly what you get in the comics. While it is speculated by some of the characters in the Atlanta camp that there is something fishy going on between the two, it is not revealed until the group arrives at the Wiltshire Estates.
Difference No. 5 - The Wiltshire Estates
The Wiltshire Estates is a former gated community that the group retreats to after the events of Atlanta in the comics. When they arrive there, snow is covering a sign on the front entrance that reads “All Dead, Do Not Enter.” The group takes shelter in one of the homes for the night. The next day, the snow has melted and Rick realizes they are in trouble. But it is too late, as a character by the name of Donna (who was never used on the television series) is bitten. They leave because the community is overrun with walkers.
While the survivors never retreat to Wiltshire Estates on the television show, there is a clever nod to it. The neighborhood where Shane and Andrea are attacked by herd of zombies while looking for Sophia is named Wiltshire Estates.
Difference No. 6 - That's So Morgan
Morgan, the man from the pilot who takes Rick in after the hospital, comes off as a bit of a dick on the television show at first. Then you come to realize that he is just trying to survive with his son, Duane. The Morgan of the comics is much nicer and more likeable from the start. He is basically Rick’s CliffsNotes of what the world has become. This is true in both iterations. However, the whole Morgan’s-zombie-wife scenario doesn’t take place in the comic books. And in the comics, when the three go to the police station to find supplies, Rick gives Morgan a police car to get around in more safely, not just a radio.
Difference No. 7 - Tanks for Nothing
In the comics, when Rick finally gets into Atlanta from Morgan’s, there are no tanks. He and his horse are merely attacked by a hoard of zombies. The horse is eaten (like in the television series), but Rick falls off. He doesn’t lose his guns either, which knocks out the whole storyline in the television series about them going back for them. In the comic, they just go back into town for more ammunition. Anyways, Glenn comes and saves him almost immediately and there is no business about hiding in a tank.
Interesting side note: Frank Darabont, the original showrunner of the television series, apparently had an idea for the second season's premiere revolving around the soldier in the tank in the series premiere. If that peaks your interest, check this out.
There’s No Such Thing as “Zombies”
This is more or less just a fun fact, but technically it’s a difference. In “The Walking Dead” comics, they use the word “zombie” to refer to the living dead who walk around eating people. However, on the television series, the word is never used. In the world of the TV show, movies like “Dawn of the Dead” don’t exist, so words like “zombie” aren’t considered popular terminology. Hence, they often refer to their walking dead as “walkers,” “roamers” or “geeks.”
Tyreese = T-Dog?
One is the badass right-hand man to Rick in the comics, the other has a hurt arm on the TV show. The two characters seem nothing alike on paper (i.e. Tyreese has a daughter and her boyfriend to watch over when he is introduced, while T-Dog is on his own) other than both being African-American men. However, it would appear that the character Tyreese from the comic book, who showed up after the group left Atlanta, has simply been replaced by T-Dog on the show. That is not the case. In fact, Glen Mazzara has been quoted as saying “I think the Tyreese character is someone we are interested in introducing at some point.” (ComicBookMovie.com) So it seems that Tyreese may have a shot at crossing over.
The whole CDC storyline never took place in the comics at all. In fact, the survivors only know that when you die, you come back. A zombie bite seems to just speed up the infection already in you, causing you to turn without actually dying first. Then you come back. But they weren’t told this by any Dr. Jenner and have no clue how the outbreak started or how to stop it.
While looking for Sophia with Rick and Shane on the television series, Carl is accidentally shot in the gut by Otis, Hershel’s ranch foreman. Carl is on death’s door, so Otis and Shane go on a mission to get medical supplies to save him. Otis is sacrificed to zombies by Shane in order to escape. In the comics, however, most of this doesn’t happen. Otis does shoot Carl, but because he thought he was a zombie. But he only hits him in the shoulder, anyway, which is not as serious of a wound as on the show. Carl was also out hunting in this scenario (not looking for Sophia) with Rick and Tyreese. Shane is long dead by this time in the comics, and none of the supply run takes place.
Otis’ character is drastically different in the comic, as well. First and foremost, he looks nothing like the character from the television series. He’s much slimmer, has hair, and is only dating the Patricia character, not married to her. When all the survivors headed to the prison, he stayed behind to watch the farm. Eventually he followed suit, but on the way was attacked by zombies and saved by Michonne, much like Andrea is in the second-season finale. He eventually was killed in a zombie attack at the prison.
Raised in a Barn
The walkers in the barn at Hershel’s farm were a big reveal on the show, ultimately culminating in Shane setting them loose and massacring them all, including zombie members of Hershel’s family and Sophia. In the comics, though, Hershel told Rick straight up that they couldn’t stay in the barn because he kept walkers in there. While Rick disagreed with this, much like he did on the show, he let it slide. But, in the comic version, the zombies escape while Hershel is attempting to add another, and they kill several members of his family. This sets him off, and he kicks Rick and his crew off the land. But Glenn stays on the farm with Maggie, so that's sweet.
Mainly, Sophia is still alive in the comics. Therefore, “The Walking Dead” television show version pales in comparison. She basically did nothing on the show but be a little girl until she was eventually lost and revealed as a zombie later on. But in the comics, while still being a little girl, Sophia gets a lot more face time. This is particularly due to the fact that she and Carl are close, eventually becoming a couple once they hit the prison. Beyond this, there is not much we can say without ruining potential storylines on the show.
It was definitely the most surprising death for the loyal comic-book readers and fans of the show alike when Dale went down on the television series. This is because no one saw it coming. Not even the comics could prepare you, because Dale doesn’t die until much later. And when he does, it’s much more drawn out than his death on the show. In the comic, he is bitten in the leg, amputates it to stop from turning, then is bit again later. He tries to hide the wound to spare Andrea from seeing it, but is eventually captured by other hunters. They partially eat him before he is rescued by the group, but Andrea has to kill him before he turns. So really, the only similarity between the two is that neither Dale ever becomes a zombie.
Next: 35 Misleading DVD Covers
The World is Black and White
This deviation from comic to show could have been the difference between a hit and a flop. The comic books, while having covers that are in color, are black-and-white on the inside. Had the show decided to go this route, who knows how long it would have lasted. People may not have even given it a shot considering many folks don't enjoy "It's a Wonderful Life" simply because it is in black and white. You see, some people are just stupid. Let us know if there are any other huge differences we left out!