Long before The Walking Dead became one of the biggest shows on television, it was a popular comic book series. And in the years since, the two have become a pop culture juggernaut with an active conversation among fans about how the two differ.
Robert Kirkman‘s illustrated version can often serve as a way for viewers to predict what will happen in upcoming seasons — but the team running the show at AMC has also been careful to mix things up and keep fans on their toes. When you drill down, episode-by-episode, there are dozens of noticeable twists and turns on the TV version The Walking Dead; from subtle variances in the plot to the introduction of brand new storylines. Here are five of the biggest differences between the TV series and the comic books.
1. Some of our favorite characters don’t exist
There’s certainly no shortage of awesome heroes and villains in The Walking Dead comics, but that hasn’t stopped the TV series’ creators from introducing some original characters into the fold. Throughout its six seasons on AMC, The Walking Dead has offered up several newbies. Some, like Beth Greene and Deanna Monroe were created to serve as counterparts to important characters from the comics. Others, like Sasha and Noah, were brand new.
While some of these characters end up ultimately fading into the background, one new addition to the series has made an indelible impact: Daryl Dixon. Introduced in the first season, he’s gone on to become arguably the most popular character in the series’ history.
2. Other characters are completely different
For a while there, fans of The Walking Dead comics had a clear upper hand over newcomers to the series. But since the TV version of the comic has taken on a life of its own, it’s become harder for fans to predict how certain characters will behave.
Carol Peletier, for example, never transformed into the brilliant, calculating survival strategist we’ve seen over the last six seasons. Tyreese, who was one of the more relatable characters due to his more measured approach to life in an apocalyptic landscape, played a much larger role at Rick’s side in the comic series. He also had a more violent temperament — one that was aggravated and ultimately caused a series of tragic events. All in all, the essence of many of the core characters over the course of the TV series have changed either subtly or to the point that they’re barely recognizable.
3. Who’s lived and who’s died (and how?)
Spoiler alert: A lot of characters die in The Walking Dead — both in the comic series and in the TV series it inspired. But just because someone kicks the bucket in one medium doesn’t mean they’ll wind up dead in the other. Carol, for example, committed suicide in the comics back in “Issue 42.” Her daughter Sophia, who was tragically zombified in the TV series? She’s still alive and well in Kirkman’s pages. So is Andrea, whose allegiance to The Governor was her undoing on the TV series.
Then there are the characters, like Tyreese, Dale, and Hershel, who have died in both versions of the story but at different times and by different means. At this point, the differences between character deaths in both versions are so significant, it’s hard to use the comics as a litmus test for how long a character might be with us on the series.
4. The romantic relationships
Some of the most popular pairings in The Walking Dead, like Maggie and Glenn, translated directly from page to screen. But in many cases, the romantic factor in this juggernaut franchise has been all akimbo between the two versions of the ongoing story. Fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead can hope for Carol and Daryl to finally hook up, but in the comics her heart belonged to Tyreese. And that’s not the only romantic relationship that failed to transpire on TV.
In fact, the comics are full of love affairs in the midst of the apocalypse — many of which will definitely never make it to our screens. Carl and Sophia were quite an item for a while, for example. And while “Richonne” (couple Rick and Michonne) proved to be a pretty awesome pairing in season six, their illustrated counterparts have mostly had eyes for others — namely Rick and Andrea, and Michonne and both Morgan and Ezekiel. In other words, it’s safe to say that where The Walking Dead is concerned, all’s fair in love and the constant threat of a horrific death.
5. The language is different (in more ways than one)
Over the years, AMC has put some of the series’ edgier content on television — especially where violence is concerned. But for some reason, they still haven’t consistently broken down the barrier where adult language is concerned. As a result, the amount of profanity we see on the TV version of The Walking Dead pales in comparison to the colorful phrases in the comics. Most of the time, it’s not noticeable, but from Terminus to Negan’s entrance into the gray, there have been some fairly iconic illustrated moments that didn’t translate to be quite as powerful on-screen because the series has, thus far, taken the F-word off the table.
There’s one other word that’s been present in the comics but conspicuously absent in the TV adaptation — and not because it wouldn’t pass the censors. Over the last six seasons on The Walking Dead, the characters have called the undead almost every name under the sun — except the “Z” word. In the original incarnation, on the other hand, they’ve had no qualms about calling the walkers what they are: zombies.
Follow Katherine Webb on Twitter @prufrox.
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