The Walking Dead has captivated audiences with its storytelling and character development along with zombie (or walker) killing action. Viewers who miss out on the comic book are losing an opportunity to have a more in-depth storyline with more character development. The work by creator Robert Kirkman and the beautiful art exhibited by Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard are not to be missed. Even though the television series and comic are very similar, I recommend taking in both to fully appreciate the work put into each. To clarify I will be using the terms “graphic novel” and “comic” interchangeably.
Warning: I will be discussing past and possible future events in the television series, so if you do not want to be spoiled, do not read on and skip to the last paragraph.
Both the television series and the comic book offer something different in their perspective medias: two examples are how the television series brings to life while the graphic novel allows more freedom of internal dialogue and a faster developed story with great character development.
One part of the television series set apart from the comic are certain locations added to the storyline. This is not explored in the comics but illustrates the hopelessness Rick Grimes and his band of survivors are facing, with the collapse of what is viewed as the only hope for a cure. This is absent from the comic book and the same point is illustrated by the desolate landscape and the deaths of characters.
The storyline from the second season concerning the disappearance of Sophia was absent from the comic and most viewers, myself included, found the first half of season two to drag from episode to episode until the reveal mid-season.
The addition of new characters is one large part of the differences between the book and the comic: T-Dog, Jacqui, Dr. Jenner and the Dixon brothers, Daryl and Merle add variety to the cast. Some characters have minor parts, such as T-Dog and Jacqui and were part of the voice of the main group, but had no significance in the progress of the group. While Dr. Jenner was the personification of mankind’s hope for a cure, while at the same time losing faith for a cure, was a significant part of illustrating the lost cause for an escape.
The Dixon brothers, Merle and Daryl, have been my favorite difference in the television series. Daryl in particular has been a significant character in the series, being the group’s tracker and hunter, while providing support for Grimes and looking out for the group. His character, besides Grimes, has shown the greatest development: when we first meet him, he loathes Grimes for leaving his brother handcuffed on a rooftop, but as time progresses, he learns to trust other members of his group and has become a vital part in their survival.
The television series does stray from the comic and these changes are either hit or miss: the search for Sophia I did not enjoy, while the character additions such as Daryl show great promise.
The comic series progresses much faster than its television counterpart, with the death of Grimes’ best friend and partner, Shane Walsh, occurring in issue #6. This could be viewed as bad, but actually allows the progression of character personalities and relationships.
Some deaths of key members of the group are accelerated in the television series, and I felt rob viewers of the opportunity to see how each character contributed to the moral standing of the overall group. One example could be the death of Dale in season two: his death did not come until much later on in the comic, and before this, he developed relationships with Grimes, Andrea and others and he confronted a group known as the Hunters, who resorted to cannibalism for survival. His role on the show was to retain the justice practices held in society before the infection but was dismissed quickly.
The relationships and dialogue between characters are also emphasized in the comic: Grimes’ relationship with his family and other characters show his growing distrust and we can see how they earn each others’ trust by actions, such as keeping watch over camp or giving up food for one another. The facial expressions and art are a strong point also: Adlard and Moore’s work are highly detailed and convey the emotions and seriousness of each day shown.
The comic is the basis for the television series and to read the novel would be rewarding to see the storyline progress with fluid dialogue and character development with the added art to help illustrate it.
The Walking Dead comic series and the television series are able to stand apart from each other, offering their own iteration of the storyline by adding or leaving out characters or events. The comic series allows a faster pace but a more in-depth analysis of how the apocalypse has affected the characters with a touch of drama and action. The show conveys a live-action telling of the same events, more or less, but adds its own elements to have itself stand apart from Kirkman’s original work. I recommend reading the graphic novel and watch the show to enjoy the elements both media offer: you will not be disappointed.