The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman considered killing off Rick Grimes in the sixth issue of his comic book ending Volume 1: Days Gone Bye. In issue #6, Rick confronts his best friend and police partner Shane about his romantic relationship with Lori, Rick's wife, who believed him dead at the onset of the zombie apocalypse. When the shouting match turns violent, Shane blames Rick for waking from his coma and reuniting with Lori and their son Carl. An unhinged Shane is moments away from shooting Rick when he's gunned down and killed by the nine-year-old Carl, who tearfully tells Rick: "It's not the same as killing the dead ones, daddy."
In this month's The Walking Dead Deluxe #6, a re-release of the black-and-white comic printed in color for the first time, Kirkman details his previously declared plans to kill Rick just issues after reuniting him with his missing family:
"This was the end of the first story arc, the conclusion to what would make up the first collected volume of TWD, and leading up to this issue… it very well could have been the finale of the series," Kirkman writes in The Cutting Room Floor segment ending issue #6. "I wasn't sure this book would last past issue No. 6, which is why the Lori/Shane/Rick love triangle that was really the dramatic basis of this whole series wrapped up so quickly."
By the time Kirkman plotted the issue that would release in early 2004, he was "pretty sure" The Walking Dead would survive another six-issue run because of a promising uptick in sales. It didn't make it into the book, but Kirkman did "very seriously consider" ending the sixth issue with Shane murdering Rick:
"Rather than Carl killing Shane, I considered having Carl find them in the woods just as Shane was killing RICK. That's right… I considered killing Rick Grimes as early as issue No. 6," Kirkman writes, explaining the book's focus would have shifted to Carl, who would be too afraid to tell Lori what he witnessed out of fear Shane would kill his mother.
"Shane wouldn't have known Carl had seen him, so there would have been a lot of tense exchanges between the two of them," Kirkman explains. "Shane would have been the first real big villain in the book, and he would have been with the group, on the same side as them, the enemy sleeping the next tent over."
Acknowledging that he's revealed Rick's almost-death in the past, Kirkman doubts The Walking Dead would have been as successful had it killed Rick in its first volume. On the possibility of playing out the "what if" scenario in a series of issues outside continuity, Kirkman writes, "That would be fun, but I have no intention of ever doing this. Who has the time?"
With spoilers... Rick survives through the penultimate issue of The Walking Dead. In issue #192, Carl puts down a reanimated Rick after an assassin murders his father inside the Commonwealth community.
Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD. Issues of The Walking Dead Deluxe release twice monthly from Image Comics.