The Walking Dead Creator on Shocking Death: "I Still Miss Him"

Warning: this story contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Deluxe #47, out Wednesday. "BLAM!" In Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead, death often comes without warning. Some characters never see it coming. Just one issue after the Governor killed Tyreese — decapitating the fan-favorite with Michonne's sword outside the prison under siege from Woodbury forces — there are casualties on both sides as Rick Grimes' group of survivors comes under fire from the Governor's army. In the action-packed issue #47, reprinted in color for the first time in Image's Walking Dead Deluxe, the war for the prison suffers another loss: Axel. (See the NSFW panels below.) 

"Poor Axel," Kirkman writes in the latest installment of Cutting Room Floor, featuring new creator commentary for the issue originally published in 2008. "So casual a death, lost in the chaos. I still miss him to this day. I really loved that character." 

Introduced in 2004's The Walking Dead #13 as one of the inmates still alive inside the Meriwether County Correctional Facility, Axel was serving a sentence for armed robbery when the walker apocalypse happened. Axel sided with Rick when his fellow prisoners — Thomas, Dexter, and Andrew — turn violent and attempt to keep the prison for themselves. 

(Photo: Image Comics)

"This really did become the defining arc of the book for a good long time," Kirkman writes of Volume 8: Made to Suffer, which centers on Rick's war with Woodbury and culminates in the deaths of multiple major characters. "So much happened in so few issues, looking back, it probably was the catapult that launched us to [issue] 100. It really re-established that feeling of 'anything could happen' in this book." (Issue 100 would be another defining moment for The Walking Dead with the introduction of Negan and the death of Glenn.)

On AMC's The Walking Dead, Axel's live-action counterpart (played by Lew Temple) suffers a similar fate when he's suddenly shot in the head by the Governor (David Morrissey) in the Season 3 episode "Home." Original plans for television's adaptation of the character had Axel abducting and murdering Beth (Emily Kinney) to reveal he's a serial killer, his "colloquial charm" covering up his homicidal urges. 

But plans changed, and Rick Grimes actor Andrew Lincoln tried to talk the show's producers out of killing Axel in the Governor's assault on the prison. 

Axel's death "wasn't a 'for sure' by any means," Temple once told Skybound's Talk Dead to Me podcast. "There were several other regulars that were up to take it in the head. So it was leaning towards me, so they were trying to make me feel better by going, 'Well, you know, it could be so and so.'"

In the end, Temple recalled, "They're like, 'No, no.' So then you recognize, 'Look, I'm not talking anyone out of this. It's gonna happen. Okay, I'm gonna put my big-boy pants on, I'm gonna do the best job I can and honor my character.'"

The Walking Dead Deluxe #47 is out now. The Walking Dead Deluxe #48 goes on sale October 5 from Image Comics.