Why Robert Kirkman Ended The Walking Dead After [Spoiler's] Death

Warning: this story contains spoilers for The Walking Dead issue #192 and #193. The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman explains unexpectedly ending the comic book just one issue after killing Rick Grimes, saying it "seemed like the right time" to finish the story. After an assassin shoots Rick in the final pages of issue #191, the penultimate issue of the long-running series opens with the killer gunning Rick down and leaving his reanimated body to be discovered by Carl Grimes. Only readers didn't know issue #192 was to be the penultimate issue of the book: the end of The Walking Dead happened without warning. At the close of issue #193, Kirkman wrote, "This is the end of The Walking Dead."

"It could be as simple as that's where the story ended for me. It seemed like the right time to go," Kirkman wrote in the Letter Hacks column of The Walking Dead DELUXE #31, responding to a reader's question about ending the series after Rick's death. "You never really know when to get off the ride. Maybe there's more fun to be had, maybe it isn't time to go? Who knows." 

"I think it's better to jump off while there's more gas in the tank than to keep going until the engine runs dry and you're stranded where you are," Kirkman added. "The funny thing is... there are plenty of fans out there who think I did just that! So y'know... to each their own." 

In the years before Rick's death in June 2019, Kirkman said that "no one is safe" and Rick would not survive the series. "It could happen any time between now and 50 years from now," he said at San Diego Comic-Con 2017. "50 years, that's not gonna happen..."

In an earlier issue of The Walking Dead DELUXE, an ongoing reprinted run published in color for the first time, Kirkman revealed he once considered killing Rick Grimes as early as issue #6. But Rick lived in the 2004 issue, surviving until issue #192.

The unannounced ending of The Walking Dead is by design: in Kirkman's epilogue published in the final issue, the creator explained it "felt wrong and against the very nature of this series not to make the actual end as surprising as the big [character] deaths." 

"I look at it as the greatest gift you can give a fanbase because the end of anything is surrounded by a year of bullsh-t. A year of, 'How are they gonna end it? What are they gonna do? I think they should end it this way, I think they should end it that way,'" Kirkman explained last year on the Fatman Beyond podcast. "If you know the end is coming and a major character dies like three issues from the end, you're like, 'Yeah, it doesn't matter. The thing is ending, of course this character dies. This isn't a big monumental death that has impact, this is just the slow march to the end that anyone could expect.'"

"So I thought it would be a real fun thing to have people reading the final issues and not being aware of the fact that they're reading the final issues," Kirkman said. 

The Walking Dead DELUXE #31 is on sale now. 

The Walking Dead: The Final Season Part 2 premieres Sunday, February 20 at 9:00 pm ET/8c on AMC. Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter and @NewsOfTheDead for The Walking Dead Universe coverage all season long.