The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman did the unthinkable Wednesday when issue 192 of his comic book killed off protagonist Rick Grimes after 16 years, but Kirkman has already ruled out a similar fate meeting the live-action Rick (Andrew Lincoln) when he resurfaces in the Walking Dead movie franchise.
“I don’t like addressing the TV show, simply because it has no bearing on this series. This series informs the show, not the other way around,” Kirkman wrote in the “Letter Hacks” column ending the issue, where Rick is gunned down by an assassin at point blank range.
“But... we did lose Rick Grimes this year on the TV show as well, though he didn’t die. So I feel compelled to state for the record that the events of this issue were in no way a reaction to that.”
Though the comic does inform the show — most of the time — the AMC-produced series has more and more strayed from its source material, most notably when killing off Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) before undergoing its biggest ever dramatic shakeup when Lincoln’s Rick was permanently written off and spun off into his coming movie trilogy.
And the show, which only mostly adheres to Kirkman’s material, has rarely translated exact comic book deaths for the screen: Glenn (Steven Yeun), Shane (Jon Bernthal), and Gregory (Xander Berkeley) received the same deaths as their comic book counterparts, with most others being remixed.
Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) was bludgeoned to death by baseball bat-wielding Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan); in the book, Abe was killed by an arrow through the eye, a death that went instead to Denise (Merritt Wever).
Carl, who lives on in the comic book, died after suffering an incurable walker bite to the midsection; his replacement, show-exclusive creation Henry (Matt Lintz), died as a victim of Alpha (Samantha Morton) and the Whisperers — part of a ten-victim line up that did not include Rosita (Christian Serratos) and King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), who were spared their comic book fates.
Others — Carol (Melissa McBride) and Morgan (Lennie James) among them — have outlived their comic book counterparts and have since been taken in completely new directions.
Because Kirkman is heavily involved with the Rick Grimes movies he’s now developing with Walking Dead chief content officer and franchise architect Scott Gimple, his ending for comic book Rick — which Kirkman says he’s had planned for nearly a decade — is unlikely to make its way into the movie side of the Walking Dead Universe.
Not only has Kirkman not resisted changes to his book, he pushes for them.
“From the very beginning, Robert said, 'Look, these are two different types of media,’” Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd told ComicBook.com in 2017.
“Because we have characters that were never in The Walking Dead comic, like Daryl Dixon, that automatically changes that dynamic. He basically said, ‘If this was a panel-by-panel adaptation, it would be a different thing.’”
Even the biggest deviations — like the death of Carl, poised for an even bigger role in the comics following his father’s death — is “something that I’ve gotten used to, it happens from time to time on the show,” Kirkman said on Talking Dead following Carl’s death in the Season 8 mid-season premiere.
“Really, if anything, it just makes me more excited. I think that any time that path is not set, any time you can’t look at a comic book series and go, ‘oh, I know exactly what’s going to happen,’ it makes things a little bit more exciting.”
Such unknowns, and the changes that snowball from them, “just makes for a better show,” Kirkman said.
Because Kirkman argues storytelling not beholden to its source material can be more exciting, it’s unlikely he goes into this three-movie arc only to re-tell what would be a years old story by the time it finishes.1comments
How much of that story is rooted in the comic books remains to be seen, but signs point to Kirkman and Gimple telling a new tale — one unlikely to end with the famous Rick Grimes shot dead in his underwear.
The first Walking Dead movie is currently undated but could arrive in 2020.