The Walking Dead Artist Says Ending Was Planned for a “Very, Very Long Time”

Longtime The Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard says he and author Robert Kirkman planned the book’s ending in July’s issue #193 as far back as 2015.

The hit Image Comics series coming to a surprise end and closing on an older Carl Grimes and daughter Andrea was “four years in the planning” after Kirkman and Adlard agreed they “really needed an end point,” Adlard told BBC News. “A lot of people think that we just thought about this a couple of months before, but no, this was something that was planned for a very, very long time.”

Adlard, who has illustrated the book since 2004, reveals he turned down a “zombie-related” project from Marvel Comics — potentially the comic house’s October revival of Marvel Zombies, followup to a limited series once penned by Kirkman — saying he’s finished with the flesh-eating undead.

“It was, shall we say, zombie-related and the one thing I don’t want to do, for obvious reasons, is anything zombie-related,” Adlard explained.

While the in-demand artist is considering an offer from DC Comics to illustrate covers, Adlard said, “Once you've worked on your own characters it seems like a retrograde step to be working on somebody else’s characters.”

“I want to do other stuff, I want to prove my versatility,” Adlard added. “People just think because you’ve drawn zombies for 15 years, you want to carry on drawing zombies.”

The artist also intends to work on smaller projects and admitted no longer working under a monthly deadline is “brilliant.”

“I know ‘never say never again,’ but I don’t think I’ll ever do a regular series again,” Adlard said. “I’d rather now, for the rest of my career, work on smaller projects.”

Kirkman signed off The Walking Dead with a letter explaining its unannounced conclusion was Kirkman’s way of letting readers experience one last sudden death.

“All I’ve ever done, all a creator can really do... is tailor-make stories to entertain themselves, and hope the audience feels the same way. That’s all I’ve ever been doing... and it seems to work most of the time,” Kirkman wrote.

The Walking Dead has always been built on surprise. Not knowing what’s going to happen when you turn the page, who’s going to die, how they’re going to die... it’s been essential to the success of this series. It’s been the lifeblood that’s been keeping it going all these years, keeping people engaged. It just felt WRONG and against the very nature of this series not to make the actual end as surprising as all the big deaths... from Shane all the way to Rick.”

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When defending his decision to surprise end the book during an appearance at San Diego Comic-Con in July, Kirkman said the story reached its natural conclusion.

“I feel like the story wasn’t repetitious. I felt like it escalated,” Kirkman said. “But I was acutely aware of how it could become repetitious and I really wanted to avoid that. I wanted there to be a narrative flow, and in order to achieve that, I knew I would have to wrap it up.”

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