The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman feared he would face fan backlash when attending San Diego Comic Con in July, his first encounter with a mass group of fans just weeks after he surprise ended the hit comic book with its 193rd issue. Kirkman and longtime artist Charlie Adlard, who pencilled the book starting with its seventh issue in 2004, made the mutual decision to end The Walking Dead on their own terms: as Kirkman wrote in a lengthy goodbye letter closing out the book's oversized final issue, both he and Adlard agreed the series needed to “end on a high note.”
“I wasn’t there, but I remember Robert was talking to me and he was saying he was going to go to San Diego, and that was going to be the first encounter post the end. And he said, ‘I reckon we’ll get fifty percent people saying well done, and fifty percent people wanting to kill us,’” Adlard said on Skybound’s Talk Dead to Me podcast. “And he said the majority of people were all thumbs up and just saying, ‘Yeah, you’ve done exactly what you should have done.’ Which was great. It’s great to have the fan support, as well. That was really brilliant. It was great.”
Adlard continued, “I think most people appreciated the fact that we ended this book on our own terms, before the book was gonna lose sales and then it becomes obvious why you end a book. So yeah, we went out on our own terms, still on a high, on a creative high. I think the fans really appreciated that, so thank you, everyone.”
In his letter, Kirkman revealed it was during Comic-Con 2013 where he pitched Adlard with the gist of the book's ending: a grown-up Carl Grimes reading his young daughter a storybook about Rick Grimes' exploits. Kirkman intended to realize that ending some time after issue #300, but after discarding an ending he described as “bleak,” it eventually became clear The Walking Dead needed to end.
“I worked it out with Charlie right away. He’d always been pushing to end on a high note,” Kirkman wrote. “He was with me, all the way, as long as I didn’t run this series into the ground. Charlie just wanted to make this book special. If I had a solid plan for 300 issues, he’d have made it happen, but if I started turning in stories Charlie thought were lame… I would have heard about it and he’d have convinced me to end the series. So when we talked about the plan, Charlie was excited, his fear of overstaying our welcome and keeping this book going well past its popularly were quelled.”
Kirkman addressed the ending without incident during his In Conversation with Robert Kirkman panel at Comic-Con, where Kirkman told the audience he wanted the book to avoid growing “repetitious.”
“I wanted there to be a narrative flow, and in order to achieve that,” he said, “I knew I would have to wrap it up.”