"Dwight was always a favorite of mine, but I, like [editor] Sean [Mackiewicz], have been very surprised by the outrage over his death," Kirkman writes in the "Letter Hacks" column of February's The Walking Dead #188.
"I guess we're doing our jobs right, after all? I'm always sorry if a death in this story upsets you... but that is the price of admission here, to a certain extent."
December's The Walking Dead issue #186 saw Rick Grimes reluctantly execute close ally Dwight to quell a growing civil war after the once Savior leader rallied against Commonwealth governor Pamela Milton.
Responding to a self-described "bewildered" fan who asked why Rick would make such a "snap judgement" in gunning down Dwight, Kirkman explained the decision to have the character killed at Rick's hand:
"Dwight had Rick at gunpoint recently over the death of [Dwight's wife] Sherry. So he knew him to be a loose cannon who had been dealing with a lot recently. But he was working through it.
"He'd been urging Rick to basically back him against the Commonwealth in a bid to take over. Rick knew his goals. And he had Governor Milton at gunpoint... he knew Dwight could pull the trigger at any moment.
"Michonne and Rick in a room with Dwight who just killed Governor Milton? Rick doesn't know if he or Michonne get out of the Commonwealth alive... and he definitely knows that leads to a war of some kind. MANY, MANY people die... unless he kills Dwight.
"Rick had no choice. That's why he had to act so quickly."
In the pages of issue #188, Rick has since reconciled with Michonne after reacting with fury when he learned she facilitated the surprise meeting with Milton that ultimately resulted in Dwight's death.
With the community of 50,000-plus survivors now on the verge of revolt, Michonne confirms Rick's worst fears when she tells him the Commonwealth could be "on the cusp of a full-blown civil war."
"This is what Dwight wanted. What he was working toward... what I did... I did to stop this," Rick tells her. "If it happens anyway... what have I done?"
Michonne says Dwight was stirring up the residents and stoking a fire of hate against Milton that was burning for years, and admits an uprising is inevitable. Rick argues their presence is accelerating a growing resentment against the establishment, telling Michonne, "I can't have us be the thing that tears the Commonwealth apart."
He's since grown suspicious of former Savior Laura, who is now stoking the flames of revolution and building a growing resistance in support of Milton's jailed former right-hand man Mercer.
In addition to teasing-slash-trolling the potential deaths of Michonne and Eugene in subsequent replies, Kirkman added, "you may not have to wait until issue #200 for a major conflict to hit."2comments
Dwight's live-action counterpart, played by Austin Amelio, next returns in Fear the Walking Dead later this year. The character was last seen ordered into exile by rival Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) in April's The Walking Dead Season Eight finale.
The Walking Dead #189 releases March 6.