The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman said "legal issues" are keeping Norman Reedus' Daryl Dixon out of the ongoing comic book series. Kirkman made the revelation Thursday during Skybound's San Diego Comic-Con panel.
"Norman Reedus likeness rights and stuff," Kirkman said. "I love the fact that there is something, if you read the comics, there would be an absence of Daryl and I feel like that adds to the mystery of the comic and makes it more appealing."
Unlike much of the television series' sprawling cast of characters, Daryl isn't a Kirkman creation: the character was created for The Walking Dead's first season by then-showrunner Frank Darabont and writers Charles H. Eglee and Jack LoGuidice, who scripted Daryl's first appearance in 1x03, 'Tell It to the Frogs.'
The Walking Dead is owned and produced by AMC, who could be retaining Daryl exclusively as a show-only character. Other issues could have arisen through Daryl's status as a co-creation of Darabont, who is embroiled in a nasty $300 million legal battle against AMC over profits owed from the hit series.
Kirkman, who serves as executive producer on the series, is engaged in a lawsuit of his own against the network alongside former showrunner and producer Glen Mazzara and series producers Gale Anne Hurd and David Alpert, who cite similar issues with AMC, claiming the network cheated them of their fair share of profits generated by The Walking Dead.
Daryl Dixon was specially created for Norman Reedus, who boarded the zombie series as one-half of the hillbilly Dixon brothers alongside older brother Merle (Michael Rooker).
Noting Daryl's popularity with fans and his position as face of The Walking Dead in merchandise and wider pop culture, Kirkman said at Image Expo 2012 he had "definitely considered writing Daryl into the comics," and teased a crossbow-wielding survivor to debut in the comics' then-upcoming 'Something to Fear' storyline — a character who ended up being Dwight, a scarred Savior aligned with Negan and the Saviors. Dwight himself would debut in the television series in season 6.
At San Diego Comic-Con 2013, Kirkman answered "no" when asked if Daryl would make it into the books, saying, "I have thought about it, but in the end, I like the fact that there are only certain characters you can do in different mediums."
Kirkman eased up on the decision at Amazing Arizona Comic Con in early 2014, conceding "it wouldn't be a bad thing if Daryl Dixon showed up in the comic."
"But I don't know. I really like the separation," he said. "I like that when we sit down to write the show one of the first things we deal with is: 'How does Daryl Dixon change this story?' Because we always start from: 'Ok, we like this part of the comic. How are we going to do it?'"
He added: "And it's just always interesting to get in there and be like, 'Oh, well his existence and the fact that his personality is this, and he would behave this way, means that he would react to this person differently than this and differently than that.' And it's just really a great thing for the show that he doesn't exist in the comic. And I really like that.
"But yeah, I don't know. It would be cool if he was in the comic, but I don't really have any plans on doing that. But I guess he would be the one if I was going to pull any character from the show into the comic, it would be him. Mostly just because I love Norman. Handsome dude."
Reedus is now poised to take the lead on The Walking Dead following the exit of longtime series lead Andrew Lincoln, who will be departing the series in the first half of season 9. Reedus' promotion reportedly comes to the tune of a potential $20 million payday.
The Walking Dead comics continue to reach store shelves monthly. Its live-action counterpart debuts its season 9 trailer at its July 20 San Diego Comic-Con panel and returns with the latest season this October on AMC.