"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, which sees Rick Grimes gunned down in bed and murdered by spoiled Commonwealth dissenter Sebastian Monroe.
"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."
Kirkman then reaffirmed Rick's death "has been planned for a long time." The creator, who has penned his monthly comic book series since 2003 and plans blocks of stories in advance, added he's known Rick would die preserving the Commonwealth for nearly a decade.
"I've said in interviews for many, many years that everyone dies in this story, and that even Rick Grimes won't survive until the end," Kirkman wrote.
"While this was always Rick's story thus far, as written about in the first issue, that doesn't mean he needs to be alive to be a presence in the series. This is the story of a world, not a man... it's the story of a world profoundly affected by that man, as we'll see starting next issue... but it isn't exclusively Rick's story."
When declaring Rick Grimes would not survive the entire series at New York Comic Con in 2017, Kirkman reiterated "no one is safe," and promised again at New York Comic Con 2018 he knew "exactly how Rick Grimes dies in the comic book."
The comic book loses Rick Grimes eight months after his live-action counterpart, portrayed by Andrew Lincoln since 2010, departed the ongoing television series five episodes into its ninth season.
Unlike comic book Rick — whose corpse reanimated into a walker and was put down with a bullet to the head fired by son Carl — Lincoln's Rick will return in a movie trilogy now being plotted by Kirkman and Walking Dead chief content officer Scott Gimple. Kirkman is heavily involved in the offshoot franchise, which is expected to reunite Rick with lover Michonne (Danai Gurira).
An option also exists in the contracts of longtime Walking Dead stars Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride for appearances in the films, the first of which is set to explore the shadowy community who abducted Rick and who now have ties to spinoff Fear the Walking Dead.