Despite pressure from The Walking Dead viewers to insert Norman Reedus' fan-favorite Daryl Dixon into the comic book series scripted by Robert Kirkman, longtime artist Charlie Adlard says it would have felt "wrong" and "completely disingenuous" to bring a character created for the television show into the comic book universe. Unlike most of the characters appearing in the television show, Daryl has no exact comic book counterpart: he was specially created for Reedus as the younger brother of another show-only creation, Michael Rooker's Merle Dixon, first appearing under then-showrunner Frank Darabont in the show's first season.
"We always said, 'No, we're never gonna do that,' and we were true to our words," Adlard told Konbini when asked if the Walking Dead creative team felt pressured to port Daryl into the comics. "He's a pure TV fabrication. Why would we bring that into our own original world? It would feel wrong."
He continued, "Walking Dead [comic book], it's the original. It is the one the TV show is following, not the other way around. So to copy the TV show would feel completely disingenuous. It's generally perceived that the TV show takes cues from us, so having Daryl in it just would have been wrong. And I'm glad Robert stuck to his guns on that [laughs]."
The comic book wouldn't get its own crossbow-wielding zombie slayer — the then-Savior affiliated Dwight — until 2012, two years after the television series premiered on AMC. When that character made his way into live-action in 2015 (played by Austin Amelio), Dwight and Daryl engaged in a fierce rivalry that lasted until Dwight left the main show to join spinoff Fear the Walking Dead.
Kirkman once "definitely considered" bringing Daryl into the books, but during a 2013 appearance at San Diego Comic-Con, Kirkman said he liked "the fact that there are only certain characters you can do in different mediums." By 2014, Kirkman said it "wouldn't be a bad thing if Daryl Dixon showed up in the comic," but admitted he likes the separation between the comic and TV show.
"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 said during an Arizona convention. "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," Kirkman continued. "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."
Most recently, Kirkman claimed it was "Norman Reedus likeness rights and stuff" that kept Daryl out of the comic books.
TWD returns with new Season 10 episodes Sunday, Feb. 23 on AMC. For more TWD, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.