Robert Kirkman Explains Why He Ended The Walking Dead Without Warning

The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman opens up about his decision to end his long-running comic book without warning, comparing the zombie saga's final issue to a "surprise death." In July 2019, readers who purchased the extra-sized, 72-page issue The Walking Dead #193 were surprised to learn the book jumped 25 years into the future after — spoilers — the murder of Rick Grimes an issue earlier. Even more surprising: the issue's final page declared this was "the end," confirmed by Kirkman in a lengthy goodbye letter where the creator wrote it "felt wrong and against the very nature of this series not to make the actual end as surprising as the big deaths."

"You can say 'the greatest trolling ever,' and that would be accurate, and I do enjoy that to a certain extent," Kirkman told Fatman Beyond hosts Kevin Smith and Marc Bernardin. "But personally, I look at it as the greatest gift you can give a fanbase because the end of anything is surrounded by a year of bullsh-t. A year of, 'How are they gonna end it? What are they gonna do? I think they should end it this way, I think they should end it that way.'"

Anticipation of the looming ending and the ensuing attention "I think completely ruins it," Kirkman added, "or at least tempers the way you experience it."

To preserve the secret "final death," Kirkman and Image Comics produced fake covers and solicitations advertising The Walking Dead issues #194 and #195 — complete with teases for new characters like "Sheriff Kapoor" and "the Swordsman."

"If you know the end is coming and a major character dies like three issues from the end, you're like, 'Yeah, it doesn't matter. The thing is ending, of course this character dies. This isn't a big monumental death that has impact, this is just the slow march to the end that anyone could expect,'" Kirkman said. "So I thought it would be a real fun thing to have people reading the final issues and not being aware of the fact that they're reading the final issues."

By not advertising the end of The Walking Dead, "It turned the end of the series into a surprise death, which is — I think — very fitting because the whole thing is based on surprise deaths and dealing with this loss, and how unexpected and rapid it can come, so I thought it was just a fun thing to do."

As for why Kirkman chose to end the story he scripted since 2003, Kirkman told audiences at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 that he wanted to avoid the book "[becoming] repetitious."

"It breaks my heart that I had to end it, and we have to move on... but I just love this world too much to stretch things out until it doesn't live up to what I want it to be," Kirkman wrote in the letter ending the book's final issue. "I got to tell my story exactly how I wanted to, for 193 issues, and end it on my terms, with no interference at all along the way... at any point. That's such a rare thing, and it doesn't exist without the unyielding support this series got from readers like you."

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Image Comics is currently re-releasing the zombie saga as The Walking Dead: Deluxe, the first-ever colorized version of the black-and-white comic book with additional bonus content.

The 24-episode Final Season of The Walking Dead begins airing this summer on AMC. Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD.