The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman encouraged writers of the television series to kill off major characters who survived in his since-ended comic book, but the series executive producer also pushed for the show to bring to screen key comic book moments "as much as possible." Now in its tenth season, the AMC series inspired by the comic from Kirkman and artists Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard has taken significant detours from the book with the departures of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) as well as the eighth season death of their son, Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs), whose comic book counterpart lived through the book's final issue.
"Being in the writers room as long as I was, it was a real thrill to me to be working with seven professional writers all in a room tearing my comic book apart," Kirkman said during a live stream Q&A hosted by Hey Fandom! "It seems like it's an absolute nightmare, but it was really great and rewarding to have them go, 'This story worked because of this, and we can change this this way because of that, and this really worked well, and we can make it better by adding this.'"
For Kirkman, who ended his comic book last July after 16 years and 193 issues, it was a "great learning experience" seeing the show's writers "dig into material that was, in some cases, seven, eight, ten years old. So I was going, 'Oh, yeah. I barely remember that, let's change that. That'll be fun.' It was a great process."
As much as Kirkman advocated for changes, the writer-producer would speak up to prevent the show from veering too far away from scenes or storylines anticipated by comic book readers.
"There are moments where I would say, 'Okay, we need to keep this one pretty close, and everybody would agree.' I don't want fans to think I was some kind of madman tearing my material apart," Kirkman said. "I very much considered myself a steward of the brand and to try and protect these stories — not that they need any protecting, per se — but just to pay tribute to the fans that have supported the material."
Almost nothing is off-limits, according to Kirkman, who says his involvement with the television show made the comic book better.
"There are things in The Walking Dead that a Walking Dead fan is definitely going to want to see adapted into the show, and we try to do that as much as possible," he said. "So there are things that did get adapted directly, it wasn't all completely throw caution to the wind. But there were so many times where I'd be like, 'Just kill 'em, it'll be great. They were a big character in the comic, but [it will] blow people away if they die after two episodes. It'll be hilarious, let's do that.'"
"And then every now and again," Kirkman admitted, "the writers would have to talk some sense into me [laughs]."1comments
Kirkman previously defended TV Carl's death when he said such surprise detours helped keep things "exciting" for comic book readers who think they know "exactly what's going to happen." Subsequent deviations that "snowball" out of those changes "makes for a better show," Kirkman said on Talking Dead.
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