Image is celebrating a decade of The Walking Dead comic with a color reprint of the first issue.
The Walking Dead #1: 10th Anniversary Edition also features a hoard of extras like the original proposal for the series and the first five pages, which shows Rick and Lori watching a zombie news broadcast that is take right out of The Night of the Living Dead. In fact, that was going to be the original title. The 60s film had fallen into public domain and would give the book instant recognition explains Robert Kirkman in a lengthy 15 page interview. Kirkman changed the name after publisher Jim Valentino suggested he take ownership of his work, which obviously worked out for him but he also got some unwelcome advice. No zombie book had been successful so Valentino suggested it have a hook.
“I really felt strongly that the Walking Dead, as it was without a hook, as just a straight drama, set against the world of the zombie apocalypse, was a wild endeavor and that the hook wasn’t necessary,” Kirkman recounts. “So I did what I had to do and I actually came up with an alternate story that I would say wasn’t necessarily true. You could also use the world ‘lie,’ but that’s no fun. So I came back to you guys and I said, ‘Look, you’re right, it does need a hook and that’s why after a few issues I’m gonna reveal that this is actually an alien invasion story. That these zombies are actually put on Earth by aliens and it’ll eventually be revealed that it’s this really cool sci-fi epic involving alien invasion. You know the seeds will be planted very early on, but it will be a while before it’s actually revealed.'”
Adding credence to his subterfuge, Kirkman originally proposed doing a science fiction zombie comic called Death Planet. He eventually fessed up to the alien hoax after several issues but as a joke the aliens made an appearance in a non-canonical back-up story in The Walking Dead #75. It ends with the Governor leading the alien invasion. At his side is Lori as his sex slave, which was actually a real idea for the series. Although it would have have been a horrific experience, both Lori and her baby would have survived.
Kirkman also reveals that he considered having Shane kill Rick instead of the other way around.
“I had a whole storyline worked out where Shane was gonna kill Rick and Carl was gonna see it,” Kirkman wrote. “And then Carl, the kid who knows that Shane killed his father, has to deal with the fact that he’s in a camp with this guy.”
Some the changes have lead to the creation of whole new characters. Kirkman thought about having Rick kill Glenn to save Carl but he felt it was too unrealistic so came up with Negan, who infamously kills Glenn with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire called “Lucille.”
Kirkman says Negan is his favorite character to write because he has a way with words.
“It’s one of the most fun things about the book right now,” he asserts. “It doesn’t mean that he’s safe, but I really just love getting in there and adding just the most absurd shit. A lot of times he says something that’s completely foul, something that I would never say. But then every now and then, he’ll say something that I’ve actually said to people at times. So it’s kind of fun to get in there and just have a character that can comment on situations in a really absurd way that is very alien to the book. Like no one has ever really behaved like Negan before and to me that is really exciting.”
Artist Charlie Adlard already spilled at Comic Con that the character is based on Henry Rollins but Kirkman seems to be trying to backtrack that spoiler for legal reasons.
“For a character like Negan, I gave him (Adlard) specifics on what I wanted him to look like,” Kirkman said. “I gave him an actor who I will not name, just in case that guy later wants to be cast in the show and we can’t. That could be problematic.”
Rollins and his publicist had no comment when contacted about possibly playing Negan in The Walking Dead spinoff series scheduled for 2015.
The Walking Dead comic will continue for the foreseeable future but Kirkman says he already knows the ending, which we won’t see until around #500 if he has his way. It’s such a tightly guard secret that even AMC doesn’t know about it. In fact, he says they won’t be able to use it for the show if they stumble upon it on their own.
“My goal right now is for the book to outlive the show,” he disclosed. “That’s the thing that really excites me. The show is really cool. I love working on the show. I don’t want the show to ever end. But I really like the idea of the show running its course, coming up with a very cool, satisfactory ending for the show, and then the comic continuing to dig deeper in this world and move forward. I think that would be a really fun place to get to. The show is doing really well so that might take a while. Maybe the show will outlive the comic and that’ll be annoying.”
Kirkman will go into further detail about original plot lines in his upcoming book: The Walking Dead Cutting-Room Floor.