Why Robert Kirkman Won't Explain How The Walking Dead's Outbreak Started

the walking dead

For six months now, Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman has been deflecting questions about who fans will see fall victim to the dreaded Negan. And he's had quite a bit of experience in keeping secrets to himself, as he's gone the past 13 years without ever cluing fans in on the catastrophic event that caused the outbreak at the heart of the franchise's narrative. Such an explanation might not have felt so out of place in the early days, but here's why Kirkman refuses to inject an origin story into The Walking Dead.

What am I going to do? Have a scientist walk up and say the President was working with NASA? Any effort to have them become aware of the source would bring the comic into the realm of science fiction and I don't think that would be necessary.

For what it's worth, a lot of readers already consider The Walking Dead science fiction due to its post-apocalyptic setting and inclusion of millions of the undead, but I get what he's saying. There's almost always a point in zombie fiction where the protagonists learn about how the zombies happened, and it will often then pivot the drama into characters trying to reverse-engineer something to find a cure. (Or one of a billion alternate scenarios.) We have come way too far with the Walking Dead characters to see a science ex machina shoehorned in to appease the fans who still can't wholly enjoy this universe without knowing a source for the infection.

Back in Season 1 of the TV show, the live-action versions of Rick & Co. sort of got closer to the "facts" than anyone in the comic book, since they actually reached the CDC and spoke with someone thought to be in the know. But Noah Emmerich's Dr. Edwin Jenner was definitely not an informational savior, and what Rick got from him was a depressingly damning reveal. (And one that Robert Kirkman actually wishes hadn't been shared.) I admit that it would be interesting for the Walking Dead characters (of either medium) to one day discover that there's a part of the country that is still working relatively normally, with ongoing research happening - and perhaps that's what Eugene's current comic storyline is hinting at - but that would be an emotional gouging to the epic story that has been built up already.

Some fans thought that the companion series Fear the Walking Dead would finally offer a reveal for the zombie outbreak's source, but that didn't happen, and it won't. We did get to see a rough time stamp on when it started, just not how. And don't go thinking that Robert Kirkman's disinterest in talking about it means he doesn't have a set reason for the infection. Here's what else he said at New York Comic Con (via Polygon).

I'll never reveal what the source of the outbreak is in the comic. I'm never going to do that. I know what caused it.

Sure, we all have our theories, but sometimes being in the dark is best. Just, you know, not when there are also walkers in the area. Or Negan. Or spiders. My advice? Buy a notebook and come up with your own complicated reasoning behind what caused the walker revolution, and then sell the concept and start up your own fictional zombie universe. And with the millions you get from that, offer to buy Robert Kirkman a car if he tells you. Foolproof plan, guys.

While the past might not get brought up too much, the future is certainly a hot button issue on The Walking Dead, which will return to AMC for Season 7 on Sunday, October 23, at 8:00 p.m. ET. To see when everything else will infect your attention span, check out our fall premiere schedule.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.