One thing that keeps The Walking Dead so compelling (on the page as well as on the small screen) is the element of mystery. The show seldom gives us too much information to work with, which offers endless opportunities to speculate about vague story components. Few concepts in The Walking Dead universe embody that idea more than the age of Carl Grimes, and now it seems that even the folks behind this beloved zombie world cannot completely agree on it. The Walking Dead editor Sean Mackiewicz explained:
Robert and I disagree on many things, but maybe none more so than Carl's age. The irony there is that I know Carl is 7, like you all do, because Robert wrote he was 7 in issue 5. So long as Carl never says how old he is post-time jump, you can just ignore what we say in the letter pages as made up shit. (Except for everything I just wrote.)
As Sean Mackiewicz recently pointed out in the Letter Hacks section at the end of The Walking Dead's latest issue, Carl's age has become somewhat vague as the series has worn on. Unlike Rick Grimes' age, Carl's age was at one point established, and we knew that he was roughly 7 at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. However, following an in-universe time-jump, Carl's age has become far murkier territory, and nobody can definitively answer that question.
The issue of Carl's age has become even more imprecise on the TV series, as Chandler Riggs has aged much faster than anyone else on the show -- including baby Judith. Riggs started the show as a very young kid (he was 11 when the show debuted in 2010), but he has aged considerably as the series has progressed. This becomes even more complicated by the occasional time-jumps that have taken place between seasons. Riggs is now 17-years-old, and the live-action version of Carl is more of a young adult than a preteen -- even if the show hasn't provided his age.
Robert Kirkman's response to the explanation doesn't help provide much clarification. The Walking Dead's creator (who isn't known for mincing words about this universe) wrote:
Officially, the time jump between 126 and 127 is not tied down to a specific number of years. It seems like around two, but could have been more.
This belief (which is NOT shared by everyone who works on the series) makes Carl Grimes 13 in the comics, which is very clearly not the case on the TV show. In all honesty, this seems like one of those situations that may never actually receive a real resolution -- and it might be simpler that way. So many things on The Walking Dead are insanely complicated, so perhaps it's better if we just don't overthink the age of the young Grimes boy. After all, Chandler Riggs is still in the midst of puberty and probably won't stop growing anytime soon.
AMC's The Walking Dead airs every Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET. For more information about 2017's remaining spring debuts, make sure to check out our comprehensive midseason premiere guide and fill out your TV viewing schedule accordingly!