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Some spoilers follow for anyone who isn't current with the Walking Dead TV show and comic series.
Anytime a book or comic book gets adapted as another form of media, fans are going to make endless comparisons. That goes for massive fantasy epics like Game of Thrones to kid-focused adventures like Captain Underpants. But I think most would agree that The Walking Dead earns as many adaptation comparisons as anything else out there, and we're always keen to dive into those conversations.
Here, we've rounded up all the Walking Dead characters whose comic book iterations are more enjoyable than the live-action versions. In some cases, the disparity is minimal, while in others, the original characters are worlds better than the TV characters. Let's start off with one of AMC hit's most frustrating characters, regardless of the source material.
In The Comics: As one of the comic book's most iconic characters, Andrea was a pillar of strength, confidence, and firearm skills, and she also delivered as much emotional thrust as anyone else in the series. Each relationship she entered into was highly meaningful, from her closeness with Dale to the surrogate motherhood that she took on with Ben, Billy and (later) Carl to her eventually settling down with Rick. And Andrea's death was probably as heartbreaking as any other death from the comics.
In The TV Show: Laurie Holden was a fine choice to take on the role of Andrea, and the character initially seemed like she'd remain fairly close to the original version. But no, that all fell apart before too long, and one of the worst decisions in Walking Dead history involved Andrea moving to Woodbury to start a romantic relationship with The Governor, a dipshit move that sealed the increasingly unbearable character's fate. Even Holden herself wasn't fond of how that story turned out.
In The Comics: By the nature of his deadly crimes, his vulgar speech and his tyrannical nature, Negan should have been the series' least likable character, and yet the ruthless villain remains one of The Walking Dead's biggest fan favorites. His constant swearing has always been more hilarious than intimidating, and he's only become more interesting and nuanced as time has gone by, with the standalone offshoot Here's Negan offering a backstory that, while sometimes superfluous, expanded upon Negan's blink-and-you'll-miss-it emotional core. He's as colorful and dynamic a villain as one could get in black-and-white.
In The TV Show: Jeffrey Dean Morgan had a lot to live up to when taking on the live-action iteration of Negan, and there's no denying the frightening charisma he exudes in every scene he's in. But there was always going to be something lost in translation when bringing Negan into the TV show, with his ghoulish comic book acts becoming all the more monstrous and uncomfortable when they're not illustrated. Plus, the show seems to have no clue how to utilize Negan properly, bouncing between ignoring him completely and then giving him all the focus. Morgan will always be great, but Comic Negan will always be that much greater in comparison.
In The Comics: While never entering the pantheon of supreme Walking Dead comic characters, Heath has been heading up the second tier in fine form, with intelligence, wit and a fully rounded personality. Sometimes he's funny, sometimes he's indignant, sometimes he's just trying to survive without getting his face eaten. In other words, he's exactly the kind of character that can give any scene more depth, even if he's just bitching about having a missing leg.
In The TV Show: After seeing how stellar Corey Hawkins was in Straight Outta Compton, we were pumped that the actor's next project would bring him into the post-apocalypse to take on such a solid comic character. Unfortunately, Hawkins kept booking other jobs in the meantime, which meant he wasn't able to stick around The Walking Dead for very long. But instead of doing anything interesting while he was around, Heath just sorta followed others and then inexplicably disappeared in Season 7. His future return is probable, though it's not likely to justify his absence. Or his dullness.
In The Comics: Sophia and Carol are two major and early examples of how The Walking Dead could successfully flip the script from comics to TV. So while TV Carol is so much more fantastic and developed than her source material counterpart, the opposite is the case with Sophia. As one of the three original Atlanta survivors, Sophia is always true to her character, whether it's by retaining her childlike innocence or by bringing more humanity to Carl's troubled existence. Comic Sophia is arguably more three-dimensional than any of the TV show's younger imps, save for Carl himself. And even then...
In The TV Show: Live-action Sophia never had a chance. While Madison Lintz was fine enough in the role whenever she was around in Season 1 and part of Season 2, The Walking Dead delivered its first fan-enraging plotline whenever Sophia went missing for half a season, only to be discovered later as a walker. The emotional impact made that reveal memorable, to be sure, but it didn't do much to make us appreciate Sophia herself. We just felt bad for Carol, which is something that never really stopped happening.
Dr. Harlan Carson
In The Comics: In the scheme of things, there's really not a whole lot going on with the comics' Dr. Harlan Carson by way of big plots or personality shifts. But he's damned near the most important character simply because he's a doctor and is able to provide invaluable medical help to a group that is in constant need of medical help. Once Denise was killed off, the always canny Harlan became responsible for saving the lives of many big characters, including Negan himself, making his presence all the more necessary as time goes on.
In The TV Show: Before the ailing Father Gabriel started calling for Harlan to be taken back to Hilltop, casual viewers might have already forgotten that Harlan Carson existed, since he's only shown up for a couple of barely eventful scenes. Which is surprising, given how all these show characters are also needing constant medical assistance. And is it just me, or does R. Keith Harris play the role in kind of a creepy way that might make one want to get a second opinion from just about anyone else?
In The Comics: As the pubescent son of Rick Grimes, Carl was destined to be difficult, and his rebellious personality has made for some groan-worthy moments in the comics. But after getting his eye shot out, Carl transcended the distinction of being Rick's son, and started down the rocky path to true independence and leadership, which has turned him into one of the series' most fascinating characters in the current timeline. And he's all the more relatable simply by not being 100% selfless and brave on a constant basis.
In The TV Show: Beyond his inability to stay in the damned house, TV Carl has been one of the most infuriating aspects of the live-action universe. Carl's terrible choices have often been used as ways to introduce danger and drama into otherwise non-dangerous situations, and even though the character (and Chandler Riggs' performances) has gotten more enjoyable in recent years -- which I'll similarly credit the missing eye with -- the character is now facing his TV death at a time when there are so many other redeeming comic moments that would make his legacy that much stronger. Sadly, he won't get to take on any of them.
In The Comics: Now, don't get me wrong. Comic Nicholas is a real piece of shit for a while as an Alexandria native whose distrust of the Ricktatorship initially knows no bounds. That made him interesting, because he was bringing up largely rational points when arguing against Rick's choices. Later, after making one too many poor decisions, he defected from villainy in order to join Rick in the battle against the Saviors, eventually sacrificing himself to keep Rick alive. He had a good run.
In The TV Show: Michael Traynor wouldn't have been the actor I'd have picked for a Nicholas that adhered to the comic role, but Traynor was admittedly perfect for the TV show's watered-down and complexity-lite iteration. A self-admitted coward without any good instincts, TV Nicholas become a mini-antagonist for Glenn, leading to that shocking and highly controversial scene where he needlessly killed himself in the midst of a walker herd, leading to Glenn's big death fakeout. The only way this character could have been truly enjoyable is if The Walking Dead had cast an actual weasel to play the part.
In The Comics: As one of Alexandria's only doctors, Denise was obviously important to the community, and she was also an enjoyable person to have around at any point. She and Heath made for one of the cuter Walking Dead couples in the comics, and she basically sacrificed herself to save him, choosing not to amputate her own walker-bit arm so that she could properly keep Heath alive after he lost his leg in a grenade blast. What a peach of a woman whose end came too soon.
In The TV Show: Despite having the talented and always watchable Merritt Wever playing Denise, the TV version never quite managed to become a fully developed character. She was apprehensive about medicine, she started a relationship with Tara, and...well, that was about it. Lasting only twelves episodes, Denise could not even find justice in death, since her TV murder was actually how Abraham died in the comics, and it was a situation crafted specifically to get Abraham into Negan's lineup in that season finale, as opposed to finding a meaningfully original way for Denise to die. They couldn't have killed off a rando Alexandria person instead?
In The Comics: Eugene's comic and TV introductions were fairly similar, in that he talked his way into groups by spreading lies, and both versions proved their continued worth with a sharp intellect and pragmatism. But the comic character's personality and emotional complexity continued to expand as time went on, and it not only involved a complicated romantic relationship, but also a currently ongoing mystery that could completely change up The Walking Dead's status quo forever. And both narrative paths feel like they were tailor-made for Eugene to handle.
In The TV Show: While Josh McDermitt's Eugene was almost immediately a fan favorite whenever his mullet and accent entered the picture, The Walking Dead ruined a whole lot of that goodwill by shipping Eugene off to the Sanctuary, where his lack of a backbone caused him to instantly side with Negan and his villainous crew. Face might have been saved if Eugene was secretly faking his allegiance, but that's not the case, and while his comic character's future plots could still make their way to TV, Eugene no longer deserves fictional happiness or success.
In The Comics: Truth be told, Comic Richard wasn't all that big of a character, and he didn't necessarily have anything interesting going on in the source material. As the head of Ezekiel's Kingdom army, Richard was a loyal warrior who stuck with his leader until the bitter end, dying in a battle against the Saviors. He was only around for four issues, and didn't get any major plot points. And yet, this is easily the preferred Richard to that TV douche.
In The TV Show: When Karl Makinen was first introduced as Richard, he seemed like he would be exactly the same as the comic character: a strong enforcer fighting for the good of the Kingdom. But live-action Richard had completely different ideas about how to keep the Kingdom safe, intending to get Carol killed and unintentionally getting young Benjamin killed instead. Sure, he was afforded some sympathy over the fact that his own wife and daughter died in horrible ways. But it wasn't enough to make up for his shitty plotting, and it was a morosely celebratory moment when Morgan brutally murdered him.
Thankfully, there are many more Walking Dead comic character yet to come as the TV show continues its long (and ratings-troubled) run. Here's hoping we'll see more from Siddiq and others when The Walking Dead returns to AMC for the remainder of Season 8 on Sunday, February 25, at 9:00 p.m. To see everything else hitting the small screen in the near future, head to our fall TV premiere schedule and our 2018 midseason premiere schedule.