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Why Adapting The Walking Dead From Comic Book To TV Show Is So Hard

When writers see their book(s) making the transition to a different medium, changes are bound to happen. But few of those cases involve authors who have worked on a single project for the same timeframe as The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, who has been putting out issues of the comic book series for 12 years. His situation falls on the rarer side because he’s one of the people directly responsible for making those page-to-screen alterations. And as you can imagine, it’s not always the smoothest of operations.

Kirkman appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers last night, and when the SNL vet and longtime comic fan asked Kirkman what it was like in the writers room, and he had this to say.

It’s at times an awkward process, because we are adapting the comic book series and I’m in the room with them while we’re adapting it. So it’s me in a room with eight people, and I’ll go ‘Well, we did this in the comic,’ and they’d go, ‘Well, this won’t work,’ or ‘Eh, it’d probably be better if we do it this way.’ And often times they’re right. But it’s eight people, you know, tearing apart work I did five years ago.

I have to imagine that it’s tough to see story elements that were near and dear to the creative process get either excised or neutered due to the increase in content limitations on television. (Not that The Walking Dead hasn’t given us our fair share of R-rated situations.) But in the case of something like Rick’s hand, lost on the page but not on Andrew Lincoln’s body, it’s not merely a remixing of a comic’s story to alter expectations, but removing a core part of what shaped the main character for a huge part of the narrative on the page.

Kirkman probably isn’t ever going to come out and hardcore bitch (if he even wanted to) about this process and say that there are cage matches when he disagrees, because that’s bad politics. But it’d be interesting to know the worst case scenario here. “Hey, Robert. We really like the character of Negan and how dangerous he is, but we’re thinking about – hear me out – we’re thinking about having him speak only in rhyming stanzas.” Great idea!

Kirkman did go on to say that he has no problem steering things away from ideas that he doesn’t agree with.

Every now and then I jump in, too, and I’m like, “This is awful. We shouldn’t do this. We gotta change this part.’ But it’s a very strange experience.

You can check out a slip of the interview below.

What I can say is that the Season 6 premiere works, regardless of how the process behind its formation went. Check it out when it premieres on Sunday, October 11. On five of the other days of the week, you can catch Late Night with Seth Meyers on NBC.

Nick Venable
Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.