The Walking Dead Phenomenon
How come a post-apocalyptic zombie horror comic has become one of the most popular pop-culture happenings over the past decade? The comic book is already being published for over 13 years, the TV series is already running 7th season and even has its own spin-off series titled “Fear the Walking Dead.” That is not to mention all the collectibles and video games that have been released during all this time. So, what is it so special about “The Walking Dead” comic book that it has caused such an incredible influence on the pop culture and comic book fans in particular?
From Romero to Martin
Initially, the Walking Dead was meant to be a canonic zombie horror story similar to George A. Romero’s all-time classic “Night of the Living Dead” and even published under the same title, as it was revealed in the 10th Anniversary Edition that also included the original pitch by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore. The initial proposal was declined and Jim Valentino, former Image Comics publisher, suggested that the name be changed, which Kirkman did, and the rest is history.
The comic book has gone a long way ever since, obviously. Today we have a story full of drama, unexpected plot twists and something each reader can deeply relate to. Some comic book fans even compare Robert Kirkman to another dramatic writer, worldwide-famous George R. R. Martin, known for his “A Song of Fire and Ice” book series. Not getting into spoilers for those of you, who haven’t yet got to the latest issues of the comic book, just as Martin, Kirkman has learned to sacrifice characters that have become dear and loved to the readers in a gruesome yet dramatic, spectacular, and memorable way.
“We Find Ourselves”
Although this is the name of an entire volume, it is also perhaps one of the main reasons comic book community (and not only) loves this comic so much. Every single person, at any age, loves a book/film/graphic novel/animation because they can relate to the main characters and their experience. And it’s really, really difficult to find another mainstream comic book that would have as strong connection to readers’ emotions, as The Walking Dead.
Characters constantly find themselves in situations that don’t have a morally correct way out and they have to decide between the bad and the worst. And this is exactly, where we, the readers, find ourselves in this comic book phenomenon. We question each action committed by Rick Grimes or his fellow protagonists through the prism of each of ours concept of good and bad. In the end, we acknowledge that we would perhaps do what they did at one point or another, in order to keep our friends and family, our group alive and well, as much as possible.
The Negan Charm
And even with all the things mentioned above, it’s not all. One word, one name – Negan.
There were Shane, the cannibals, and the Governor. But, when this total douchebag appeared in issue #100 and violently murdered one of the most loved characters, Glenn (Oops! Spoiler alert!), everybody hated him and clearly wanted him dead. Each time he appeared in an issue, you hoped Rick would come up with something and finally get rid of him. All Out War was intense and each issue was bringing us to the edge… and the rest is history.
But, in the same time, we laughed our butts off, when this charming maniac joked and dropped at least one F-bomb almost in each sentence. Volume 18 has also become a turning point in terms of attitude towards Negan – as he not only spared Carl after he shot several of the Saviors, but even brought him back to Alexandria safe and sound. There is one thing that keeps us all interested in him – we actually do get his views on life (in the world of The Walking Dead), although don’t always approve of the ways he prefers to deal with things.
The most surprising thing about Negan is that although he’s still around in the comic book (#162 was the last one, when this article was being written), and he’s not Rick’s adversary anymore, but even more of an ally, we can’t say that he has reformed or has gone from villain to anti-hero. He just remains that same Negan with a slight adjustment to his attitude, as he actually agrees with what Rick and his people have done with the communities during the time after the All Out War. Yes, that’s right, still dropping F-bombs here and there and joking, like there’s no tomorrow.
“No Turning Back”
Another volume title that perfectly describes what we, The Walking Dead fans and readers, feel about the comic book. There is no turning back from reading the comic, until it is being published and while good ol’ Robert has tales about Rick and Co. to tell us.
All the drama, the shock, the loss, the love, the hate, and the walking dead that surround the remainders of humanity make this wonderful black-and-white orchestra that keeps us on the tips of our toes during pretty much each new issue.
We have almost forgotten about the dead walking and roaming around, if not for the Whisperers in the latter story arcs. As sheriff deputy Rick Grimes once said: “We are the walking dead!” Zombies have become the background of the story, while we watch the actual characters of the story as long as it goes.