I've been a huge fan of AMC's televised The Walking Dead ever since I first stumbled across a bootleg DVD of the first season lying on a random bookshelf in Afghanistan in 2011. There are some slow parts, especially in Season 2, when the group is basically just lulling about Hershel's farm talking to each other, but the drama, the action, and the characters make it one of the greatest shows of all time. I love how, by the end of Season 3, it is not even really about the zombies any more, nor is really about survival; it's all about the characters and the different dynamics they all bring to the table.
As Robert Kirkman says in the introduction to Volume 1 "Days Gone Bye" of The Walking Dead comics, "To me, the best zombie movies aren't the splatter fests of gore and violence with goofy characters and tongue in cheek antics. Good zombie movies show us how messed up we are, they make us question our station in society... and our society's station in the world." Well, I think he nailed that, and, yes, his characters are really, really messed up.
Little did I know, the show's got nothing on the comic books.
I recently bought Volumes 1 through 13 of The Walking Dead Trade Paperback collections. And wow, I thought the TV show was bad--the comics are terrible! That Kirkman is one sick puppy.
Despite this, or maybe because of it, the books are good. Really, really good. I do not want to know what goes on inside that Robert Kirkman's head, to be able to come up with some of this stuff. I would say Robert Kirkman is to comic books what Quinten Tarantino is to movies. Some of the stuff in there is so sick, so grotesque, so disturbing. At the same time, it is so good! It goes beyond the not-being-able-to-look-away-from-a-car-wreck analogy. Some of the scenes from The Walking Dead are so bad, but the books are so good because of that badness. The stop-and-go pace of loddy-doddy, another day on the farm, everything is swell, and then--BAM!--the most terrible thing imaginable happens is what makes these books so special.
If you haven't read them yet, and you're a fan of the show, I recommend cautiously checking them out. If some of the more intense scenes from the show were too much for you, I would recommend never, ever even coming close to these comic books, lest they scar you for life.
Here are just a few of the atrocities from the comics that I will continue to have nightmares about forever:
OK, this happened in the TV show, too, although Shane was already undead when Carl shot him, but, still, it was totally messed up. The first real human-on-human murder in the comics is when a little kid murders his dad's former best friend and his mom's former kinda boyfriend. Awful.
Otis shoots Carl in the back.
I think this might have been even sadder in the TV version, when Carl is in a coma for weeks. The way they're looking at that majestic deer and then, BANG!, Carl gets hit, really threw me for a loop.
The zombies from Hershel's barn escape and eat a couple of his kids, Lacey and Arnold.
These atrocities happened in the TV show, also, and weren't revoltingly bad, but they were still pretty freaking sad. Also, when the walkers from the barn come out in the TV show, and you see little Sophia walk out as the last one, then you see the looks of devastation, disappointment, and depression on everyone's faces. I almost cried, for real.
Tyreese's daughter, Julie, and her boyfriend, Chris, have sex and then try to carry out a double-suicide. Only Chris shoots quicker than Julie, killing her. Julie then comes back as a zombie, tries to eat Tyreese, and Chris kills her again. Then Tyreese kills Chris by crushing his windpipe with his bare hands, and then spends the rest of the night ripping the undead Chris apart limb from limb.
This is the beginning of the really crazy, far out, too much, throw-up-in-my-mouth a little bit atrocities from The Walking Dead comics. My jaw literally dropped as I looked at these pages, and stayed open for the rest of the volume.
After learning that it's not the zombie bites that bring you back, everyone is already infected, Rick leaves the prison to go back and dig up Shane's corpse. Then Rick shoots Shane in the head, leaving him unburied this time.
I liked the way they learned they were all infected from the TV show better, when they went to the CDC. At first it seemed like Rick was doing the right thing, not wanting to leave Shane as a walker. But then he just left his rotting body there....
Thomas, one of the prisoners, decapitates two of Hershel's little daughters, Susie and Rachel. Then Glenn goes in and puts a round in each of their undead heads.
This is just sick. It is a perfect example of how Kirkman makes the humans more of a threat than the zombies. The actual panels with the two little girls' heads making gurgling zombie sounds will forever be seared into my memory. It is the stuff of nightmares.
Rick makes Thomas pay by pulverizing his hand against Thomas's face. Then Patricia let's Thomas loose, Thomas tries to kill her, and Maggie finally kills him.
This is the first time Rick really snaps. I'm not going to say that sick-o Thomas didn't deserve what he got, but this whole arc with the psychotic prisoner living amongst them is one of the more disturbing of the series. Until the introduction of The Governor, I didn't think The Walking Dead could get more atrocious.
Rick murders Dexter during the culling of the zombies from Cell Block A after Dexter tries forcing the group to leave the prison.
Carol watches Michonne and Tyreese get it on in the gym, then slits her wrists.
Thankfully, they didn't kill Carol off here, and she bounces back (temporarily). Still, this whole situation was just messed up.
The Governor chops off Rick's hand.
In the TV version, they built Phillip up and at least made him seem a little bit human. In the comics, there is no build up. He is straight evil from the get go. He proves this by mutilating Rick, for no real reason at all.
The Governor repeatedly rapes Michonne.
I could not find an image that I could stomach to copy for display here. I'm not going to say something like this would never happen, because I know it could. Needless to say, it was very, very disturbing to see something like this in a comic book.
The Governor feeds newly-dead body parts to his undead niece, Penny.
They had the daughter in the TV show, too, and it was just as unsettling.
The Governor watches his aquariums full of floating heads like they're a television show.
In the TV version, it was still pretty freaking weird, but I got it. Phillip was desensitizing himself to the biters, turning them from monsters to something he could handle. In the comics, it just goes to show how twisted The Governor really is. I thought Volume 3 was bad, but, with The Governor, Volume 5 took the atrocity-factor to a whole other level.