Monthly Archives: January 2012

Interview with Gale Hurd

Gale Anne Hurd has made a living bringing iconic characters to life for the big screen- as a producer for The Hulk and executive producer for The Terminator series- and brought us the terror of earthworms when she executive produced Tremors. Her on the small screen has produced a number of TV movies and a Terminator series, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Her interest in the science fiction realm has brought us The Walking Dead. Helena Vann sat down with Gale Hurd to talk adaptation.

What is the difference for adapting comics for film and adapting for television?

Television is the ideal medium to tell character driven stories, and allows the writers and producers to delve into season long story and character arcs, from 13 to 22 hours of storytelling. For a feature, you have the challenge to tell a story in about two hours, so every aspect of plot and character must be condensed for the shorter running time.

What experiences from bringing comic book characters to life, such as the Hulk and the Punisher, have you brought to The Walking Dead?

They were helpful insofar as one must respect the fans of the original, yet recognize that any adaptation for film or TV will ultimately differ from the source material. While fans want adaptations to be fairly faithful to the underlying material, they are also hoping to be surprised with some new plot twists. It is also essential to involve the creators of the comic books and consult with them throughout the adaptation process.

The women in the graphic novel and in your own films are strong characters, while the women in this television series seem weak.  Is this because of audience expectations for women on television?

Absolutely not – we are following the character development of the women in the comic book. Andrea is already undergoing a change in her character from a civil rights attorney lacking survival skills already found in some of the men (like the deputies Rick and Shane, or the survivalist Daryl) into someone who can take care of herself. Maggie Greene is a farmer’s daughter who can ride horses better than any of the men, and takes out a walker the first time we see her in the series. And one of the most kick ass characters from the comic book is Michonne, a samurai sword wielding woman, who will be introduced in future seasons.

How far away from the original material is it “safe” for you to go so you do not alienate the graphic novel fans?

We have introduced brand new characters who have become fan favorites (Daryl and Merle Dixon, among others), and we have killed off characters who survive in the comic (like Sophia) and kept others alive (Shane). The creator of the comic, Robert Kirkman, very much encourages the writers to deviate from the comic book to enhance the storytelling for the medium of television.

How did you decide which characters to keep from the graphic novel and which characters to invent, such as Merle? Why and how was Merle’s character created?

The writers discussed what new characters might be encountered by our survivors and the brothers were created by Frank Darabont and then developed during conversations in the writers room.

THE WALKING DEAD Script Analysis by Samantha Lambros

by Samantha Lambros

The differences between the graphic novel and the television adaptation of The Walking Dead are apparent right from the beginning when comparing the two. The pilot starts with a scene where the zombie outbreak has already been underway for quite some time and Rick is searching for supplies, whereas the graphic novel starts with the shootout that ultimately leads to Rick falling into a coma. The show depicts this through flashback scenes which it utilizes in almost every episode. The shootout is drastically different between the graphic novel and the show, as well. It is much more dramatic in the show, Rick has more officers to back him up, and there is also the tease of him initially getting shot in the bulletproof best followed by the actual gunshot that lands him to be in a coma.

The conversation between Rick and Shane about the differences between men and women which is used for character development, does not exist in the graphic novel. Instead, we are thrown right from the shootout to Rick waking up in a zombie-infested hospital. There are some minor details within the hospital scenes that differ from the graphic novel. For example, Rick finds a body in an elevator instead of merely seeing one decaying in the hallway. The door that says, “Don’t open, dead inside” in the show is still in the graphic novel, however without the warning and chains which results in Rick opening the door. Behind the door he finds an entire room full of zombies consuming, decaying flesh and they attack him. His escape from the hospital is also different, as there is no military equipment shows outside in the graphic novel.

The town itself looks to be in much worse condition in the comic than in the show. The streets are stark yet still undisturbed in the pilot, aside from the sporadic decaying body, and in the graphic novel the town looks like a war zone. Rick’s house is also in much better shape in the show, as it is depicted as a disaster in the novel.

The relationship between Morgan and Rick starts out slightly different in the show and the novel. There is no tension or suspicion on Morgan’s part when Rick awakens in the comic, however in the show he threatens Rick’s life and holds a knife to him, unsure as to whether or not he is infected. Rick also tells Morgan that he is a police officer later in the novel than he did in the show, and there is also no mention of Morgan’s wife being a zombie. Overall Morgan’s character is barely developed in the graphic novel compared to on the show, which is well developed. Through his character development on the show there is a bigger emotional investment for the viewer.

This may be due to the comparison being a comic book versus a television show, but the dialogue in the show is much more natural than the comic. Most of Rick’s lines in the book come across as very corny and matter-of-fact and just flow better in general on screen. Rick also gives Morgan his own police cruiser which doesn’t happen in the show. In the show, Morgan already has another vehicle and just takes the guns as a donation from Rick. They also make the wise decision not to shoot the unnamed zombie at the police station because the noise would attract others. The aforementioned unnamed zombie was given a character name as one of the fallen police officers in the show, however this was not the case in the novel.

While the pilot of the show ends with Rick making his way to Atlanta, the first issue of the graphic novel ends with Rick executing the decaying woman’s corpse crawling on the ground. This happened about 30 to 45 minutes into the first episode, while it is the last page of the graphic novel’s first issue. I believe the pilot gave a much better representation of whats to come in the series, and hooked the audience in more than this first issue would have. Details were lost from the adaptation, but also many were added that would have been too trivial to depict on a comic book page. Overall, I feel like the pilot was a more enthralling introduction to the series then the first graphic novel had been.

THE WALKING DEAD Script Analysis

by Larry Larson

“Maybe it’s just me, starry-eyed optimist I am, but Shane Walsh is a good man.”
“Maybe it’s just me, empty-eyed cynic I am, but Shane Walsh is a terrible man.”

Those two statements might seem like they’re confused, opposed or just outright ridiculous when put next to each other. Both tell something very different about the same man. But isn’t that the point? This dichotomy is one of the most important distinctions to be made between the graphic novel of The Walking Dead and the television series. Shane appears as Rick’s best friend in both mediums and in both mediums he is the jilted lover of Rick’s wife Laurie. However, subtle differentiations in character change Shane from being the wild-eyed villain he is ultimately exposed to be in the graphic novel to being the tragic, sympathetic and nobly flawed ally of Rick and the rest of the survivors.

Not only is Shane fleshed out more as a character in the television series than his graphic novel counter-part, but an effort is made to make sure that Shane is seen as a good man who genuinely cares about those around him. This starts right from Shane’s first scene, where he attempts to cheer up Rick by telling a misogynistic “sermon” about the inability of women to turn off lights. Shane doesn’t truly believe that all women are incapable of turning off lights, as he admits that his only goal with his “sermon” was to entertain Rick and get Rick’s mind off of his marital problems.

Another key factor is that throughout the season, we see Shane’s affection for the members of Rick’s family. With Laurie, he is not only present sexually, but emotionally. Indeed, during the episode “Guts”, it’s Shane who’s able to talk Laurie down from risking her life to save the survivors trapped in the city by appealing to Laurie’s feelings not only for Carl, but for Shane. Since the misadventure in Atlanta never happened in the graphic novel, we never get to see Shane as anything other than a brooding mess driven by jealous. While those elements are certainly at play in the television series, they’re muted so as to not create the impression that Shane is a villain.

In the graphic novel there’s no hint that beyond Carl being Rick and Laurie’s son, Shane truly cares about Carl. Indeed, when Shane does finally break down and almost shoot Rick, he only mentions Laurie. Carl is not even mentioned. In the television series, Shane is left despondent when Laurie forbids Shane from being around Carl. It is these kinds of changes to the character which inevitably allow Shane to survive and weather the emotional typhoon caused by seeing the family that he’s grown to love and care for seek their affection from another man.

THE WALKING DEAD Script Analysis

by Bob Urda

“The Walking Dead isn’t a show about the dead rising to feed on the living; it’s a show about the living’s reaction to the dead rising to feed on them. Genuine drama ensues when characters must either adapt to the extreme circumstances forced upon them or perish” (Violence and Viscera by Vince A. Liaguno 125).

Lianguno’s quote was dead on. No pun intended. The Walking Dead television show is about reactions. Many of the scenes feature extreme close-up reaction shots. The intense amount of detail within every frame of these shots makes the viewer feel and react to the show. The show is organized through these powerful images causing reactions in their viewers. Therefore, the show thrives off of creating conflict among the characters by forcing them to “adapt to the extreme circumstances forced upon them or perish.” This one crucial element of the show is extremely different from the graphic novel, which does not focus on drama among the characters, but rather focuses on their survival.

In the television series, as well as in the graphic novel, the characters Lori and Shane become very intimate with each other. Lori is married to Rick and they have a son named Carl. Rick who just so happens to be the sheriff of their town is shot some time before the zombie attack. He is in the hospital while it happens, so his buddy and coworker Shane steps up to help take care of Lori and Carl while Rick is thought to be dead in a hospital bed somewhere and Lori finds comfort in the arms of Shane while Rick isn’t around. However, she becomes a lot less infatuated with Shane when she finds out that Rick is still alive. This part is the same in both the AMC series as well as the graphic novel.

Since the graphic novel focuses more on survival of the group as well as ideas that benefit the group, the character of Shane is killed shortly after all of this happens. Shane is excessively violent and forceful, which is true in the TV series also. But in the graphic novel’s storyline there is no time for vengeful characters that sleep with their best friend’s wife and, ironically enough, Shane is shot and killed by Rick’s son Carl. Bravo, Robert Kirkman, Bravo! This shows that a family’s love can overcome hardship and emphasizes the themes of hope and sticking together.

On the other side of that is the TV series, in which Shane is very much still alive and almost always up to no good. He thinks about killing Rick while the two are out hunting, he tries to rape Lori, and he eventually kills Otis, a man who accidentally shot Carl. By shaving his head and looking at his muscular unclothed body in the mirror Shane justifies his actions and lives on for another episode.

I believe that the major differences between the graphic novel and the TV series are significant, but work for the type of medium that they are being presented in. The themes and story-lines that both follow are very different but still can be viewed together. The two complement each other well, even though they promote different ideas.

Script Analysis: THE WALKING DEAD

If the reader is paying enough attention, she or he will notice among the various differences between The Walking Dead graphic novel and its television adaptation lays the glaring omission of the strong, independent female characters from the source material. It is my opinion that the choice to stereotype the gender roles of the women on the show was to make it more palatable, thereby increasing its appeal to the broader television audience that the program wants.

I could reprint screen-caps like this one of Carol Peletier from the show ad nauseam. The above image seems to pop up in each episode, sometimes more than once, for one reason or another. Props must go to Melissa McBride, who pushes herself and her tear ducts to the edge for these bits. Carol, while certainly not without her neuroses in the book, is painted as one of the meekest characters in the show. In further chapters of the book, Carol does become a bit unstable but she doesn’t spend every panel crying like she would if someone adapted the show into a graphic novel. In the show Carol is a woman who has a history of being physically battered and mentally and emotionally abused by her husband, Ed. In the episode “Tell it to the Frogs”, Carol appears like a twisted reflection of a house bound woman in a television commercial from the late-sixties: she primarily cares for the laundry and is bound to do her husbands bidding like a “good” wife. She goes so far as to apologize to Ed after Shane pummels him for hitting her. Her meekness, especially as much as we the audience see it, tell us not to respect her as much as the gun-toting leaders or males and other more functional members of the group.

Then there is Jacqui. We don’t see much of her in first season but when we do she is presented as a smart and in control woman. When we first meet her with the group of survivors in Atlanta she’s level headed and collected. Perhaps on the strongest portrayal of a woman on the show in season one. Then what happens? She chooses in the season one finale “to opt-out”. Perhaps this is one way the television writers are trying to correct her addition as a character not featured in the source material. But this is in stark contrast to another black female character; in the comic book we have Michonne. While Michonne’s insistence on continually throwing herself in harms way when in combat may seem suicidal, not to mention, when we first meet her she is fearlessly walking amongst the roamers, alone, save for the two zombies behind her whom she tows about in chains (and there is nothing like keeping people in chains when one wants to express dominance), but we get the feeling that Michonne would never give up quite as easily as Jacqui did in the CDC.

Now onto the “First Lady” of the group: Lori Grimes. Lori is constantly worried that her husband will not come back. As the appointed leader of the group, Rick takes on tasks and makes the hard decisions for the group. As we see in both the show and the book, Lori displays a quiet strength and puts on a strong face for her son Carl, who is usually left behind with her at the camp, or the farm or the prison. Oddly enough, Carl never seems to worry about his hero failing to return from the front lines. The difference between the two versions of Lori comes down to the shows handling of Lori and Shane’s sexual relationship. In the book she has one night of passion with the man, a night which she later regrets, but in the show they have a torrid love affair. As we discussed in class, Lori is marginalized in the television adaptation with sex. She is a victim of the double standard when it comes to sex: women are considered whores, whereas as men are championed for it.

Something that punches this home even more is the fact that in the scene, Shane turns Lori over and mounts her as if she were a dog. What does this say about Lori? There are many subliminal messages here, but due to the specific position she is put in and the aforementioned circumstances behind their encounter, one word that comes to mind, is bitch. The audience knows Rick is still alive, and even though Lori doesn’t, we find her guilty of infidelity regardless: it’s “too soon” to be thinking about sex after your husband has just died. In this way she is painted as “less than”.

As outlined in my second analysis, my biggest gripe with the television series is the transformation of Andrea from witty, tough and deadly into emotional, weak and suicidal. This is best exemplified in season one’s finale “TS-19” when she makes the decision to stay in the Center for Disease Control compound while the countdown timer ticks away. She learns of how the disease works from the doctor, which leads to a break down in the shower, subsequent vomiting and her near-fatal choice to get blown to smithereens in the CDC building.

In two of the three above examples we see Dale coming to her rescue (all within one episode), and while this is a touching display of his father/daughter love for her, in the book these examples just don’t exist. In fact, it is Dale, the “insecure old man”, whom Andrea must comfort, constantly reassure and look out for.

I will give the show some credit however: as it continues, Andrea is starting to take on the Annie Oakley-esque characteristics rife in the panels of the book. One of the finest examples of her strength and contribution to the group in the book is her gun, which is stripped away from her in the show. The men of the group, specifically Dale, decide to take it away from her. Not only is the gun a symbol of power, it is also a necessity in a world where the undead outnumber and prey on the living. Graphic novel Andrea, arguably the most powerful female in the group, would never let Dale (her lover in the book) or anyone for that matter, take away her gun. Whether or not TV Andrea will become the team’s most effective defensive player like she is in the book remains to be seen, but by making her a distraught and emotional mess, she loses her credibility within the group and to the audience.

In general, comic books have a narrow appeal. Good comic books go even less appreciated. Smaller comics have to compete with the likes of bigger titles sitting in the rack next to them so they take more chances and feature more graphic violence and sex as well as more complex characters and profound themes. Television however, due largely to an entirely different distribution system, can be seen in a large majority of homes in America and other parts of the world. In order to maintain mass appeal while competing with other shows in the same timeslots, television uses rigid formulas and rules when writing. Television has to be simple. It has to be palatable so more people will tune in and the network will make money. Because of this and television censors, “The Walking Dead” television series has to be different from the graphic novel. With an approximate average 5.25 million viewers per episode for the first season and carrying an average of 6.43 million per episode this season, who am I to argue that what the writers are doing to my beloved characters is wrong? The formulas and rules of writing television exist for one reason: because they work. It is really just a shame that audiences aren’t more accepting and that the networks don’t try and open both their minds and the audience’s a little.