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.