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The Walking Dead: The Comics VS. The TV Show (a guest post by Geri Diorio)

Today for Zombie Week librarian Geri Diorio is joining us once again to talk about The Walking Dead graphic novel series and how it compares to the TV show.

WARNING! SPOILERS for the comic up to issue 138 and the show as of March 15, 2015

The Walking Dead may be one of the most popular television shows on the air, but it began as a black and white comic book. In fact, it remains both of these things. In 2003, Image Comics began publishing monthly issues of The Walking Dead, written by Robert Kirkman and drawn by Tony Moore and then later drawn by Charlie Adlard. The comic, which won the 2010 Eisner Award for the Best Continuing Series, focuses on a former sheriff named Rick Grimes, his family and compatriots, as they fight to survive in the zombie apocalypse.

The comic is about as far from the brightly-colored, splashy-paneled mental image one may have of comic books. There are no superheroes in tights, flying in to save the day. There are instead stark black and white images with some muted gray shading. This fits the overall vibe of the comic (and the tv show to an extent). While reading the comic, you continually think, “Things can’t get worse for these people.” And every time you think that, things get worse. Since this is a story set in the zombie apocalypse, there is not a lot to be cheery about. The black and white art does not mitigate the violence. One character’s death by a barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat was still horribly gory, despite being rendered in stark black and white. Of course the impact of that image may also have a lot to do with the emotional attachment readers had to the character.

The comic begins with Rick Grimes waking up in a hospital, having missed the beginning of the end of the world. He was injured on the job, and was in a coma. He awakens with no knowledge of what has happened in the world, making him a perfect analog for the reader. In the time that he has been unconscious, zombies have overrun Atlanta (and possibly the world). The reader discovers what has happened through Rick’s eyes and is as shocked as he is. In subsequent issues (Image has published more than 135 now), we learn more about what has happened in the world, and we see how individuals and groups are coping (or not coping as the case may be). Rick and his group move from a prison to a farm to a safe zone (a suburban development that has been secured by building enormous walls around it). They encounter people who need help, people who can offer help, and many people who offer violence and threats of death. There are two out-and-out wars that have happened over the course of the comic so far, and several major characters have been killed. While the zombies are a persistent threat, it has become clear that living humans are far more dangerous to Rick’s group than the dead.

The television series, (written by a variety of people, with Kirkman, Adlard, Moore, and former Executive Producer Frank Darabont having the lion’s share of writer’s credits), has used the comic as it’s template, but has varied and expanded from it to better suit the medium and, perhaps, to draw in more viewers.

Television is not print, and while comics are perhaps the most visually important print medium, they are still very static compared to the moving image. The tv show is literally bloodier. Special Effects Makeup Designer Greg Nicotero’s work often feature spurts of blood hitting the camera lens. It is interesting to note that the zombie blood has gone from bright red when the tv series began, to varying shades of brown now that the zombies are a year old and have decayed that much more. The only red blood seen on screen these days comes from living humans who are attacked. While the comic’s graphic black and white pictures are certainly arresting, it is the image of a wriggling, writhing, slimy well-zombie getting pulled in half on Hershel’s farm that has been burned into my retinas forever. From the very beginning, the show has gone past the blueprint of the comic to make the horror more gripping for viewers. In Days Gone By, the first episode of the show, Rick’s horse is pulled out from under him by a swarm of walkers and he manages to hide in a tank to escape the horde. This scene perfectly evoked a panel from the comic; but with the television camera’s ability to pull back, far above the herd of walkers, and show viewers the wriggling, struggling mass looking like deadly maggots converging on a piece of meat, the tv series showed viewers it was going to try and take The Walking Dead to a whole other level of visual horror. At times, nothing is as powerful as good special effects.

Of course there are many similarities between the properties. Rick Grimes is almost always center stage in both. While both the comic and the tv show have featured other characters, some of whom have become hugely popular in their own right (Hello, Jesus! Hello, Daryl!) it always comes back to Rick and his immediate family. The tv show has kept a lot of the comic’s overarching plot points: Hershel’s farm, the prison, meeting Michonne, Woodbury and the Governor, thinking Eugene can cure things, heading towards D.C., meeting cannibals, and going to Alexandria. But the show has branched out from its source material as well: taking the group to the CDC (a nice touch in my opinion, to explain the zombie apocalypse to viewers using a “scientific” basis), introducing characters like Daryl and Merle, turning Carol into a stone-cold pragmatic killer, and letting baby Judith live, while killing Andrea.

But TV show viewers who choose to go read the comic may find the most startling contrast is Rick’s lack of a right hand. In the comics, the Governor cuts it off, and Mr. Grimes has been making the best of it, living one-handed throughout the zombie apocalypse. This is something writer Robert Kirkman now regrets:

“When I’m writing a comic book, I don’t think about what I’m doing. I go, ‘Oh, it’d be pretty cool if they cut his hand off right now. That’d be pretty shocking, right?’. Then I do it, and five issues later, I write ‘Rick opens a can of beans’ and then I look at the script and think ‘He can’t do that now’. I didn’t even think that through.”1

This is just a broad comparison between the tv show and comic. If you would like to dive deeper into comparing and contrasting, may I suggest Screen Rush’s excellent take on this very topic? They look at each episode of the program and place screen shots next to comic panels so you can see how closely (or not) the show is hewing to its source material. They even compare tv scripts to the speech balloons in the comics. It always surprises me when dialog is lifted straight from the comic.

If you are a horror fan, there is certainly much to enjoy about The Walking Dead in both of its forms. And if you enjoy one version more than another, there is certainly much joy to be found in arguing about which is better!
1 DigitalSpy.com article :  http://www.digitalspy.com/tv/s135/the-walking-dead/news/a331768/walking-dead-exec-we-shouldnt-cut-off-ricks-hand.html#~p78GwhCgjbieqG

Meet Our Guest Blogger:

Geri Diorio is the Teen Services Librarian at the Ridgefield Library in Ridgefield, Connecticut. She loves zombies, science fiction, fantasy, the Ninth Doctor, and Game of Thrones. You can contact her on Twitter – @geridiorio

More Zombie Talk at TLT

Zombie Prom
Stephanie Wilkes talks about her annual Zombie Prom.  All the cool undead kids are doing it.

TPiB: It’s a Dead Man’s Party
Cool programming ideas you can do in your library whether you are a zombie or just running from them.

TPiB: Bring Out Your Dead, zombie party take 2

Zombies VS. Humans Lock-In, with a Doctor Who twist

Top 10 Survival Tips I Learned from Reading YA
Look, my chances are not good in a post-apocalyptic world.  I like to lie in bed, read a book and drink pop with either my air conditioning or heater on.  I don’t like to cook.  I do not take my indoor plumbing for granted.   Should the apocalypse happen, however, I have learned these 10 tips for survival which I am now going to share with you.  See, even zombie books are educational.

What’s the Deal with Zombies Anyway?

Zombie Book Reviews at TLT:

Reading the Zombie Apolcaypse

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
The Infects by Sean Beaudoin
Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry
Contaminated by Em Garner
Sick by Tom Leveen
Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi
Monsters by Ilsa J. Bick
Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart

TPIB: Bring Out Your Dead! Zombie Programming Redux

Teen Read Week (a Yalsa event) and Halloween is coming, and the creepy crawlies are coming, and oh, what fun we get to have.  Personally, the best way to celebrate is with ZOMBIES!  Vampires?  Been there, done that.  Monsters?  Baby things.  But ZOMBIES- oh, mysterious appeal, grown-up creepiness that will fascinate your teens.

THINGS TO THINK OF:  What type of program do you want to have?  Do you have the staff to have an all-out Zombie Day of programming, or do you need to tone it down to movies and a craft?  What resources do you have available?  I’ve put together what I’ve done at various libraries for a variety of different programs that can be thrown together for different styles and different ages.
Zombie Attack Prep Drill
·         Pregame prep:  gather a variety of sizes of sweatpants, sweatshirts and t-shirts from your house and other staff members, and then separate them according to type.  Place each type (pants, t-shirts, sweatshirts) into pile in a separate corner of the room.

·         Game time:  Ask for two volunteers to be zombies, then separate your teens randomly into even teams- two large groups, four groups, etc. – completely depends on your attendance.  As the zombies speed around the middle of the area, the teens must go in order around the room getting dressed in relay team style:  first to go grabs and puts on a shirt, then runs and puts on sweatpants, then runs and puts on a sweatshirt, then runs home.  The second to go then must run the clothes back in the opposite order:  sweatshirt, then pants, then shirt, then home.  If runners are tagged by the zombies, then they must return to their team start and go to the step they were on.  First team to finish the course wins.

·         Pregame Prep:  Clear a large area around your programming room, and mark the play area with masking tape if needed.  You’ll also need 1-2 bandannas.
·         Game time:  Ask for two volunteers to be zombies, then scatter your teens around the room.  The two zombies get blindfolded, and will then try and infect the other players by contact.  When ready, yell go, and the non-zombies walk around the room as quietly as possible.  The zombies moan BRAINS! And the non-zombies scream, so that the game is a twisted version of Marco Polo.  Once a teen is caught by a zombie, they become infected- they can’t turn others into zombies, but they can help catch others for the zombies to turn.  Game ends when there is one teen left standing.

Zombie Fluxx
A fun card game with ever-changing rules, Zombie Fluxx is made by Looney Labs.  You start with the basic rules:  you’re dealt three cards, then on your turn, you draw one card, then play one card.  However, as you play, the rules can change, and the way you win the game changes as well.  And watch out for Larry!  2-6 players, ages 8 and up.

Zombie Dice
Made by Steve Jackson Games, Zombie Dice won the Origins Award for Best Family,Party or Children’s Game in 2010.  You are the zombie, you want brains, you don’t want to get shot.  Roll the dice, and see what you get.  First to 13 brains wins.  2 or more players, 10 and up.
Munchkin Zombies
Munchkin Zombies
Also by Steve Jackson Games, Munchkin Zombies runs just like Munchkins.  You’re zombies, you’re attacking people, your armor is whatever you can find, and you level up by eating braaaaaaaaaains- good luck!  3-6 people, ages 10 and up.

Zombie Cuponk
Play a fun “undead” version of Cuponk, the game where you try and get ping pong balls in a cup.  Yes, it’s based on a drinking game, but this a non drinking version. ($14.99)
MOVIES (all covered under Movie Licensing USA)I love movie programs because we can darken the room, throw together a craft and it’s a relatively low-energy program on my end.  With older or hokey movies, we often turn it into our version of Mystery Science Theater with everyone mocking the screen.

Beetlejuice: A couple of recently deceased ghosts contact the services of a “bio-exorcist” to rid their house of the hideous new owners.  Rated PG.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978):  In San Francisco, a group of people discover that humans are being replaced by those who are devoid of emotion.  A really good one if you can tie in the fact that Donald Sutherland is Matthew here and President Snow in The Hunger Games.  Rated PG.

Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride:  When a bashful groom gets cold feet, he gets more than he bargains for in the woods outside his home….  Rated PG. 

I Am Legend:  Years after most of humanity is killed off, the sole survivor works to find a cure.  Bonus points for being book based.  Rated PG-13.

Resident Evil Series:  Starting with a lab experiment gone bad, this is the series that may never end.  Based loosely on the video games of the same name- the CGI versions are more faithful to the video play.  Rated R.

Shaun of the Dead:  Unable to get anything in his life together, when he finds his whole town has turned into zombies, Shaun is determined to save everyone, or die trying.  Rated R.

Not every program has to be done by you- if you don’t have the staff, see if you can bring someone in to tie into the theme!

FEMA and the Red Cross:  tie in your zombie theme with disaster preparedness and see if the local branch of the Federal Emergency Management Agency can bring someone in to talk about emergency preparedness.  This could be anything from building an emergency kit to what to do if something actually happens.

Cosmetology and Stage Make-up:  See if your area has a local stage make-up artist or theater personnel who could do a workshop on zombie and stage make-up for your teens.  They could go over what it takes to make the make-up look real, how to make fake blood, and perform actual applications.  As an added bonus, you get to send real zombies home to their parents!

Zombie Hunters:  see if you have a local chapter of the Zombie Hunters in your area, and if they’re willing to come talk to your teens.  http://zombiehunters.org/chapters/
If you have a way to display things, you can easily have a passive program with little staff involvement.

POP UP TRIVIA:  Use a book like The Zombie Survival Guide, and make your own multiple choice questions.  Post them on a bulletin board, and make up an answer sheet for teens to fill out.  Have them turn them in, and out of the correct answers, give away small prizes like extra computer time, or fines waived, or extra summer reading prizes.

ZOMBIE SURVIVAL KIT:  Based off of the FEMA survival kits or books like Rot & Ruin series by Jonathan Maberry series or The Zombie Survival Guide, gather together a collection of things that might be useful in a Zombie invasion, and things that might not be so useful.  Assign a number value for each item, and keep the master list in your desk.  Place them in a display case with letters next to them, and ask teens to choose their own personal Top 10. Once the contest is over, display the point value and the reasoning, and give the winners their prize.

More Zombie Posts on TLT:
TPIB: It’s a Dead Man’s Party
TPIB: Monster Fest
Top 10 Apocalypse Survival Tips I Learned from YA
Reading the Zombie Apocalypse
“What’s the Deal with Zombies Anyway?”