Why you shouldn’t watch The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead TV series

Next week the television adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s epic zombie comic series, The Walking Dead, hits our screens courtesy of FX (via AMC).

You probably knew that already. You’ve probably seen the huge billboard posters with Andrew ‘Egg’ Lincoln’s stubbly, resolute face staring out of them. You’ve probably read a broadsheet article about Frank ‘Shawshank Redemption’ Darabont’s involvement with the project, and you’ve probably watched the startlingly effective trailer on YouTube (see below) and revelled in its clever use of the Walker Brothers hit ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’.

So if you know everything there is to know about the Walking Dead already, why am I writing this article? Well, I’m writing this to beg you not to watch it.

Experience the comic

Let me clarify: if you haven’t read The Walking Dead in comic form, then please, for all that is good and holy (or at least, undead and slightly mouldy), go and buy it now; hole up in a safe place with plenty of tinned food, and read it from cover to cover. Then, and only then, should you venture out into the world again to purchase the box set or watch the repeats.

Why am I saying this? Because I really, genuinely believe that if you watch the Walking Dead before you experience the comic, then you are denying yourself one of the most fantastic pop culture experiences of the past decade.

Think I’m exaggerating? Go and find someone who watched Zac Snyder’s Watchmen before they read the graphic novel. Ask them how that worked out, and remember to duck and make a note of the nearest exits as you do it.

Happily, I think The Walking Dead will make a much easier transformation to the screen than Watchmen did. Alan Moore’s superhero masterpiece was all but unfilmable (not that this stopped Snyder obviously), while Kirkman’s undead opus seems to have mirrored the ambition, scope and format of the ‘New Golden Age of Television’ (TM) that we’ve been lapping up for the past ten years, with a large cast of characters, unabashed violent imagery, unbridled swearing, and sheer unpredictability, all of which make it a cultural bedfellow of The Sopranos and Deadwood, as opposed to the blockbuster Hollywood comic adaptations like Spiderman and Batman.

Comic snob

I should emphasise here: I’m not being a comic snob. Honestly, I’m not. If I wanted to do that I could bang on about how waiting a whole month for the next issue to come out, and digesting the story over five long years is the only way to experience The Walking Dead. But that’s bollocks, so I won’t. And I won’t say that the comic is better than the TV series because it came first, or even because the comic medium is somehow inherently just ‘better’. Because that’s bollocks too.

What I will say is this: The Walking Dead is one of the finest comics I have ever read. And if the word ‘comic’ causes you problem, then let me rephrase… The Walking Dead is one of the finest stories I’ve ever read. It’s the only comic to make me physically gasp out loud as I turned the pages. I have never cared so much about comic characters as much as I have the ones Kirkman has so wonderfully created here; and the numerous narrative devices, plot twists, and heart-wrenching tension that arrive with each issue are so deftly delivered that you almost forget that there’s a zombie or two waiting to be decapitated just around the corner.

And I don’t care how carefully Darabont and co spin their celluloid, they’re never going to get close to the pure gold of the original material. And so why would you risk diluting that experience by watching the TV show first?

Go now. You have until Friday to track down at least the first trade paperback (although the Compendium Vol 1 is a very handsome volume, and a snip at £30). You won’t regret it, I promise.

Nick Bryan will be reviewing The Walking Dead for Dork Adore every week. The show starts on Friday 5th November on FX.

Rob Hinchcliffe

Rob's a 30-something Northerner who currently lives in Crystal Palace in South-East London. Rob started a blog called The Big Smoker that later became Londonist. He now works as a Community Strategist for TH_NK, a digital agency based in Newcastle and London.

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  1. says

    Too late – I watched the pilot without having read the comics :/

    In my defense, I *thought* I had read the comics, but had them confused with a different zombie apocalypse.

  2. says

    I've read the first twelve issues of the comic, and enjoyed them a lot. Not sure I have the time to read the other sixty-something issues pre-air, sadly. Greatly looking forward to seeing how the TV show people adapt it. Also, I'm a huge Andrew Lincoln fan.

  3. Chris Cunningham says

    I think you’ve called this one wrong. Watchmen was a feature-length adaptation of an entire comic. The Walking Dead, at least as far as I’m led to believe, stretches the entire first graphic novel out through six-and-a-half episodes. If anything, the first episode significantly expanded on several scenes up until now and hasn’t elided anything of note.

    I thought this would be good, but I was expecting to find Lincoln a little jarring as a Southerner (though I thought he was otherwise an ideal casting) and for it to fail to give off quite the same feel as the comic. I am beyond pleased that not only does Lincoln work perfectly as Rick but that those parts of the first episode which weren’t scene-for-scene perfect adaptations were significant improvements.

    If the rest of the season lives up to the first episode this will absolutely blaze trails.

    • says

      Hey Chris – I think I misrepresented myself a little bit. I didn't want to say that Darabont and co won't make a good job of this, I just think that the comic is so well done, that it deserves reading before seeing the story in another medium.

      I think people might get more out of it if they're able to compare the tv series to the comic (which is what you've done, and it's obviously hitting the right buttons), rather than the other way around.

  4. Dean says

    Of course, the flip side is, that if the TV show turns out to amazing, perhaps even, better than the comic, then by reading the comic you're spoiling the TV show for yourself. I'm torn on this one, I could go either way, will probably wait for the whole first season and see what the reviews are like

  5. simondoggett says


    Now we're on episode 3 or so, and I've now caned my way through 78 issues of the comic, I'd like to chime in to say what utter cobblers this is Mr Hinchcliffe.

    What Darabont has done, with Kirkman helping him, is quite astonishing. The narrative differences between the two really help both versions compliment each other.

    So watch it.

  6. Sbbn says

    Thanks for the advice, read to issue 80 over a couple of weeks the caught the repeats, and I'm very glad that that I did it that way around.

  7. Footiefan says

    I'm going to have to disagree with you.

    There's no way I would read a 'comic', Not read one for 20-30 years and even then it was 'Bunty' with the cut-out wardrobe on the back. Someone bought me a graphic novel type compendium thing that didn't do anything for me, so it didn't appeal.

    But…I always appreciate a good zombie flick so I managed (eventually) to watch the Walking Dead, loved every moment of it, kept seeing mention of the comic and eventually gave in. Changed my life! I want to read them all in a mammoth session but I'm pacing myself and enjoying every single second. Really appreciate setting it in the aftermath, parts are slightly reminiscent of Day of the Triffids (my favourite book), love the drawings and dreading the moment I catch up with present day.

  8. ANA THE BANANA says



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