The Walking Dead was a runaway hit on comic stands long before AMC ever turned it into a popular television series. Robert Kirkman created The Walking Dead to be a character driven study into survival and human interaction. The book is less about the zombie apocalypse and who dies next, and more about human civilization at its lowest point, and how these people can make it through. Over the span of 100+ comic book issues, there have been dozens of characters introduced that bring a unique perspective to the world Kirkman has created.
When it comes time to make any adaptation for television or film, things always need to be changed in order to fit the new medium. Sometimes changes can be good, but a lot of times fans are left wanting from the changes that studios make to what they are familiar with. When it comes to The Walking Dead, many of the show’s most familiar characters were changed in one way or another. Unfortunately, a lot of fans feel like the show has done a poor job adapting some of the comic’s most beloved characters. Here are 15 characters that The Walking Dead show completely ruined.
15 THE GOVERNOR
Some of the best villains on television are remembered because the show found a way to humanize them. Marvel’s Daredevil managed to do this with Wilson Fisk, by making him both a ruthless businessman with criminal ties and a fascinating human being. On the other end of the spectrum is the absolute monster who has no redeeming qualities—think Joffrey from Game of Thrones.
Robert Kirkman created The Governor to be the latter. He is completely irredeemable as a barbaric and fearsome leader of Woodbury who also makes out with zombie girls. He cuts off Rick’s hand and uses assault against Michonne as a torture technique. The show, meanwhile, tried to turn him into a more well-rounded character with a different perspective. Unfortunately, it was nowhere near as interesting.
Dale is the elder statesman of the initial group of survivors and serves as a trusted advisor to Rick. While many characters in The Walking Dead are seen to have ulterior motives behind their actions, Dale is simply trying to find meaning in his life again by protecting those he cares for. His relationship with Andrea seems to revitalize him.
Despite the simplicity of his character, the show still manages to mess up Dale in a lot of ways. Instead of the well intentioned old man, he becomes manipulative, nosy, and starts to throw around his own weight when it comes to decision making. It seems like the change in his and Andrea’s relationship put Dale on a path that no one was interested in seeing, so it’s for the best that Jeffrey DeMunn decided to leave the show early.
Tyreese was introduced as another strong character who could have served as leader if it wasn’t for Rick already holding that position. He was charismatic, strong, and genuinely cared for the wellbeing of the people around him. After serving as Rick’s right hand for much of the early series, his death greatly affects the group because it leaves them with one less leader.
Chad Coleman’s depiction of Tyreese is nothing like he is in the comics. He’s still strong and capable in his own right, but he’s far more timid and reserved in the television show. Tyreese proves to be submissive against Rick, and the two never really develop the relationship they have in the comics. Without serving much importance, Tyreese is quietly killed off without much fanfare.
As the two surviving children of the Atlanta group, Sophia and Carl have a deep relationship that is never seen in the show. At one point, the two were a couple before life as teenagers got in the way. They remain close and the two share a special bond. Robert Kirkman has even been showing Sophia’s growth in the face of the apocalypse, as she is far more capable than she once was.
Given the strength of Sophia’s mother in the show, things did not go as it did in the comic. Instead of Sophia losing her mother, Carol loses her daughter. The showrunners never seemed to know what to do with her in the end. They already had the point of view of a child in Carl, so Sophia was sacrificed in order to build upon Carol’s story.
11 THE HUNTERS
In the comic book series, Rick and the survivors come across another group called The Hunters, who apparently turned to cannibalism in order to survive the apocalypse. The group is seen as an alternate version of Rick’s group that ultimately lost their humanity and started eating people to survive. It’s believed that The Hunters actually ate their own children.
The show replaces The Hunters with the people of Terminus from Season 4 and 5 of The Walking Dead. While the horror of living people eating other living people still remains, something is lost in the fact that the group of cannibals is turned into an entire society of cannibals. Seeing what Rick’s group could turn into might have been a more powerful direction to go in, even if it wouldn’t be as scary.
10 CARL GRIMES
The longer Carl has been exposed to this world, the more detached from humanity he has become. There is the belief that he will one day grow up to be a serial killer thanks to the trauma he has suffered and the evil deeds he has committed in order to survive so long. It becomes a question of whether Rick can truly save his son. At least in the book.
In the show, Carl is an angsty kid who is far more obnoxious than he ever was in the comic book. He’s not the same cold blooded killer either, as the show elected to keep his humanity intact. Instead of following through on his tough exterior, time and again he has proven that he’s really just an insecure kid. While that might be more realistic, it’s not the character fans remember.
9 ALLEN AND DONNA
Allen and Donna were minor characters in the book, but their story was important to the characters around them. As a family unit, they served as a parallel to Rick’s family. While Rick was able to stay strong thanks to the safety of his family, Allen is unable to do the same with his. Donna is killed and Allen falls into an unshakeable depression. This eventually leads to his death and the emotional detachment of his children.
The show completely omits these characters, replacing them with Morales and his family in the first season. They are so inconsequential that they actually split from Rick’s group and are never seen again. Perhaps AMC wasn’t quite ready for the kind of carnal gore the show later embraced.
Robert Kirkman used Shane to show how quickly people change when it’s the end of the world. He acts on his feelings for Lori and tries to replace Rick within his family. Shane also attempts to kill his former partner after Rick is revealed to be alive. In the comic, Shane isn’t truly cut out to lead the group and the two can’t possibly coexist. In the wake of the apocalypse, Shane showed his true colors.
Meanwhile, the show decided to give Shane more screen time and turned him into the yin to Rick’s yang. The two attempt to lead the group side by side, offering two different perspectives that are neither right nor wrong. Shane is ultimately seen as a poisoner of people's minds, as he turns both Andrea and Lori against the group.
Dexter isn’t a major character, but the decision to transform his character into Tomas not only altered the early days at the prison, but also changed how Rick dealt with it. In the comic, Dexter is the leader of the prison before Rick and his group find it. The power struggle between the two shows just what Rick is willing to do in order to guarantee his family’s safety.
The television show substitutes Dexter’s leadership and strength for Tomas’ insecurities and trigger happiness. Instead of a tough game of wits, it just becomes a coward with a gun who needs to be put down before he hurts anyone else. The show also replaces Rick’s decision to subtly murder Dexter into a very blatant act that isn’t as powerful as it could have been.
6 BEN AND BILLY
Ben and Billy were young children left orphaned over the course of the apocalypse. While the group tried to raise them right, the kids are just too young to understand the world around them. In the end, Ben kills Billy because he doesn’t understand that people come back from the dead as mindless zombies.
The show does adapt this basic storyline in Season 4 when Lizzie and Mika are introduced, but it pales in comparison to the initial story. Lizzie seems far too old to be unable to distinguish between the living and the dead. The fact that it is Carol who kills her also takes away from a powerful moment in the comics when Carl does the deed out of a sense of justice and vengeance.
5 LORI GRIMES
Robert Kirkman had a way of making you feel for Lori that the television show was utterly incapable of imitating. You can understand her when she fell for Shane after she thought Rick was dead. In the comic, she distinctly ended her affair once her husband returned, but in the show—in the name of drama—things continued to be difficult.
It seems that the showrunners decided that Lori should undermine Rick’s decision-making at every turn. Instead of the strong voice that holds her family together, she becomes the voice of dissidents between Rick and Shane. She’s not even a very good mother. Her death comes as a relief instead of the tragedy it should be. Having Shane live far longer than he does in the comic ultimately ruins several characters irreparably.
When Rick initially meets Morgan, we see what his life could be like if he can find his son Carl. The two men seem to parallel one another as fathers, husbands, and survivors. Unfortunately, Morgan represents what Rick would become if he fails to protect his son. When Duane dies, Morgan loses his mind and struggles with mental illness when he eventually joins Rick’s group.
In the television show, Morgan goes through a metamorphosis to become a pacifist in order to deal with the pain of his loss. While the journey isn’t exactly a bad one, it differs greatly from his journey in the book. The show decided to do its own thing with the characters, but it lost the opportunity to deal with the painful truth about loss and mental illness.
In the comics, Negan is the type of villain that you love to hate. Combine his personality and attitude with his revolting methods of keeping order, and you have yourself one of the most despicable comic book villains of all time; someone fans are interested in seeing more of, but also still want him dead in the end.
The show’s interpretation of Negan is anything but that. Whether you want to blame the writers or Jeffrey Dean Morgan, it’s clear that there is a disconnect here. The character partakes in the same awful behavior, but the television series has made him utterly unlikeable. Not only is he annoying, but he has taken over so much of the show that he may even be to blame for its drop in ratings!
2 RICK GRIMES
In the comics, Rick Grimes stands out for his leadership skills and his unrelenting determination to keep his people safe. He also represents the moral compass of the the group, rising and falling through each and every hardship. The show makes Rick far more indecisive, and as a result, he’s a much weaker leader in the end.
When you combine this with his fear of Negan, who isn’t really scary in the show, he looks like an ineffective leader too shellshocked to keep his own son safe. Rick’s journey from hero to potential villain, and the fall that comes after, is a powerful story Robert Kirkman slowly rolls out over dozens of issues. The show doesn’t have that kind of time, so what we get is far too blatant to be anywhere as powerful.
Absolutely no one on The Walking Dead was ruined more than Andrea. The show took the tough-as-nails character who adapted well to the new world order, and turned her into an annoying shadow of what she could have been. The decision not to make her fall in love with Dale turned her character cold to the comic book reading audience, and she never recovered.
She then went on to team with Shane and even The Governor until there was nothing resembling one of the book’s best characters. Laurie Holden was originally supposed to be a main character for years to come, but a drastic change in direction had Andrea get killed off. It was honestly for the best, because there was no way they could redeem her.
Who else did The Walking Dead show ruin? Let us know in the comments.