Adapting a beloved comic book series is tough. Especially when that series has a massive cast of characters and relies heavily on soapy drama and turmoil between them to build their world. Not everyone’s going to walk away pleased. Whoever is adapting the work will certainly make changes. Some of these changes may be small, while others will make a character completely unrecognizable. These changes, however, might be for the better and will help flesh them out or utilize them in unique ways the fans of the source material never considered, but in other cases: eh, not so much.
While most comic book television adaptations have the luxury of exploring source material that has been around for decades and have been shaped and reshaped over the years, AMC’s The Walking Dead does not. When the show premiered on Halloween night in 2010, the comic had not even been running for a decade. In fact, Robert Kirkman had written every issue (and still does) and artist Charlie Adlard had been laying down pencils since issue seven. The vision of The Walking Dead comic was (and still is) almost as singular as you could get it. Which makes deviations of the characters in the series startling, even when they work.
15. RUINED: TYREESE
One of the first group members to challenge Rick’s de facto status as leader without creating a massive rift between them (besides a friendly little scrap where they almost kill each other) or usurping him was the former football player and loving father Tyreese. During his time in the comic series, Tyreese became a fan favorite among readers. He was charming, sincere, and downright vicious when he needed to be. At the end of the story arc “Made to Suffer,” he even laid down his life to protect his loved ones.
But that strength Tyreese displayed so prominently in the comic was nowhere to be seen in the show. With the exception of the fact Chad Coleman (The Wire) being extremely likeable no matter what role he’s in, the character on the screen was a complete bummer.
14. BETTER: SHANE
This one is a bit odd because it has been reported that Robert Kirkman originally wanted to have Shane Walsh stick around a lot longer in the comic. Rick’s former partner (and presumably the father of his wife’s second child) was a fantastic catalyst for soapy drama and heaps of tension. Sadly, except for a flashback and being a zombie, he didn’t make it beyond issue six.
Thankfully, the television show saw the potential in the character and utilized the steely glare and acting chops of Jon Bernthal (The Punisher, The Wolf of Wall Street) to flesh out Shane as an anti-hero who viewer could empathize with despite some of his more salacious attributes. Really the only thing the show missed the mark on with Shane was his death. Having Carl shoot a man he trusted, thus causing him to lose a piece of his childhood, had more impact.
13. RUINED: SHIVA
The phrase “Ezekiel has a tiger” carries a certain weight with it in the comics. When we first meet King Ezekiel in issue 108 of The Walking Dead, there is a sense of wonder. There is a guy who is surrounded by knights and has a tiger. That’s right, a real, living, breathing tiger! Just when you thought the comic couldn’t wow you, it drops Shiva on its cover.
Whereas Shiva gracing the small screen should have been a moment of pure television delight, her introduction was mired by goofy CGI. Perhaps it’s a little unfair to say that the show ruined a non-human character due to budget constraints, but we love Shiva and seeing her literally rendered so poorly was heartbreaking. We weren’t expected Life of Pi level special effects, but come on!
12. BETTER: BOB STOOKEY
Bob Stookey was not that big of a character in the comic book series. That’s not to say he was a bad character; he was just barely present. While he does play a larger role in the Woodbury series of novels, he’s really just another face in the already massive crowd in the comic book.
Fortunately, the television show’s version of Bob gets spruced up with a nice character arc and a portrayal by veteran character actor, Lawrence Gilliard Jr. (The Wire). While some of the character’s physical attributes differ from page to screen, Bob’s haunted army medic past and propensity for imbibing a bit too much alcohol are still there, lending Gilliard enough to really flesh the character out beyond just being the town drunk.
11. RUINED: RICK GRIMES
That’s right, Rick Grimes. AMC’s version of the character has completely stripped down everything that makes the primary protagonist of the comics so relatable. Look, Rick is by no means a good guy in the comic book series; he’s done some horrendous things, but at the end of the day, he maintains and often earns the respect of the characters around him and the reader, even when he dives into the deep end of the crazy pool every now and then.
To give credit where it’s due, Andrew Lincoln is a fine actor. But somewhere between the written word and how is interest the character, the every-man, “oh, I would do the same thing if I were in his shoes” aspect of Rick Grimes just does not translate. At the end of the day, the TV version of Rick is kind of a jerk.
10. BETTER: MORGAN JONES
Morgan was one of the few characters who appears in the first issue of The Walking Dead and returned for subsequent issues (even if their appearances are separated by half a dozen storylines). He was the first human contact Rick made after he woke up and was immediately well-liked by Rick and the reader. Sadly, after Morgan’s introduction, his return seemed more like Kirkman wrapping up a loose end than anything else. That’s not to say he suddenly became unlikeable, quite the contrary. But the character didn’t have much to do.
But in the TV show, Morgan is tortured, complex and portrayed wonderfully by the amazingly talented Lennie James (Snatch, Jericho). The character’s return is also handled with more depth and explores the fragile psyche of a man who has lost everything and tries to find a new begging within the chaos of an undead world.
9. RUINED: SOPHIA
Poor TV-version of Sophia, we never got to know you. In season two of The Walking Dead, Sophia was not represented as a character so much as she was used exclusively as a McGuffin to propel the other survivors to stumble around for a handful of middling episodes until her tragic fate is revealed in one of the most ham-fisted twists in television history.
However, her comic book counterpart is one of the longest lasting characters in The Walking Dead, outlasting some of the series’ heavy hitters. While she may rarely be in the forefront in the comic, Sophia has been shaped by the events around her and has a unique voice with Kirkman decides to use it. Her dynamic with Carl alone, makes her far more compelling than she ever was in the show.
8. BETTER: RICHARD
Richard is the head of Ezekiel’s “Kingsguard” and one of his closest confidants. Considering his relationship to such a big character, you’d think Richard would get more time in the comics. But sadly, he only lasts three issues, which is not really enough time to get to know anyone in The Walking Dead, especially with the already massive cast of characters and the twists and turns the series takes from issue to issue.
However, in the television show, thanks to a great characterization by Karl Makinen, Richard is a fully realized character, and while his time on the show is also short (a mere five episodes) he has agency and is driven by not just his king, but the legacy they wish to leave behind. Richard’s death is also far more personal in the show, giving his departure a certain gravity that was not present in the comic.
7. RUINED: THE GOVERNOR
Brian “The Governor” Blake is the most memorable villain the comic has ever produced. He’s cold, calculating, and completely deranged. The Governor set off a chain of events that caused ripples in the comic series that are still being felt today (Rick ain’t gonna grow that hand back, guys). Even the depravity of future villains like Negan and Alpha would never hold a torch to the iconic terror The Governor brought down upon our favorite survivors.
But in the show, sure he’s bad, but he wasn’t the unhinged monster he was in the comic. Now, to be sure, this has a lot to do with the fact the show airs of basic cable and they can’t take the atrocious mire the comics have no issue slogging through, but this on-screen version of Blake is timid by comparison.
6. BETTER: CAROL
We love her so very, very much. The TV version of Carol is beyond awesome. She is the one character who has undergone a natural progression on the show. She started out as an abused woman without an ounce of self-worth only to become one of the toughest survivors in the group. There isn’t a moment wasted on her. She’s a compassionate warrior woman who can bake a mean cookie and take out an entire compound of cannibals with a hunting rifle and some road flares.
Carol in the comics, however, doesn’t have much of an arc beyond being an unstable character who cannot accept rejection. But to be fair, her death is pretty terrifying and had readers yelling at the page for her to stop talking to that zombie.
5. RUINED: DALE
Dale was the first fatherly figure to grace the pages of The Walking Dead. He was a reliable guy with sage advice and a really sweet RV who earned the trust of Rick and became a peer to the entire group. Dale also had a very natural and honestly portrayed romance with Andrea despite their age difference. Most monthly readers will tell you, losing Dale was hard. Losing Dale in the show, however, was not.
The version of Dale we got for the show had very little in common with his comic counterpart, save for the sweet RV and bucket hat. This Dale was more nebbish and never felt like a second in command to Rick. This isn’t to say that the ultra-talented Jeffrey DeMunn (Shawshank Redemption) didn’t do a great job with regards to the quality of his acting, he just wasn’t playing the character we loved.
4. BETTER: HERSHEL GREENE
In the Image comic series, Hershel Greene was a good family man with a big heart. Sure he made some questionable decisions (barn zombies, anyone?), but he always had the people he loved in mind for every action he took. Which makes it so demoralizing when he takes his final bow in the comic at the hands of Brian “The Governor” Blake.
Now Hershel is still killed by The Governor in the show, but instead of giving up hope and demanding Blake to kill him, Hershel becomes somewhat of a sacrificial lamb, showing complete solace and resolve as he refuses to bend to a madman’s will. More importantly, Hershel played a key role in developing Rick’s character, being a voice of reason and compassion. We miss TV Hershel in a big way. He was the zombie apocalypse grandpa we always wanted.
3. RUINED: THOMAS RICHARDS
One of the most engaging and shocking storylines in the early issues of The Walking Dead took place during the arc “Safety Behind Bars,” in which we find out heroes seeking shelter in a presumably abandoned prison. As Rick and Company purge the cell of walkers, they stumble upon a small ground of prisoners who seem to be pretty friendly for the most part.
Things quickly spin into turmoil when one of the new additions to Rick’s crew, a man name Thomas Richards, turns out to be a serial killer. Thomas’ sick actions (which included maiming Andrea and decapitating children) had huge lasting effects on the survivors. They guy was the comics first real villain. Sadly, Thomas (along with the other prisoners, really) is just zombie fodder in the television show. He is so devoid of personality, the show’s writers altered the spelling of the character’s name.
2. BETTER: THE HUNTERS
The Walking Dead has never been shy about taboo subject matter, including cannibalism. Shortly after the prison fell from The Governor’s siege, the cast of the comic series spent a handful of issues to wander the post-apocalyptic landscape. One storyline during this time “Fear the Hunters” in which Rick and Co. get into a tangle with some cannibals, was met with mixed responses while it got back to the horror roots of the series.
The show’s interpretation of Hunters (known as the Terminus Group) was presented with a lot more style and a heavy dose of character pathos during the season four finale and first three episodes of season five. The cannibal group is far more believable and on some sick, twisted level, they’re easier to empathize with, especially the charismatic Terminus leader, Gareth.
1. RUINED: ANDREA
Yes, this the absolute worst translation of any character from The Walking Dead comic to show. Andrea deserved better. Not just in her exit, but in the way the show handled her character. The Andrea we love is strong. She’s a survivor, and is quick to remind anyone stepping to her both of these facts before she puts a bullet between their eyes.
But Andrea in the show was distilled down to a series of tantrums and falling for men with questionable personality traits and she never grows out of it. This is not the Andrea we fell in love with as she survived being attacked by a serial killer and lost the man she loved and became a marksman (markswoman?) and solidified her place as one of the best characters the comic has ever produced.
Which of these Walking Dead characters were ruined the most? Let us know in the comments!
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