Adapting comics for television isn’t the easiest of tasks. Robert Kirkman has been penning The Walking Dead for 16 years, releasing 188 issues to date with no signs of slowing down. That’s a lot of reference material for the creative team at AMC to draw upon. It’s only natural that details will get lost along the way or changed to make the viewing experience exciting for even the most avid of comics readers.
Rick Grimes has been at the centre of both versions of the survival-horror, following a man’s journey to find his family and survive in a world full of monsters—both living and dead. That is, until Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln) left the series late last year. Considering his entire TV journey, let’s look at how Rick is different on screen than in the comics.
Beware: spoilers follow!
Although we never get a close look at Rick’s life pre-apocalypse in either the comics or TV series, it’s possible to piece together some information based upon hints dropped throughout each series.
In the show, Rick grew up in King County, Georgia. He had a close relationship with his father and admired his grandfather, hearing tales of his service in World War II. Young Rick was encouraged by his mother who regularly read him the tale of “The Stone in the Road.” Shane Walsh was his life-long best friend. They went through school and college together, eventually both starting work at King County Sheriff’s Department and becoming partners. Rick usually with his head firmly on his shoulders, while Shane was more of a wild card. He met Lori soon after.
While Rick still had a close relationship with his father in the comics, he also had a younger brother, Jeffrey, who Rick protected from bullies in the playground, often leading to Rick receiving a harsh beating himself. Attending a New Year’s party as a Sophomore at college, he met Lori. The pair courted throughout their college years and married soon after graduating. Rick joined the police force and was assigned a partner—Shane Walsh. Working closely together, the pair became fast friends.
While Rick’s marriage to Lori hit some turbulence in both the show and comics, there are some key differences. Flashbacks in the TV show reveal that their marriage was strained even before the apocalypse hit. She supports him as a leader, despite voicing some concerns about his decisions, and they try their hardest to rebuild their relationship. After Shane’s death, however, their relationship is fully frayed. While their romance turned cold, Rick is inconsolable after Lori’s death, going on a full rampage through the prison.
In the comics, their relationship is much more loving and loyal, despite Lori’s affair with Shane. Lori stands by Rick’s leadership decisions and openly resists some of his actions. Together, they work for what’s best for their family and the group. Lori’s death pushes Rick to the brink and he struggles to move on from her, still occasionally remembering her. He believes he continues to honour her memory by keeping Carl safe.
8 New World Romances
Watching the show, it’s hard to believe that Rick could ever spark a relationship with Andrea. The pair never really developed a relationship, and the sparse friendship they did have grew cold when he discovered she was staying with the Governor. Although he was upset when she died, Andrea never fully impacted TV-show Rick’s life. In the comics, however, they develop a close, warm friendship from the start. They spend a lot of time together as stronger members of the group and eventually begin a romantic relationship. They become so close that Carl calls her “mom”, and the couple eventually consider themselves to be married. Rick is crushed when she dies.
Andrea has been replaced by Michonne in the show. In both versions of The Walking Dead, Michonne has been a good ally and close confidant for Rick, with the relationship developing further on screen into a full-blown romance.
There’s a bit of an age gap between comic-Rick and TV-Rick. He started out as a younger man in the comics, aged 34. Time has moved slowly over the course of the series, with just a two-year time jump after the war with the Saviors. Rick is currently 38 in the comics.
On screen Rick aged much faster, with occasional short time jumps being featured in the TV series marking small breaks between seasons. The outbreak began in 2010 and, with the recent six-year time jump, it is now set in 2020. Although his age has never explicitly been revealed, it’s believed he’s in his mid to late-40s.
While we see Rick grappling with guilt over the losses their group has suffered, his mental struggles are more clearly explored in the comics. This is primarily thanks to the long-form format, not having to cram too much into an hour-long episode.
Following Lori’s death, Rick shuts himself off from the group and is shown having lengthy conversations on a telephone, believing he is talking with Lori. Briefly touched upon in the show, it plays a much larger role in the comics. He’s haunted by recurring nightmares and Rick carries the phone with him as a symbol of guilt until issue #121, leaving it behind when he’s ready to move on.
Daryl has been a consistent ally for Rick on screen. Although their relationship began strained (thanks to Rick’s decision to leave Merle handcuffed to a rooftop in Atlanta), they became very protective of each other, developing a brotherly bond. Daryl often defended Rick’s leadership abilities whilst Rick often turned to Daryl for advice. Daryl spent six years searching for Rick’s body following the bridge blast, remaining loyal until the end.
As Daryl is absent from the comic series, another character filled the role of Rick’s second-in-command and best friend. Tyreese arrived at the camp soon after Shane’s death and quickly became a valued addition to the group. Their relationship was strained following a brawl in the prison, but Tyreese remained loyal to Rick and searched for him when he didn’t return from Woodbury, risking his own life.
4 The Arm
One clear physical difference between the show and the comic is that Rick managed to keep all of his limbs on screen. His comic counterpart wasn’t quite so lucky. His first encounter with the Governor in issue #28 led to Rick’s capture and his right hand being sawn off with a knife. The maniacal Woodbury leader claimed this act was to emphasize the severity of their conflict. The loss meant Rick had to learn how to shoot with his left hand, leaving him out of action for a while. Once settled at Hilltop, Earl the blacksmith made him a prosthetic hand.
Rick’s desire to protect Carl has been his primary driving force on both page and screen. His protectiveness pushes his son away in the TV adaptation, and their relationship becomes increasingly fractured after Lori’s death and their war with Woodbury. As the seasons develop, Carl becomes increasingly hardened to the surrounding world and Rick tries his best to regain his son’s humanity. Eventually, the pair find mutual respect, with Rick treating Carl as an adult and Carl looking up to Rick.
On the page, the pair have been incredibly close from the outset and have withstood their journey so far. Whilst Carl criticized his father for Lori and Judith’s death, he doesn’t let it drive a wedge between their relationship, going so far as to protect his father. While Rick is often frustrated with Carl’s recklessness, he’s always happy that he’s safe.
Rick’s leadership styles have often been questionable both in the comics and on screen. But there have been some subtle differences. In the show, Rick declares himself leader at the end of Season 2, before relinquishing leadership for a while to spend time with Carl in the prison. Stepping back into the role at Terminus, he continued to lead and leave the group through his own choosing.
In the comics, however, Rick naturally falls into the leadership position, neither forcing himself into the role or being voted in. As de-facto leader, he’s faced a lot of resistance and criticism from the group. A committee was formed at the prison to remove power from Rick, and Dwight more recently challenged his capabilities at the Commonwealth. Rick hasn’t always seen eye-to-eye with the leaders of new groups that merge with theirs either, sparking a rivalry with Abraham on the page.
1 He’s Still There
While Rick may have flown off into the sunset with Anna in his final episode to instead star in a series of spin-off movies, comic-Rick is still very much alive and at the centre of the action. He led the communities through the Whisperer war, despite not seeing any action himself, instead forming a new militia; he has taken leadership notes from Negan; and he has reached the Commonwealth.
While it’s likely that’s where we’ll reunite with TV-Rick, the comics have given us the opportunity to follow one man’s journey from the onset of the apocalypse to the creation of the new world.