What Is (Walking) Dead May Never Die
I’ve not worked in comics retail for five years, I’ve not read single issues in about four and a half and I tend to only pick up the odd collected edition now and then mostly based on the creators involved who I used to enjoy back when I was more plugged in.
It goes without saying then then my finger is very far from the pulse of what is hot in comic books these days. The most informed I stay these days is through the iFanboy Pick Of The Week podcast.
There have been a few constants through the years in comic books; No one stays dead except Uncle Ben and Jason Todd, that was broken when the latter came back and has been a constant in Batman books since.
Brian Bendis will always write Ultimate Spider-Man, that came to an end and he jumped ship from Marvel completely.
The Walking Dead will shuffle on forever.
That one seemed like the ultimate certainty, Robert Kirkman has always said he’ll write that book until he’s dead and with the success of the property outside of its comic book origins for so many years now it seemed like it would go on and on in perpetuity.
I stopped reading the book long ago, pretty much as soon as I left the shop.
It wasn’t because it was bad, it had never been bad. It wasn’t because I wasn’t enjoying it even, I just didn’t have any urgency to continue on with it. The funny part is that I gave up on the tv show adaption right around the same place in the ongoing story, despite the differences they had made. The show did get pretty tedious and bad though, to be fair.
When I heard last month that after saying for many years that no characters were safe, Kirkman finally pulled a massive surprise and killed off the lead character, Rick Grimes, I was somewhat surprised but not completely shocked. It seemed inevitable eventually and transitioning over to Carl as the series lead felt inevitable. The book wasn’t ending though; issues had been solicited, cover art shown, orders to retailers placed for the next three months and this just seemed like the next step in the story. It also wasn’t a big round number or anything, they had an issue two hundred coming up in a few months time.
So when I saw the news last night that the issue coming out today, #197, was the final issue of the series I was genuinely shocked! I read the article intently and it included portions of Robert Kirkman’s afterword from the issue in which he basically laid out the fact that he has known this was to be the conclusion all along and has been building toward it without ever tipping his hand. He hates knowing when a story is going to end; in a book you can’t help but notice the lack of pages left, in a movie you have a good idea based on run time, with network tv shows you can count advert breaks.
For him, comic books, single, monthly issues, are one of the few mediums where you can pull off a surprise ending like this.
But not if you have to solicit your issues months in advance for retailers to order them. It’s a broken and antiquated system that used to drive me nuts and is at least partially responsible for the decline in sales over the years.
So to combat this Kirkman and artist Charlie Adlard created false descriptions and cover art for upcoming issues that would never exist, and from what I’ve seen, everyone bought it hook line and sinker!
I’ve seen, heard and talked to Kirkman enough to know that he will be absolutely giddy to know that he got everybody like that. I’m so happy for him that he got to end it his way, on his terms, instead of carrying on forever just because people are still reading it and watching the various off shots.
It should always be up to the artist to call it a day on their art.
I have no interest in reading the nearly hundred issues I haven’t read at this point, but I like that if I did decide to jump back in, there is a definitive ending point and I wouldn’t be playing constant catch up.