It had to happen eventually. One of the longest running comics in the industry, Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead is ending. And no, it’s not ending in the next couple of months. He didn’t announce a final storyline. It’s ending tomorrow. The king of zombie comics is over. As Bleeding Cool reports, the 71-page The Walking Dead #193 will be the final issue.
The Walking Dead Legacy
Robert Kirkman’s critically-acclaimed series debuted just over 15 years ago, in October 2003. These zombie comics, drawn in black and white, were different from any zombie before it. It wasn’t shlocky gore (though it does have plenty of that too). Instead, it focused on how the most dangerous threat to humans in a zombie apocalypse is other humans. We see relationships develop, marriages fall apart, friendships fall and rise, and factions form. In all The Walking Dead comics, the Zombie threat was more of a variable to the characters’ ongoing struggles.
The Walking Dead also boosted indie comics altogether, not just the Zombie variety. For the last 15 years, the series acted as the flagship of Image Comics (even though it’s all separate independent titles). While indie comics were selling already, Walking Dead was like a shot of steroids to the industry.
The Lovable Dead
Robert Kirkman created several fan-loved characters throughout The Walking Dead’s long run. Maybe the most important, even if he isn’t the most popular, is Rick Grimes, the main character. Walking Dead wouldn’t have lasted for nearly 200 issues if people didn’t want to follow the saga of Grimes.
But the character fans really loved most? Michonne, the katana-wielding badass with two Zombies on leashes she uses as cover. Grimes was a likable protagonist—Michonne was an icon. And as a strong, black, female, zombie-killing warrior? She’s a role model too. She’s like the Storm of the Zombie genre.
Let’s not forget the villains, though. No, not The Walking Dead’s walking dead. The insidious humans who use the zombie apocalypse to become tyrannical rulers of small survival outposts. And the most popular of them all? Negan, the psychotic leader of the Saviors. His weapon of choice? A baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire. So yeah, pretty awesome and terrifying.
The TV Phenomenon
The comic’s popularity prompted AMC to produce the equally fan-favorite television series. Unlike Game of Thrones, the television series never tried to stick too closely to the source material. This helped in two ways. One, they could take more creative liberties with the stories and characters. Two, they never had to worry about catching up to the comics and having to figure out where to go from there. The show had its ups and downs, but it was also such a hit that AMC gave it a spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead, which provided something the core series severely lacked: diversity. Well, …it didn’t have the problem of repeatedly killing black male character after black male character. That got kind of awkward.
And recently, AMC announced that there will be a third series. So, if you miss the comics, you’ll have plenty of zombies on tv.
What’s Next for the Zombie King?
Robert Kirkman might be ending his most popular comic, but what can we expect from him next? Well, he still has Oblivion Song going (and, honestly, it’s a superior title to the Walking Dead). Universal Studios and Skybound Entertainment already bought the film rights to it too. Aside from that, well…there was that little announcement today that Kirkman’s other infamous zombie title is returning. That’s right. Marvel Zombies are back!
Roman Colombo finished his MFA in 2010 and now teaches writing and graphic novel literature at various Philadelphia colleges. His first novel, Trading Saints for Sinners, was published in 2014. He's currently working on his next novel and hoping to find an agent soon.