Top 20 Differences Between The Walking Dead Comic and TV Show
VOICE OVER: Andrew Tejada
The show is never as good as the book, right comic fans? For this list, we'll be looking at the most substantial changes made to this apocalyptic story when it was adapted from the page to the screen. If you aren't caught up on everything up to “Walking Dead” season 11, beware of spoilers ahead. Our countdown includes alternate fates, new locations, who slays whom and more!
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Differences Between The Walking Dead Comic and TV Show. For this list, we’ll be looking at the most substantial changes made to this apocalyptic story when it was adapted from the page to the screen. If you aren’t caught up on everything up to “Walking Dead” season 11, beware of spoilers ahead. What was the best change the show ever made? Let us know in the comments!
#20: Jesus Lives
In both the comics and tv show, Paul AKA Jesus, is one of the coolest heroes around. His strong moral compass and awesome fighting skills made stand out in a stacked cast. Unfortunately, Jesus’ time on the show was cut short when he died at the hands of a Whisperer. But this tragic death never actually occurred in the source material. Not only does he make it through the war against these quiet enemies, but he’s also one of the last people to fight the big bad whisperer Beta. Jesus also starts a relationship with fellow badass survivor Aaron. While they end up living happily to the end of the comics, the show didn’t allow enough time for their romance to begin.
#19: The Fate of Michonne’s Family
The tragic past of everyone’s favorite katana-wielding survivor is different in a pretty substantial way between adaptations. When we dive into Michonne’s backstory on the show, we discover that she lost her son to walkers. She eventually overcomes the pain of the tragedy and becomes a mom once more. Although Michonne also loses a child in the comics, she later reunites with one of her daughters when she arrives in the Commonwealth. Viewers at home may have noticed that this reunion plotline was given to Magna on the show. After she arrives in the Commonwealth, she finally sees her brother again. And as an added bonus, both Magna and Michonne get to regain a sense of family they thought was lost in live-action.
18: Tyreese’s Cause of Death
Despite having a rocky relationship with Rick, Tyreese tried his best to keep the group safe. But his efforts always lead him to bleak ends. For readers of the comics, Tyreese’s death came while the survivors were still at the prison. He was slain with Michonne’s katana right in front of all his friends. When we watched the Governor attack the prison at home, he sliced into Herschel instead. Unfortunately, this swap just delayed the inevitable for Tyreese. While searching an ally’s childhood home, he’s bitten by a walker he missed. The small comfort to this change is that Tyreese dies peacefully amongst a few of his closest friends instead of a soon-to-be battlefield.
#17: The Threat Level of Lance Hornsby
Few characters made our skins crawl week to week like Lance Hornsby did. He was willing to betray and even kill innocent people to make himself look good in the eyes of the Commonwealth. If you want to see how evil Lance truly is, you’ll need to watch the show. In the comics, we don’t get to see much of his dirty deeds. Since Lance serves more as a background character, it’s jarring to see him threaten people and even take over communities in live-action. His relatively minor presence in the comics kept us wondering what happened to him on the page. However, the show makes Lance’s fate clear by having Carol put him down permanently with an arrow.
#16: How Far Morgan Goes
Although it was tragic that Morgan had to lose his family before joining Rick’s group, we were glad to see him return to the fold. In the comics, he served as a valuable ally until he was bitten when Alexandria was invaded by a horde of walkers. But Morgan runs way past that community on the show. After surviving the Alexandria invasion and the war against the saviors, he treks across the country and finds a new community in Texas. Morgan became extremely close to becoming a walker himself when he reached that state on “Fear the Walking Dead”. But he was fortunately able to pull through and avoid a gruesome end in Alexandria.
#15: Three Communities Were Made for TV
While every TV fan remembers Beth Greene’s heartbreaking demise at Grady hospital, both she and everything about the medical building were created by screenwriters. Additionally, the characters didn’t originally meet Gareth and his not-so-merry band of cannibals inside the city of Terminus. The heroes just happened to run into the villains while on the road. While the lack of Terminus didn't majorly change the endgame of the series, the absence of The Heaps definitely did. Rick met Jadis and her group of Scavengers in this trashy location when he was looking for allies. Although they did betray him, finding this odd group and their leader eventually paid off majorly for officer friendly in season 9.
#14: Sebastian Lives to Shoot Rick
Years of being treated like the prince of the Commonwealth turned Sebastian Milton into an entitled brat. But after heroes like Eugene arrive there, the spoiled man and his mom are seen as two of the community’s biggest problems. To say Sebastian doesn’t handle being judged for his actions openly well is an understatement. On the page, he gets so angry that he fatally shoots Rick Grimes out of retaliation and ends up in jail for life. However, Sebastian never even meets Officer Friendly on the show. The young Milton instead dies after a rogue walker Eugene knocked away decides to take a bite of the spoiled brat. This satisfying moment definitely let readers know the ending of the tv series would be altered.
#13: The Saviors Write a Different Final Chapter
After Rick’s people end their war with the sinister saviors, the antagonistic group is invited to work with the heroes. While a few former villains start new lives in communities like Hilltop, the ones who have darker intentions are all eliminated. There are hardly any reformed or hardcore Saviors left by the time the series reached season 11. Surprisingly, the comic has a more heartwarming ending for the group. Although the Saviors try to attack the heroes in the aftermath of the Whisperer War, an inspiring speech from Negan gets the evil group to back down. The former villains actually renounce their evil ways and start contributing to the other communities. It’s incredibly refreshing to see a saintly Savior on the side of good.
#12: Gabriel’s Final Encounter with Whisperers
Since fans are so used to seeing the live-action Father Gabriel as a badass who was partially blinded in the Savior War, they probably wouldn’t recognize his comic counterpart. The character’s eye never gets infected in the source material. And although Gabriel does try to improve, he’s nowhere near as intimidating as he is on the show. He eventually dies after panicking, injuring himself, and getting mortally wounded by Beta of the Whisperer group. But it looked like Gabriel’s warrior journey would end when the same villains came for him. Fortunately, the priest is saved from Whisperers at the last second. Gabriel repays the debt to his allies by boldly facing other threats for the group.
#11: Judith’s Turbulent Life
It’s hard to imagine the televised world of the “Walking Dead” without Judith Grimes in it. In the comics, she tragically loses her life when the Governor attacks her home. The show faked fans out by convincing us that she passed at the same point in the story…until we saw her safe and sound. Nearly a decade after Judith’s close call, she was trained to deal out death to walkers. She also developed a strangely heartwarming bond with Negan. Although both plot points mirror Carl’s journey in the comics, Judith has distinct story beats of her own. After a time skip, she famously saved Magna’s group from certain death. The scene was a great way to establish the live-action Judith had more stories to tell.
#10: The CDC Detour
At the end of “Walking Dead’s” first season, Rick’s group reaches a CDC structure in hopes of finding a safe haven and answers about the apocalypse. While a doctor named Edwin Jenner definitely gives them some scientific insights, the building is far from a good place. The scientist nearly lets the entire group die when the CDC was set to explode. While the fight to get out made for an incredibly memorable episode, this conflict never happened in the comics. In fact, “Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman stated he’d likely leave this trip out if he went back in time. But he still praised the performances in that episode as much as the fans do today.
#9: Which Savior Slays Abraham
Seeing our favorite mustachioed military survivor go wasn’t pleasant in either version of the story. When he was walking on the road in the comics, he was slain by an arrow shot by the Savior Dwight without warning. But Abraham escaped that fate on the show. Unfortunately, Dr. Denise was hit by Dwight’s arrow in live-action instead. And that still didn’t save Abraham from the threat of the Saviors. When Negan was aiming to make a violent first impression, he chose the military man as the first victim of his bat. Abraham faced death with courage and dignity before he was ultimately dispatched. His demeanor still wasn’t enough to make the scene any less heartbreaking.
#8: Introducing the Civil Republic Military
When Rick needed emergency medical assistance in season 9, his ally Jadis called the Civil Republic Military, or CRM for short, and had him taken away. While the main show didn’t answer many questions about the organization at the time, spinoff series “Walking Dead: World Beyond” definitely did. The CRM is established as an extremely deadly group whose members have an extremely low tolerance for disobedience or betrayal. This organization was also willing to use chemical weapons on allies they feared might become enemies. Despite not being mentioned in the comics, the group has played significant roles in multiple shows. Every CRM appearance has reconfirmed that they are a huge and exciting new problem within this universe.
#7: Whose Heads Rolled for the Whisperers
One of the most shocking scenes in the “Walking Dead” narrative occurs when Whisperer leader Alpha reveals that she’s relieved several heroes of their heads just to make a point. Fans of the comics prepared to lose people like Luke, Ezekiel and Rosita when the villains came into live-action. However, the show decided to upset expectations by letting all three of those characters live. But their survival still meant that others had to suffer. Hilltop leader Tara, burgeoning doctor Enid, and the young Henry were all permanently silenced on the show. Although the victims differed between mediums, it was always painful to see the Whisperer’s sickening work.
#6: Richonne vs…Rickdrea?
Comic readers were likely shocked when Andrea died before the Governor fell. In the source material, this hardened warrior far outlived the villain and started a relationship with Rick in Alexandria. Their time together came to a tragic end when she was bitten while trying to save Eugene. Since Andrea never made it to Alexandria, the writers brought Rick and Michonne together instead. Not only was their live-action relationship widely praised by fans, but the union was strong enough to form the basis for an entire miniseries. This huge accomplishment doesn’t mean that we prefer one pairing over the other. We appreciate both the Rickdrea and Richonne relationships for showing us that love is still possible after the end of everything.
#5: Dale’s Very Different Demise
In the wake of a notable shakeup behind-the-scenes, Dale actor Jeffrey DeMunn reportedly asked to leave the story far earlier than his comic counterpart did. His request was fulfilled after Carl fails to kill a walker on the show. The kid’s mistake causes the undead enemy to arrive on the farm and dispatch Dale. In the comics, the death of this older gentleman comes after the survivors stay at a farm and a prison. After getting bitten, a group of heinous villains decide to turn Dale’s leg into a bbq dish. This dark fate was notably saved for Bob Stookey in live-action. Like Dale, he let the villains know that they had picked the wrong person to make into a meal.
#4: Carol Outlives Sophia & Becomes a Warrior
Carol’s journey in the source material ends in the prison arc. After suffering a number of setbacks, she allows a walker to bite her. Her daughter Sophia would later mourn her loss and make it all the way to the end of the story. On the show, their fates are pretty much reversed. After losing her daughter, Carol nearly dies in the prison. But she rebounds and forges herself into one of the strongest and most reliable survivors in the entire show. Additionally, while Michonne starts a relationship with Ezekiel in the comics, Carol gets close to the king on the show. Thanks to her dynamic relationships and astonishing character development, this survivor has become one of the show’s most iconic heroines.
#3: Rick’s Right Hand
During Rick’s first encounter with the governor in the comics, the villain removes the hero’s right hand. Officer Friendly endures the brutal injury and proceeds to live a normal apocalypse life without it. Since taking off Rick’s hand in live-action would’ve been extremely complicated to pull off consistently at the time, the show settled for teasing this event in several ways. Have you ever noticed how often Rick’s right hand is threatened or injured? Outside of those hints at the loss of limb, the show actually had Aaron lose his left arm. It’s also probably not a coincidence his beard and hairstyle make him look exactly like the comic version of Rick. Aaron’s injury definitely feels like a homage to the unforgettable source material moment.
#2: Daryl Dixon’s Entire Existence
Every tv fan who said “If Daryl Dies, we riot” would be stunned to discover he didn’t even exist in the comics. He’s played pivotal roles in every major TV story arc and became the closest thing the show has to a main character. While Dwight was Rick’s crossbow wielding ally in the comic, their friendship completely fell apart before the story ended. By contrast, Daryl stepped up as a surrogate father to Judith Grimes in the final two seasons. His duties as a parent haven’t stopped him from wading into battle time and time again. Daryl’s popularity led to him getting a spin-off series and an admittedly so/so video game. No matter where his journey ends, fans will always love this gruff survivor.
#1: Where Carl’s Story Ends
No one was prepared to learn that Carl had been bitten by a walker during the Savior War. His controversial infection is still a sore point for many fans. Despite foreshadowing Carl’s death in the comics with a few scary images, the character lives well into adulthood there. He also marries Sophia and has a child named Andrea. Carl ends the main narrative by retelling the story of dad’s contributions to a better and safer world. Unfortunately, our hopes for this sweet ending on the tv show were dashed as soon as the young man revealed his wound. This major departure from the source material guaranteed that the show’s finale would end in a radically different place.