In yesterday’s article, we followed Robert Kirkman’s rocky road to bringing The Walking Dead comic to reality, starting with his failed pitch Dead Planet, about a mysterious mineral found on a planet that caused the dead to rise; through to his so-called Night of the Living Dead proposal (Kirkman’s words), in which he used the 1968 film by George Romero to pitch the idea of a ’60′s zombie apocalypse; and to its final iteration, in which he promised his publisher that it was an alien invasion that was the cause of the apocalypse (which he admits that he never intended on fulfilling).
Aliens in The Walking Dead
When last I wrote about the alien connection in The Walking Dead comic a few weeks ago, I had this weird niggling feeling that I had seen this before.
I dug through my stacks of The Walking Dead graphic novels, and there it was! Issue #75. The afterword of this edition is very telling when it comes to how Kirkman had sold the idea to the powers that be.
It’s 2010, with the network AMC launching a TV show based on The Walking Dead graphic novels. We also see the publishing of Issue #75 at the same time.
In the “Letters Hack” (Afterword) section of the anniversary edition (#75) as he called it, Kirkman talks about the new television show on AMC. Kirkman is excited (as can be expected), and there are even photos of some of the cast in the issue.
It’s fun to see comments by the creator in that issue, comments about something which will ultimately become wildly successful (which, of course, he could never have predicted in his wildest dreams). There is bravado and a whole lot of hedging of bets. One can speculate that the original alien connection to the zombie apocalypse was still on the table when AMC launched the TV show, because Kirkman actually delivered the alien connection in that issue (#75), in the form of a dream/flashback sequence that is in full color, ala The Wizard of Oz (in stark contrast to the black and white TWD comics). It is also fulfillment of a promise that he made way back in Issue #2.
At the end of Issue #75, Rick awakens as he did in Issue #1, in a bed, but this time, it’s in an alien pod of some kind.
Here’s Kirkman’s final comments in the #75 issue.
[In Issue #2, I said] I will never stop writing this book. I plan on writing it right into the ground. When I run out of ideas I’ll just start adding aliens and stuff.
…It’s so funny the things you say when you don’t know for sure if you’re actually going to last. But here’s the thing… I aim to please. I promised aliens in Issue 75… and I plan to deliver.
For those of you who haven’t read Issue #75, you get to see Rick in a super-suit, and Michone wielding a light-sabre. That’s the light-sabre and Rick in the header image at the top of this article.
Hardcore fans followed discussions in the letters posted at the end of each publication– and there was this continuing promise of “aliens by issue #75.” Kirkman believed he would have jumped the shark by then. But still going strong at Issue #75, he fulfilled his promise. The final panel lays everything to rest. It simply reads: “Not to be continued!”
Nevertheless, with that segment, and the Dead Planet, Night of the Living Dead, and the alien-invasion-”fib”-pitch made to finally get the project off the ground, there is obviously extraterrestrial DNA in The Walking Dead.
In our interview with George Romero, George explains the alien connection in Night of the Living Dead:
There were three explanations to explain where the zombies came from.
…the third one was a Venus Satellite probe that returned to Earth. That’s the one that the distributor decided to keep, because of the footage– we actually went to Washington to shoot that footage. And I spent the rest of my life apologizing for that incident [the Venus probe], because I didn’t want there to be an explanation. I wanted it to be just God’s punishment. In “Dawn of the Dead” the line is: “When there is no more room in Hell, the Dead will walk the Earth.” And that’s all the explanation I need.
Tony Moore was Robert Kirkman’s boyhood friend, and partner in the creation of The Walking Dead. As mentioned in yesterday’s article, Kirkman and Moore together pitched Dead Planet, NOTLD and ultimately The Walking Dead to Image Comics (the publisher), with Kirkman writing and Moore illustrating.
Moore would go on to illustrate the first 6 issues. He left mysteriously, to pursue other projects, get pregnant, or for many other reasons left unsaid. Tony would subsequently sue Robert twice in the next few years, over partial ownership of the property The Walking Dead. Legal tempers got hot, with Moore stating in one of the lawsuits:
Kirkman is a proud liar and fraudster who freely admits that he has no qualm about misrepresenting material facts in order to consummate business transactions, and it is precisely that illicit conduct which led to the present lawsuit (and to Kirkman’s business “success” generally).
Moore was obviously alluding to Kirkman’s somewhat shifty spin that he put on The Walking Dead concept to land the deal with Image (ie: alien invasion). The lawsuits were eventually settled out of court. Some light might have been shone on the subject recently though, when Tony Moore published a bit of a mea culpa on his Facebook page in August of last year:
I know for a fact that I’ve got a well-earned shitty reputation as far as reliability and responsibility in any sense is concerned. I’ve flushed a lot of great things right down the toilet, and forced a lot of the people around me whom I love to walk through Hell on my behalf. In return, I generally have just continued f*cking bigger things up and making it all worse until every relationship around me crumbles.
… I cannot offer apologies deep enough to cover the years of lies, unfulfilled promises, and breaches of trust I’ve dug away that truly separate me from everyone who has tried to be there for me.
Below are covers created by Tony Moore (left– before AMC) and Charlie Adlard (right– after AMC).
The comic book business appears to be like every other entertainment business– cut-throat and littered with casualties. I’m sure the truth between Kirkman and Moore’s breakup is somewhere in the middle. The recent lawsuits between The Walking Dead TV Show creator Frank Darabont and AMC might be just as muddled though.
As reported in the news, Frank Darabont has filed a lawsuit against AMC. We reported that Darabont’s lawyers contend that he was fired before the beginning of Season 2 to “screw him out of his profits for creating the show.” That lawsuit is still before the courts.
Sound familiar? To be fair, a lot of people come out of the woodwork when something becomes successful, claiming it was their idea, or that they had a hand in its creation. But these people (Moore and Darabont) are not apparitions out of the woodwork. These are real participants in the juggernaut that is The Walking Dead.
Evidently lawsuits seem to be pretty par for the course. Remember, we reported the lawsuit between George Romero (Latent) and their distributor over an unfortunate copyright error regarding Night of the Living Dead that probably cost them millions of dollars in profit. If there is any lesson to be learned here, it is to get everything in writing at the beginning, and make sure you include a lawyer who’s on your side, or be caught in the soap opera that is show biz.
The Walking Dead is a Soap Opera… with Zombies
George Romero, a veteran in the soap opera that is show biz, said this, when he was asked to direct an episode or two of The Walking Dead:
They asked me to do a couple of episodes of The Walking Dead but I didn’t want to be a part of it. Basically it’s just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally. I always used the zombie as a character for satire or a political criticism and I find that missing in what’s happening now.
Romero has also commented that he was more comfortable directing his own material, rather than being fed a script to interpret.
Robert Kirkman makes no bones when it comes to the “soap opera” analogy of The Walking Dead. He actually embraces it. In a GeeksGuideShows.com interview he commented:
I guess at my core I’m just a big girl that likes soap operas. The thing that I enjoy, the parts of the comic that I really like writing, are the emotional bits, the relationship stuff, the interaction between Rick and Carl. All that stuff. The zombies are really just there to trick dudes into reading it, is basically what it boils down to.
There you have it. So I think it is time to put all of this to rest. Which brings me to these three final conclusions…
- The Walking Dead is a soap opera with zombies. Romero was right, and Kirkman concurs.
- The Walking Dead has an extraterrestrial connection. It’s right there in the pitches and TWD comic itself.
- Show business is not for the faint of heart, even if it is just a soap opera.