Posted: Dec 30 2014
by: Neal Haworth

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Origins and History of The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead is arguably one of the most iconic Zombie franchises of all time. While most people are familiar with the hit AMC television program, the roots of this brain-eating franchise go further back. Whether you're a die-hard zombie apocalypse “prepper,” or if you just enjoy well-written TV, you should check out our in-depth post on the history of The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead Comics

36-year-old professional comic book artist Robert Kirkman is responsible for creating The Walking Dead. The Kentucky native envisioned a comic book series in which survivors struggled to survive in a post-apocalyptic zombie-filled future. When Kirkam presented the idea to his publishing company Image, however, they turned it down, saying zombies were “too cliché.”

So, what did Kirkman do to convince executives that it was worth publishing? He lied, of course. Kirkman told Image that the zombies were created by aliens, who were using them to wipe out humanity so they could take over the world. After the first issues were released, Kirkam revealed that it was all a lie; there were no aliens in The Walking Dead, nor will there ever be. While most of us would be fired for lying to our boss, Kirkman was praised, as the new brain-eating comic series was a hit.

In addition to creating The Walking Dead comics, Kirkman also worked on the Ultimate X-Men, Marvel Zombies, Invincible (screenplay), Sleepwalker, Captain America, Marvel Knights, Fantastic Four, Marvel Team-Up, Irredeemable Ant-Man, and Tech Jacket.

The first five issues of The Walking Dead were designed by Tony Moore, with issues 6 to present being designed by Cliff Rathburn.

Much like the TV show, The Walking Dead comics never refer to the undead as “zombies.” Instead, Rick's band of survivors calls them either “walkers,” “roamers,” or “lurkers.” The walkers often follow and mimic one another, which subsequently results in large gatherings known as hordes. Throughout the comics, the survivors do their best to avoid these hordes, preferring to pick off single walkers.

Reception of The Walking Dead Comics

It should come as no surprise that The Walking Dead comics was a hit among fans and critics alike. In 2010, it won the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards (Eisner Award) for Best Continuing Series. This spurred a response by IGN's Eric Sunde, who called The Walking Dead comics “one of the best monthly comics available.”

During that same year, IGN also ranked Rick Grimes as the 26th Greatest Comic Book Hero of All Time. The sword-wielding Michonne also made it to the list, although she was a little further down at 86. And the Governor was ranked by IGN as the 86th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.

Due to the ever-increasing popularity of The Walking Dead franchise, early artwork produced by Tony Moore has skyrocketed in value. During an episode of For What It's Worth (a reality-appraisal show that airs on VH1), a single page of Moore's artwork from The Walking Dead Issue #1 was appraised at $20,000. Now that's an expensive comic book page!

The Walking Dead TV Show

AMC first announced that it had purchased a pilot episode for a TV show based on The Walking Dead comics on January 20, 2010. Executives named Frank Darabont and Gale Anne Hurd as the show's acting producers. There was some speculation whether or not a show “zombie” TV show will appeal to a larger audience, but these concerns were quickly laid to rest after the first episode aired. Social media networks like Facebook and Twitter exploded with fans showing their support for AMC's new show. This prompted AMC to order a second season, with Darabont taking the helm as the showrunner once again.

The first episode of season one The Walking Dead aired on October 31, 2010 (yes, that's Halloween). It set the tone for future episodes and seasons by revealing a barren world in which zombies were running rampant. Producers wanted to create an authentic environment to which viewers could relate, which is one of the reasons why there's such a focus on cinematography in this show; it's the little things like the environment, lighting, and even the sound that come together to create a fulfilling show.

Of course, The Walking Dead is now on its fifth season, and there's no end in sight. It's viewed as one of the most successful TV shows of all time, with Rotten Tomatoes giving the first season a 92% Certified Fresh score and Metacritic giving it an 82/100. In terms of viewership, The Walking Dead continues to attract more and more viewers with each season. The first season garnered 5.35 million, which was more than enough to convince AMC executives to keep it on board. The second season, however, attracted a notably larger audience of 7.26 million. But the fifth season opened with a jaw-dropping 17.30 million viewers, making it the most watched drama episode in the history of AMC. With numbers like this, it's safe to assume The Walking Dead will be around for at least a few more seasons.

Creating Walkers: The Magic Formula

Producing a show set in a post-apocalyptic zombie-infested future is no easy task. In order to pull off this fear, producers had to recruit someone with enough skill, talent and experience to create realistic-looking walkers. Because if the walkers didn't look real, the show would be doomed for failure from the start.

Greg Nicotero was hired as the special effects makeup artist for The Walking Dead. He required each and every walker to go through a special training program dubbed “zombie school,” which taught them how to move and behave like zombies. Nicotero also used three levels of makeup to create the walkers: Hero, Midground, and Deep Background. The Hero zombies were the most complex, featuring makeup from head to toe. Midground zombies received highlights and shadows on the face, but since they didn't get close enough to the camera, they didn't require full-body makeup. The third level, Deep Background, only wore masks and were used in the backdrops of various scenes.

To promote The Walking Dead, AMC and Fox International Channels orchestrated a zombie invasion on October 26, 2010, in which thousands of people dressed as zombies marched across 26 major cities throughout the world. The zombie invasion march ended in Los Angeles, California, with AMC airing the pilot episode shortly after.

Season Five Focuses More on People

The Walking Dead has gradually transitioned from the zombie fear factor to the human fear factor, which became apparent for many fans when the Governor first appeared. Granted, the walkers are still menacing and out for brains, but humans are equally disturbing in this complex show. The Walking Dead's Android Lincoln shared his thoughts on the season give, saying he's most interested in the show's “human factor.”

The thing I’m more interested in, certainly this season, is the human factor. We are moving into a much more terrifying and psychologically scary landscape because the people that inhabit this world now, after two years, are either very dangerous, very pragmatic, or very organized, or all three. That makes for very interesting drama,” said Andrew Lincoln in an interview with Time magazine.

Now that we're stuck in limbo – halfway through season five – many fans are wondering what's next. We won't reveal any spoilers in case you haven't started watching season five yet, but the mid-season finale didn't disappoint!

The Walking Dead Spinoff

Most die-hard fans are probably well aware of the upcoming spinoff show that's in the works. AMC announced the companion series to The Walking Dead last year, confirming that Cobalt will be set in the same post-apocalyptic zombie universe but follow a different group of survivors.

Unfortunately, we still don't know much about this spinoff. We do know, however, that it will center around a group of four characters: a recently divorced male teacher, a female guidance counselor, and the counselor’s son and daughter. This certainly sounds reminiscent of the original band of survivors on The Walking Dead, which is probably a smart idea considering the success of the original show. Actor Cliff Curtis will take the lead role.

And More...

What started as a comic book series quickly spawned into something more. The Walking Dead TV show introduced the zombie universe to a larger demographic. However, the series has since branched out into other forms of media, including several video games series for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Android and iOS, as well as Saturday Night Live parodies, TV shirts, and various merchandise. Perhaps we'll even see a Walking Dead movie someday?

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