Wednesday, February 23, 2011
The Walking Dead: Graphic Novel vs. Television Show
I'm going to be honest right now. This argument of "the book being better than the *insert alternate medium here*" is an overplayed argument that diehard fans will take to the grave. I did my independent for my B.A. on the injustices that happen when transitioning the graphic novel form of Watchmen into a film. I could make this whole argument 35 double-spaced Times New Roman font, toss it into the English Department at the university and call it a focused example of modern literature, examining the delicate nature of crossing boundaries. But this is my blog.
So, instead I'm going to aim at the very fixed and crucial positive/negative points between one medium versus the other. Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead series is one of the best Zombie literature series available on the market. The best part: it's still going and it's not deteriorating. The graphic novel (not going to use the term comic because of negative connotations) is collected in many different forms. There are the single issues, the frontline of what's being released as the most recent copies; the volumes, which are six issues collected into one paperback piece; the books, which are twelve issues collected into one hardcover piece; the omnibus editions; which are twenty-four issues collected into a slipcase; and the compendium, which are forty-eight issues collected into a single paperback piece. I have amassed every volume edition of The Walking Dead that are currently available, only missing two issues to date, and I have only positivity towards the series.
The storyline is a capturing experience that grabs viewers from the very beginning, taking Rick Grimes into a hellish world that both alters his character and creates a new type of hero, being one who offers to be the scapegoat of sins, but the protector everyone desires in a zombie apocalypse. Characters in the graphic novel are usually developed throughout action, dialogue and even expression, the true sign of a great artist. It takes the time to reveal character in each person, showing how a world full of undead beings can bring out the best and worst in people. The two sided coin is shown through character development influenced by zombies: are people reacting towards a society that has no law, rules or restraints? Are they merely changing because of the outside influences or are they merely revealing their true selves? Utter monsters and redeeming saviors are created throughout the story in The Walking Dead, and I'm not referring to the zombies in any case.
With the success of the series, AMC greenlighted an adaptation of the graphic novel. A lot of excitement was first to be abound. I admit myself, the first episode of The Walking Dead (AMC) was spectacular and true to most aspects of the graphic novel's first issues. But obviously, like family prodigies and siblings, if you hold something in high regard by comparing it to a predecessor, you set yourself up for eventual disappointment.
The television series The Walking Dead began with an accurate representation of the graphic novel, only changing a few minor details (zombies in hospital were kept in the room in the TV show; they chased Rick out in the book...etc). The show sets up a small point of view with Morgan, who Rick meets in the same fashion as he does the novel, showing Morgan's remorse for his lost wife and his fatherly instinct of his surviving son, Duane. Morgan sits on his top floor, aiming down his rife scope at what used to be his wife, shaking and breaking down as he tries to squeeze the trigger, but cannot bring himself to do the deed. The first episode was truly breathtaking. What followed the first was like falling down a hill, smashing into rocks with your face and eventually landing in a quarry full of dogshit, where the dog responsible immediately finds you and vomits directly in your mouth.
Episodes 2 through 6 both took creative influence over the series, adding in and removing characters, morphing storylines and needlessly tossing things around. I had no idea who some of the characters were because of the fact that they were never in the graphic novel and dialogue was subpar. Carol's husband appears, they make him abusive, and eventually gets eaten by the same swarm of zombies that take Amy's life and through infection, Jim's. During this attack, I counted at least two-three people being chewed to god damn pieces that I had no idea were even alive until they were screaming to death. As a matter of fact, half the characters are transparent. Why? One thing the show lost that the series was famous for was character development. Characters that appear in the show that don't appear in the graphic novel's storyline you could easily mark with an expiry date. Reason being, they aren't explored at all. I don't want to make this spoiler-littered, so I'll basically say that some things that should have already happened haven't, and other things that have happened made me wonder if I was watching a lame 80s action movie.
There's a terrible amount of what I could write about concerning the problematic nature of the television show, but the main umbrella issue that encompasses a bunch of the other smaller issues is that the television show is picking and choosing instead of remaining with a consistent continuity. To clarify that, the creators of the television show are taking some elements of the book and following it verbatim, taking other elements and vaguely following it, and completely fabricating some elements and distorting the prior two categories. The problem with this is that it's an injustice as an adaptation. If you want to create a television series of The Walking Dead and wish to use creative license, why don't you set it apart from the original by making a sidestory of some other area? Probably because it wouldn't grab viewers. Instead, taking the original series and morphing it causes to lose some of the most redeeming features the book was well known for.
Other issues of the television show slowly deteriorating in quality include the fact that actors aren't always signed on for the whole show. If actors drop out, and the show was, in a hypothetical sense, following the graphic novel series almost verbatim, then you've lost a character and now have to kill them off, or blatantly replace them with an unfamiliar face. I suppose televised directors also demand a fair amount of drama, more than the book already contained in fair portions, so they've kept a certain character in wish I kept hoping would die. But no.
Ultimately, it does not thrill me to watch the television show. It doesn't capture any features of the graphic novel that it should and can also be boring at certain times. Queue scene where everyone stands around and conspires like kids in high school about "how that guy got bitten" and what they want to do, which takes a fair amount of the show. The last episode completely threw the series in a god damn loop. They explain the virus, introduce a character, throw out the quiet black woman and the new character (Cheddar, because this show wasn't already cheesy enough), and then all the characters escape an exploding building 80s action style-esque. Which is alike of the ending to the Street Fighter film, a guilty pleasure and horrible deformed lovechild of the video game movie genre.
I recommend picking up the series if you love Zombie-lore, because if you haven't read it yet, you have no idea what you're missing. And if you want, watch the first episode of The Walking Dead (AMC). But only the first, for the love of god. If you watch anymore, then it's your own damn fault and you're a glutton for punishment.