Robert Kirkman has brought The Walking Dead comic to an end this week, and the conclusion has understandably shocked quite a few fans who expected the zombie series to continue for many more years to come. Just an issue after Rick Grimes was murdered by the coward Sebastian Milton, Kirkman closed out the story with a moving coda focused on Carl and the other remaining survivors. While the ending is bittersweet, it’s safe to say that it leaves the world Kirkman has built over a span of 16 years in a much better place than he originally planned.
In a letter to fans at the end of the now-infamous issue #193, Kirkman revealed that he had originally intended to close out The Walking Dead with the “No Way Out” storyline that saw Rick and the rest of the survivors defending the Alexandria Safe-Zone from a walker horde. The arc ends with Rick declaring that its time to rebuild Alexandria and expand it so that the survivors can create the new world. Originally, Rick’s speech was meant to lead to a major time jump in the final pages of the arc that showed a much darker future for humanity.
“Well, for years that had been planned to be the end,” Kirkman wrote in the letter. “Rick would make his proclamation, and the speech would end with a big close-up on Rick’s face, you’d turn the page, and Rick’s face would be the same, only it was a statue…and you’d zoom out and see the full statue with some vines growing on the bottom of it, cracks forming, and you’d realize that it was quite old.
“We’d keep zooming out until we saw that the statue was in Alexandria, the same place where he gave the speech, but it was different. It was old and rundown, broken windows and missing doors. We would keep zooming out until a zombie walked by, then another, and we’d see Rick had brought them to Alexandria, given this grand speech about rebuilding civilization and succeeded to the point that they built a statue to honor him. But in the end, the dead won, society crumbled again, and this time seemingly for good. And that was it.”
While the book’s eventual ending does feature an element or two from Kirkman’s original one, there’s no question that #193 concludes on a much more hopeful note. According to Kirkman, he came to his senses and decided to extend the book instead of dooming mankind for good.
“It was a TERRIBLE ending,” Kirkman said of his earlier plan. “Bleak, sad…made the whole story pointless. What can I say, I was young and most of the endings I wrote or came up with way back then were pretty bleak. So that ending in hindsight was embarrassingly bad, but more than that, I wasn’t ready to end the series. Not by a long shot.”
Had Kirkman ended the series with “No Way Out,” it would have been around 2010-2011 and it would have meant leaving out many of the book’s most popular characters, including Negan and the flesh-wearing Whisperers. We think the book is better for the additional six years of stories and so does Kirkman.
The Walking Dead #193 is out today. Meanwhile, The Walking Dead season 10 premieres this fall.