The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman has always liked to tease that the real cause of the zombie outbreak in his long-running comic series was extraterrestrial in nature. Back in January 2020, Kirkman responded to a question on Twitter as to the zombie outbreak’s origin with a simple “space spore.”
This was a joke, of course, but it was also a stealthy shout out to what The Walking Dead could have been.
Kirkman originally developed The Walking Dead as a Night of the Living Dead comic. But when Image Comics encouraged him to develop his own idea so that he could control the IP, Kirkman concocted a “Plan 9 From Outer Space-esque tale of how the zombies were actually animated by an alien race that was preparing to invade Earth by disrupting its infrastructure.”
That obviously never came to pass and The Walking Dead would go on to tell 193 issues of strictly zombie stories with no off-world shenanigans. Now that the series is over, however, Kirkman appears eager to once again pay homage to that original idea. Skybound Entertainment, the production and publishing company co-founded by Kirkman, announced its plans for a 10th anniversary celebration today, and those plans include a pretty stunning bit of alternate Walking Dead history.
Starting in July of this year, Skybound and Image Comics will launch a five-issue, limited comic series called Skybound X. Each issue of the series will feature new material covering existing Walking Dead characters and other Skybound properties from writers and artists such as Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, Tillie Walden, Donny Cates, Joshua Williamson, Chip Zdarsky, James Harren, and Daniel Warren Johnson.
Skybound X Issue 1 will even feature the comic debut of beloved Telltale Walking Dead game character Clementine! What’s also particularly intriguing about this announcement, however, is that each of Skybound X’s five issues will begin with a new chapter of Rick Grimes 2000, written by Kirkman and illustrated by Invincible artist Ryan Ottley. What exactly is Rick Grimes 2000? We’re so glad you asked because that’s where the aliens come in.
Rick Grimes 2000 is a brief sci-fi Walking Dead spinoff included as a lark at the end of the series’ 75th issue. The non-canonical tale is only six pages long but packs an astonishing amount of explanation and action into that short frame. Like The Walking Dead itself, Rick Grimes 2000 opens with Rick waking up from a coma in a hospital bed. Based on the machinery Rick is hooked up to and his new Luke Skywalker-style mechanical hand, it’s clear that something is way off.
Rick makes it out of the hospital only to encounter some of his old friends (and foes) whom he believed to be dead: Tyreese, Axel, and Martinez. Tyreese explains that aliens have been gathering up humans as they die to turn them into supersoldiers for their alien army. Michonne then further clarifies that these same aliens have been behind all the zombie nonsense in The Walking Dead world.
The aliens came to Earth to harvest our water, which is their currency. They launched the zombie outbreak to that end. Now they’re rounding up the few survivors to continue harvesting water. Their most enthusiastic ally in this endeavor is none other than Brian Blake a.k.a. The Governor. After the Gov smashes Michonne’s face in and taunts Rick, the text at the bottom of the page reads “Not to be continued.”
Well, apparently Rick Grimes 2000 was to be continued and the story will proceed very shortly. The first issue of Skybound X features a sci-fi Rick Grimes on its cover, clutching a lightsaber-like device and surrounded by zombies.
The original Walking Dead comic run remains very much over with the television series set to follow it out after its 11th season. Aside from a colorized re-release of the comic underway now and a Negan spinoff, Kirkman has indicated that the Walking Dead canon is all set.
Still, it’s nice to know that the writer is still open to some non-canonical adventures in this big TWD sandbox. Send Rick Grimes to kill aliens, why not? Rick Grimes has historically succeeded at just about whatever he puts his mind to…save for encounters with rich, gun-toting brats.
Rick Grimes 2000 will premiere in Skybound X #1 on July 7.