Last summer, The Walking Dead fans were left speechless when the long-running comic book series came to a sudden end after 193 issues. First of all, Rick Grimes was killed off in issue #192, leaving fans to believe the series was going in a bold new direction. The final issue then jumped decades into the future and wrapped up the characters’ storylines, bringing a fitting if abrupt end to the whole thing.
Creator Robert Kirkman released a six-page letter explaining why he made this surprising decision in that final issue, but he’s now elaborated a little bit more on his thoughts. While speaking with The Hollywood Reporter to promote the release of special one-shot spinoff comic Negan Lives, Kirkman compared what he wanted to achieve to how shocking it would be if your favorite TV show suddenly ended without any warning.
“I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan. I love Game of Thrones. If I had been watching that last season not knowing it was the last season, I would’ve been like, “Whoa. What the heck? Wait, this is crazy.” That’s the thing that most entertains me, that makes me most excited about works of fiction: the surprise,” Kirkman said. “In Breaking Bad, when [spoilers removed] dies, I was like, ‘Of course he dies. It’s the last season!’ The last season of The Sopranos, last season of Breaking Bad, I feel like some of those events don’t have the impact they should have because you know the season is ending. But Rick Grimes dying in the comic? I got two or three months of questions: ‘How does the book continue after this? Oh my god. What does this mean for the book?’”
Fans may know that Kirkman used to talk about his plans for The Walking Dead to run for 300 issues, which is another reason issue #193 being the last was so unexpected. He explained to THR that this wasn’t some grand lie he concocted to keep the surprise, and he really did anticipate the series lasting that long. However, during the Whisperer arc, the writer came to realize there wasn’t enough story left to fill that amount of issues.
“There’s an issue where everyone’s at the fair in Alexandria. I was like, ‘Okay, so if we’ve already built civilization up to that point, I don’t think I’m going to make it to issue 300,’” Kirkman revealed. “And so that’s when I started getting worried about, ‘Wait a minute. How much story do I actually have?’ I think people have the misconception that I’m like, ‘The Walking Dead is popular. I’m going to figure a way to keep it going forever.’ But I always had a story I was building to and I knew each new safe place that they got to had a reason for being and set up the next place they would go to because I know for a while, it seemed like, ‘Oh, I get it. There’s just a psycho when these people go to a prison and then they stay here and then they stay there.’ But there was a reason for all those places.”
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Issue #193 revealed what happened to most of the characters who managed to survive the series, including Carl as a married father, and how society is able to rebuild. Negan was notably not featured in the issue, though, which teed the way for his starring role in new spinoff comic Negan Lives, which you can find exclusively in comic book stores now.
Though the comics are done, The Walking Dead screen franchise is still thriving. It next returns to AMC for the delayed season 10 finale later this year.