To celebrate the Oct. 22 Season 8 premiere of The Walking Dead — the series’ 100th episode — Yahoo TV will be posting a new TWD-related story every day through the season opener.
For those fans of The Walking Dead TV series who don’t read the comic book that spawned it, you’re missing out… not only on hints at the stories the show often unfolds or remixes from the comics, but also on TWD creator Robert Kirkman’s monthly “Letter Hacks” column, in which he responds to readers’ mail and email. In addition to patiently — and sometimes cheekily not —entertaining oft-repeated queries like how the comic and TV show will end, if he’ll ever reveal what caused the apocalypse, and whether or not zombies poop, the TWD daddy also shares fun behind-the-scenes scoop, like his inspirations for certain storyline decisions and tip-offs about what’s to come in the comics and the TV series.
And yes, he’s given multiple explanations of his theories on the workings of the complicated digestive system of the undead.
Here, 19 of our favorite “Letter Hacks” info drops from Kirkman, along with a nudge to get your hands on copies of TWD comic book issues yourselves. The stories and Kirkman’s columns make for fine summer reading, and a great way to countdown the days to the Season 8 premiere.
Issue #2 (published Nov. 12, 2003): Kirkman says the walkers in the comic books, and presumably the series, will never become intelligent zombies, i.e. have the ability to think, remember their past lives, or talk.
Issue #3 (Dec. 10, 2003): The comic book creator insists — and will continue to insist every time a fan asks the question — that The Walking Dead comics will always be published in black and white. He also explains why Rick Grimes, in a comic book moment that also carried over to the TV show, took the time to put Bicycle Girl out of her misery before going off to look for his family in Atlanta. “This thing… was just lying there… trying to eat him… but it had been torn apart so badly that it couldn’t move. Rick’s got a soft spot for the ladies, and this hit him particularly hard,” Kirkman wrote.
Issue #5 (Feb. 1, 2004): Morgan’s son, Duane Jones, is named after Duane Jones, the star of George Romero’s horror classic movie Night of the Living Dead. Kirkman said the comic book was pitched as “the zombie movie that never ends… I always wanted to know what happened to those people at the end of all those movies… this is me seeing what would happen if someone has the opportunity to follow the story out until the end instead of showing a ninety-minute section of it.”
Issue #8 (May 15, 2004): He knows the cause of the zombie outbreak, but he says he has no plans to ever share it.
Issue #18 (April 20, 2005): As the comic book grew in popularity, readers started regularly asking Kirkman about possible movie and TV adaptations. He wrote that he would prefer to see it as a live-action series. Through years of development that included consideration of the series at HBO and NBC, it finally debuted on AMC in 2010.
Issue #19 (June 1, 2005): Shocker: Kirkman wrote that he considered killing off Rick, instead of Shane, in comic book issue #6. And he asserts that Rick “will die when I’m ready, just like all the rest” of TWD characters.
Issue #23 (Nov. 1, 2005): Wrote that he had no plans for a spinoff focusing on different characters, “but who knows what the future may bring.” The Fear the Walking Dead spinoff TV series would premiere nearly a decade later, on Aug. 23, 2015.
Issue #24 (Nov. 24, 2005): Decrees there will be no zombie animals in the comic book, and that’s carried over into the TV series so far, too. Though horses, in particular, have not been exempt from becoming zombie chow (RIP, Buttons).
Issue #26 (March 15, 2006): Inquiring minds want to know: Zombies love to fill their bellies with humans… what happens after that, i.e. do zombies poop? “That is currently unknown,” Kirkman responded. “It has to go SOMEWHERE though… but I would guess their bodies aren’t working well enough for any kind of digestion to occur… I’m just going to assume their bodies are so toxic they dissolve whatever they eat. Another thing is that most zombies really aren’t getting to eat that much in their lifespan. A chunk here, a chunk there.”
Issue #29 (July 12, 2006): He says he knows how the story will end, but doesn’t want to reveal whether it will be a sad or happy ending. He also says he will never pass the comic off to another writer. “NO ONE OTHER THAN ME WILL EVER WRITE THIS BOOK,” he assured a reader. “The book will be canceled long before I feel like letting someone else write it.”
Issue #41 (Aug. 29, 2007): In response to a fan who asked if he watched any soap operas: “Only Passions whenever I catch it on TV,” Kirkman wrote of the 1999-2008 daytime drama that unfolded the adventures of witch Tabitha and her living doll, Timmy, among others. “That sh*t is INSANE!”
Issue #45 (Dec. 12, 2007): In the comic book, The Governor infamously chops off one of Rick’s hands, and Kirkman wrote that he briefly toyed with the idea of giving Rick a knife hand (by duct taping a knife to his arm). TWD TV viewers know the knife hand idea was eventually implemented… on Daryl’s brother Merle (who, like Daryl, is not a character in the comic book), who had to saw off his own hand to escape from walkers after Rick handcuffed Merle to a pipe.
Issue #46 (Feb. 13, 2008): There’s a reason it’s necessary to have an emoji to represent poo: Everyone’s obsessed with it. Here’s another Kirkman answer for a reader query on whether or not zombies literally give a crap: “Do zombies poop? Well, I’d think not,” he wrote. “There’s a few options here. In Marvel Zombies (a five-issue comic book series Kirkman wrote), I stated the zombies has a powerful stomach acid that dissolved all the flesh they ate. A friend of mine… hypothesized that zombies would just eat and eat until their stomachs burst. And that zombies would be walking around with gaping holes where their stomachs would be. I don’t know the science behind it all, but maybe zombies do continually ‘evacuate’ like recently dead people do… now, I don’t picture a zombie stopping and squatting or anything like that… but maybe they’re soiling themselves as they shamble along. OK… that was fun.”
Issue #48 (April 2, 2008): To a reader who wondered if Carl Grimes is named after another pop culture badass: Family Matters dad, and Steve Urkel frienemy, Carl Winslow (played by Reginald VelJohnson): “No, although I do share a love for Family Matters with my good friend (comic artist and Kirkman collaborator) Cory Walker, although I would consider his love to be more of an unhealthy obsession, but that’s just how I see things. No, Carl is named after my father. I also thought it was a unique name for a child these days. I pushed for it for my own son, but my wife hated it — so we went another way.”
Issue #99 (June 20, 2012): Sorry Daryl Dixon fans. Kirkman said it’s unlikely the character created just for the TV series will ever appear in the comic book story.
Issue #102 (Sept. 19, 2012): Issue #100 of the comic book marked the introduction of Negan, who promptly killed one of the comic’s most beloved characters, Glenn. Glenn TV series portrayer Steven Yeun had a little fun with his character’s death in the book, writing a tongue-in-cheek missive to Kirkman in “Letter Hacks” to express how, well, hacked off he was about Glenn’s demise. “Foolish move, Kirkman. You better watch your back from now on, because I am gonna get you. Don’t even THINK about leaving your house! I bought three things yesterday to destroy you: 1) a walkie talkie, 2) a sniper rifle, 3) the other walkie talkie,” Yeun wrote in a much longer, funny rant that Kirkman published in full.
And then Kirkman turned it all around on the actor, writing, “After seeing the portrayal of Glenn on the television show, and the stellar performance by an actor whose name I can’t seem to recall… for me, at least, the comic book Glenn just became a pale impression of the TV show character, so I figured, why waste my time telling stories with this guy anymore… so I offed him.”
Issue #122 (Feb. 26, 2014): Sean Mackiewicz, the Editorial Director for Kirkman’s Skybound comics, also contributes to “Letter Hacks,” and he confirmed that in the comics, Glenn’s widow, Maggie, is named Maggie Greene, not Maggie Rhee, as the character declared herself in that delicious takedown of Hilltop’s so-called leader Gregory in Season 7. Reasoning: In the comic book, Glenn’s last name isn’t used, so she never became Maggie Rhee. Also, Kirkman added, “My thinking was that her entire family died… and she wants to carry on her family name.”
Issue #148 (Nov. 11, 2015): Kirkman wrote that he was going to kill off Andrea, Rick’s longtime girlfriend in the comic book, in issue #150. He was kidding… he shocked readers by killing her off in issue #167. The character died on the TV series in Season 3, but her comic book death has TV fans freaking out, because the TV version of Michonne is, in many ways, similar to comic book Andrea, right down to her constant bravery, her love of Rick, and her close relationship with Carl.
Issue #163 (Feb. 1, 2017): A reader asked Kirkman, “Are you ready to give Eugene an official Asperger’s diagnosis? That’s how I interpret the character…”
Wrote Kirkman, “That’s a part of his character, yes. I’d say Eugene is definitely on the spectrum… and I’d argue he’s the most important character for the potential to rebuild society. He’s very important.”
Hmmm… wonder if that’s true for both comic book Eugene and TV Eugene? Because if TV Eugene is that important to rebuilding society, especially after the upcoming “All Out War” of Season 8, that suggests Eugene, and one of our favorite TWD cast members, Josh McDermitt, is probably safe, right?
The Walking Dead Season 8 premieres Oct. 22 at 9 p.m. on AMC.
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