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‘The Walking Dead’ TV show is finally here

By Staff | Oct 27, 2010

A sickness has infected comic book shops across the globe. It spreads from shelf to reader, turning them incurably ravenous. The afflicted then pass it on to unwary friends and family. And on Halloween night, this disease will be released upon the world. That Sunday, Oct. 31 at 10 p.m., “The Walking Dead” television series premieres on cable channel AMC, exposing millions of TV watchers to what horror buffs and comic fans have been hooked to for years.

Created by writer Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore (who was ably replaced as penciler by Charlie Adlard from issue No. 7 on) and published since 2003 by Image Comics, the series has lasted 77 issues and counting, filling up 12 paperback volumes so far. It stars former small-town police officer Rick Grimes and his young son Carl, who have banded together with an eclectic group of survivors in the aftermath of a zombie plague.

The book’s acclaim comes less from the monsters Rick is forced to fight and more from the characters he must learn to interact with. It asks questions about which lines a person will cross in order to survive and just how far they’d go to protect a child.

In the world of “The Walking Dead,” literally no one is safe. Beloved characters have been struck down without a moment’s notice and writer Kirkman has even hinted the series could easily continue without Rick around. This level of unpredictability is rare in long-running comics.

With no end to the series in sight, we are able to travel along with the characters, enduring their fear and celebrating their victories, just as unsure as they about what lies around the next bend. The open-endedness of the medium gives the book its greatest strength. From his introduction in the first volume, Kirkman expressed frustration that when every good zombie movie was over, you were still left wondering what happened next to your favorite character.

“We will NEVER wonder what happens to Rick next,” Kirkman promised, “we will see it. The Walking Dead will be the zombie movie that never ends.”

With television sharing that same endless possibility, hopes are high among fans that the AMC series can capture the greatness of the comic and buzz has been building steadily. A 90-minute pilot kicks off the six-episode first season, helmed by Frank Darabont, director of “The Shawshank Redemption.”

If you’ve got a taste for even more zombies, here are four comics with some serious bite.

• Marvel Zombies (Marvel. $15.99.) — Kirkman’s other great zombie opus, this mini-series supposed a world where the heroes of the Marvel Universe became super-powered undead. It proved popular enough to spawn five sequels and a crossover with Ash from the “Evil Dead” franchise.

• Blackest Night (DC. $29.99.) — Similar to “Marvel Zombies,” in that you got to watch your favorite deceased heroes return from the grave as monstrous “Black Lanterns,” but this one happened in continuity, with far reaching consequences to the DC Universe at large.

• Zombie Tales (Boom Studios. $14.99) — Four volumes have been released so far of this well-regarded anthology, featuring short stories by up-and-comers and also some established creators like Keith Giffen, Steve Niles and Mark Waid.

• iZombie (DC / Vertigo. $2.99, monthly.) — Drawn by indie comic icon Mike Allred, this recent series follows a cute zombie gravedigger named Gwen who must consume a human brain once a month while trying to fulfill the final requests of the deceased she encounters.

Jordan Lowe is the owner of Asylum Comics on Muskingum Drive in Marietta, Ohio, and the writer of the web comic Short Pants Romance.