Any good comic book fan (or television fan, for that matter) knows that AMC has been blowing away expectations with their Frank Darabont-led adaptation of Image’s The Walking Dead. But what if you’re in the camp of people that haven’t read the comic and are enjoying the show? It’s pretty reasonable to say that you’re likely dying to check it out after viewing the first couple of episodes, but are you going to be ruining the show’s plot by reading one of the hardcover collections in a sitting?
Yes and no.
AMC’s The Walking Dead has shown, even after only two episodes, that it’s not sticking to the comic book scene by scene. That’s a good thing. It’s expanded on certain parts, introduced new characters, and changed the pacing of certain story beats in order to make for a better television drama. If you decide, after these first few episodes, to pick up the hardcover collection and plow through it, you will be ruining at least the first season for yourself in terms of pure story. I think it’s safe to assume that the major plot points of The Walking Dead will remain in tact, though where it will differ is how it gets there.
So while you’ll be spoiling the plot for yourself, you’ll still be able to enjoy the show depending on the type of fan you are. If you’re looking for shocks, plot twists, and surprises, by all means, avoid the comic. However, if you’re interested to see how they dramatize these fantastic situations, the skill of the acting, and the cleverness of the writing and structure, then don’t worry, you’ll be fine after catching up in the book.
This dilemma is a relatively new one for comic book fans. While we’ve been dealing with movie adaptations for years, such a direct adaptation of a creator-owned series on television is brand new. A film is 2-3 hours max, but a TV show is hours upon hours of content that can take days for a viewer to catch up on in they fall behind. Reconciling where the fandom between the comic and show comes into place is much more difficult than it is when it comes to watching a movie that’s only a couple of hours.
With the immense success of The Walking Dead, it’s right to assume that all of the comics-to-TV projects that have been floundering in development (The Sandman, Preacher, Fables) will all get jump started and on the air in no time. With all of those being long running, very definitive stories, a similar situation will arise concerning what order you should experience them. If you’re reading, I’m telling you now, get started on those series now. You’ll thank me later when you aren’t left with this heart wrenching eternal struggle.