Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #70 - The Walking Dead TV vs Graphic Novel

Last week, I mentioned dipping my toe in the zombie waters and maybe possibly checking out season one of The Walking Dead. Well. Since AMC had a marathon of season one shortly thereafter, clearly, it was meant to be. I am now current with seasons one and two, am on volume nine of the graphic novel, and have the official companion book and the first hardcover in-universe novel, The Rise of the Governor, waiting for when I've finished volume ten.

It's safe to say, the zombies got me and they got me good. Normally, I'm not a horror person, I don't do well with gore on screen, and bad things happening to anything with fur is a dealbreaker for me. This is different. For me, The Walking Dead is a character study rather than a horror story - it's not as much about the zombie outbreak/apocalypse, but how the surivivors, especially our viewpoint character, Rick, handle it. How do these extraordinary circumstances affect the choices he makes, and who is he at his core? While I do expect there to be some resolution to and explanation for the zombie thing by the end of the series, that's not the main point.

When I'm in a series, it's for the characters and the relationships. In a departure from the graphic novel, we get to see a lot more of the Rick/Lori/Shane triangle. Our hero, Rick, is thrilled to be reunited with wife Lori and young son, Carl:

but while Lori and Rick's best friend, Shane, believed Rick to be dead, they turned to each other. Now that he's back, Lori seems to have made her choice, but is Shane going to let things go that easily?

I'd already put myself in the Rick/Lori camp before delving into the graphic novels, and reading those has only cemented my alliance to this ship, but at the same time, I'm aware that the differences between tv series and graphic novel may crop up here as well. We've already seen one large departure on this front, so I'm going to be cautiously optimistic for Rick and Lori, while at the same time knowing anything can happen.

Normally, adaptations can be hard sells for me - I have a firm lifetime boycott on the Emma Thompson version of Brideshead Revisited, because of needed liberties trimming things down to fit the medium of a theatrical movie, but that cut out too much of what I love about the novel and miniseries. I did not have that reservation with The Walking Dead. Granted, I came to the tv series before the graphic novel and debated reading the original format. Would it confuse me? Throw me off? True answer - not in the least. I'm able to keep things straight in my mind, as the two formats are unique enough to remain distinct, while at the same time having a cohesive flavor. It's actually fun to figure out what characters have been added, deleted or combined for the series.

While the stark graphic black and white artwork of the graphic novel is perfect for that medium, the televised version adds other dimensions - sound, including Andrew Lincoln's Southern US accent, the subdued, washed out colors of a world that has been through a major catastrophe, motion, and the use of deftly chosen music, as in the Bob Dylan piece played at the end of the first season finale:

Postapocalyptic stories are in vogue at the moment -I'm shopping around a postapocalyptic medieval romance novella of my own- and zombies even find their way into romance novels these days, but what makes The Walking Dead must-view for me is the very human drama of it all. Who are we, at our very core, and what do we do when the worst gets worse? Since it's early days in both the series and the graphic novel (as I'm only on volume nine and I've seen issues in the 90s) I'm going to have to call this one a draw...and I'm okay with that, even to the point of eating, without squeamishness, while viewing.

New episode Sunday night - will you be watching?


Anonymous said...

I have to say, I have never seen The Walking Dead. I have limited my TV time so I could write. After reading your blog, I may have to rent the past seasons and see what all the hype is about.
Gerri Brousseau

Anna Carrasco Bowling said...

Gerri, there's only one season (of six episodes) before the current one, so getting current is pretty easy. I watched the first season in an afternoon. I'd love to hear your take if you do decide to indulge.