Comic-Con Report: The Walking Dead Panel


Photo: Dave Banks

One of the most highly anticipated panels of Comic-Con was Friday’s discussion about AMC’s adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s story of the zombie apocalypse, The Walking Dead. The book, which is approaching its seventh anniversary of its first issue, is up for an Eisner this year and is consistently one of the best selling comic books in the industry.

The panel started out with a discussion among the creators – Frank Darabont, Gale Anne Hurd, Robert Kirkman, Greg Nicotero and Joel Stillerman. This group talked for about 20 minutes about the production, with Darabont admitting that the best thing about the comic was that it’s so character driven – it’s what he really likes in storytelling and it seemed like the right vehicle to get him to television.

Kirkman said he didn’t want his book to be made into a movie, since his original idea for the book was to get beyond what could be told in the span of a movie – he wanted to show what happened to people in the months and years that followed a zombie uprising. He admitted he was cautious, as television can be a tough sell and adaptations even tougher, but this one was going well and he felt blessed to be surrounded by so many people who cared as much about his story as he did.

Most of the rest of the discussion wasn’t new, but one tidbit that was fresh was the announcement that Bear McCreary had joined the team to compose the soundtrack to the series. McCreary has tons of geek cred, having composed the music for series like Caprica, Battlestar Galactica and The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Next came a preview of episode one, which everyone was excited about – and the trailer did not disappoint. The first episode tells the story of Rick, a small-town sheriff in Kentucky who is one of the original survivors of the zombie apocalypse and a central character in the ongoing story. Greg Nicotero has done a great job on the zombies, creating an emaciated look and decay that is both disturbing and unsettling and surely unlike anything we have seen on television before. The trailer showed Atlanta as a post-apocalyptic wasteland and the sets seem realistic enough to be confused with bigger production movie sets.

The pace of the preview started out slow, but built to a gripping climax as a horde of zombies closed in on Rick. When the screen went to black, everyone erupted – it seems like Darabont is doing a great job with the source material and pulling out all his tricks to make this both emotional and suspenseful.

After the trailer, the cast came out for some additional discussion. Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick, admitted that the show was going to be pretty brutal and pulled no punches, while Jon Bernthal, who plays Rick’s deputy, Shane, talked about how the cast was mindful of how popular the book is, how attached the fans are to the story and how important it is for them to treat the material respectfully.

The show is likely to be something for older kids and adults. AMC will not be shying away from blood and guts and Darabont said that there would be some pretty gory head shots. This sits well for fans, since the book is about the tough choices and the brutal reality of the world that Kirkman created.

That violence – and the never-ending threat of flesh-eaters – means that some characters won’t be around for long. In Kirkman’s individual panel on Thursday, he said “This is great because it means we might be able to attract some big-time talent who wouldn’t otherwise want to commit to a long-running TV show.”

The Walking Dead will debut on AMC’s Fear Fest in October. It will be simultaneously launched to 250 million households in 120 countries and translated into 30 languages (I wonder how they say “MOOOANNNN” in Swahili, anyway?)

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