On October 1st, 2003, Image Comics published the debut issue of The Walking Dead, a black and white zombie comic by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore. Despite all odds, the series grew and grew to become one of the most successful independent comics franchises of all time, with spin-offs in television, video games, novels and more.

The appeal and unique selling point of The Walking Dead since the beginning is that unlike zombie movies, which only give you a snapshot of the end of the world, The Walking Dead would continue to follow the survivors through tragedy after tragedy as they attempt to navigate and survive the new world infested with the shambling corpses of loved ones attempting to kill them.

 

 

The first six issues with Moore on art set the tone for the rest of the book as characters fell one by one and Rick Grimes rediscovered his family against all odds. At the heart of The Walking Dead has always been the Grimes family, and Rick’s willingness to do whatever he can to keep his group and his family alive throughout

Charlie Adlard joined the book with The Walking Dead #7, and proved to be a more than able successor to Tony Moore, going on to define the look of the title for over one hundred and fifty issues. There are few artists in the modern era with the ability to produce a comic book at the rate of Adlard, or for as long as he has done. His work will go down as one of the biggest accomplishments in independent comics.

 

 

As the title continued, it became apparent that no-one was safe, as supporting characters such as Shane, Carol and Tyrese were all killed off. When the title approached its milestone fiftieth issue, Kirkman and Adlard killed off Rick’s wife Lori and their newborn daughter in a move that was controversial at the time and, for many fans, a step too far.

Regardless, The Walking Dead continued to delve into the ongoing effects of a zombie apocalypse and the mental and physical toll it might take. Rick had already lost a hand, and was plagued with hallucinations of phone calls from his dead wife, Carl Grimes lost an eye, and when it seemed like the heroes had found a sanctuary, the introduction of Negan as a villain upended the book’s status quo once again.

In 2009, AMC acquired the rights to produce a television show based on The Walking Dead, which debuted a year later on Halloween. Starring Andrew Lincoln in the lead role of Rick Grimes, the series took inspiration from the comics, but deviated wildly in some cases, and proved to be a massive hit that helped turn the franchise into a multimedia juggernaut.

 

 

One of the most successful spin-offs from the comics were the video games produced by Telltale Games, reminiscent of classic Lucasarts point-and-click games of the '90s. Set in the same continuity as the comics, the games force players to make complex moral choices that often have drastic consequences further down along the line.

The Walking Dead has been spun off into a second television show, a series of novels, and several other genres of video games, with no signs of slowing down. The Walking Dead is the perfect mix of zombies and soap opera to have a broad appeal like no other genre franchise out there, and it’s likely to be around for many more years to come.