Hey, That's My Cape! - WALKING DEAD and Adaptation Anxiety

***Watch out! This column contains The Walking Dead season two spoilers! The spoiler-y section is marked as such.***


Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead is one of a select group of non-superhero comics I read. I started when someone lent me the first two hardcovers in the series and while it was torture waiting for the next one of those to come out, I knew because of the subject matter, I couldn’t read the series issue by issue. I’m currently up to book five, and for the most part I’m enjoying the adaptation on AMC.

Having read the source material of something that is set to be or currently being adapted is a tough spot to be in as a fan. Part of you wants to see and hear exactly what you read on the page but another part of you may realize that might be a bit too literal. After all, everyone has their own interpretation of source material and when bringing together so many creative minds, new ideas are likely to spring to mind.

For example, when fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings found out Peter Jackson was taking on the epic saga they were excited but wary. Tolkien’s work is enormous — even three films couldn’t cover everything in them — and It got worse when details emerged of what Jackson and his team were altering for the sake of film. Fast forward to his forthcoming adaptation of The Hobbit and things get even dicier for the director. His addition of characters that aren’t in the book has many fans screaming bloody murder. It may rub me the wrong way but I’m of the mind that The Lord of the Rings were three fantastically well-made films and I trust Jackson’s judgment. But then again, if he messes up Smaug, he’s going down.

HBO’s Game of Thrones is causing me anguish for a different reason, considering I just started reading George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series this year. I may have quickly become attached to the characters, and that’s in part because of the TV show, but it's frustrating knowing how long it will take for the rest of the series to be adapted. I’m in the middle of A Storm of Swords and it will be years before I see one of my favorite new scenes played out on television.

And I think that’s part of where my frustration with The Walking Dead comes in. It feels like it’s taking FOREVER for anything to happen and I know I’m not alone in this. Perhaps I would feel differently had I always read the series in single issues, at least then I’d be used to the pace, but I haven’t and the second season of the show has tested my patience for sure.

***Remember those spoilers we warned you about? They start here!***

This first half of this season of The Walking Dead started off well. We were away from the ridiculous CDC and on the road to Hershel's Farm. And then Sophia went and got herself lost. Now, this is not something that happens in the comic. Was it a dramatic new addition? At first, and then it just started taking a toll on everyone — fictional characters and viewers alike. While the timeframe of the search and everyone’s reactions to it were perfectly reasonable, for a show that was only airing seven of its 13 episodes (do you hate splitting seasons as much as I do?) before breaking to spend that entire time on Sophia seemed like a waste of time.

The comic book fan in me wasn’t as affected by the big reveal at the end of the mid-season finale, because it just made me angry. I understood the emotions it was supposed to evoke but like I said, it felt like an awful waste of time and now I’m annoyed Carl doesn’t have a peer to hang out with anymore. The relationship between Carl and Sophia in the comic is one of my favorite things because it lets you forget about the horror going on the rest of the time. It’s a nice change of pace and I’m sorry to see it won’t be something that gets to happen on the show going forward. And yes, part of me was hoping Sophia would be brought back to camp alive by Michonne. Though now that I think of it, the creators really could have messed with us by having Michonne make her entrance with Sophia as one of her zombie companions. Now, that I would have given them credit for.

And don’t even get me started on Shane still being alive. Let’s get this show on the road already!

***Spoilers over!***

I can understand how tough it is for creators who are tasked with bringing a beloved book into another format. Especially if the writer is involved with the process or if they are a fan themselves. What do you include, what do you leave out — and more worrisome, what new bits can you add? Fans will complain no matter what but how far can you push it before they get turned off?

And well, as far as us fans go, you can either look at the two types of media as completely separate entities and enjoy them (or not) or you can drive yourself crazy (like I do a lot of the time) comparing and contrasting them. It all comes down to how much these books mean to us personally. How attached have we grown to them, did we relate to certain themes or characters so deeply that it will break our hearts to see anything else on screen? Or perhaps we’re just so desperate to see our favorite stories — books or comic books — come to life that we’ll take whatever we can get.

I’m sticking with The Walking Dead for a while because it’s still pretty good television in my opinion and I’m really, really looking forward to some characters and plot points. And, well, zombies. But I’ve seen enough awful adaptations in my day to want better from all of them so here’s hoping The Walking Dead picks up a bit for the second half of the season.

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