Walking Dead is full of moments that almost happened differently, from Shane killing Rick to Negan’s death. An alternate timeline can do them justice.
The Walking Dead remains a crown jewel of comic book creativity from writer Robert Kirkman and artists Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard, and one of the most successful pieces of zombie media ever made. With Skybound Entertainment CEO David Alpert making it clear that the publisher wants more Walking Dead, many fans are calling on Robert Kirkman to think up a spin-off to “the zombie movie that never ends.” However, the franchise has already offered many such spin-offs, from the Telltale Games adaptations to stories set elsewhere in the world, like The Walking Dead: The Alien. What the franchise hasn’t yet offered is a look at the story beats that very nearly came to pass.
Kirkman only originally intended The Walking Dead as a much shorter series (part of an unrealized sci-fi trilogy), and so many story details were altered or flipped as the narrative unfolded over 193 issues. The Rick/Shane rivalry was originally intended to result in Rick’s early death, some survivors were meant to have different roles or even become villains, and Rick’s later imprisonment and quasi-redemption of Negan was planned with a far gorier outcome. While currently fans can only speculate how these original ideas would have changed the story, these questions could be perfectly answered by a new anthology series in the style of Marvel’s famous What If…?
Walking Dead Fans Need the World Where Rick Died Early
Kirkman has shared in the past that originally, Shane would have murdered Rick during their confrontation and continued as the series’ main villain, with the narrative focus shifting to Carl. Similarly, rather than Negan becoming a true believer in Rick’s vision and living a life of penance, Rick was going to decapitate him and deliver his head to Maggie as payback for Glenn’s murder, effectively betraying his own vision of a new, better society. Abraham was originally intended for a major villain turn, Eugene’s zombie research was intended to lead to a noteworthy conclusion, and Kirkman regretted killing some early characters including Amy, Shane, and Donna. Each of these decisions – all originally planned to go a different way – could be the backbone of a fascinating alternate universe series.
The Material Already Exists for Walking Dead’s Alternate Timeline
This would not be the first time that The Walking Dead brand has experimented with alternate timelines. Telltale Games’ Walking Dead video game series (2012-2019) exists within the same world of the comic, yet features an original cast of survivors, and allows players to make significant decisions about how the story unfolds. Kirkman has also penned Rick Grimes 2000 – a tongue-in-cheek sci-fi retelling of the zombie apocalypse with evil aliens and laser swords. (Even this is based on Kirkman’s early lie to publishers that aliens would eventually be revealed as the cause of the zombie apocalypse.)
The What If…? template would help open the door to an entire stream of new Walking Dead comic stories, but with far more purpose than simply following a different cast of survivors. Indeed, now that the main series has ended, other creative teams could even tackle these alternate visions, freeing Kirkman up to work on his other successful properties. There is more than enough content for Robert Kirkman’s world of The Walking Dead to build out its own alternate universe of storylines, showing what would have happened if some of the story’s original intended beats had been kept intact.