Monday, July 16, 2012

It's a Big Year for The Walking Dead...

It's mad to think that a comic book would easily turn into a franchise in less than two years. What is even more mad is that all of its ports into different areas of entertainment have been ridiculously successful. And not just successful in terms of making money but getting the critics and fanboys on board as well. It's a ridiculously difficult challenge to get one franchise across the board on every entertainment platform (or even the majority) and still remain as, if not better, efficient as the source material. But with The Walking Dead, you'd think it would be a fluke. Well, your wrong. 

It starts with a writer, who goes to a comic book publisher and wants to make a story. But the writer is given the creative freedom to do pretty much whatever he wants (because it's dirt cheap to make a comic book) and he gets to keep the rights to the world he has created (characters and all included). That last part is pretty important. This is because the writer chooses what he can do with it, depending if its popular enough of course. For one Robert Kirkman this is the case and because he has stuck by his franchise wherever it goes, it remain successful. There is no 'blind luck' when it comes to working with the entertainment industry. 

The TV show off the Walking Dead started with director Frank Darabont's love for the comic books and ,with his connections in the TV industry, started pursuing the rights. It took a while to make TV companies budge on a zombie show, but eventually AMC agreed. Robert Kirkman's role on the show stood as executive producer and as a writer. The show went on to break records in the TV industry, season two averaged with 6.9 million viewers and the finale brought in 9 million viewers pretty much shattering records. This officially made the Walking Dead one if not the most watched show in the United States.

The show follows the original source material which is the comic books. Of course not word for word and certainly not introducing all the characters of the comics, but it was expected. The story had to be translated for television viewers and that isn't difficult considering the Walking Dead focuses on character interactions than the actual zombies themselves. The show is fantastic, there is no denying that, a very well constructed show with great acting and compelling story which makes watching all the more enjoyable. The show surprisingly improves some elements and characters that weren't in the comic books. Take the character relationship that was between Rick and Shane. This was consistently being developed throughout season one and two and became the main issue of drama as the shows core. As I said the zombies are only a backdrop, Rick, throughout season two, was mainly concerned with his friends sanity on top of dealing with the whole 'you fucked my wife situation'.This was similar in the comic books but was nowhere near as good as the show. There's no denying that whatever circumstances anyone is under, they would still be concerned about these characters particular situations. It's gripping stuff no doubt. 

This year the finale of season two and the premier of season three will air later this year. It's exciting stuff especially this season as the introduction of the 'Governor' will truly make the shit hit the fan plot wise. I'm not going to spoil everything or anything for that matter, but if you haven't read the comics, get excited. Overall my rating for the show is considerably high and would lie at about 8.6/10. This will probably change after the third season, hopefully for the better. 

Just recently the franchise has extended itself on to video games. This was worrying at first, but now that I have played the latest episodes of Telltale's: The Walking Dead I have certainly built up an opinion for it. It's simply amazing. Honestly, I was sceptical about Kirkman's choice of selecting Telltale to handle a Walking Dead game. It's a huge project to handle for even the best video game designers out there, I mean some cant even tell their own stories correctly. But surprisingly they made all the right choices. For one you don't play as Rick, you play as a completely new character called Lee Everett. This is an excellent choice as we're not confined to a story that has already been told in the show and the comics, this allows the player to play the way they want to. Next is the gameplay, the game focuses heavily on story so characterization and emotion is a key thing to perceive as the player. This caters to the gameplay as the game plays a lot like Heavy Rain, quick time events is more or less the action sequences of the game (which takes up a third of the episodes) and the action usually focuses on planning and executing. The majority of the game however is focused on your interaction with the characters, this will tend to shape a large proportion of the story as whoever you feel connected to the most and if you prefer their decisions over others then they'll tend to trust you more, which could save your life later in the game. An example of this was when I tried to play the neutral and tried to get along with everyone, but this became impossible as I had to made a sickening choice in five seconds that determined the life of another character. I was too scared to make the decision and the game continued without my involvement, the result was the lost of trust between one character and the mutual respect of another. I wasn't proud about the decision, it made me feel dirty, and this all happened in front of a little girl I'm meant to protect, Clementine. 

Clementine is the sole responsibility of the player character, and keeping her away from the violence and zombies of the world is difficult. Like Rick in the show and comics he tries to keep his son from the horrors of the world they live in. And its gut wrenching to see you fail on that level. It's hard to describe it, you'd have to play the game to understand how sensitive the interactions between the player character and the other characters around you. One small statement in a conversation between your character and another is the difference between pending drama ahead or even more pending drama ahead. You have to stay on your toes to survive the game, but to be completely honest, I have never been more engaged in a video game in my life when playing this game. Telltale have not only told an amazing story, they have brought the Walking Dead to life and off the pages which I thought was impossible. Other than the mind blowing story, impossible player decisions and the overwhelming emotion while playing the game, the best part of the game is that they follow the comics. And not only that, they also fit themselves as a prequel to the comics books. In the first episode you meet the likes of Hershel and Glenn before they meet up with Rick. It's awesome, and you can pretty much consider it cannon to the main ongoing story which is the comics.

The success has been immense as the game is second on the most downloaded list on the Xbox and Telltale have announced that its their best selling game ever. Critics love it along with the fans, and Telltale have announced that a second season is definitely on its way. Overall I love it, it's easily comparable to the comics and I fucking love that the story is engageable it's easily a 9.7/10. And I don't think I have ever given something that high. 

As long as we're still on video games Activision has announced that a prequel to the TV series of the Walking Dead is in development. It will tell the story of both Daryl Dixon and his brother Merle. Having the Daryl as the main protagonist of the game is ace as he's easily one of the best characters in the show. The game will be more action orientated and will be an FPS. The two will be trying to survive in the zombie riddled Georgia and will include some characters of the show. The whole thing sounds interesting but I'll give my two cents when I see some gameplay. 

Last but certainly not least is the comic books,  the very origin of the Walking Dead. Recently it celebrated its landmark of one hundred issues, and given the sales of the book it's probably safe to say it may go one hundred more. The sales were literally staggering selling exactly 383,612. Wow, that is the best selling indie comic of the century and that's no joke. The last indie comic book that came close to this statistic was The Darkness in 1997 with fifteen variant covers and roughly 357,000 copies sold. I'm sure the Walking Dead's thirteen variants helped it get there but it's no doubt an amazing statistic and with the recent development of digital comics who knows what the total sales of physical and digital copies were. Either way I'm proud that Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard have come thus far and with the recent success of everything Walking Dead I hope they really shake things up for next one hundred or so. 

With the release of this landmark issue we also have to consider the new crazy mother fucker they have introduced into the Walking Dead and that guy is Negan. I'm not sure how you pronounce that but I'm going with Nee-Gan so, confirmation on that would be swell. But overall, the issue is.....god words can't describe it. Devastating? Pure anguish? Immense and overwhelming madness? Distressing for sure, but in the pure might of what makes the Walking Dead great. And that's forever killing my innocence over and over again, and it keeps happening, every fucking time! So short answer, yes, I love it in all of its gory detail. It's what comes next is the real question and only time can tell. 

So Negan.....I like him. Basing entirely on introductions, I'd say this guy is far more fucked up than the Governor, and that is saying a lot. This book was so creepy and so ominous that I shuddered a little at the thought of "eeny, meeny, miny, moe..." and this "vampire bat", again you'd have to read the books to understand exactly what they refer to but the very thought of this again is say the least. And as for Negan, I like him, he reminds me so much of Al Capone and is more an insane gangster than the estranged Governor. So (again) only time will tell how things play it for Negan. But one thing is certain, you can easily compare both the Governor and Negan, who will win on the most fucked up individual will be a good blog post in the future and one I will consider. But Negan has a lot to a live up to....but he's on the right fucked up path. Let the battle of the psychopaths begin! It's going to be bloody!

I'm going to give up this post on a hight note giving my review on The Walking Dead issue 100 to be a flat out 9.9/10. It's pretty much perfect and it was nothing I was expecting, as I didn't have much expectations to begin with. Mainly because I couldn't believe The Walking Dead could get any more fucking creepy, thankfully I was wrong and I was entertained. So I am happy how the issue turned out but I doubt I will ever forget....


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