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In honor of the premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead last night, I’ve decided to take a look at the ladies of a book I love, and really the book that brought me back to comics this last time a few years back, The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead doesn’t get much coverage here, despite my affection for it, because while there are some fantastic female characters in TWD, I haven’t felt like the last two years have devoted much time to the female characters (much to my chagrin, although Andrea is perhaps the exception to that rule of late). Regardless however, some amazing badass dames, and one of my favorite fictional comic book females of all time (MICHONNE!), exist in these pages as wonderfully fleshed out complicated believable characters. Below are 10 great ones that I expect (and hope) to see in the television series. Readers of The Walking Dead will note that several of the ladies listed are currently deceased – but I’ve done my best to leave those details out so that those not already intimately familiar with the series would not get any major spoilers reading this piece.
As for the premiere last night…overall I thought the horror and action parts were very good, and that most of the drama parts were not very good – trending toward the over wrought and overly earnest side, which, in fairness, is not something I bear well. Some of the dialogue and performances felt really false to me, and the car chase scene made no sense and made Rick and the other officers look borderline incompetent. However the effects were brilliant – really exceptional gruesome work and I was surprised how graphic they got with it considering its TV, not HBO. I’m not sure every gruesome scene was necessary to get the point across, and it may have been off putting to the average viewer that isn’t a hardcore zombie/horror/gore fan, but not one of those graphic scenes wasn’t excellent, so I really have no complaints. Additionally, there were a few scenes, particularly the stairhall scene and the tank scene that were absolutely nail-biting, which makes for some damn fine TV.
While they were clearly going a long way toward establishing Shane as a bit of a sexist jerk, because so many scenes were Shane scenes (Shane with Rick, Shane with Lori, and Shane with Carl) the episode overall had a bit of an unfriendly toward women vibe that freaked me out. In that same vein, in the comic it’s easy to believe why Lori would fall into heroic square-jawed Shane’s arms in a time of trauma and fear, here Darabont is going to have a really hard time convincing me that Lori would spend more than five minutes with Shane, let alone get romantically involved with him.
I talked last week about my hesitation with adaptations as I love them but find them really challenging and too often, giant failures. I think The Walking Dead made good choices for the medium overall, but the melodrama really pulled it down. I’m optimistic that some of the scripting and acting will improve with time, as any pilot is arguably the roughest for a new show, so I expect it will only get tighter and stronger as we push forward. Bottomline? For any fans of the series, or anyone that just loves zombie stories it’s definitely worth a look…and if twitter chatter is any judge…people are LOVING it so far.
Onto the ladies!
01. ALICE: Alice, a former interior design student turned amateur doctor, was an awesome addition to the group, not only because of her very necessary skills, particularly at a time when Lori was very pregnant, but also just because she was smart and no-nonsense at a time when a lot of Walking Dead ladies were driving me a bit batty with their craziness (I’m looking at you Carol, Patricia, and sometimes Maggie). Alice immediately dug in once in her new home, setting up the infirmary and surgical ward, working tirelessly to patch everyone back together (a constant and largely unrewarding job). She also, whether you agree or not, made the first steps anyone has made in the series to try to determine what caused the roamers/biters to be the way they were, and if there were any actual solutions beyond basic survival.
Shining Moment: Alice helped Rick, Michonne, and Glenn escape Woodbury, which was only one of her first great moments that included delivering Lori’s baby and bringing some much needed medical assistance and practicality to the prison.
Gruesome Fact: Alice convinced Doctor Stevens, her friend and mentor to come with her when escaping from Woodbury…and things did not end well for him.
02. AMY: Because Amy’s not with us long it’s hard to know much about her beyond her context and relationship to Andrea. In fact, the most interesting thing about Amy is that in my opinion there was a screw up in the design of Amy and Andrea. Initially Amy is drawn with freckles and “stringy-er” hair generally pulled back in a ponytail (see my chart below!), while Andrea is portrayed sans freckles and with hair usually down and in one solid mass. After Amy dies, Andrea is suddenly the one with freckles and pulled back hair…I’ve re-read the section of The Walking Dead where this occurs a few times now and I’m convinced it’s a screw up…that there was confusion perhaps between Moore, Adlard, and Kirkman about which character design was which…and then they just stuck with the screwup, rather than correcting it, which might have been the right decision…but is a bit odd to see. Weirdness I say!
And with that, super nerd analyzing time is over!
Shining Moment: I can’t help but like it when Amy tells Donna to “bite me”. Girl had sass. Even more evidence if you ask me that they switched it up and killed the wrong one accidentally and switched it back when realizing the mistake.
Gruesome Bits: I’m not gonna lie, Amy goes early and it’s brutal.
03. ANDREA: Amy’s older sister, Andrea was a law clerk before the zombie infestation, and has since become a natural survivor and sometimes the only person who can hit the broadside of a barn. In addition to becoming the most badass marksman of the group – including operating as a freaking sniper when necessary, Andrea has showed her nurturing side by helping to raise Allen and Donna’s twins and falling in love with the much older (and sometimes ailing) Dale. Andrea has, over the last two years become one of the best Walking Dead characters regardless of gender.
Shining Moment: Andrea has a ton of great moments, especially since she became the obvious best shot, but she really turned the tide of battle a few times recently while acting as a sniper. She also returned with Dale to the prison to rescue everyone from an attack, after she left the group in frustration/concern.
Gruesome Bits: Andrea was attacked by a prison inmate that intended to behead her, as he had some other characters. She escaped with a nasty wound to the face and a missing earlobe. The scar actually looks pretty awesome…although I’m sure she doesn’t agree.
04. CAROL: Carol was never my favorite character (was she anyone’s?) but she provided a nice counterpoint to some of the other ladies, and rounded out the personalities in a realistic way, i.e. not every woman can be an utter badass with a katana blade in a zombie apocalypse situation. Carol had some frailties that helped lead to a mental breakdown, but that reality is one I feel would be all too present in such dire circumstances. Under apocalyptic circumstances I’m sure I’d be more likely to end up a Carol than a Michonne or Andrea…no matter how much I’d like it not to be true.
Shining Moment: Honestly…it was hard thinking of one for Carol. She was often a victim, and her craziness got super intense as more and more traumatic things happened to our characters. She was a good friend early on, especially to Lori, and you had these moments where she looks like she’s going to be fine and suddenly not be this person that reeks of desperation and fragility, but then things would fall apart and it’d be all over. For me I don’t think there is a true shining moment, but I did feel for her as she spiraled out of control, which is staying something as I generally didn’t connect to the character.
Gruesome Bits: Carol, who’s always been a bit unstable, fell pretty hard for Tyrese and later caught him cheating on her with Michonne. It’s a reality that pushed her the rest of the way over the edge. I thought she showed some backbone in breaking up with him, but she honestly never really recovered.
05. DONNA: Donna got a bad deal. She’s totally unlikable for the majority of her screen time and is by far the most stereotypical and cliche of Kirkman’s early characters. The feminist in me likes that she asks the question of why it’s three women doing the laundry while the men folk do the huntin’ and protectin’ and I wonder if found in the same situation if I’d be asking the same question. However Kirkman pulls from the worst feminist stereotypes and she comes off as humorless, cold, bitchy, judgmental woman jealous of others younger and prettier than she. Donna is also rendered to be the least “traditionally attractive” of the ladies. I’m not sure what’s a lazier stereotype than the “ugly humorless feminist” but that’s mostly all Donna brings to the table for the bulk of her page time. Eventually she does soften a bit and grow some dimension as a character, but she never really transcends it. For most of her page time Donna’s sole redeeming quality is that her sons and husband seem quite devoted to her…so there must be something wonderful there…we just don’t ever get to see it.
Shining Moment: When Donna cares for a bitten/dying member of the group that all the other ladies are afraid to go near, she shows her humanity and heart beneath the prickly stereotype.
Gruesome Bits: When Donna finally starts to come around, appearing happier and hopeful and less cold and bitchy, she’s almost immediately rewarded with only horror. Donna is one of Kirkman’s big character misses as far as I’m concerned, and if he hadn’t redeemed himself along the way with great wonderfully explored female characters like Michonne and Andrea, it may have been enough to drive me away.
06. LORI: As Rick’s wife Lori’s role often feels just that – “Rick’s wife”. And while Rick is a great character and Lori’s not bad, she just gets a lot of the nagging lines, or the lines of panic about whatever crazy thing Rick’s done this time. Because Rick is really the star of TWD it seems like it was hard to let Lori grow beyond him, while other characters that were less directly attached to Rick really spread their wings. I will say that despite the frequent nagging tone and panic that comes with a lot of Lori’s dialogue, she often makes quite a bit of sense, and is a good touchstone for Rick in that way, bringing him back to his humanity when he starts to fall off the map.
Shining Moment: It’s hard to find a specific moment for Lori, beyond singling out a few of the talks she has with Rick that bring him back to reality, but I guess on the whole, though it was perhaps overly harsh, one of Lori’s best moments was when she tried to shock Carol out of her strange fantasy world with some hard reality checks. Ultimately (eventually) I suppose it backfired, but I appreciated Lori’s practical attitude and attempt to shake some sense into Carol. The zombie apocalypse is not the time for indulging crazy fantasies.
Gruesome Bits: It has never been definitively said in TWD whether Lori and Rick’s baby girl Judy really was Rick’s baby or not. I think fans lean toward no (I know I do) but it’s one of the few times I think it might just be acceptable to keep the information that someone’s baby might not be theirs to yourself for the greater good. Certainly Rick felt that way, and it’s a question that will never be answered for sure.
07. MAGGIE: From her first introduction, Maggie was a practical character, suggesting that she and Glenn have sex, because essentially, ‘hey, it’s the end of the world, why not?’…which honestly…makes a lot of sense to me. People talk about grief and intense situations creating intimacy, and Glenn and Maggie’s relationship, though sometimes rough and unsure, is a great example of that in action. Maggie is one of the only ladies that we get to see kind of going through the growing pains of leaving her family and youth behind and embracing love and independence, adulthood, and all the challenges that go with that. Maggie and Glenn are also the resident bunnies…spending as much time hiding out in corners partially clothed and having sex as doing anything else. It’s as if they’ve made it their own personal mission to make sure The Walking Dead has plenty of sex in it. I can appreciate that.
Shining Moment: When we first meet Maggie she straight up asks Glenn why he’s hung up on Carol and then offers to sleep with him. I love the directness. And it’s not a behavior we usually get to see women exhibit regarding sex in character driven pieces like this – a casual and aggressive attitude that’s generally perceived as more “male” in nature. But I like the no nonsense practicality of Maggie. And it serves her well, because Glenn is awesome.
Gruesome Bits: Maggie, though totally unlike Carol in personality, also tried to kill herself, when all the horror became too much for her. While it worked given the context of the story, in retrospect it does annoy me that the only two straight up suicide attempts have been female characters. What’s up with that Kirkman?
08. MICHONNE: Michonne’s awesomeness has never really let up from her opening introduction to series (see below) and she’s proved herself one of the best fighters and strongest survivors of the group. I feel like the last couple years Kirkman has really pulled the spotlight from her, much to my dismay, and given attention to other characters, but she remains a solid player, and one of the only characters left that can hold her own both mentally and physically with Rick. She’s also one of the only voices he’ll listen to at this point, which is huge. Originally Michonne would talk to herself and it was hinted at that she might have some kind of split personality, which was helping her to deal with her trauma, but Kirkman has at least for now seemed to drop the thread, whether that be because she no longer feels on her own, or needs it, or for some other reason it’s unclear, but as a reader I would like to see it more definitively dealt with, especially since Andrea is one of the characters who has most often witnessed Michonne talking to herself and questioned it, and they’re two of the strongest and most interesting ladies around these days.
Shining Moment: Michonne has done a lot of amazing stuff over the course of TWD, but her arrival was one of the single best character introductions I’ve ever read in comics. A lone hooded woman with a katana blade making her way through a zombie infested world with her boyfriend and his best friend, jawless and armless zombies in tow, to throw the herd off her scent? Is about as badass as it gets.
Gruesome Bits: Michonne has perhaps one of the most gruesome tales of any character in The Walking Dead, which considering what has been done to these people, and what they have done themselves, is saying a lot. It would be disingenuous to pretend there was anything more gruesome than the time Michonne spent being raped and tortured by The Governor. It was a highly controversial storyline that really split fans (some left forever). I felt conflicted about it myself, but when I examined it, though I’m not sure it’s the story I would have written, and there are parts that I think could have been done better, I can’t say that it wasn’t a realistic plot to explore for this kind of story. These would be the likely harsh horrifying realities of a world overrun by zombies.
09. ROSITA: We haven’t learned near enough about Rosita yet. So far she’s been little more than arm candy to Abraham, but it’s nice to have some new blood in the group, and it’s also nice for it to be a woman of color.
Shining Moment: Honestly? We haven’t seen one yet…but I’m ever optimistic that she’ll get her day in the spotlight…and that it won’t kill her.
Gruesome Fact: Rosita’s led a pretty charmed life (from what we’ve seen so far) the worst thing that’s happened to her in TWD pages, is the betrayal by a friend in her group that devastated everyone about equally. Whatever lucky charm she’s wearing, I hope she keeps it on.
10. SOPHIA: Sophia, the young daughter of Carol and best friend to Carl got more screen time in the earlier issues of TWD (and if truth be told, a time when I preferred the book to the phase it’s in right now) but she’s always been an interesting character, showing an impressive resilience to the horror she’s been exposed to – whether it be zombies, her mother losing it, or everyone around her dying at a regular clip. One of my favorite scenes of the book, and one more insightful than you get in most zombie tales was courtesy of Sophia as she observed the dead grouping outside the fence of the prison (a horrifying site to anyone with a pulse) and claimed she felt sorry for them…that they looked “sad”. It was a childlike moment of insight that moved me.
Shining Moment: Proving that kids can survive just about anything, and not only survive, but still fall in love and have hope, even at the end of the world, Sophia doggedly pursued Carl (adorably) until he finally relented and asked her to be his girlfriend (but only holding hands!).
Gruesome Fact: Sophia’s mother Carol attempted to kill herself, and it was Sophia that found her. Something surely damaging, but which Sophia has managed to weather surprisingly well thus far amongst all the other horror…time will tell if it holds….
I hope some of these ladies show up on the new television series, and some of them sooner rather than later. I admit I was a bit disappointed to see literally no women in fundamental roles with the exception of one small scene in a one and a half hour premiere, but I reminded myself that, if staying close to the source material, Rick’s on his own for quite some time. But I better see some more awesome ladies next episode Mr. Darabont, because they’re definitely in the book!
You can find The Walking Dead EVERYWHERE. A comic by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard it’s available in beautiful hardcover omnibuses (I own the first two and can attest to their beauty – it’s a great way to read The Walking Dead – oversized and awesome, albeit a bit heavy). Omnibus #1 contains the first 24 issues, Omnibus #2 contains an additional 24, and Omnibus #3, releasing on November 30th, 2010, brings the total to 72 issues. They’re also available in both soft and hardcover trade collections (up to volume #12 for paperback and book #6 in hardcover ). Additionally, rumor has it that Image will be re-releasing The Walking Dead in monthly floppies, if you prefer to read that way, though I’m not sure I get the point as that’s more expensive than reading in trade…but whatever, nobody asks me about these things. The Walking Dead television show, written, directed (pilot only) and executive produced by Frank Darabont, premiered last night, October 31st 2010 at 10pm on AMC. Future episodes will be airing Sundays at 10pm and details including trailers can be found at the link.
UPDATE: If you missed the premiere or don’t have AMC, you can watch the first episode online in its entirety on AMC.com
*Apologies for the blurring on some of these scans…very hard to scan from giant omnibuses – I did my best!
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