The Walking Dead is not only one of the most popular comics around, but it also became one of the most successful television shows of all time. Today, it was announced that the comic that inspired the show is coming to an end.
In a surprise announcement, creator Robert Kirkman said that this week’s latest edition to the series, Issue #139, will be the last entry. The issue will be released Wednesday as a “super-sized” epilogue to the series.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE WALKING DEAD COMIC
The last two issues of The Walking Dead gave readers a shocking twist when lead character Rick Grimes was killed off. Though the details of the final issue remain under wraps, it is likely to deal with the aftermath of Rick’s death and tie up any loose ends surrounding his demise.
Kirkman expressed sadness at the thought of ending the beloved series, but stated that the sudden announcement was planned from the beginning:
“The Walking Dead has always been built on surprise. Not knowing what’s going to happen when you turn the page, who’s going to die, how they’re going to die… it’s been essential to the success of this series. It’s been the lifeblood that’s been keeping it going all these years, keeping people engaged. It just felt wrong and against the very nature of this series not to make the actual end as surprising as all the big deaths … from Shane all the way to Rick.”
This is not expected to affect the television series in any way. The series will premiere it’s 10th season this fall, and the character of Rick Grimes is still alive in the show and will headline three television movies set within the Walking Dead universe.
Nos4a2 author Joe Hill is well-acquainted with mysteries: before he became a full-fledged thriller, fantasy, horror, & mystery writer, he was a mystery himself. The son of Stephen King, Joseph Hillstrom King chose to rise to the heights of his career with his parentage kept secret. Hill is a genre-bending whirlwind of a novelist, whose works have found mass-market success both in airport bookstores and on screens large & small. Hill’s Hornsstunned audiences with its star, Daniel Radcliffe; the terrifyingly original premise; and all the moral quandaries that come with it. Nos4a2 is currently airing on AMC Sundays at 10 PM, thrilling (and chilling!) viewers with its whimsical nightmare of a setting—the inside of its protagonist’s (and villain’s) minds. At BookCon, Hill gave fans an insight into something almost as scary as Charlie Manx… actually writing your novel.
For many genre fiction writers, one major challenge is explaining how the world got to this point—whether ‘this point’ is a society in which alien clouds hold skydivers captive (“Aloft”) or one in which Polaroids can steal people’s memories (“Snapshot”). Sure, you could have a drunken NPC stumble up to your protagonist and describe the mechanics of the world in meticulous detail… or you could NOT do that and have a better story for it. Hill distinguished what needed to be explained in a story and what could be left alone:
It depends on what the reader needs. In The Fireman, I never got around in the book to explaining where [the human combustion plague] came from. John and Harper have a conversation about it, and one says ‘I like the idea that the ice shrunk and a pathogen got out from under the ice.’ One character thought it was weaponized athlete’s foot… they don’t know, so why does the reader have to know?
Image Via Sharp Magazine
One of the things Hill recommends avoiding is bombarding the reader with a lengthy villain backstory. While we know it’s suspect to wave away a villain’s actions with one depressing childhood anecdote, according to Hill, it can actually slow down the plot. He opened up about the role of Charlie Manx in Nos4a2, perhaps his most ambitious work to date:
I went into the backstory of Charlie Manx and it was an info-dump, a giant dump of information, and it brought the story to a screeching halt… no one cares what life was like for the shark in Jaws when it was a baby. No one cares if the shark’s mom didn’t love him well enough. They just want the shark.
Image Via Tell-tale TV
Of course, that isn’t to say that explanations are the devil (nope, that’s actually Daniel Radcliffe in Horns). Hill merely suggests that they’re something to be cautious about. There are aspects of the story that the reader does have to know, and then there are aspects of the story the AUTHOR needs to know: to clarify, everything. “Only a jackass would publish a book and create these mysteries without knowing [the answers],” Hill explained, “and I realized I was that jackass… I began building more of a history [in my stories] so that I would know for me, so I wouldn’t have to do a lot of shovelling later.”
In Hill’s own words, “explanations suck.” But he’s still pretty damn good at them.
Any adaptation is only as good as its source material—though good doesn’t exactly cover what we love most about Joe Hill’s NOS4A2. ‘Tremendous’ is the more appropriate word: a behemoth of 700 pages, the novel is an undertaking as imaginative as its characters, a complete reinterpretation of the vampire mythos we know. And, in the end, which is more terrifying? The devil you know—or the devil you don’t?
If Joe Hill were to describe his novel, and the AMC adaptation, he wouldn’t use the word ‘good’ either (and not just because he’s far cleverer than that). In an exclusive interview with Bookstr, he described the show in three words: “suspenseful, heartfelt, feminist.” But on AMC’S BookCon panel, he had far more to say.
Image Via Channel Guide Mag
The panel began with the above image projected onscreen. Wielding his classic wit, Hill remarked, “it’s nice that they thought to put a picture of me in the middle.”
While it’s true that Nos4a2 has been everywhere for the past few weeks (in the news, advertised several stories high among all the Times Square neons), AMC’s involvement is hardly a new development. According to Hill, AMC voiced its interest only a year or two after the book came out in April 2013. If that seems like a long time, know that it’s because the network is especially “methodical” about bringing a story to the screen. “They know the game,” Hill emphasized, “and they know how to do it.”
Fans who tuned in on June 2nd may have noticed some changes (major change: you can SEE Charlie Manx menace you from the comfort, or discomfort, of your darkened room). Most notably, Vic McQueen is a high school student rather than a young child. This choice allowed for an older, more skilled actor to take the role—but it also made room for a storyline with the freedom to incisively analyze gender and class. In the novel, Vic starts off in the wood, staring down the Shorter Way Bridge that will soon become the shape of her mental inscape, a bridge that allows her to travel with the power of her mind. In the show, Vic starts off in a bedroom: light-filled, meticulously tidy, Yale brochures on the duvet. And then comes the plot twist—it isn’t her room at all.
She’s cleaning it.
When he encountered this in the initial script, Hill said, “it showed such a depth with character.” Hill knew then that he wanted to team up with executive producer Jami O’Brien. “The room represents the things [Vic] is never going to have,” he addressed Jami, “[the scene] was one paragraph long, but it showed… this is someone who gets how to draw out a character.”
Image Via AMC
Jami O’Brien went further into her own analysis of Vic’s character and the choice to make Vic an older teenager, focusing on this period of her life rather than those adult years that the novel also covers. “The portion of the book that covers Vic’s youth, I love, because it sets up her family dynamic,” O’Brien raved. “She’s encountering her powers for the first time, and it’s the first time we see the thing that I love most about her: her tremendous courage.”
The bridge, shown above, was another challenge. Given the novel’s creative settings, the AMC team had to get creative with its depiction. “It was hard convincing people of what the bridge looked like. I did think I’d just literally lifted it from the book,” she explained, “but when it comes to a magical bridge encased in static, everyone has a different idea about what that is. I just kept trying to steer everyone… back towards the descriptions there.”
The novel is as rife with complex physical landscapes as it is with challenging psychological terrain. A topographical map of these characters’ heads would certainly be populated with all the monsters & chimeras that demarcate danger and uncertainty. Jami O’Brien was keen to address not only trauma, but also its familial legacy. “Vic has to come to terms with who her parents are,” O’Brien explained, which doesn’t necessarily mean forgiving them. “You can still love somebody and accept somebody and hold them accountable for their actions.”
Hill delved into the myriad reasons why Nos4a2 is really an unpacking of mental health “in the guise of a genre novel:”
The difference between Vic and Charlie is her empathy and capacity to forgive, which makes her more powerful. When Charlie describes what he’s doing, he sounds like he could be considered the hero. There’s almost no mother by his definition that would not be abusive. With his old-fashioned and sexist beliefs… the very act of making a child excludes, in his mind, a woman from being decent.
Image Via Amc
One of the most important things in conveying Manx’s character was nailing the voice. “If you figure out how a character talks,” Hill said, “you can get the rest of who they are.” Given that Manx was born in the 19th century (yes, that is where the whole vampire thing comes into play), his voice reflects not only his age but also his “out-of-date morality, the way he thinks about women and children.” By emphasizing the characters’ distinctive voice, actor Zachary Quinto has
But the panel wasn’t all business—O’Brien and Hill laughed as they delved into some of the series’ Easter eggs, little references to Hill’s father Stephen King’s work. An audience member asked whether or not references to the Pennywise Circus implied a shared universe… to which Hill replied, “‘shared universe’ does sound sexier than ‘joke.'”
But it was a little more than a joke, and Hill enthusiastically told us why:
Why do people love the idea of shared universes so much? Well, we’re all walking around with a shared universe in our head. Spider-Man is jostling around with Harry Potter and Charlie Manx. We like shared universes because that’s how our imagination works. When you’re a kid playing pretend, no one says ‘you can’t be Captain America because I’m Batman, and they don’t exist in the same universe.’
“If there’s something you hate about it,” O’Brien interjected, “you gotta watch anyway so there’s a Season 2 and we can change it!”
AMC’s adaptation of Deborah Harkness’ bestseller A Discovery of Witches, the first in the All Souls Trilogy, has been gaining critical acclaim since it aired on AMC on April 7th, and currently holds at 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The show, which follows Diana Bishop, a reluctant witch who discovers a bewitched manuscript which throws her into the world of magic, and compelling her to form a forbidden alliance with a vampire…
We were lucky enough to catch up with author Deborah Harkness to get her thoughts on the show, on writing, and on what’s happening with her wine blog…
The first book in your All Souls Trilogy, A Discovery of Witches, has been adapted for TV and brought to AMC and BBC AMERICA in the US. How has the process been for you? Were you involved?
Yes, I was involved. I’m an executive producer on the project and I also wrote the initial series document or “bible” for the show. It’s been exciting to be part of a collaborative creative project. I try to approach each day as a learning experience. There’s so much to discover and all kinds of new challenges to explore.
What has been the most exciting thing to come of the adaptation?
For me personally, it has been most exciting to see the characters come to life on screen.
It is also wonderful to have a whole new audience come to the stories through the television adaptation, and then to follow them as they find the books and the energized fan community that has sprung up around them.
Was a possible adaptation on your mind when writing the book?
No, not at all. I thought it was a long shot the books would even be published so I was just focused on telling the story. I’ve been told I have a cinematic imagination, which I think is a fancy way of saying that I see the story in my head and try to capture what I see in words on the page.
Have you always been interested in the supernatural?
I’m not sure what you mean by supernatural. I am interested in how hard it has been, historically, for humans to figure out their place in the world and how to thrive in it. One of the techniques that they use to cope is to imagine a world outside of the one they occupy and to invest that world with all sorts of powerful beings. In my stories there is only one supernatural element—magic. Similarly, there is only one creature with supernatural abilities: the witch. The rest are preternatural. So by that standard, I guess I’m less interested in the supernatural than many other people!
You’ve said the success of novels like Twilight got you thinking about what it is that has always fascinated humans about the supernatural. Can you talk a little bit about what inspired you to try your hand at fiction, after publishing several non-fiction titles?
I found the modern interest in the supernatural puzzling, and wanted to be able to figure out how that could be sustained given that our scientific worldview doesn’t seem to support the existence of a world outside our own. So I started imagining – what if magic could be part of the modern worldview? What would that look like? How would someone with supernatural power fit in? It started out as an intellectual mystery to be solved, but as it progressed, my “what ifs” got more detailed and I realized I was writing a novel. It wasn’t planned or inspired in a traditional way.
Would you return to non-fiction, or is fiction the way forward for you now?
Sure. I wrote two non-fiction books and many non-fiction articles. I was also a wine journalist. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that my “way forward” has lots of twists and turns in it.
What is your writing routine like? Does it differ between fictional and non-fictional works?
I don’t have a writing routine. For me, a writing routine is something that gets in the way of actually writing. So many steps. So many rules. I used to feel a bit bad about that, and tried to distill a list of “a perfect day”. Even I found it intimidating. Writing is, and has been since 1982 when I went to college, part of my daily life. I do it as often as I can in a day, wherever I am, however it happens. I’ve written in my home office, my campus office, on airplanes, in trains, on napkins waiting at the drive-thru, and in cafés. You have to take the time when you can. And it’s no different whether I have an article due, a lecture to give, or a chapter of a novel that I’m trying to finish.
As well as your amazing writing career, you also have an award winning wine blog! Could you tell us a little about this? Is it important to you to have hobbies outside of writing?
I haven’t had much time to blog since I started writing fiction, so sadly my wine blog is on indefinite hiatus. Like all of my writing, it started out with me trying to solve a problem (namely, how to set up a blog for work more than a decade ago when there were very few of them). I had just come back from wine shopping, wrote about that, and then wrote about drinking the wine I bought over the next few weeks. Pretty soon, I had a wine blog. As for hobbies, I think it’s important to have a LIFE outside of writing. If not, what on earth are you going to write about? It’s pretty easy to see how my love of wine influenced the All Souls books, in all sorts of ways.
Can you tell us some of the books and authors who have inspired you?
I am mostly a non-fiction reader. My most important years as a reader of fiction were from the ages of five to thirty. During that time I devoured books, mostly biographies and novels. Clearly, I was most interested in people and their lives. I loved the Nancy Drew mysteries, and historical fiction (before I became a historian) most notably the works of Dorothy Dunnett, and the novels of Anne Rice. The only book I have ever stayed up all night to read was Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour. One of the last novels I remember making a huge impact on me was A. S. Byatt’s Possession. I was a graduate student, and the ethical and scholarly dilemmas in the book were a perfect companion to finishing my PhD.