Well that was certainly a bolt from the blue, it wasn’t that long ago that Kirkman was telling everyone how much of a future his creation had.
Kirkman’s letter to fans,
"This is the end of THE WALKING DEAD."That's it... it's over... we're done.
"I'm sure you have a million questions... and I'm sure you feel as emotional about this as we do... if not more so. I'm completely willing to bet some of you are angry over this. I get it... I do. I mean... WHY didn't we announce this so that fans would have some time to prepare?
"Well... personally... I hate knowing what's coming. As a fan, I hate it when I realize I'm in the third act of a movie and the story is winding down. I hate that I can count commercial breaks and know I’m nearing the end of a TV show. I hate that you can FEEL when you’re getting to the end of a book, or a graphic novel.
"Some of the BEST episodes of Game of Thrones are when they’re structured in such a way and paced to perfection so your brain can’t tell if it’s been watching for 15 minutes or 50 minutes... and when the end comes... you’re STUNNED.
"I love LONG movies for that very reason. You lose track of time because you went in convinced that you’re going to be there for a long time, but the story moves at such an entertaining and engaging pace that by the time the movie’s wrapping up... you can’t believe it’s already over. SURPRISE, it’s over!
"All I’ve ever done, all a creator can really do... is tailor-make stories to entertain themselves, and hope the audience feels the same way. That’s all I’ve ever been doing... and it seems to work most of the time.
"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.
"To be honest... it seemed like a really good idea at the time, but now that we’re here and the series is over, I’m having second thoughts. Not so much so that I’m changing course... that would be kind of impossible to do anyway. But... it’s possible, as much as I hate to admit it, that I’m genuinely feeling a sense of regret over this whole crazy plan.
"I want you to see what went into this though, I want you to understand why, if that’s possible. I feel like you all deserve at least that. So let’s pull the curtain back in a way... well, I usually try not to do. When it comes to the end of this series... here’s how the sausage got made.
"Way back in early 2015, Charlie Adlard turned in the cover for issue #142. He had taken my direction, of showing happy people at the Alexandria fair, the booths, the commerce... a very civilized scene, and he’d worked wonders with the concept. It was a cover unlike anything that had come before. To me, it was a real turning point for this series.
"The thing is... this was over four years ago at this point... but I knew pretty much every big story point that was going to happen all the way up to this final issue. A couple years prior, around 2013 or so, I’d even told Charlie at San Diego Comic-Con what the gist of this final issue was. [...] I just didn’t know exactly what issue that story would fall in. I knew the end... but I didn’t know where it would fall. I figured... somewhere past issue #300. As I’ve said publicly... I’ve always wanted to reach that number, that big, round Cerebus number that all the insane indy comics creators try to chase.
"But when I saw the cover to #142... it dawned on me. 'Oh, s***... we’re already at the fair! The Commonwealth is just around the corner... and... oh, man... there’s no WAY I’m going to make it to issue #300.' It was the first time I realized that I just didn’t have enough story worked out to get there. I didn’t know exactly how long we’d fight the Whisperers or how long we’d be spending in the Commonwealth before Rick would bring about his own demise... but I knew the whole run wouldn’t be another 150 issues.
"I started working things out... trying to figure out how long things would run... and it dawned on me... I had about 50 issues until I got to my planned end. I always have to keep collections in mind. Now that we do 48-issue compendiums (that are very popular, our most popular format), it would be really irresponsible to wrap this series up in a way that resulted in compendium readers having to buy a different format to finish the series. So I was happy that it appeared things would work out where this series would wrap up nicely in the fourth compendium.
"But I wasn’t quite sure it was time to wrap things up.
"I love writing this series. It’s been my life’s dream. So when I first came to this realization... my first instinct was, 'Well, I just need to come up with more story'. I even spent a few weeks trying to come up with new plot, new story detours to push the ending I had in mind back and keep things going... for a while, possibly even a long while... an extra compendium, maybe two.
"And... again, pulling the curtain back... this has happened before. I’d already abandoned one planned ending to keep the series going. Yep... that’s an exclusive I’ve never revealed anywhere.
"Let’s go off on a tangent for a moment. When the story got to Alexandria in issue #72, things were going to go pretty much as they did; Rick and his crew were going to have trouble fitting in because of everything they’d been through. That would lead to conflict within Alexandria, and it would eventually lead to Rick taking over. The big storyline NO WAY OUT ended with Rick proclaiming that Alexandria was a place worth fighting for, that they could no longer keep moving from place to place... they had to take a stand, lay down roots and start building from there. Their nomad days were behind them.
"Well, for years... that had been planned to be... the end. Rick would make his proclamation, and the speech would end with a big close-up on Rick’s face, you’d turn the page, and Rick’s face would be the same, only it was a statue... and you’d zoom out and see the full statue with some vines growing on the bottom of it... cracks forming... and you’d realize that it was quite OLD.
"We’d keep zooming out until we saw that the statue was in Alexandria, the same place where he gave the speech, but it was different. It was old and rundown, broken windows and missing doors. We would keep zooming out until a zombie walked by, then another... and we’d see that Rick had brought them to Alexandria, given this grand speech about rebuilding civilization and SUCCEEDED to the point that they built a statue to honor him... but in the end, the dead won, society crumbled again, this time seemingly for good... and that was it.
"It was a TERRIBLE ending. Bleak, sad... made the whole story pointless. What can I say... I was young and most of the endings I wrote or came up with way back then... were pretty bleak. So that ending... in hindsight was embarrassingly bad, but more than that, I wasn’t ready to end this series. Not by a long shot.
"You have to understand, when I started writing this series, I had no clue I’d make it to issue #12. So the thought of having a book that ran 100 issues was insane. So when this book really took off in its second year, I was able to make far reaching plans for the future, but even at that point, a 100-issue run still seemed impossible.
"So when I found myself staring down the barrel of a completed 100-issue series, I just wasn’t ready to let go. I was having too much fun. Think about how things would have gone if I’d wrapped things up then... no Negan, no Ezekiel, no All Out War, no time jump, no Magna, no Whisperers, no Commonwealth, no Princess... and a really crummy ending to boot.
"To top it off... shortly after I scrapped that planned ending and decided to keep going, I came up with pretty much the exact ending of this issue, which I felt was much more fitting and rewarding.
"I’m glad I made the decision I did back then. I have no regrets.
"This time though, things were very different. As I worked to come up with ways to expand the story, none of it felt right. Everything felt like an unnecessary detour... it was, for lack of a better word, filler. The harder I tried to come up with new places to go, the clearer it was to me that this is what this story needed... it needed to end.
"So like I said... it seemed like a good idea at the time. FOUR YEARS ago this plan seemed rock solid. Never tell anyone, keep it secret, and even go as far as soliciting fake issues that will never exist so that we can really surprise people. Oh, man... I thought this was going to be great.
"I worked it out with Charlie right away. He’d always been pushing to end on a high note. He was with me, all the way, as long as I didn’t run this series into the ground. Charlie just wanted to make this book special. If I had a solid plan for 300 issues, he’d have made it happen, but if I started turning in stories Charlie thought were lame... I would have heard about it and he’d have convinced me to end the series. So when we talked about the plan, Charlie was excited, his fear of us overstaying our welcome and keeping this book going well past its popularity were quelled.
"I’ll say it again, I love (loved... oh, god, I’m not ready for past tense) writing this series. I really don’t want it to end. In fact, I’ve been... kind of unsettled since I wrote the script for this issue. The whole thing just feels... weird.
"In a way, killing this series has been a lot like killing a major character. Much, much harder... but the same feeling. I don’t WANT to do it. I’d rather keep going... but the story is telling me what it wants and what it needs. This needs to happen. Whether I want it or not.
"It just feels right... while also feeling... terrible.
"The main point of all this is... well, I’m scared. Most of my professional life has been spent on this series. Countless hours are dedicated to this, month in and month out. More than anything in the last 16 years... this is going to fundamentally change my life. So I’m terrified.
"When my fingers typed out “THE END” on the keyboard as I finished this script... I thought I’d feel relief, or some sliver of pride in a job well done, but it was really just... dread. I wasn’t ready for it to be over... but it was.
"Oddly, as unsure as I feel about ending the story, I feel confident in how I ended it. [...]
"I hope it makes you happy, too. Even if you’re upset at not getting to spend time in this world anymore.
"I’m upset, too. I’m going to miss it as much as you will, if not more so. It breaks my heart that I had to end it, and we have to move on... but I just love this world too much to stretch things out until it doesn’t live up to what I want it to be.
"I hope you understand.
"I hope you, dear reader, know how much I appreciate the gift you have given me. I got to tell my story exactly how I wanted to, for 193 issues, and end it on my terms, with no interference at all along the way... at any point. That’s such a rare thing, and it doesn’t exist without the unyielding support this series got from readers like you. Thank you so much.
"hank you, Tony Moore, for drawing the first six issues. Thank you, Cliff Rathburn, for countless hours spent shaping black and white art with gray tones. Thank you, Rus Wooton, for turning my words into art month after month. Thank you, Stefano Gaudiano, for shaping Charlie’s pencils for nearly 100 issues. Thank you, Aubrey Sitterson and Sina Grace, for your time keeping this insanity in check. Thank you, Sean Mackiewicz, for seeing this project all the way to the end, despite thinking each compendium would be your last... and, y’know, doing a great job along the way. Thank you, Arielle Basich, for keeping Sean sane and doing the heavy lifting. Thank you, Andres Juarez, for keeping this book looking fresh after being on the shelf for over a decade. Thank you, Carina Taylor, for doing your part to do the same. Thank you, Dave Stewart, for making Charlie’s art pop on comic shelves the world over. Thank you, Dave McCaig, for you know what. Thank you, Ryan Ottley, for that amazing art in issue #75 that may never get collected. Thank you, Cory Walker, for your wise council before I even started this series. Thank you, Jim Valentino, for so many things, including saying, “Change the title so you can own it.” Thank you, Shawn Kirkham, for always having an ear to the ground for what this world needs. Thank you to the team at Skybound, who work tirelessly to bring you everything THE WALKING DEAD you could ever want and more. Thank you, Erik Larsen, for the undying support, even to this day. Thank you, Eric Stephenson, for the years of strategy sessions that made this series a continued success. Thank you to the evolving staff at Image Comics that was invaluable over the last decade and a half... especially the accounting department. Thank you, David Alpert, for your part in turning this into a truly worldwide, multimedia phenomenon, and all that came with it and somehow so much more than that. Thank you, Shep Rosenman and Lee Rosenbaum, for crossing the Ts and dotting the Is so I can keep all my Ts and not lose my Is. Thank you, Chris Simonian, for going to war and winning. Thank you, Allen Grodsky, for going to war and winning. Thank you, John Campisi and the team at CAA, for continuing the fight. Thank you, Frank Darabont, for going into House of Secrets in Burbank and saying, 'This one.' Thank you, Gale Anne Hurd, for helping turn “this one” into something real. Thank you, Charles H. Eglee, for being the original showrunner and setting us up for success. Thank you, Jack LoGiudice, for making me feel welcome in the writer’s room on day one... by being mean to me in the most entertaining ways. Thank you, Glen Mazzara, for keeping the fire warm. Thank you, Scott Gimple, for taking the show to new heights and for caring enough to say, 'No spoilers, dear God, no more spoilers.' Thank you, Angela Kang, for the future and beyond. Thank you, Greg Nicotero, for making the zombies (er, walkers) REAL. Thank you, Chris Hardwick, for telling the world every week that there’s a comic book worth checking out. Thank you to the ten thousand people who work on the now FOUR TV shows based on THE WALKING DEAD for pouring their hearts into this and loving this world as much if not more than I do.
"But most of all, thank you, Charlie Adlard, for sitting at the table, day in and day out, and devoting more hours to THE WALKING DEAD than anyone. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. It’s been a dream come true to get to shape this world together, with you. This never would have happened without you. I can’t believe we made it all the way to the end, my friend.
"Oh my god... I can’t believe it’s really over.