There seems to be a zombie epidemic going around (not a real one, obviously, although that’d be awesome) where more and more books, TV shows, video games, etc. have had zombie themes. During Halloween last year, there were zombie walks in Detroit and a few surrounding cities where people would dress like zombies and literally just walk around pretending there was an outbreak. But there’s no argument that AMC’s new show, The Walking Dead, is perhaps one of the most popular forms of zombie entertainment today.

The Walking Dead is an American horror television series based on the graphic novels by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard. The series is written and directed by Frank Darabont, who has also directed movies like The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Mist. The Walking Dead first aired on October 31, 2010.

The shows plot focuses on a police officer named Rick Grimes who wakes up from a coma after being shot on duty. He finds that the world has changed significantly since the last time he was conscious, which was about a month previous to the day he woke up. He ventures out of the hospital to find zombies wandering the streets, and eventually joins his wife and son along with a group of living travelers in an effort to survive. The world no longer has military, technology, government, or any of the modern luxuries once known. The group struggles with learning to survive without these commodities, gaining and losing living characters as they go while, of course, killing zombies.

Season one had a total of six episodes, and now season two is due to air this year with 13 new episodes. While it was originally understood that the second season wouldn’t air until Halloween 2011 due to the replacement of writers for the show, new rumors are starting to circulate saying that the official beginning airdate will be July 2011.

While the television series is new, the graphic novels are not. Image Comics began publishing The Walking Dead graphic novels in 2003, releasing a black-and-white issue monthly. Trade paperbacks are available in 13 separate volumes containing six issues per book. There are also six hardcover editions that contain 12 issues per book. There are also Omnibus editions with 24 issues per book, and Compendium editions with 48 issues per book.

Personally, I’ve watched the first season and read all the graphic novels so far, and I think both are excellent in their own ways. I found myself favoring the graphic novels more, but I realized that it isn’t fair to pick a favorite when there are only six episodes of the TV show and over 70 issues of the comic. Obviously the graphic novels are going to have more context available at this point, and I’ve loved every issue. But there are a lot of similarities and differences between the two that should be discussed.

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING 4 PARAGRAPHS CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE TELEVISION SHOW AND GRAPHIC NOVELS OF THE WALKING DEAD. DO NOT CONTINUE READING IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED THE SERIES OR READ THE GRAPHIC NOVELS AND PLAN ON DOING SO.

One of the most obvious differences worth noting would be character changes between the TV series and the graphic novels. For example, the novels have Allen and Donna with their twin boys, who do not appear in the TV show. On the other hand, the TV show has Daryl and Merle, who are two brothers that do not appear in the graphic novel. There are more characters who appear in one and not the other, and at first, these changes messed me up when watching the series and reading the graphic novels at the same time. But as you get more into it, it’s easy to master all the characters and their personalities and how they relate to one another.

After the pilot episode, it seems as if the TV series completely strays away from the graphic novel story line. This is fine, really, because how boring would it be if they were exactly the same? I enjoyed the extra context the TV show gave that the graphic novels didn’t, such as the deal behind Carol’s husband (Ed). The graphic novel says he committed suicide before the books even started and left it at that. The television series features her husband as a character in the beginning, who turns out to be a chauvinistic jerk that gets the crap beat out of him by Shane. Ed eventually dies when he is bitten by a zombie and shot in the head by Carol.

Speaking of Shane, I found it interesting that he was killed right away in the graphic novel but is still alive now that season one of the TV series has ended. I’m not complaining, since I like Shane way better in the TV series rather than the comics, but I just wonder what they have in store for him, and how this Rick/Lori/Shane triangle is going to turn out.

I could talk about the graphic novel v.s. TV series all day, but I’ll end my review with a question: What do you think Dr. Jenner whispered to Rick as the group left the CDC? The theory I came up with is that Dr. Jenner saw Shane kiss Lori, and is letting Rick in on it, which may lead to some drama in that love triangle in the next season. A friend of mine came up with an equally viable theory concerning the blood test the group had to take at the CDC and Lori’s possible pregnancy (which occurs in the graphic novels, but hasn’t in the TV series yet). So exciting!

If you haven’t watched the TV series, go to AMC.com and check them out there. If you’d prefer to read the graphic novels first, which would be my recommendation, you can buy them on Amazon for $5-$10 less than what you would pay in the big bookstores like Borders or Barnes & Noble. But I always recommend buying from your local bookstores first to help support your city.