Walking Dead Was Originally Intended as Part One of a Sci-Fi Trilogy

While The Walking Dead is now one of the definitive works of modern zombie fiction, it was originally intended as the first in a trilogy of stories that would feature the same characters in different sci-fi premises. Weighing in at a whopping 193 issues, with a similarly length TV adaptation and numerous tie-in books and games, The Walking Dead is an epic character study set against the backdrop of the end of the world. However, it wasn't originally conceived to last so long, and writer Robert Kirkman actually planned to explore the series' characters by plunging them into three very different catastrophes.


Created by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore, with Charlie Adlard taking over from issue 7, The Walking Dead follows former sheriff Rick Grimes as he attempts to protect his family from a mysterious zombie uprising. However, that's not how Kirkman pitched the project. The creator actually pitched Walking Dead as a story in which aliens were using a zombie outbreak to weaken Earth prior to a full invasion - a lie that Kirkman was able to abandon once the series' popularity and quality began to speak for themselves. However, just because Rick and his group were spared an extraterrestrial invasion in their original world, that doesn't mean they didn't have to face it elsewhere in the Walking Dead multiverse.

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In The Walking Dead Deluxe #5 - an ongoing version of the original series with bonus materials and colors by Dave McCaig - Kirkman explains that the series was originally the first part of a trilogy revolving around a surprising character: Jim the Mechanic, a character who ultimately died incredibly early in The Walking Dead #6. Kirkman explains that while a side character in The Walking Dead, Jim would have been the star of the second series and also appear in the third. Kirkman's comments suggest fans wouldn't have initially been made aware of the links between the series, as those who recognized Jim in the second would be prompted to theorize a zombie outbreak was about to happen, only to encounter something different. Kirkman states:

I always looked at WALKING DEAD as a real-world character study that had an element that made it more commercial: zombies. When TWD started, I'd planned to do a trilogy of similar books. All dramas, with normal people, no powers, no superheroes, but with some other element that made them interesting. One of them was going to be set around a mechanic shop... and feature JIM as a main character. You'd even get to meet his large family that "saved" him during his escape from Atlanta in this book. The idea was that the whole time you were reading this real-world book about mechanics and the people they knew, if you noticed Jim was the same guy from TWD, you'd think, "Holy ****, are zombies going to attack at some point?" But... they wouldn't. They never would.

Walking dead jim zombies

Kirkman goes on to state that he can't recall the intended plot of the third series, but calls the project "a JIM trilogy of books." Kirkman doesn't share what the other sci-fi threats would be that would threaten life on Earth, and his wide-ranging body of work offers a few clues but no answers. Walking Dead spin-off Rick Grimes 2000 offers a pulpy sci-fi romp as another version of Rick Grimes struggles with the series' original premise - a zombie outbreak instigated by aliens. Meanwhile, the experimental Solid Blood #17 (actually the first issue of the series) reimagines Michonne as a sword-swinging cosmic hero. However, neither of these series are the slower, character-driven stories Kirkman describes.

Other projects hint what the Walking Dead's other series could have been, especially Outcast by Kirkman and Paul Azaceta (in which a beaten down protagonist must fight against a cabal of demons) and Oblivion Song with Lorenzo de Felici (in which a portion of Philadelphia is teleported into a hostile dimension.) However, if these concepts did start out with The Walking Dead's cast at their center, they were thoroughly reimagined before they made it to the page.

outcast oblibion song robert kirkman

Ultimately, these projects are their own stories, and fans will never get the original trilogy Kirkman planned. While any fan of the series is liable to wonder what might have been, that's actually a good thing, as what they got instead was a true epic in The Walking Dead, with nearly two hundred issues of impressive character work and thrilling twists - albeit most of them taking place without Jim.