With all the films and spinoffs being announced, it seems as though The Walking Dead’s live-action universe may never come to a close – but the comic series that started it all has taken its final bow with issue #193.

The Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment series from Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard, first published in 2003, brought its story to a conclusion in a way similar to its attitude to character death’s – with absolutely no warning at all.

Kirkman and Adlard ended the series with Wednesday’s The Walking Dead No.193, a packed edition which played out as an epilogue to Rick Grimes’ story. The ending arrived without any advanced warning, with Kirkman and Skybound even going so far as to solicit several more issues with cover art from Adlard to preserve the secret.

Kirkman wrote in the concluding pages of the issue, “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,” he continued, “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.”

In his final words, Kirkman spoke of his desire to creatively ambush his audience throughout The Walking Dead, including this finale, “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.”

You can read the whole of Kirkman’s statement here.

The final issue of The Walking Dead is out now.

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