Walker Wednesday: Introduction to The World of The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead is arguably one of the most famous zombie IPs (or indeed any IP) of the last 20 years, conceived by the writer who brought us Invincible and many other beloved comics, Robert Kirkman. It was a story like no other – running for 19 years – with Kirkman holding the choice to end the story at any point. This, combined with a willingness to build up characters and then have them die in brutal ways, felt a bit like a more realistic take on the post-apocalyptic world.

No one was safe; horrible things could and would happen to characters. Many people will most likely only know the story from the TV show, but you’ll be surprised how much nastiness was taken out of the story to make it suitable for TV. The Walking Dead was a phenomenal comic series, and with the upcoming re-release of the tabletop skirmish game The Walking Dead: All Out War, we felt it was necessary to give new players a quick rundown of the setting and some of the major players in it. The miniatures game is only sourced from the comic book – not the TV show. Obvious spoiler warnings: we talk about the first few chapters of the series here.

(Content Warning: The following article includes mention of sexual assault) 

It All Started in 2003…

Kirkman began publishing The Walking Dead (from hereon referred to as TWD) in 2003 – to give the story an air of realism (I assume), the story begins there too. We don’t really get to see how the world falls, nor do we ever really find out what caused the dead to rise, all we know is it might have been… alien spores. In one of Kirkman’s Letter Hacks, a series where he replies to fan mail, he makes an allusion to alien spores being potentially responsible. It doesn’t really matter how it happened, all that matters is that it happened and we need to survive.

The protagonist and usually the point of view character is Rick Grimes, a policemen for the Cynthiana precinct and father. The very first page shows us how he was shot on duty by a criminal named Reggie and sunk into a coma because of it. When he awakens, the world has already gone to shit and he desperately tries to find his family.

Aaron and crew move into a small farm to gather supplies. Credit: Michael O “mugginns”

That way leads him to Atlanta, where he runs into a small group camping just outside the city. Here we meet our core cast (including Rick’s Wife Lori, and son Carl) for a good chunk of the story. When the group finds Atlanta getting more dangerous and the realization that there is no government left starts to set in, they decide to try their luck elsewhere. On the road they come across the Greene family and eventually find refuge in an almost abandoned prison. From here on we get introduced to the true villains of this series: the other survivors!

It has often been said that The Walking Dead is just a series of events boiled down to: Find place, find people, fight people, place destroyed, move on. That might be true for the TV show, which changed and added quite a few things, but in the comics, that loop doesn’t repeat quite as often (only two times). From the prison onward, walkers remain an ever present threat and become Kirkman’s secret weapon, keeping us always on edge. However, other groups of people become the bigger focus, as Rick and his group meet them and either find ways to work together or overcome them. Character interactions remain the strong point of the series and while the writing isn’t always top tier, the underlying characters feel real enough to make you care for them.

Rick and the crew enter the Peachtree Mall looking for supplies. Credit: Michael O “mugginns”

The Big Players

There are a lot of people in the comics, and many are given enough characterization to become likeable and memorable side characters; the story, however, still centers and focuses on a number of main characters.

Rick Grimes

Originally a cop in Cynthiana, Rick woke up from his injury in a world turned upside down. While sluggish and frightful at first, his desire to find and protect his family lead Rick to become a de facto leader early on. He tries to do good and preserve his morals from before the apocalypse, but in many cases is forced to do the horrible things required to survive. He is a survivor through and through – after losing his hand he keeps on fighting, adapting to his new situation and remaining the leader of his group. One of the later antagonists, Negan, even comments on Rick’s missing hand, stating his people must worship him if he is still their leader. And while Rick goes through many hardships, he remains hopeful to the bitter end.

Rick is an efficient fighter and great tactical leader. Throughout the series his difficulties in managing a community are the focus of many interactions.

The trainyard. Credit: Michael O “mugginns”

Carl Grimes

Rick’s son, and arguably the actual protagonist of the story, was only a young child at the outbreak of the apocalypse. Being a seven year old in a world where everyone around you could die at any moment and friends can turn to foes at the drop of a hat, he had to leave behind his childhood rather quickly.

Carl goes through quite a lot, having to shoot another child out of a sense of obligation, losing his mother and baby sister, and eventually getting his eye shot out. While many people love to hate on child characters in media, Carl remains a very genuine character – we understand the pain he goes through and feel for him.

All he wants is to be decisive like his father and protect others, but when you are a kid, it makes things more difficult; not only for yourself, but those around you as well. Carl is shown to be a good sharpshooter for his age and a fearless fighter.


Only a minor character in the TV show, Andrea is among the longest lasting members of the original group. A law student, she quickly shows to be a capable marksman, eventually becoming the dedicated sentry for the group and a firearms instructor from time to time. After the loss of her sister and her lover Dale, she becomes a very hardened character like Rick, partaking in one of the more gruesome acts the group has committed.

Through it all she does her best to remain morally right, often challenging Rick in constructive ways and holding the group together. A while after Dale’s death, she and Rick begin a slow but blossoming romance. It allows both of them to overcome some of the trauma they have gone through. She also becomes a bit of a mother figure to Carl.

The Saviors clear out a walker infested motel. Credit: Michael O “mugginns”


We obviously could not leave out the walker-slaying samurai Michonne. She is a major character of the TV show and while not quite as prominent in the comics, she still remains one of Rick’s closest friends and allies. Having been separated from her daughters, her boyfriend and his best friend turned, leaving Michonne with a pretty terrible start into the apocalypse. She does figure out how to get around by turning her zombified boyfriend and his pal into her iconic Walker pets, chained up to her so she can move through walker groups.

While seemingly quite capable and hardened on the surface, we soon see Michonne’s more vulnerable and traumatized side, seeing her talk to herself as if talking to her boyfriend. She also quickly makes sexual advances towards a member of Rick’s group, sparking a lot of drama and conflict within the group. It all shows that while outwardly Michonne is calm and collected, she is just as traumatized as the rest of the group if not more so.

Despite that and what the Governor does to her (A BIG trigger warning here, if you plan to read the comics, there is a lot of sexual assault and torture in the scenes between Michonne and the Governor, so better skip those issues if that is too much for you) she finds ways to deal with her trauma, finding a similarly hurt soul in Rick and confiding in him. She goes on to become the group’s strongest fighter next to Rick and while not making peace with her past entirely, she opens up more and tries to change for the better.

Eugene prepares to repair the diesel locomotive. Credit: Michael O “mugginns”

The Governor

The Governor (aka Philip Blake, aka Brian Blake) is the series’ first major antagonist. He presents a friendly and caring persona to the inhabitants of Woodbury – the community he leads – making sure everyone is fed, putting on entertainment for people. To his lieutenants and strangers he is an immensely cruel and sadistic person. His backstory is made more clear in the Woodbury novels, but these are not focus here.

What we see is someone who pretends to care about his community, but is really just using it to further his own goals, torturing Rick and his group to get their camp’s location.  He is shown to be quite manipulative, sending one of his lieutenants, Martinez, to free Rick and his friends so he can follow them. When the jig is up, Rick kills Martinez, and the governor spins a story to the people of Woodbury about how Rick’s group are monsters and they need to get rid of them. Mind you, this is after the Governor chopped Rick’s hand off and sexually assaulted Michonne. His demise comes when he gives the order to shoot Rick’s wife Lori (who was carrying the infant Judith); his follower, disgusted at what he did, shoots him in the head and they make a retreat. He is the first and some consider the most vile villain.

Negan leads the Saviors into the trainyard. Credit: Michael O “mugginns”


The charismatic asshole that leads a group called the Saviors. He is a loudmouth, swears constantly and is immensely brutal. Despite appearing as brutal as the Governor, killing off two of the more prominent characters and essentially running a protection racket, he is shown to also be more calculating and actually honest.

He very openly states that he sees people as resources, he doesn’t want to waste them, but he needs to keep people in line. While he is obviously a bad person, he still keeps some of the worst impulses in check, punishing sexual assault by death and being unwilling to murder children (but isn’t above zombifying prisoners and using them as trojan horses).

Still, his system just boils down to a protection racket. Unwilling to take this, Rick and two other communities band together and begin an all out war (the titular All Out War!) with the Saviors in which all gloves come off. It ends in a loss for Negan. To show him the errors of not just his actions but his beliefs, Negan is imprisoned, cared for, but forced to watch from behind bars as Rick builds what Negan couldn’t. When the war with the Whisperers breaks out, Negan becomes a bit of a devil on Rick’s shoulder, but actually tries to help.

The Whisperers blend into a herd. Credit: Michael O “mugginns”


Walkers are the zombies in The Walking Dead – they mostly say walkers, roamers, etc. but do sparingly refer to them as zombies. The reason for zombification is never revealed, and only humans can become zombies, not animals. Walkers are shown as pretty typical zombies – they are slow, mindless, and group up. Later in the series these groups become massive, known as herds, and have to be managed so that the survivor towns can be safe.

A bite from a walker causes sickness that then eventually kills the host, turning them into a walker. It is possible to stop infection by removal of the affected area. Walkers can be killed by a blow or shot to the head.

The Peachtree Mall in Atlanta. Credit: Michael O “mugginns”

We Are the Walking Dead

As All Out War follows the comic book story, it is a great place to get inspiration. You obviously don’t need to know the story to play the game, but the existence of narrative play proves people want their games to mean something. Knowing who the little plastic man on your board is – knowing how he relates to his enemies – it makes the game feel more alive.

If you plan to give the comics a go, you can always either pick up the four compendiums or the chapter, but Skybound is also currently rereleasing the original comic issues in full color (the comics were black and white originally). Your local comic store should be offering the first issue of The Walking Dead Deluxe, so why not give it a shot?

We hope you enjoyed this small introduction into The Walking Dead. In the next article, we will take a bit of a deeper dive into the world and all the places we encounter in the comics, giving you an idea of where you can set your games.

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