A television adaptation of The Walking Dead, the best-known work of acclaimed comic book writer and Central Kentucky native Robert Kirkman, debuts this weekend on AMC.
It's the first foray into TV for Kirkman, who says he has caught the script-writing bug and plans to continue working on small-screen projects while keeping up his comic work. In fact, he's moving his wife and kids from Lexington to California to be closer to the hub of the entertainment business.
"I really like living here, but with my business and the young kids, I've been doing so much traveling that it will make more sense for me to live in California," Kirkman said last month.
Kirkman, who grew up in Cynthiana and lived in Richmond for a time, said he has been impressed by how his comic book series has been adapted to TV.
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The Walking Dead, which won a 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Award and has been extremely well regarded, centers on Cynthiana police officer Rick Grimes. Shot on the job, Grimes wakes up in a hospital, only to find the world inhabited by zombies.
Determined to find his wife and son, Grimes sets off for Atlanta, where survivors were told on emergency broadcasts that there would be help. He joins a small band of survivors who tell him the prospect of help is a myth.
The TV series has received good early reviews, with Wall Street Journal critic Nancy deWolf Smith calling it "so good that it has hooked even a zombie hater like me." Heather Havrilesky of Salon.com wrote, "A film-quality drama series about zombies? Somebody pinch me!"
Unfortunately, the Kentucky connection in the comic was cut from the television adaptation, in which Grimes' home is not specified. (References in the background seem to indicate rural Georgia.)
But a Kentucky sensibility isn't completely missing in the series. Grimes makes his way to Atlanta, the series' main location and its site of filming, on a very Bluegrass State form of transport: horseback.
For those unfamiliar with the comic, which debuted in 2003, don't think of the Resident Evil or Living Dead films.
"The Walking Dead is mainly just a character drama," Kirkman said. "It's about the characters' struggles in this horrible, devastated landscape trying to survive and carry on, and find a semblance of normal life.
"It doesn't really focus on the horror and the gore or the action that you might see in any other zombie thing. The zombies kind of take a back seat."
And that's how the TV series unfolds in the first two episodes of its six-episode season, as Grimes struggles to find his wife and son.
Kirkman said that's what makes the series a perfect fit for AMC.
"With Mad Men and Breaking Bad, AMC is known for doing really good character dramas," he said, "and that's what The Walking Dead is focused on."