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Comic Book / The Walking Dead

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"One of the most compelling aspects of The Walking Dead comic was watching Generic Good Guy Rick being slowly but completely ruined by a lawless world. He started off as a cliche small town sheriff, sure, but only because it was fun to explore exactly what it takes to break Andy Griffith's mind and make him eat the rest of Mayberry."

The Walking Dead is a zombie apocalypse comic book, written by Robert Kirkman with art by Charlie Adlard,note  featuring an ensemble cast (which is constantly in flux) of survivors struggling to survive over the long-term duration of the zombie uprising. The de facto main character is Rick Grimes, a police officer who was shot in the line of duty; when he wakes up from a Convenient Coma, all hell has broken loose. Rick goes in search of his family and safety, both of which end up being more tenuous than not.

While most zombie apocalypse comic books focus on More Dakka and improbable fighting skills in order to showcase Big Damn Heroes, The Walking Dead focuses more of its action on survival horror and the psychological and personal relationships which result from the stress of being constantly on guard. As one critic (and the main character himself, eventually) put it, the title is specifically not referring to the zombies, but the survivors.

The series began in October 2003 to great fanfare. In June 2019, it was revealed that the series would come to its conclusion with July 2019's Issue #193 — a giant-sized issue — ending a 16-year run in as an abrupt fashion as the deaths of many of the comic's lead characters. However, Kirkman noted that this was a stylistic decision and his intended ending, and he even commissioned a few covers for fake issues past #193 in order to preserve the big plot twist in the final three issues.

There is also a live action television series that is based on, but also deviates a bit from the comic; it has its own page. There is also an episodic adventure game series by Telltale Games set in the same universe as the comic. It also has its own page. Kirkman has also co-written a planned trilogy of prequel novels to the series, the first one being Rise of the Governor. The second, The Road to Woodbury, was released in October 2012 and the final novel of the Governor trilogy, The Fall of the Governor in 2013. Subsequent releases have been Descent and Invasion, with others likely on the way.

There is a shout out page here.

The Walking Dead contains examples of:

  • Abandoned Hospital Awakening: The first issue starts with Rick getting shot, then awakening weeks later to find the hospital completely deserted. While looking for help, Rick finds a rotting corpse outside an elevator and things quickly go From Bad to Worse.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade:
    • Michonne's blade. Starts as an Aversion - it gets stuck in a skull once, when we first meet her - but later it cuts through everything like a hot knife through butter. Rick's hatchet, on the other hand, is as sharp as the plot needs it to be at any given time.
    • She knows to take blade sharpeners when they raid weapons shops. Presumably, she keeps her sword in top condition.
  • Accidental Adultery: Rick's wife Lori sleeps with best friend Shane when Rick is presumed dead, as they left him in a coma in the midst of what appears to be The End of the World as We Know It. When Rick returns, Lori considers it a mistake and wants to forget it ever happened, but Shane has other ideas.
  • Action Girl: Deconstructed in the case of Michonne. The Zombie Apocalypse has honed her into a stone-cold badass, but at the cost of most of her sanity and compassion. Instead of straight-up killing the Governor, she tortures him and leaves him alive, allowing him to mount an attack on the prison and kill the vast majority of the folks there. Following that, she leads Tyreese on a two-person counterattack that results in his beheading. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
  • Affably Evil:
    • The leader of the cannibal gang. There's really nothing personal about cutting off your leg. After all, a man's gotta eat.
    • Negan zigzags all over the place. His surface-level personality is extremely abrasive, rude and domineering. However, he is very straightforward and fair, and quickly shows that his larger-than-life persona hides a deeply intelligent, tactical and insightful mind. If only he didn't kill Rick's friends without any hint of hesitation.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: The Hunters were definitely not nice people but its hard not to feel at least a little sad when Rick's group brutally kills them all to prevent them from following and attacking his people.
  • Alternate History: Downplayed, the world of The Walking Dead is similar to Real Life; pre-zombie apocalypse. The difference is that Night of the Living Dead (1968) was not released and thus, zombies never became a part of pop culture. This leaves the Zombie Apocalypse survivors Genre Blind at first.
  • Amputation Stops Spread: It's possible to survive being bitten by a walker, but only if the infected limb is removed immediately and the victim receives proper medical treatment. Even when things go well its still possible for people to die from bacterial infection, blood loss or a combination of both, especially if the cut was made with a weapon that was recently used against the undead.
  • Anyone Can Die: The comic lives on this trope. Mauve Shirts are in high number, but in this series, main characters are no safer than supporting ones, and eventually, it's not a matter of if the characters will die—it's WHEN they'll die.
    Days Gone Bye: Amy, Jim, Shane
    Miles Behind Us: Donna, Arnold Greene, Lacey Greene
    Safety Behind Bars: Julie, Chris, Susie Greene, Rachel Greene, Thomas Richards
    The Heart's Desire: Dexter, Andrew, Allen
    This Sorrowful Life: Harold, Eugene Cooney, Dr. Stevens, Otis, Cesar Martinez
    The Calm Before: Bruce Cooper, Sam, Carol
    Made to Suffer: Tyreese, Axel, Patricia, Billy Greene, Alice Warren, Lori Grimes, Judith Grimes, Hershel Greene, The Governor
    What We Become: Duane Jones, The three Marauders
    Fear the Hunters: Billy, Ben, Greg, Charlie, Theresa, Albert, David, Chris, Dale
    Too Far Gone: Scott, Regina Monroe, Pete Anderson, Derek and his group
    No Way Out: Bruce, Tobin, Morgan Jones, Ron Anderson, Jessie Anderson, Douglas Monroe
    A Larger World: Ethan
    Something to Fear: Abraham Ford, Glenn
    March to War: Spencer Monroe, Connor
    All Out War (Part One & Part Two): David, Eric, Richard, Shiva, Holly, John, Denise Cloyd, Kal, Mike, Donnie, Nicholas, Marcus
    A New Beginning: Bernie, Doug
    Whispers Into Screams: Joshua
    Life and Death: Gregory, Olivia, Josh, Carson, Tammy Rose, Luke, Erin, Ken, Amber, Larry, Oscar, Rosita Espinosa, Ezekiel
    No Turning Back: Morton Rose
    Call to Arms: Brandon Rose, Alpha
    The Whisperer War: Gabriel Stokes
    A Certain Doom: Paula, Sherry, Andrea
    Lines We Cross: Beta
    New World Order: Dominic, Colette
    The Rotten Core: Anthony Keith, Dwight
    Rest In Peace: Rick Grimes, Stephanie
  • An Arm and a Leg:
    • Allen's leg is severed in an attempt to save his life after he is bitten by a zombie. It doesn't work.
    • Rick has his (already useless) right arm hacked off by the Governor.
    • The Governor himself loses an arm, an eye and his penis, when Michonne tortures and mutilates him. She had already taken an ear from him in an earlier encounter.
    • Dale's leg is amputated to prevent the infection from spreading, and thanks to Alice's medical knowledge, he survives. Eventually, he has his other leg chopped off by cannibals.
    • Michonne amputates Morgan after his arm is bitten during an attack. Morgan dies in almost the exact same fashion as Allen.
    • Heath has his leg blown up by a grenade during an attack of the Saviors
  • Apocalypse Anarchy: We don't see much of it first-hand, since Rick Slept Through the Apocalypse, but according to the other survivors, things got bad fast, with society collapsing in a matter of weeks, and people turning on each other in the middle of it all.
  • The Apocalypse Brings Out the Best in People: While a lot of people became bastards after civilization fell to the walker hordes there are several who became much better human beings. One good example would be Axel from the prison arc. Before the world went to shit he was serving time for armed robbery, afterwards he ended up becoming one of Rick's greatest allies and was an important asset to the group during their time at the prison.
  • Apocalyptic Logistics: Averted; much of the early plot revolves around the survivors trying to scavenge enough supplies to stay alive, which becomes increasingly difficult the more time passes. By the time they settle in Alexandria, about two years into the apocalypse, Rick points out that this is unsustainable - no new food has been produced since the outbreak began, and what's left is going to expire sooner rather than later. Instead, the survivors begin focusing on producing their own food, and even their own ammunition. They also switch from cars to horses and wagons whenever possible.
  • Arrows on Fire: The Whisperers use these during the Whisperer War story arc to burn the Hilltop to the ground and kill several of its guards.
  • Art Evolution: The first story arc was drawn by Tony Moore and had a noticeably cartoony style with exaggerated facial expressions. Charlie Adlard takes the reigns afterwards, giving the comic a more realistic approach. It starts off a bit rough around the edges but around Issue 40, the art gets smoother and Adlard pulls off some amazing feats in character expressions and general detail.
  • Artificial Limbs:
    • Dale gets a makeshift wooden leg after a zombie bite forces them to amputate one of his real ones.
    • Rick gets a modern prosthetic arm after the time skip.
    • Heath also gets a prosthetic after the time skip, replacing one of his legs.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Lilly, who only appeared for a couple of pages during the end of Made to Suffer, is the protagonist of the novel The Walking Dead: The Road To Woodbury and other books that follow.
    • Hershel's unseen son Shawn, who was mentioned as having died not long before the events of the comics, is present in the first episode of Telltale's adaption, and as a major character at that.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: The Governor thinks his superior numbers and a salvaged tank will give him a quick victory; instead his mooks get slaughtered as they can't get past the prison fences (which they want to preserve so they can use the prison once it's emptied) and their marksmanship isn't as good as those holding the prison (Rick has made a point of training everyone). The prison only gets overrun when the tank is finally used to knock down the fences, but this also lets the zombies in.
  • Attempted Rape: During the All Out War one of Negan's men attempts to rape a captured prisoner. This earns him a knife to the throat when his boss catches him red handed.
  • Ax-Crazy: Several people, both in the group and out. The most prominent examples are Thomas Richards and the Governor, both of whom are sociopathic murderers with the latter also being a rapist.
  • Badass Boast: When Rick decides to go to Chris' group of cannibals:
    Rick: They're fucking with the wrong people.
  • Batter Up!: Negan's weapon of choice. It's a love affair, really.
  • Beware the Living: Several examples of this, particularly The Governor, who happily feeds survivors from outside his town to the zombies in order to keep them 'docile'. You know this is going on pretty hard when the eventual Title Drop is not describing the zombies, but actually the despairing protagonists after one time too many of this Trope being used to Yank the Dog's Chain.
  • Big Bad: Due to zombies being treated more as a force of nature than a central threat, humans take up the reigns as one temporary Big Bad or another. Three have shown up so far.
    • Philip "The Governor" Blake from Issue 27 to 48.
    • Negan, leader of the Saviors, from Issue 96 to 126.
    • Alpha, leader of the Whisperers, from Issue 130 to Issue 156. After her demise at the hands of Negan, her 2nd in command Beta has became the new Big Bad as of Issue 157.
  • The Big Guy: Shane, Tyreese, Abraham, and Jesus. Basically, Rick's current Lancer is usually the biggest dude in the current group.
  • Bittersweet Ending: By the end of Volume 32, Rick Grimes gets killed by Sebastian, who in turn gets to spend the rest of his life in prison. In Issue 193, which takes place at least over two decades after Rick's death, it turns out that human civilization managed to recover and rebuild itself — thanks to Rick, who, sadly, never got to see the result of his altruistic actions.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands:
    • Happens all the way back in issue 1 during the shootout Rick and Shane had with an escaped convict. Ironically enough, it was the criminal blasting the gun out of the lawman's hands in this particular instance.
    • Also happens much later in Issue 112 when Rick attempts to ambush and kill Negan only to find that he has several snipers hidden nearby as backup. Nobody in his group manages to get a single shot off before having their guns blown right out of their hands.
  • Bleed 'Em and Weep: Carl breaks down after having to kill Shane when the latter is pointing a gun at his dad. He runs to his father and cries that it's not the same as killing Walkers.
  • Boom, Headshot!: The only way to kill a Walker permanently is to destroy the brain, leading to many instances of this.
  • Break the Cutie: Any nice characters do not stay in good mental health for long.
    • Driven to Suicide: Several of said cases result in this. Carol, Hershel, Maggie. Only Carol has eventually gone through with it by herself.
  • Brick Joke: In Issue 7, Dale and Rick discuss how Andrea has estimated that Christmas is the following day, with Rick having Dale keep the revelation to himself to avoid having to explain to Carl "how Santa can't find him". Come Issue 67, when finding a van full of mattresses elicits a Christmas joke from Andrea, Carl realizes they skipped Christmas the previous year.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: When the walls to the Alexandria Safe Zone break down in Volume 14 and the Andersons try to escape, Ron, the son who is about Carl's age, urinates down his leg. Hard to blame him, however.
    • A more humorous example occurs between Dwight and Negan when they see the massive incoming horde of walkers the allied settlements lured to the Sanctuary during the All Out War arc.
    "I hope you have your shitting pants on."
  • Celebrity Survivor: Subverted by Tyreese — he used to be a pro football player, but he was already washed up by the time of the Zombie Apocalypse.
    • A far darker example would be Beta who was a pro basketball player who appeared in several commercials before the world went to shit. In this case its used to show just how far he has fallen by wearing human skin and living like an animal out in the woods.
  • Cessation of Existence: This is implied a couple of times.
    • After her death, Rick's hallucination of Lori says that she wishes she could tell him that she and everyone he's lost is in a better world, but reminds him he was never one to believe in the afterlife anyway.
    • After her Happily Failed Suicide, Maggie tells Glenn that there is nothing after death and that she will take what she can from the Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Children Forced to Kill: Carl does this to protect his own parents.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The Governor does this to Michonne, who returns the favor after being freed from her prison. What happens to the Hunters could count as well.
  • Cold Sniper: Andrea can be this when she has to be.
  • Comic-Book Time: Averted. Everybody ages.
  • Convenient Coma: As noted, Rick sleeps through the intital zombie-outbreak. When he finally wakes up, he shakes off a gunshot wound and being bedridden for who knows how long in very short order.
  • Cosy Catastrophe: The devastation isn't as complete as one might expect and the ecosystem seems generally intact. Also, the zombies are mostly opportunists - they usually don't actively hunt the humans.
    • This trope is especially invoked after the two year time skip. After a pretty hard first year in the Zombie Apocalypse the main characters have banded together to create a network of settlements to begin rebuilding civilization. As such they now have farms to grow food, workers to make weapons, tools and ammunition, and even riders to draw away large hordes of walkers. The biggest threat to their safety at this point probably isn't even the zombies anymore, but other human survivors who have also established a permanent society in this new world, though time will tell how long this lasts...
  • Country Matters: Several characters have used this word when sufficiently pissed off. Negan and Laura in particular use it like other people would use punctuation.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Woodbury.
  • Crapsack World: Unusually so, even for the Zombie Apocalypse genre.
  • Creepy Child: All children become this after growing up with everyone they know being murdered and eaten warps their moralities and sanities out of all recognition. Ben's the first to go irretrievably nuts.
    • Negan lampshades this after he captures a young Carl, who had hidden in a truck with an assault rifle in order to get revenge on Negan for killing members of his group, calling him a "little future serial murderer".
  • Crippling Castration: The Governor has his penis nailed to a board and then severed after raping and torturing one of the main characters. Needless to say, he deserved it.
  • Cult of Personality: The Saviors. Their leader Negan is seen as a godlike figure who commands their total loyalty, respect and devotion. Well, most of them anyway.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The battle between the Washington community and the raiders; the raiders are all killed moronically attacking the fortified community.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Maggie names her and Glen's son after her father, Hershel. Carl names his daughter in the last issue after his deceased stepmother, Andrea.
  • Deadly Scratch: Walkers can cause victims to become fatally ill from any sort of wound that comes directly from the Walker themselves — usually bites, but even a scratch obtained from their clawing or gripping will do the trick. Negan exploits this by coating Lucille (his barbed-wire-tipped baseball bat) in "zombie gunk", making even a light grazing from it fatal.
  • Death of a Child: All the child characters besides Carl and Sophia have died so far. However, only one child death is seen in Issue 83. It's even pointed out by Douglas Monroe how extremely common this has become in the post-apocalyptic world, as children are virtually helpless without their parents, and even those who have been trained to survive, like Carl, can only do so much against a walker, much less other hostile survivors.
  • Decapitation Presentation: Issue 144, just issue 144. It makes the prison massacre in issue 48 and Negan's batting practice with Glenn's head in issue 100 look like nothing. After capturing several people from the fair Alpha kills them and leaves their heads impaled on sticks as a warning to Rick. Olivia, Rosita... Ezekiel... and so many others gone forever in the blink of an eye...
    • The Governor also does this with Martinez after his corpse is recovered to stir the Woodbury citizens to battle.
  • Deuteragonist: The Walking Dead is as much Carl's storyline as it is Rick's. In fact, Kirkman stated that Carl will be the one character most likely to reach the end of the series. The final issue shows that he stuck to that plan.
  • Devoured by the Horde:
    • In Issue 8, the group is surprised by a horde of zombies in Wiltshire Estates, that they thought was safe, causing Donna to be bitten in the face and forcing the survivors to leave her to this fate.
    • In the "Made to Suffer" volume, when Lily discovered that she shot Judith, a baby, she's furious at the Governor for making her shoot them which makes her shoot him and shoves him into the horde of walkers while she leads the surviving Woodbury citizens out of danger into the prison.
    • When Alexandria is hit by a horde, Jessie and Ron are devoured right in front of Rick, who even has to chop Jessie's hand almost off, to force her to let go of Carl, so they can escape.
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: In issue 7, Dale tells Rick that Andrea has been counting the calendar days and believes it's Christmas Eve. Rick instructs him not to mention it to the others: "I don't want to have to explain to my son that on top of all this other shit, Santa can't find him."
    • In issue 61, the group finds a van with mattresses in it, and Andrea comments on how it's like early Christmas time, then Carl asks nobody in particular if they skipped last Christmas. The question is ignored.
  • Disaster Democracy
  • Disposable Pilot: Though the Governor would have likely just killed him anyway it's mentioned that the pilot of the helicopter seen during the prison arc died in the crash while his partner was taken alive. (And then killed afterwards.)
  • Disproportionate Retribution: All over the place. Laws, order and government are a thing of the past so most crimes and offenses are punished severely even in relative civil places. Then there are people like the Governor who do things like rape and torture over minor slights.
  • Doorstopper: The first Compendium version of the comic is one of these, each one having 8 volumes (48 issues).
  • Driven to Suicide: Quite a few characters, some even to the extent of letting themselves be eaten alive by zombies.
  • Drop the Hammer: Tyreese.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: A few mourners can be seen doing this in issue 146 right before the funeral scene at the church happens.
  • Dwindling Party: Happens to the group during the "Made to Suffer" arc that concludes the first compendium. Glenn, Dale, Andrea, Maggie, Sophia, Billy, and Ben all leave the prison once they decide it's too dangerous to stay with the Governor's impending attack. Andrea comes back later to help, but is quickly forced out of the fight. Then, Tyreese is killed, and Michonne is forced to flee after being attacked. During the final assault, Axel, Patricia, Billy, Alice, Lori, Judith, and Hershel are all killed, leaving only Rick and Carl to flee the prison.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Carl falls for this extremely hard of Lydia, bonding with her when they're both locked up, defending her over the lives of two residents of Hilltop, and throwing away everything to be with her after knowing her for less than two days.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: It starts off as a fast-paced adventure about one man with a clear goal to get to his family and keep them safe until the zombie problem passes. After volume 2 it becomes a more long-term plan to establish a new society with the survivors they've found, becoming a soap opera of sorts and after volume 5 a small-scale war story on top of that. After volume 8 it becomes a far more dystopian story where there's genuine danger that people within the group are going to go nuts and kill each other.
    • Rick actually has little trouble with the first human characters he meets (Morgan and Duane), which almost seems rather strange considering the running themes of the work. The TV Show reworked the scene to have Morgan panicking when Duane hits Rick with a shovel, but because he's afraid Rick might have been bitten.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The whole comic series ends With the reveal that the whole series was a story an older Carl Grimes was telling his daughter (also named Andrea). It turns out that the walkers are now dying out, the remnant under control and human civilization rebuilding. A surprisingly upbeat, hopeful ending.
  • Elite Zombie: Averted; there's only one type of zombie. Instead, there's differing level of danger depending on how the zombies act. Early on, the Atlanta survivors begin refering to them as Roamers or Lurkers - zombies who are constantly on the move looking for prey, and zombies who barely move unless provoked. Ironically, one of the most dangerous kinds are zombies who have been injured badly enough that they can't stand up anymore, as they often end up in hidden spots where survivors might overlook them, and attack when someone gets close enough.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Negan. When one of the people from Rick's town tries to convince Negan to kill him so he can become leader, Negan literally eviscerates him for being a traitor. Later, when one of his own men tries to rape a prisoner, Negan is adamant that his people don't rape and stabs him through the neck.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Philip,or rather, Brian, better known as "The Governor".
  • Evil Counterpart: The Governor is arguably one of these for Rick. The Cannibals are this for the group in general.
  • Excellent Judge of Character: When Magna and the group of survivors that she leads first encounter Rick and the Alexandria Safe Zone, they're deeply suspicious of the main characters, especially the fact that they insist on disarming the new survivors. This makes them worried that Rick and company mean to kill them and that Alexandria is a Town with a Dark Secret. This would seem to be confirmed when they poke around at night and find Negan, the Big Bad of the previous arc imprisoned and claiming that Rick is a cruel despot who has had him tortured. The other members of the group are ready to jump on this as proof of their suspicions, but Magna almost immediately sees through the story and realizes that Negan is trying to con them into freeing him. When asked about it, author Robert Kirkman credited Magna with having "a really good bullshit detector."
  • Eye Patch Of Power:
    • Carl creates this effect with a pair of sunglasses with one of their lens removed. After the giant time skip between issues 192 and 193, he's upgraded it to a massive leather one that covers the damaged half of his face as well.
    • Also The Governor.
  • Eye Scream: Michonne scoops the Governor's eye out with a spoon while torturing him. When we next see him he's donning an Eyepatch of Power.
    • Douglas tells the story of when he first realized the depths humanity could sink to, when he saw a news report about a man who got stoned and ate his four year old son's eyes.
    • Carl gets shot in the eye by a lost bullet; the shot blows a part of his head. He survives, and becomes increasingly creepier, to the point where Rick thinks he lost his son.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Inverted for some cases, as Michonne always makes her spot checks.
  • Fanservice Pack: Eugene loses a lot of weight and generally becomes more handsome as the series goes on. Compare this image of when he first meet Rick's group with this image of him after the time skip.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The Governor is pretty charismatic and well-liked by his people, but behind closed doors is a complete psychopath who cuts off Rick's hand within ten minutes of meeting him and rapes Michonne.
  • Foreshadowing: "For all we knew, you guys could've been a pack of roving cannibals."
    • Also, in Issue 12, while looking for food, Andrea jokingly says to Dale that she could "gnaw a piece off of him".
    • In Issue 71, when Rick is trying to decide how to divide their party of twelve into three houses, Glenn says he doesn't care where they sleep so long as the couples stay together. Rick agrees and among those he groups with him and Carl in their house is Andrea.
  • Forced to Watch:
    • Volume 5 has a variant of this. Glenn and Michonne are locked into rooms right next to each other by The Governor. Afterwards The Governor begins raping and beating Michonne as Glenn stares at the wall horrified and powerless to stop him. He doesn't see a single thing... it's what he HEARS that drives him to tears within seconds.
    • Volume 11 features a notable inversion of this trope in which the "good guys" inflict it upon villains. In this volume, Rick and his crew are pursued by a gang of vicious cannibals. After capturing and disarming the cannibal gang, Rick and his companions execute them one by one (using horrifically brutal methods) while others are forced to watch until it is their turn to die. At the end of the volume, Rick says he feels his actions were justified, but realizes he has crossed a moral line from which there can be no return.
    • In Volume 17, Rick and his group are captured by Negan and his "Saviors". Negan then forces them to watch as he executes a member Rick's crew chosen at random, hoping this will convince Rick to submit to the Saviors' dominance.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Averted constantly. Several survivors are still mentioned dozens of issues after their deaths and the many losses the remaining cast have suffered through has greatly affected their sanity. One major example would be in issue 134 with Carl mentioning Allen, a minor character who had died over 100 issues ago during the prison arc.
  • From Bad to Worse: Pretty much the main point of the series.
    • Hershel starts off with seven kids. By the time he dies, he's down to one. And as pointed out further below, two of the deaths are his fault.
    • After issue 48 things get so much worse that it might very well count as a Retool. All pretence to safety goes out the window, several beloved characters are gone forever, and those that remain start to go insane. It's like the author heard someone say the comic was dystopian and replied "You thought THAT was dystopian?"
    • Subverted with the ending of the series.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Most of the antagonists were just regular people until the outbreak; The Governor was a failed music store owner (as revealed in The Rise of The Governor), Negan was a gym teacher and The Hunters were regular family men.
  • Genre Blind: The characters aren't very familiar with zombie tropes, but they learn fast enough. This is because Kirkman says that Night of the Living Dead (1968) was never released in their universe.
  • Genuine Human Hide: The Whisperers are actually people who have made suits out of walkers' skin, disguising their looks and scent. This allows them to pass by walkers as long as they walk slowly and speak quietly, and make survivors mistake them for comparitively harmless walkers.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Many examples, but a standout would be Michonne bashing Rick on the head with a rock when he nearly kills Douglas Monroe in a rage after attacking Pete Anderson.
  • Ghost City: The cities became deathtraps when the outbreak began, and things only got worse when the government tried to turn them into safe zones, leading to the Walkers multiplying out of control, and the deaths of virtually everyone living there. By the time Rick wakes up, there's almost no one left alive in the cities, and most survivors either huddling together in scattered groups, or in fortified small towns and compounds. Both Atlanta and Washington are filled with Walker hordes when the survivors visit, and after the Time Skip, Pittsburgh is shown almost completely empty, as most of the Walkers have wandered off into the countryside.
  • Gladiator Games: The Governor runs these in Woodbury to keep the citizens entertained and occupied. He even puts walkers along the sidelines to up the danger factor.
  • Good Stepmother: Andrea becomes one to her stepson Carl over time. The two are fairly affectionate after the Time Skip, and call each other "mom" and "son" without any problems or issues. Even on her death bed, she spends part of what little time she has left to give him some good advice. In the final issue, we discover that the adult Carl named his daughter after her.
  • Groin Attack: Reasonably common, and usually unreasonably horrible. An example would be when Eugene bites Dwight's crotch so hard it draws blood, and refuses to let go of it in issue 98. It doesn't seem to have resulted in permanent injury, as it's not brought up, even after Dwights Heel–Face Turn.
    • One of several horrific, and well-deserved, mutilations the Governor recieved from Michonne.
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: Carl after the time-skip looks rather grungey until he cleans up for a quasi-date with Sophia.
  • Heroic BSoD: In high number, given the massive psychological stress the characters are under.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Numerous examples. Most of the main characters have at least attempted this or considered it an option to protect their friends and family.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Issue 71 subtly paints the protagonists as this with a very creepy and disturbing final line spoken by Rick. Though this was hinted at as far back as the Prison story arc. The Fear the Hunters story arc really pushed the group into some serious dark territory as far as behavior... and sanity.
  • Hide Your Children: Averted. Several of the principal characters are minors. Also several of the background zombies.
  • His Story Repeats Itself:
    • Gabriel tells Rick about how he kept a door to his original church closed when the dead came, keeping people locked out in fear. In Volume 14, Eugene yells for him to open the Alexandria Safe Zone church doors, and he does so, letting them in, then going out and helping in the fight against the hordes.
    • Negan pre-Time Skip had his throat slashed by Rick right after a possible Heel Realization. Post-Time Skip, he makes Alpha show her vulnerable side right before slashing her throat.
  • History Repeats: Amy died by a walker biting her on the right side of her neck, and is put down by her sister, Andrea. Then, Andrea's lover, Dale, dies the same way, once again put down by the same person. Come issue 165, Andrea gets infected the same way, and two issues after that, she is stabbed after reanimation by Rick, who was her Second Love.
    • The Whisperers War has many similarities with All out War both have a slow buildup to the new villain who shows up to ruin a happy moment by killing some characters. Rick is then forced to take a passive stance on the conflict much to everybody's anger while he plans to take action in secret. Both times he ends up getting help from a Savior who pulls a Heel–Face Turn with the leader of the villains having their throat slashed right after a moment of vulnerability.
  • Hope Spot: The potential cure for the plague waiting in DC? Eugene made up that story just so he could have a group protecting him. He's not even a scientist, but rather a high school science teacher.
  • How Much More Can He Take?: Rick vs Tyreese.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters:
    • The inevitable Zombie Apocalypse "humans are the real threat" has been used a couple of times; the Governor does far more damage to the cast than the zombies have, Thomas decapitates two children, and then there's Abraham's back story.
    • The residents of Woodbury, by and large, realize that the Governor is a monster but are willing to tolerate him because he keeps them "safe", and entertained.
    • When Tyreese is first introduced, he tells Rick that a man he knew attempted to rape his daughter when his back was turned for a second.
    • The Saviors and The Whisperers in the later part of the comics, who are all convinced their idea of rebuilding society is justified no matter how monstrous they are. The Whisperers take this even further than the Saviors.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Rick most commonly, but this applies to pretty much everyone.
    • Rick runs over the most sympathetic citizen of Woodbury to stop him from reporting their position back to the evil Woodburians. Martinez claims he was sent as a spy but is really going to bring the good civilians to the supposedly safe shelter of a county jail. Rick doesn't believe him and strangles him.
    • Another one from the "Fear the Hunters" arc; After the groups has been attacked by a group of cannibals, (who in their minds, were only doing what they had to do) Rick goes to parlay with them. When it becomes clear that the hunters aren't going to leave them alone, Rick reveals that he didn't come alone, and the others are all armed. They disarm the hunters, then hold them down over a picnic table and hack them apart one by one. Gunshots attract zombies, you see.
    • Carl taking it upon himself to execute Ben when no one else was willing to.
    • Alpha claims that all the horrible shit she has done is for survival and that the Whisperers are just embracing the "true animal" that humans are meant to be. Negan easily sees through her excuses and tears her motivations to shreds, pointing out that she's just pretending because she's too scared to face what she's done in the name of blind survival, all of which is completely pointless if you're just going to live like animals in the woods.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: The Governor repeatedly rapes Michonne after Rick and his crew first arrive at Woodberry. She later dishes out some major retribution when they escape.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The Hunters, a band of survivors who resorted to cannibalism after they ran out of food and couldn't get a grasp on hunting animals. Their first victims were their own children! Otherwise surprisingly rare, as no other characters are shown eating human flesh, no matter how hungry they got. This includes the otherwise savage and repulsive Whisperers.
  • It Always Rains at Funerals: The sky is shown getting very dark as the various residents mourn the friends and family they lost in Alpha's massacre. By the time it cuts to the scene after the funeral where they begin cleaning up the fair grounds it is already raining very heavily.
  • I Want Them Alive!: After Michonne bites the Governor's ear off, one of his goons subdues her and offers to break her neck.
    The Governor: No! Don't do a fucking thing to her! I don't want this girl to get a bruise that doesn't come from me. She'll suffer for what she's done—she'll wish she was dead.
  • Improvised Imprisonment: When Ben murders his twin brother Billy, the group realize he's fully sociopathic and lock him in a van while they debate how to handle the situation. Unfortunately for Ben, Carl has no qualms about how to handle it; when the adults fall asleep, Carl sneaks into the van and coldly shoots Ben in the head.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Maggie tries to hang herself after finding out about her father's death, but is saved by Glenn.
  • Invincible Hero: Lampshaded with Michonne; after a while everyone just calls on her whenever they encounter a stray roamer. She finds it sort of annoying.
  • It Never Gets Any Easier
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: Negan loves doing this. When Rick defies the Saviors he has his friends lined up and chooses one to make an example of to put the survivors in their place. Later on at the Sanctuary it is revealed that Negan has a personal harem of wives that are for him only. If one cheats on him he takes their lover and burns his face as a mark of shame.
  • Jawbreaker: Martinez is currently the page image.
  • Justified Title: Either by the primary threat, the setting, or what said setting does to many people within it.
  • Kangaroo Court: An inversion in the final issue: After the final time skip, a now adult Carl goes on trial for destroying Hershel's (Maggie's son) traveling walker exhibition, which is seen as Hershel's property under the current law. The High Court trial is overseen by one judge, who's verdict is final; said judge is none other than Michonne, who has zero intention whatsoever of sending Carl to jail.
  • Karmic Death:
    • Thomas gets shot six times by Maggie, after brutally killing her two little sisters.
    • The Governor is killed by one of his own soldiers, Lilly, after making her kill a baby.
    • Alpha is decapitated by Negan after doing the same thing to at least ten others, including Rosita and Ezekiel.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Michonne. Somewhat inverted as she's shown to be skilled with them, but guns still win out.
    • There have been several instances when the guns could not be used because the sound would attract more zombies. In those cases, melee weapons like axes, clubs, and Michonne's ever-present sword prevail.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: A few characters when drawn by Tony Moore. Rick had a pretty heroic jawline, while Shane sported a much beefier, Bruce Campbell-esque one. Rick's became a lot less pronounced when Charlie Adlard took over as artist, and, notably, Shane's has disappeared completely by the time he's dug up as a zombie and re-killed by Rick.
  • Leave No Survivors: Both the Governor and Beta give this order when fighting against Rick's group. Both come dangerously close to accomplishing it as well.
  • Lethally Stupid: Patricia. Why the HELL did she free a child murderer, thinking he would be grateful?
  • Made of Plasticine: Selectively used. The combat is generally realistic, but zombie skulls occasionally get penetrated WAY easier than they ought to...the human skull is one of the hardest biological substances on earth. Rick's hatchet? Yes, that could do the job. Tyreese's hammer? Sure. Thinning out the zombies by the fence by driving kitchen knives through their skulls? Doubtful, but not impossible. Driving a pitchfork through a zombie's forehead? Less probable. That said, it's used more as a hammering chisel mechanism, making it easier to get.
  • Mark of Shame: Dwight and (humorously enough) Mark both had their faces burned by a hot iron as punishment for sleeping with one of Negan's wives.
  • Mauve Shirt: It's hard to care for some of the characters when you know that they will inevitably pick up the Idiot Ball and get themselves eaten or shot somewhere down the line.
  • May–December Romance: Dale and Andrea.
    • A definitely squicky one between the Governor and his zombified daughter/niece. This is pretty much one sided as he had to pull out her teeth in order to kiss her.
  • Militaries Are Useless: The U.S armed forces (and presumably those in other countries) were completely useless at pushing back the Zombie Apocalypse, to the point that by the time Rick wakes up in the hospital, they appear to have been wiped out completely. According to different survivors, the main strategy appears to have been to concentrate uninfected civilians in the cities so the army could easier defend them, which just led to the zombies multiplying out of control and made the urban centers near-total death zones. Military survivors are also very rare, as few of them seem to have managed to make it through the apocalypse.
  • Milking the Monster: In the epilogue, a character who was born too late to remember a time when zombies were a threat, has taken to exhibiting them as part of a traveling show. An older character, who remembers the horror, kills them.
  • Mistaken for Undead: The survivor protagonists had to disguise as walkers (getting clothes and even covered with blood and skins from them) to get unnoticed by them. This later goes up to eleven with the "Whisperers", a nomad group of survivors disguised all the time as walkers that even served as antagonists for the protagonists.
  • The Mole: Martinez, at least until he tries to return to Woodbury and Rick kills him.
  • Molotov Cocktail: Commonwealth citizens can be seen using these during the riot that takes place during issues 183 and 184.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Rick verbatim when he attacks Pete Anderson and pulls a gun on Douglas Monroe before figuring out how far over the line he has gone.
    • More My God What Did I Almost Do but Abraham is positively freaked out after Maggie wakes up mere moments before he can shoot her to prevent her from turning.
  • Namedar: Averted, every group encountered has a different name for the zombies. From Biters to Ghouls to just plain Zombies.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: Issue 112 has a very memorable scene where Rick, fed up with Negan's rule over the allied communities and brutal murder of Spencer goes to confront him in an ambush. This leads to the following exchange when Negan one-ups him with a crew of hidden snipers that shoot his gun out of his hand before he can even fire it.
    Rick: You ever hear the one about the guy that brought a baseball bat to a gun fight... FUCKER?
    Negan: You ever hear the one about the stupid fuck named Rick who fucking thought he knew shit but didn't know shit and got himself fucking killed?
  • Never Going Back to Prison: Yelled by the escaped convict at the beginning of issue 1. Ironically, Rick's group would later find sanctuary in a local prison that keeps them safe for most of the first compendium. In fact, if the Governor hadn't drove a tank over the fences and let the zombies in they might never have left it.
  • Nominal Importance: Averted constantly.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Rick to Thomas Richards.
  • Off with His Head!: Done to quite a few of the zombies. Also to Rachel and Susie Greene by Thomas and to Tyreese by the Governor.
    • The Governor also does this to Martinez after he's already dead, in order to impress the Woodbury people with a subsequent Decapitation Presentation.
    • The Governor actually does this a lot and even keeps a stack of fish tanks in his house that he fills with the heads of all of his victims, such as Scott Moon.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Rick seeing the ALL DEAD INSIDE sign outside the 'safe' gated community.
    • After months of quiet the inhabitants of the prison look up to see the Governor advancing towards them on a Bradley IFV screaming for his soldiers to kill them all.
    • Driving over a hill straight into a 'herd' of hundreds of zombies.
    • Finding that 'herd' of hundreds of zombies just outside the walls of the community.
    • Topping all of these is Alpha showing Rick the thousands strong horde of walkers the Whisperers have under their control, followed up by her making a line to mark her clan's territory composed of the severed heads of at least a dozen people from the fair. Talk about one upping the horror factor.
    • Connected to the above, when the Whisperers launch their attack on Alexandria, it takes the co-ordinated efforts of everyone to drive off the massive herd rampaging through. Because Rick is apart from much of the action (he's trapped in a house with Negan), he doesn't see their efforts. When he reunites with the triumphant group, they proudly proclaim their victory... until Rick tells them that it wasn't even half of the herd that Alpha shows him.
    • When Carl comes to wake Rick in issue 192, and discovers the result of Sebastian's visit the night before. This actually becomes a Mass "Oh, Crap!", as the news of Rick's death spreads like wildfire.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted, due to Kirkman finding it unrealistic that various random groups of people wouldn't feature anyone with the same names.
    • An interesting aversion isn't a name, but a title, as issue 176 introduces us to the leader of the Commonwealth, Governor Pamela Milton. It's not long before Rick has to explain to her why her title makes his people so uncomfortable.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The zombies are intentionally identical to the George Romero style, with the one difference being that they simply rot over time, as opposed to gaining more and more intelligence.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Rick goes absolutely berserk on a pair of bandits when one of them tries to rape Carl. He tears one's throat out with his teeth, then chases down the last of the three and brutally stabs him to death while he begs for mercy.
    • In issue 193, the adult Carl kills a walker that had escaped from Hershel Greene Jr.'s traveling show and was approaching his farm house, an action which gets him in trouble with the law, as Hershel's zombies were considered valuable private property. His (very reasonable) justification is the potential threat it posed to his daughter, Andrea. This justification leads to him killing the rest of Hershel's zombies, and being willing to be sent to prison for it.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: The first sign Rick gets at how bad things have gotten after he wakes up in the Abandoned Hospital is a corpse that falls into the elevator when the doors open.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Rick and Michonne develop into this. After the final time skip, Carl and Lydia, who work together doing deliveries throughout Alexandria, seem to have shades of this too.
  • Power Fist: Rick acquires one for his right hand in the joke alien invasion story.
  • Psycho Knife Nut:
    • The Whisperers are nearly wholly seen using kitchen knives in fights. This fits with their tactic of sneaking underneath the notice of the living and walkers, as guns would draw too much attention and create too much noise.
    • This actually applies to most of the antagonistic characters who have shown up in the comic with Thomas Richards, Ben, Pete Anderson and Negan all shown using knives prominently alongside several minor characters.]]
  • Pummeling the Corpse: Happens to both humans and zombies several times, though the worst by far is what Negan does to Glenn.
    "You bunch of pussies. I'm just getting started. Lucille is thirsty."
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Woodbury as a whole suffers this, but especially the Governor himself. After knocking down the fences and ordering his men to shoot the fleeing survivors the Governor renders the prison useless as a stronghold and gets himself shot by his own minion for ordering the death of a baby. The last we see of the surviving members of the Woodbury militia is them being forced inside the main building to get away from the incoming hordes of walkers.
  • Playing Drunk: Glenn does this at the Alexandria party so that he could help Rick steal the group's guns back from storage.
  • Plot Armor: Infamously absent for a comic series. Kirkman has even admitted that Rick, the series' protagonist, is in no way safe, but that the character who is least likely to die is Carl. The end of the series shows that both of these points came to pass.
    • Pretty much all of the original surviving characters have suffered at least one major injury or disfigurement at this point. Rick and Carl are the most noticeable with a missing hand and eye, but even Maggie Greene suffered permanent damage to her throat and vocal cords after her suicide attempt, its just hard to notice because the comic doesn't have any sound. (If not for the other characters commenting on it readers would have never found this out.) At this point, the only one who hasn't suffered any serious physical scar or injury is Sophia.
  • Police Are Useless: Rick certainly isn't, but he's the exception; according to Martinez, most police, along with other first responders such as firemen and medics, were wiped out almost to a man when the city safe zones were overrun. Rick and Shane are among the few survivors who appear.
  • Poisoned Weapons: An extremely nasty example. Right before the final battle of the All Out War Negan orders the saviors to coat their weapons in zombie guts, making even minor injuries inflicted with them lethal. This leads to the deaths of several of the Hilltop soldiers, including Nicolas.
  • Precautionary Corpse Disposal: Anyone who dies will come back as a walker shortly afterwards, unless their brain is destroyed.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Played straight for the most part. While The Walking Dead is no stranger to gore most bullets leave small little holes and cause light blood spray. The exceptions to this rule are saved for only the most dramatic moments such as The Governor getting half of his face blown off by a near point blank shot from Lily in issue 48 and Carl getting his eye blown out in issue 83. In the latter case the victim survives but suffers brain damage as a result.
  • Public Execution: Rick's group plans on doing this to Thomas Richards early on in the prison arc, but the condemned is gunned down before it can happen. Much later in issue 141 the Hilltop successfully carries out a public hanging of Gregory for his attempted murder of Maggie.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The Woodbury citizens are either this or My Country, Right or Wrong at the raid on the prison, they are visibly disturbed with the attack at the prison and Lily eventually turns against the Governor when it all goes too far.
  • Rape and Revenge: After being raped and tortured by the Governor over several days Michonne tracks him down at his house and brutally tortures and maims him.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil:
    • Negan has no qualms about beating people's heads in with a baseball bat but refuses to let one of his men rape his prisoner.
    Negan: Repeat after me. We. Don't. Rape.
    • This trope is also used to show that the two other Big Bads The Governor and Alpha are the worst of the worst with The Governor raping and torturing Michonne in retaliation for biting off part of his ear and Alpha allowing her own daughter to be raped by her group.
    • Also applies to the Marauders who attack Rick, Abraham and Carl while they're on their way to check in on Morgan and Duane, as well as getting the supplies from Rick's police station. Two of them hold the adults at gunpoint while the third tries to rape Carl. They only show up for a few pages but manage to appear just as repugnant as The Governor.
  • Reconstruction: Of Zombie Apocalypse stories. While TWD looks like a pretty traditional example at first, it diverges from many zombie apocalypse plots in a number of important ways. First, the undead outbreak is not treated as a be-all-end-all, instead being more of a in-universe global natural disaster. Similarly, the zombies are rarely if ever treated as true villains, being more of a environmental hazard or a generalized threat. Second, the series has no High Concept, instead being a more subdued and gradual story about regular people trying to survive and make the most out of their situation. This makes for a more believable and authentic story in spite of the genre.
  • Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?: A variation. Tyreese during the "clearing out the prison" arc is still talked about by survivors to people who didn't know him in Volume 12, long after his death.
  • Retirony: Averted so far, but they love to set the table for this every time Glenn kisses his family goodbye for one last supply run (including an extended period of covers that showed him in near death situations that did not appear in the books).
    • Surprisingly, when Glenn does die, he's with his family.
  • Retool: While the story had changed direction many times before, the "A Larger World" and "Something to Fear" storylines really turn the whole concept of the series on its head, introducing a massive and totalitarian pyramid of human society and placing the protagonists squarely at the bottom.
  • Roofhopping: Glenn and a few other characters do this to more easily get around the zombies and scavenge for supplies.
  • Room Full of Zombies:
    • Happens in the very first issue when Rick wakes up in the hospital and discovers that the cafeteria is full of Walkers.
    • Happens when Rick and the crew find a seemingly safe gated community. The house they decide to spend the night in has several Walkers locked in the basement.
    • The protagonists have been staying on Hershel's farm for a while when he reveals that he has Walkers locked up in his barn. Rick's group are aghast at this, but he's equally horrified at their suggestion that they just shoot the Walkers (including members of Hershel's family) when there might be a cure for them.
    • Happens again in the prison; while clearing out C-Block, Rick and Tyreese opens the doors to the prison gym hall, only to find it filled with Walkers. They promptly bar the doors again, and decide to save clearing it out for later.
  • Rousing Speech: More than one attempted, none really come off very well. The Governor in particular immediately gets shot in the head from behind and kicked into a zombie swarm.
    • Issue 191 has Rick deliver one to the people of the Commonwealth in an attempt to quell the rebellion which had risen up against Governor Milton. This time, it actually sticks, so much so that after the time skip in issue 193, the moment of Rick delivering the speech has been immortalised as a statue.
  • Sanity Slippage: A constant theme through the series is that nobody can go through the events that the characters do without it taking a toll on their psyche. From the very first volume we have people becoming deeply traumatized, losing their grip on reality, or cracking under the strain. Even those who are doing their very best still need sometimes strange ways to vent, such as Rick "talking to" Lori through a disconnected phone. By the time of the Saviors or the Whisperers arc, people often say that nobody who is still alive is really completely sane anymore. Several times someone who is keeping up a Mask of Sanity will suddenly let the mask slip and we see what's underneath it, and it's seldom pretty.
  • Scars are Forever: Upheld constantly. There's no plastic surgeons in the post-apocalypse.
  • Scenery Gorn: The first few issues do a great job setting the mood with shots of Rick's devastated home town and Atlanta. You've got collapsed buildings, overgrown grass, dozens of wrecked vehicles littering the empty streets and more. Later issues also show several areas where nature has started to reclaim civilization in the absence of humanity. It's beautiful and depressing all at the same time.
  • Schizo Tech: Later in the series, and particularly after the time skip, survivors have pragmatically developed older technology to fulfill their needs. Alexandria develops a wind-powered flour mill while using solar panels in their houses, and the Hilltop uses a medieval-style blacksmiths to make swords and spears to supplement their guns. The coalition's mounted soldiers use swords, horses, modern body armor and flares for their duties. In one panel in issue 129 anti-tank defences and a horse-drawn cart even appear together.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: The covers for issues 38, 87, 105, 115, 125 and 171 each feature a different character about to blow the reader away.
  • Second Love: Rick and Andrea, for each other. Tragically ends in issue 167, with Andrea dying.
  • Serial Homewrecker: Michonne is accused of being this by Heath; he believes it's because she feels the need to prove she's "better" than other women. There's a more likely explanation, though: her romantic history strongly suggests that she's only attracted to black men, and there are few enough of them around that she'll go after any that seem receptive, whether they're currently attached or not.
  • Sex for Solace: The survivors indulge in this often, especially during the early parts of the story and the Prison arc. Understandable since it's one of the few ways of finding comfort they have left in the post-apocalyptic world, though it has nasty consequences on one occasion when it leads to Shane's Face–Heel Turn thanks to his obsession with Lori after their one-night stand when they both thought Rick was dead.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Though not always related to a war, most of the characters suffer from PTSD in on way or another.
  • Shoot the Dog: Lots of characters. Frequently. Another reason why cast keeps on changing.
  • Shower Scene: Lori and Carol get one early on during the prison arc but are interrupted when Axel "accidentally" walks in on them.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: The apocalypse began while Rick was in a coma.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The characters frequently struggle with exactly where they should be on this scale.
  • Slowly Slipping Into Evil: Rick gets distressingly more amoral with each passing issue as he suffers more and more. He's aware of it himself, and constantly struggles with his own diminishing conscience, reaching it's peak with his brutal massacre of The Hunters. It's not until the group settles in Alexandria that Rick slowly begins to return to a semblance of his old self, though the realities of the savage new world means he'll never be the same. Negan even mocks Rick for it, claiming that the only reason Rick had him imprisoned after the Savior War instead of executed is so Rick could have someone worse around to feel morally superior to.
  • Small, Secluded World: Relatively speaking, the plot is limited to part of the U.S East Coast and Midwest. With no long-range communication and travel being severly hampered by the walker hordes, even after the time skip, there's no hint to the fate of the rest of the U.S, much less the rest of the world. The only exception is The Alien, a one-shot story focusing on Rick's brother Jeff, who was visiting Spain when the outbreak began, and got stuck in Madrid. Unsurprisingly, things were just as bad in Europe as they were in the U.S.
    • The final issue shows that the years during the time skip have been spent rectifying this, with communication between the colonies a regular thing. Eugene is even shown supervising construction of a railroad to the West Coast.
  • The Sneaky Guy: Glenn, the first Atlanta survivor Rick meets. He's quick and sneaky enough that he can actually get inside the overrun city to scavenge for supplies by using the alleys and rooftops to get around.
  • Species Title: It's named after the In-Universe term for zombies.
  • Spoiler Cover: The first "Compendium" cover shows all the characters wearing prisoner uniforms, and Rick missing a hand.
  • Start of Darkness: The Governor gets this in the novel The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor.
    • Negan, the second major antagonist also got a comic miniseries called Here's Negan that details his life before and during the early days of the apocalypse.
  • Straight Gay: Aaron, Eric, and Jesus.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • A vast majority of attempts to stop a zombie bite from killing a person via amputating the bitten limb has ended with the person dying anyway due to the resulting blood loss or bacterial infection. One of the only times where it did succeed (with Dale and Connie) was only because the infectee was immediately taken to a sterilized environment and had the limb amputated by someone with extensive medical experience.
    • Rick beats Thomas to a pulp in a blind rage when he finds out he's the one who murdered Maggie's sisters. So severely, in fact, that he damages his own hands and knuckles to the point where he is flat-out told he'll never be able to clench his left hand in to a fist again.
    • Gregory's attempt to kill Maggie fail in part due to him simply not giving her a high enough dose of poison to actually kill her.
  • Talking to the Dead: Several characters are seen doing this as a coping mechanism when their loved ones die. Some take it further than others.
  • Tank Goodness: A downplayed example. The Woodbury Militia has a tank that they found at a national guard depot, but they barely know how to drive it and can't fire any of its weapons, making it only good for intimidation and cover during a firefight. Ultimately, it deals the final blow to the prison survivors when the Governor has his men drive it over the fences and storm the building during the end of the first compendium.
  • Team Mercy vs. Team Murder: When Ben reveals himself as a psychopath and stabs his brother Billy to death, the group locks him away in a van and debate on how to handle the situation. Half of them want to find a way to help him, while the other half (Abraham being the most vocal) want to kill him, reasoning that he's too far gone. Carl, realizing the adults are deadlocked on the issue, sneaks into the van and solves the problem himself.
  • Tempting Fate: The characters are all surprised about how smooth their escape from Woodbury is going and comment on it. After they get over the wall, Dr. Stevens exclaims how relieved he is that things are going so well, only to be bitten by a zombie a few seconds later.
    • In the first volume, Amy tells Donna, "Oh, bite me." Guess what happens to both of them a few issues later?
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: When Michonne is reunited with her daughter Elodie, who has just finish making a cake and she drops it on the floor as she hugs her mother.
  • Time Skip: Between Issue 126 and Issue 127, there is a two year time skip. The next time skip occurs between issues 192 and 193, and although we don't know how long it is, it's clearly at least 10-15 years, given that all of the child characters in the series are aged up into adults. Word of God confirms that the final issue takes place two decades after the apocalypse.
  • Title Drop: By Rick following his recovery from his fight with Tyreese.
    • He invokes the same line in his Rousing Speech to the Commonwealth in issue 191, but with a more positive spin.
    • A similarly important example happens at the very end of Volume 30: New World Order.
    Pamela: That's the world order, always has been.
    Rick: Then maybe we need a NEW WORLD ORDER.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Their reaction when The Governor arrives with a small army at the prison.
  • Toilet Humour: It's pretty rare but even The Walking Dead can't help but use this trope a couple times. A good example would be Thomas Richards being locked in the room everyone at the prison was using as a bathroom or Negan eating some bad food and swearing up a storm from behind a bush immediately afterwards.
  • Token Shipping: An interestingly realistic case, where Michonne seems to be primarily attracted to black men.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Pretty much required by the circumstances - either you become a badass or you're a liability.
    • Eugene is a notable case, going from a portly wimp lying about being a scientist for protection to being spurred to action against the Saviors after Abraham gets killed. He later becomes one of the most productive members of the community, not least because of his ingenuity in dealing with the various problems they face. By the end of the series, he is completely calm when trapped in a metal box surrounded by a huge herd of zombies, as he's learned to trust his own intelligence to see him through situations.
  • To the Pain: What Michonne does to the Governor, who captured, imprisoned and viciously tortured and raped her. Provides the page image.
  • Too Dumb to Live: As with Genre Blind, the characters fall victim to common mistakes of the genre which usually just serves to reinforce them.
    • At the beginning of the second volume, when the group finds a fenced off housing development, they don't see any zombies in the streets, and immediately decide it's their new home. While they do check a few of the houses before going to bed, no one sees the obvious method of just driving the RV into the street and laying on the horn to see if any guests show up for dinner. The fact that only one of them gets killed that evening is a freaking miracle.
    • Patricia deciding to help Thomas escape, believing that he was Not Evil, Just Misunderstood, even though he decapitated two little girls. As a result, the survivors hate her.
    • Hershel keeping a barn full of walkers on his property. The reason was that he thought the walkers might still be alive, and that their condition could somehow be cured.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Andrea starts wearing Dale's hat after he dies.
  • Trophy Room: The Governor keeps a particularly ghoulish version in one of the rooms of his house. Specifically, he cuts off the heads of the people he kills and throws them into fish tanks.
  • Undead Child: At least three parents, Hershel, The Governor and Morgan, keep their children around after they turn. See What Happened to Mommy? below.
  • Underestimating Badassery: The cannibals make this mistake when they follow their usual tactic of scaring their victims before they attack them. Unfortunately these victims include a Handicapped Badass, a katana-wielding schizophrenic, and a crack markswoman.
    • The bandits who tried to intimidate their way into the Washington DC gated community really didn't consider the possibility that the residents were far better armed and skilled than they were.
    • Happened to Rick a lot after settling in Alexandria, as he thinks his group is the baddest and toughest one alive. Monroe at first made it clear he won't be afraid to kill him if he goes overboard and Negan shows him what it means to be the baddest group.
  • Unfriendly Fire: Has happened twice so far:
    • The first time was way back during the prison arc when Rick shoots Dexter in the head under the cover of a large zombie attack to prevent him from kicking the entire group out of the prison.
    • The second time was much later during the war arc when Dwight massacres his own men so he can give their grenades to Rick's group as a show of good faith that he is truly on their side.
  • Unspecified Apocalypse: A smaller example. We know that the dead walking again caused the end, but why it started happening is never really discussed. Word of God has even said that he has no plans to explore the reasons either.
  • Unexpectedly Abandoned: During the journey to the Commonwealth, Michonne and her group discovers that Pittsburgh has been completely emptied, with the exception of Juanita, the self-proclaimed "Princess of Pittsburgh" and a handful of stray zombies wandering around.
  • Updated Re-release: The Walking Dead Deluxe started being released in late 2020, featuring colored pages.
  • Verbal Tic: Axel's "you follow me?"
  • Villain Decay: Happens very sudden between episode 80 and 90. The Undead themselves make a sudden turn to "manageable threat", in Rick's words. Turns out all you really need to beat a herd of them is about twenty people with melee weapons and some self-confidence. Extremely large groups of them are still a threat, and actions involving them have to be carefully planned out.
  • Villain Episode: Issue 43 focuses entirely on the Governor and his recovering after being mutilated by Michonne while showing his side of the events that occurred from issues 34 through 42.
    • Issue 174 follows Negan during his exile from the main communities. Aside from Maggie and Dante no other characters even appear in the issue, not even Rick.
  • Villain Protagonist: Rick is acutely aware that he's becoming this, and doesn't like it one bit. Fortunately he never crossed any Moral Event Horizon and so always manage to come back to Anti-Hero or sometime heroic status.
  • The Virus: This trope is partially downplayed and partially averted. A normal instance of The Virus is a virulent plague that's highly infectious and easily communicable that spreads like wildfire. In this instance, no one really knows what the pathogen that causes the dead to rise is but everyone is already infected with it. It only activates after the host dies. The zombies don't spread the pathogen, their bite and fluids are just fatal (a normal person has tons of bacteria in their mouth and could cause gangrene or even kill with a deep bite if left untreated never-mind a filthy walking corpse).
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: A few in the first volume. You'd lose your lunch too if faced down with a shambling pile of rotting flesh and muscle.
  • War Arc: The Made To Suffer, All Out War (Part 1 and 2) and Whisperer War arcs.
    • Averted with The Rotten Core and Rest in Peace, which seem to be building up to a war Arc, before Rick swiftly stops the situation from escalating.
  • War Is Hell: If you thought watching zombies rip people apart was bad just wait until the survivors come into conflict with each other. Without any rules or laws to stop them both sides in all of the major conflicts take part in what would be considered war crimes in modern society... even the protagonists. Poisioned Weapons, Unfriendly Fire, execution of surrendering or fleeing combatants, the murder of a baby, Pyrrhic Victories, Sanity Slippage... the list of negative war tropes goes on and on.
  • We Can Rebuild Him: Averted in most cases. Except for the Governor.
  • We Just Need to Wait for Rescue: Shane insists on the group staying next to Atlanta so the military will be able to easily find them, even as winter begins to set in and food becomes scarce. This contributes to his Sanity Slippage as the others begin blaming him for keeping them there instead of trying to find a safer location.
    • Otis likewise expects the military to be able to protect people, and was planning on leaving for Atlanta before learning how bad things were there.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Issue 48 may just be the whammiest episode of anything ever, essentially cutting almost all of the evolving plotlines dead in their tracks, and putting all of the rest on long-term hiatus, and killing off several major characters that the audience had come to take for granted would be the core cast in the long run.
    • Issue 83, which has all of the citizens of Alexandria trapped in their houses after their wall is breached and the entire settlement is overrun with walkers. During Rick's planning of an escape Morgan dies from his infection and is put down by Michonne and while Rick, Jessie, Carl, and Ron try to make their way through the horde to safety Ron panics, getting both him and his mother eaten right in front of Rick, who severs her arm to save Carl. Finally, just when it looks like things can't get any worse a stray bullet fired by Douglas Monroe as he commits suicide by zombie hits Carl in the eye, which leaves a large hole in his head and causes heavy brain damage. The last scene has Rick standing on Dr. Cloyd's porch begging her to save his son's life. End of issue.
    • Issue 100, and its killing of Glenn.
    • Issue 144. You think the Governor wiping out half of the main cast at the prison was bad? How about Alpha killing off about a dozen members of the three main communities (both major and minor) right under everyone's nose and leaving their heads impaled on posts as a warning to the survivors? The fact that everything happened off panel in the last issue only makes it worse. Shit just got real.
    • Issue 156, and Negan's killing of Alpha on the eve of the Whisperer War.
    • Issue 192. Rick dies.
  • What Happened to Mommy?: Hershel, when we first meet him. Harboring his zombie son eventually results in the deaths of two more of his kids. And then...
    • Morgan has taken this path as well.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After their introduction in issue #1, it's a long time before we see Morgan and Duane again.
  • What Year Is This?: None of the protagonists know what the exact date is after a year of events. The date is never mentioned by the residents of Woodbury, Christmas is approximated, and even the residents of the Alexandria Safe Zone have lost precise track of the date fourteen months after Z-Day. Digital watches did not survive the apocalypse.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Issue 193 takes place 20 years after the main series, revealing a world where society has been rebuilt, and the lives of the characters who made it this far.
    • Carl and Sophia are married with a daughter.
    • Maggie is the new President of the Commonwealth.
    • Michonne has resumed her legal practice and is now a Commonwealth judge.
    • Eugene is overseeing the construction of a railroad that will connect the Commonwealth with the Western Alliances, a similar network of survivor communities on the west coast.
    • Hershel Jr, the son of Maggie and Glenn, runs a controversial travelling carnival featuring live walkers, as the undead are now so rare inside resettled areas that many people barely remember what they look like.
    • Though he hasn't been seen by the other survivors in years, it's shown to the reader that Negan is still alive, living a solitary existance in the same isolated outpost where he buried the remains of Lucille.
  • Who's Your Daddy?: Lori Grimes' pregnancy. Kirkman has confirmed that it was Shane.
  • A World Half Full: Issue 193 reveals that decades have passed since Rick's death. By that time, the number of walkers have dropped significantly to the point that the only ones who are left are probably those who are caged for people's amusement. Humans, on the other hand, managed to rebuild civilization and overcome the undead. Of course, people still turn when they die, so this is still a problem.
  • Wrecked Weapon: Shockingly happens to Lucille in issue 159 during the fight between Negan and Beta. The owner takes it about as well as you'd expect.
  • Zerg Rush: One of the biggest threats of the post-apocalyptic world, especially after the two-year time skip, are the massive Walker hordes that have wandered away from the cities and are now drifting aimlessly around the countryside. Due to the way Walkers work, they're drawn by sound and once enough of them begin moving one way, the whole herd begins to move the same way. The herds are big enough to easily overrun settlements, so the survivors who have lasted this long have learned how to lure the hordes away using mounted riders with horns. The Whisperers have learned how to weaponize the hordes by moving alongside them in disguise and directing their movement
  • Zombie Apocalypse
  • ZombieInfectee: Many characters across the series, notably Jim in Volume 1. The trope is a partial split between Zombie Infectee and Secretly Dying because the zombie bites don't communicate the pathogen that causes the dead to animate but are simply fatal. The pathogen is already everywhere and in everyone as it doesn't matter how you die, if your brain is intact, you will rise. Technically, everyone is already a zombie infectee.
    • As shown during the All Out War a zombie bite isn't needed for this to happen. Weapons coated in zombie remains will do the trick even if the wound they inflicted was minor.
  • Zombie Gait: Naturally, since they're based on Romero's shamblers.

"Wherever you are, whatever you're doing... you're there and you're safe because of Rick Grimes."