Last week, Robert Kirkman, the creator of The Walking Dead, publicly criticized author George R.R. Martin for letting the HBO drama eclipse Martin's own narrative. Martin is still chipping away at The Winds of Winter, the sixth book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, while Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have completely outpaced Martin's books in the show's sixth season.
But they did so with Martin's help. When it became apparent to Benioff and Weiss that the series would wrap up before the books -- the cable network has confirmed that Season 8 is the show's final season -- they sat down with Martin at a producers's meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico to discuss how he roughly planned to end his A Song of Ice and Fire saga. He didn't divulge everything, but he gave them enough information to outline the final few seasons. (Martin did, however, reveal three "holy shit moments," one of which was Hodor's shocking origin.)
During an interview with Rolling Stone, Kirkman was quick to separate himself from Martin's choices. "I would never do that," Kirkman said. "That's the one thing I'm disappointed in George R.R. Martin for doing. He should have just been like, ‘Fuck you. You make it up now, I'll get to mine when I'm ready.'"
Clearly, the guy has strong feelings about A Song of Ice and Fire. But why compare himself to GRRM?
Kirkman's relationship with his own adaptation couldn't be any more different. The TWD comics recently hit issue #155, which means that it's very unlikely the AMC series will ever catch up to Kirkman. And to be completely honest, it doesn't have to. The Walking Dead's success as a television series owes everything to early showrunner Frank Darabont's insistence that it exists in a different universe from the comic's timeline. Daryl Dixon, arguably the show's most popular character, doesn't even exist in Kirkman's comics. (That's not a dig at Kirkman; it's just a fact.)
Even when the series does line up with the comics, the outcome is largely different. Take the Season 6 cliffhanger involving iconic graphic novel villain Negan; his barbed-wire bat, Lucille; and one unnamed victim. In Kirkman's original narrative, Glenn is the first victim of Negan's gruesome brutality. However, the show already delivered a fake-out death starring Glenn earlier in Season 6 -- something that doesn't happen in the comics -- and the show has been billing him as a main character since Season 2. So were AMC and Kirkman just trying to boost ratings for the Season 7 premiere by prolonging Glenn's final goodbye, or did Kirkman change who would die at the hands of Negan and Lucille?
Who even cares? The point is: Kirman would never tell TWD showrunner Scott M. Gimple his ending because, frankly, he doesn't need to. Kirkman has already confirmed that he plans to write the comics long past the show's shelf life.
Of course, he later backtracked his comments on Twitter, writing, "'Disappointed' is probably the wrong word. I was just joking about how I would have handled the situation. Love ‘GoT,' love GRRM."
Look, Kirkman: I get it. As an avid fan of Martin's saga, I was nervous about Season 6, too. But so far, this season has been my favorite. Now that it's not beholden to Martin's text, Game of Thrones is more fun than ever. And no, I'm not worried about spoilers because I couldn't care less about the ending of Game of Thrones; for me, it's about the journey, the how and why of it all. And Benioff and Weiss have repeatedly said they're following their own path to get to a similar endpoint.
"People are talking about whether the books are going to be spoiled -- and it's really not true," Benioff told EW. "So much of what we’re doing diverges from the books at this point. And while there are certain key elements that will be the same, we're not going to talk so much about that -- and I don't think George is either. People are going to be very surprised when they read the books after the show. They're quite divergent in so many respects for the remainder of the show."
Regardless, watching Game of Thrones and reading Martin's books are two vastly different experiences. The same can be said for The Walking Dead. And really, that's the only thing these two stories have in common. That, and zombies -- oh, sorry, Walkers.