The Graveyard Shtick: A grave approach to… Carl Grimes


How is it that eight-year-old Comic Carl is a hundred times cooler than 12-year-old TV Carl? Seriously, look at him!

Jake Cochran, Assistant A&E Editor

From adorable rugrat to gun-toting hero, li’l Carl Grimes sure has come a long way in  “The Walking Dead” comic books. The TV series? Not so much.


The Graveyard Shtick is not only a clever play on words, but also a column on all things “The Walking Dead,” covering both the AMC television series and the comic book. This column will often have spoilers and theories about the current and future issues and episodes so take this as a formal warning, READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!


It’s rare I feel so polarized about a character as I do about Carl Grimes. He has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks in “The Walking Dead” TV series so far. Chandler Griggs, the actor who portrays Carl, is not the problem because what he’s been written to do so far, he’s done very well. He’s just terribly underwritten and underutilized.

When breaking down Carl into the same three main categories – personality traits, impactful events and basic appearance – that I’ve previously used to analyzed the other characters, TV Carl reveals himself an almost a completely different character from his comic-book counterpart.

Appearance-wise, Griggs fits the bill. Where the problem lies is in making TV Carl 12 years old when Comic Carl is only eight. They wear basically identical clothes, so the wardrobe is right, but it seems a little strange being they are about four years apart. I guess it’s not so ridiculous as to be unbelievable that 12-year-old Carl would wear some “radioactive paw” shirt.

The fact that Carl is frequently seen wearing his dad’s sheriff hat is a cool thing that I am glad they used for the TV series. It’s an easy way to show how Carl idolizes his father. It also gives him a signature look; Carl just wouldn’t be Carl without it.

Some will argue “dude, it’s the same series just with alternate actions happening.” I will counter that the “alternate” impactful events and reactions in the televised version of “The Walking Dead” are far inferior to those in the comic series, at least in terms of Carl. In the comic series, Carl never really has a “I don’t want a gun,” moment like he does in the TV series.

Also, Comic Carl doesn’t ever really seem to develop a strong relationship with Shane Walsh, as is the case most of the characters because Shane was not around very long in the comic series (as discussed in last week’s installment of The Graveyard Shtick). In the TV series, though, Shane and Carl’s relationship seems a little more natural and they are shown having multiple bonding moments.

Shane is certainly an interesting factor in Carl’s development throughout the TV series, because whenever Carl seems to have a problem he doesn’t go to his dad, he goes to Shane.  It makes the relationship much more realistic because the chemistry between the two characters seems natural and it shows that they were probably close before the whole zombie outbreak, Shane being his Carl’s dad’s best friend and all. That alone makes it much more interesting when Carl is forced to kill Zombie Shane.

But if TV Carl were to go down the same route as Comic Carl, it would have been an more defining moment in TV series than it was in the comic because, as stated previously, it’s not Carl’s father, Rick, that kills Zombie Shane. Carl does, when Zombie Shane threatens Rick. With that in mind, imagine if TV Carl was shown having all the aforementioned bonding moments with Shane, only to end up killing him to protect this father.

Another defining moment that happened to Carl in the comic which, as for the foreseeable future couldn’t possibly happen in the TV series, was when he took the execution of Ben into his own hands. To give some background, in the comic, Billy and Ben are twins around six or eight years old who don’t understand and aren’t adapting as well to the new world as Carl, especially since the death of their parents. Ben is actually not adjusting very well at all: At one point, he tortures a cat to death and makes Billy promise not to tell anyone. Later, Ben kills Billy and, when the adults find him, he says not to worry because Billy will come back because he didn’t hurt his brain.


Everyone goes into a deliberation process to figure out what to do with Ben with everybody believing that he is, in fact, dangerous and needs to be “put down,” so to speak. Unsurprisingly, though, no one is willing to outright advocate the death of a child. Later that night, however, Carl sneaks into the van where Ben is locked up and shoots him in the head. Though Carl pretends like it doesn’t bother him, throughout the series he feels guilt about it because he was a friend to Ben. Nevertheless, he knew what had to be done.


So TV Carl needs to seriously step it up this upcoming season. Compared to Comic Carl, he doesn’t even come close in terms of the impactful events he’s had experienced. The only event that TV Carl had that Comic Carl hasn’t had is in experiencing is the death of Sophia. In the comic, Carl and Sophia are in a child-like relationship and play together every day, but when Sophia gets lost and becomes a zombie, Carl doesn’t have the benefit of having anyone his age on the TV series now to mature with or to escape the day-to-day reality with.

The personality differences between Comic Carl and TV Carl are understandably huge, given the huge differences in terms of experience. Basically, TV Carl is a much less matured and innocent version of the character. He’s what you would expect a typical little boy to be like in a post-apocalyptic narrative.  He is still afraid of zombies to an extent, but can sometimes be ruthless.

He’s got nothing on Comic Carl, though. Comic Carl, by issue 102, is a stone-cold, calculating killer and probably one of the most prepared-to-survives characters to date.

Of course, but comparing Comic Carl as of issue 102 to a pre-season three TV Carl is unfair. But even in comparing Comic Carl at an earlier stage to a pre-season three TV Carl, it’s clear that Comic Carl is still a little ahead of his TV counterpart in maturity and willingness to do whatever it takes to ensure the greater good.

Hopefully, in season three Carl will become the take-no-prisoners survival machine that his comic-book counterpart has become, because that would make for incredible TV and certainly silence the comic-purist critics. Also, he won’t have to stay in the house since there is no house anymore, and maybe his mom might be able to keep track of him for once.