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The Walking Dead comics are suddenly ending today

Contains spoilers for The Walking Dead comics

Sixteen years after rolling out its very first issue, Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's beloved comic series The Walking Dead is coming to an end with issue number 193, which releases today, July 3, 2019. 

If you're scrambling to remember the story arc that led to the conclusion, the foreshadowing implemented to tease the end, or the hints that The Walking Dead comics are dying off, don't bother — the series is simply ending without any kind of warning. 

The Hollywood Reporter had the details for us, sharing the column Kirkman penned and included on the final pages of issue 193, in which he explains the decision to end the Walking Dead comics here and now, with an "extra-sized edition that plays out as a sprawling epilogue to Rick Grimes' story." 

Essentially, Kirkman's reason for going the bandaid-rip route instead of a slow and steady build up to the end is because he hates when he can feel a story coming to its ultimate end, and wanted to immerse the readers in the intensity of The Walking Dead for as long as possible before hitting them with a stunning ending they didn't see coming.

"I hate knowing what's coming. As a fan, I hate it when I realize I'm in the third act of a movie and the story is winding down. I hate that I can count commercial breaks and know I'm nearing the end of a TV show. I hate that you can feel when you're getting to the end of a book, or a graphic novel," Kirman said. "Some of the best episodes of Game of Thrones are when they're structured in such a way and paced to perfection so your brain can't tell if it's been watching for 15 minutes or 50 minutes… and when the end comes… you're stunned." 

He continued, "I love long movies for that very reason. You lose track of time because you went in convinced that you're going to be there for a long time, but the story moves at such an entertaining and engaging pace that by the time the movie's wrapping up… you can't believe it's already over. Surprise, it's over! All I've ever done, all a creator can really do… is tailor-make stories to entertain themselves, and hope the audience feels the same way. That's all I've ever been doing… and it seems to work most of the time." 

Kirkman then addressed his long-held desire to surprise his audience, particularly when it comes to how a character's arc ends, and explained that he wanted the ending of the comic series to feel much the same. To make his point, Kirman referenced the comic book deaths of Shane, Rick's sheriff deputy partner who died way back in issue 6 and was turned into a Walker in issue 15, and Rick Grimes, who met his maker in issue 192 – what is now the penultimate issue of The Walking Dead comics.

"The Walking Dead has always been built on surprise. Not knowing what's going to happen when you turn the page, who's going to die, how they're going to die… it's been essential to the success of this series. It's been the lifeblood that's been keeping it going all these years, keeping people engaged," he wrote. "It just felt wrong and against the very nature of this series not to make the actual end as surprising as all the big deaths… from Shane all the way to Rick."

Still, it was hard for Kirkman to end The Walking Dead comics, but he viewed it as a necessary pain: "In a way, killing this series has been a lot like killing a major character. Much, much harder… but the same feeling. I don't want to do it. I'd rather keep going… but the story is telling me what it wants and what it needs. This needs to happen. Whether I want it or not."

Kirkman ended his letter by teasing, "P.S. Negan lives."

As surprising as it is that The Walking Dead comics are all wrapped up, and that Kirkman didn't forewarn readers of the conclusion, the abrupt ending kind of makes sense. When Rick died in issue 192, a big question on readers' minds was how Kirkman would go about continuing the story without its central character. Instead of trucking along post-Rick's death like the Walking Dead television series did after actor Andrew Lincoln left, Kirkman had the series end just one issue after Rick's life did.

Of course, this is far from the true conclusion of the Walking Dead property, as the flagship show on AMC and its spin-off Fear the Walking Dead are still very much aliveThe Walking Dead showrunner Scott M. Gimple is also working on expanding the Walking Dead franchise with a series of TV movies featuring Lincoln as Rick Grimes underway at AMC, as well as a third Walking Dead show.

Like what believers of the Drowned God of the Iron Islands always say, what is dead may never die. Oh, wait — wrong series.