BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “The Walking Dead” (comic book series)

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In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to post a banned book recommendation each day. I will use only books I’ve read from the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the decade (2010-2019).

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: The Walking Dead (comic book series)

The Walking Dead  is a series of  graphic novels illustrating the world after the fall of civilization due to a zombie apocalypse. The series follows Rick Grimes, a sheriff’s deputy, husband, and father as he attempts to navigate a world without the infrastructure we’ve all come to rely on: a world where there is no law enforcement, people kill to survive, to get resources, to defend themselves, and–oh yeah, the dead walk and feed upon the living. What does it mean to be a good person in a world ruled by the dead?

I first came upon the series through digital ebooks via Humble Bundle, then continued reading the following books via Hoopla Digital and finally finished the series by way of physical graphic novels. I’ve grown to love not only the characters, but the complex plots and ethical dilemmas faced by Rick and the other survivors throughout the years. Hell, I’ve even read The Walking Dead and Philosophy: Zombie Apocalypse Now, which explores the ethical themes of the comic series–of which there are many.

The series itself contains violent murders and suicides, as well as polygamy, homosexuality, graphic sexuality, rape, pre-emptive strikes, and other complex or disturbing issues. So when I spotted the series listed in the top 100 most banned and challenged books, I was not surprised. Actually, I was surprised that it was so low on the list, just barely squeaking in at #97. 

I found quite a few articles on this banning, but they all basically pointed to the 2019 case of a lone school district in Idaho which removed the series from the high school library’s shelves. The book was challenged due to “graphic imagery.” However, it was still available at other public libraries in the same system, so it was still available via interlibrary loan to students who could potentially pick up their copies at–you guessed it! the school’s library. From the different articles I read, they were working on a compromise position.

Which leads me to the question: Are banned books as much of a problem as we are led to believe?

I’m not advocating banning books. As a writer and author, freedom of expression is very dear to me. However, after hours of searching, I could only find this single instance repeated over and over again. I adore the series, but honestly? If there ever was a series you’d expect people to get their hackles raised over, it would be this one. It’s an amazing story that contains a lot of horrific scenes and tragic scenarios, where people are forced to face where conventional morality meets the practicality of survival. The fact that the main objections were only “graphic imagery” and that the material was “”less than desirable in a scholastic environment” is frankly astonishing.

So is the issue of book bans really as bad as Banned Books Week seems to imply? The series seemingly was only removed from one school’s (or school district’s?) shelves, and the books were still available through other public libraries or by simply buying the series. In fact, before the interlibrary loan issue became apparent, the school’s copies of the books were donated to another library.

However, I was surprised to discover a headline depicting a Walking Dead shirt banned in UK because of the “racist history” of its slogan. The shirt depicts Negan, one of the serie’s biggest villains, holding his trademark weapon–a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire named Lucille, along with the phrase “”eeny meenie miny moe.” If you are unfamiliar with the series, Negan uses this phrase to choose who to beat to death with Lucille. 

Yet, the objection is not based on the implied murder but the history of the phrase being followed by “catch a n— by the toe.” As an American, I was unfamiliar with this phrase; I’d always heard it followed by “catch a tiger by the toe”–which is how it is used in the comics. The article goes on to explain the person was also offended because the bat “relates directly to the practice of assaulting black people in America.“ Considering the whole picture–the phrase is used as a playful way to murder someone with a bat, the racism charge seems nonsensical to me. In fact, in the series, the plot develops to show prejudices are actually detrimental to survival; survivors are people who are able to band together for the common good. 

The complaint resulted in the shirt being discontinued by UK retailer Primark. I did check Amazon though, and there are multiple variations of the shirt there, so again–does this really constitute a ban? 

So, to sum up, while The Walking Dead series contains a lot of graphic violence, terrible situations, and morally questionable decisions, it’s actually an incredible psychological drama with complex characters and ultimately a message of hope in the face of losing everything. It’s one of my favorite series. While I don’t think it’s appropriate material for small children (who don’t have enough life experience to understand the difficult and frightening issues of the books), for high school age and above I do think it’s an amazing read. 


Next Friday, I’ll also post on my Patreon.  If you’d like to read about my progress and plans for this year, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my work for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

*sources: 11 Challenged and Banned Comics | Banned Books Week, Idaho High School Bans The Walking Dead Comic Series (, This ‘Walking Dead’ shirt was banned from stores for racism | Mashable


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