- The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman finds Garth Ennis’ Crossed series too extreme.
- Crossed is an R-rated zombie horror comic that depicts a worldwide pandemic of extreme, unrelenting cruelty.
- Both The Walking Dead and Crossed explore themes of survival and human nature in a post-apocalyptic world, but Crossed is far more nihilistic and graphic.
While The Walking Dead doesn’t pull many punches with its zombie apocalypse, there’s one series that even Robert Kirkman avoids for its uncompromising depiction of the undead. However, while it’s easily the most R-rated and shocking version of zombie fiction on the market, the series does actually have things to say, and may even be a good follow-up to those who followed Rick Grimes to the end of his comic adventure.
In the recent letters page of Walking Dead Deluxe #76 (from Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, and Dave McCaig), writer Kirkman is asked “what do you think of Garth Ennis’s ‘Crossed’ series?” Kirkman replies, “I love Garth, but it’s a bit much for me, frankly,” while editor Amanda LaFranco adds, “That **** is ******-up.” While it’s important to note that Kirkman is merely expressing a personal preference, his comments echo the response many TWD fans will have on picking up its competitor.
Crossed is a zombie-horror comic series released in 2008 which has spawned a number of tie-ins and sequels, telling the story of a world where a fast-spreading pandemic infects the majority of humanity, causing them to take immense joy from the suffering of others. Bearers of the Crossed virus sport large, red ‘cross’ rashes on their faces, and rather than hungering for flesh or brains, Crossed‘s infected are all about cruelty, with extreme depictions of intense violence, much of it sexual in nature.
Crossed Is as R-Rated as Comics Get
From the Creator of The Boys & Preacher
The original Crossed series comes from Garth Ennis and artist Jacen Burrows, covering 10 issues and following a group of survivors who are being hunted across the country by a group of Crossed. The successful story spawned several spin-offs, with Crossed: Badlands acting as an anthology series set in the same world, and Alan Moore and Gabriel Andrade’s Crossed +100 taking place a century after the initial infection.
Ennis is famed for pushing the limits of taste in comics, and is the writer behind The Boys and Preacher – series which both deliberately set out to shock. Crossed takes that ambition beyond what either of those series achieved, with each new story thinking up the most grotesque and disturbing acts imaginable. Fast, creative, and fond of toying with their victims, the Crossed are more disturbing than traditional zombies, with speculation that extreme horror movie The Sadness was based on Ennis and Burrows’ world.
Why Walking Dead’s Creator Doesn’t Enjoy Crossed
The Two Series Have a Lot in Common… But One Major Difference
It makes sense, then, that Crossed wouldn’t be for Robert Kirkman. While Kirkman is no stranger to violence in his work (both The Walking Dead and Invincible have gory moments), Crossed is partly an exploration of what it’s possible to show in comics: even most of the comic’s cover art is too extreme to show here. The Crossed are addicted to cruelty, and while Ennis makes a point of observing that they’re not doing anything uninfected people haven’t done to each other before, that’s debatable in some of the more outrageous moments of the franchise.
Unlike The Walking Dead, the larger Crossed franchise doesn’t follow one group, but there are some recurring characters. Serial killer Harold Lorre turns the apocalypse into his personal playground, four British soldiers fight to end the outbreak, and several ‘Super-Crossed’ capable of commanding large groups gradually come together in an attempt to stop their new species dying out. Like The Walking Dead, the exact details of what caused the ‘zombie’ apocalypse are kept murky, and the franchise as a whole revolves around the theme of how former principles and priorities hold up in an unimaginable emergency situation.
While the TV adaptation of The Walking Dead reveals the zombie outbreak is due to the Wildfire Virus, the comics avoid giving an answer. However, when first pitching the series, Kirkman lied and told publishers that he would eventually reveal the zombies were the beginning of an alien invasion, wanting the project to sound unique.
Crossed Is the Ultimate Gross-Out Comic, But It Has Something to Say
Alan Moore’s Sequel Is a High Point of Post-Apocalyptic Horror
While the various Crossed comics are of varying quality – and the worst are guilty of existing for pure shock value – the best of them do have as much to say about the human condition as The Walking Dead. With the fate of those captured by the Crossed made so horrific, creators are able to explore every line humans are willing to cross for survival, often focusing on how self-identity can crumble or warp under pressure. Unlike The Walking Dead, Crossed makes use of internal monologue, offering a direct line to what its characters are thinking and feeling, and takes on themes of religion and politics far more explicitly.
Crossed +100 is particularly fascinating, as comic great Alan Moore (Watchmen, Providence) imagines a world where humanity is bouncing back, but has been drastically changed by the near-extinction event of the Crossed. Like A Clockwork Orange, the characters of Crossed +100 speak a future version of English with new slang terms, and have radically different social views born of their experiences and the realities of carving out life in a ruined world. It’s a chilling mystery that seriously considers what the future would look like after an apocalyptic event.
Crossed +100‘s Alan Moore and Crossed‘s Jacen Burrows worked together on Providence – an epic deconstruction of H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.
Should Walking Dead Fans Check Out Crossed?
Crossed Has Totally Different Sensibilities to The Walking Dead, But Similar Themes
While Kirkman is by no means warning all fans of The Walking Dead off Crossed, there’s certainly a gulf between the two works. The Walking Dead is bloody and kills off fan-favorite characters without warning, but it’s ultimately an empathetic story which treats almost every death as a true loss. Crossed is far more nihilistic, and uses its ‘zombies’ not just to challenge the humanity of its characters, but to critique the darkest parts of human nature – themes that also define The Boys and Preacher. The heroes of The Walking Dead actually are heroes (despite some major flaws), whereas the lead characters of Crossed are often selfish, cruel, prejudiced, and self-justifying, shedding everything that could make them admirable in order to escape a fate way, way worse than death.
Fans of The Walking Dead who want to try Crossed would be best served to begin with Ennis and Burrows’ original volume, or Moore and Andrade’s Crossed +100 – each has more than enough R-rated terror, but don’t feel like they’re straining to offend in the same way as other corners of the franchise (however, with a premise so simple, it’s possible to pick up any Crossed story as your first.) Fans of The Walking Dead who pick up Crossed will find an unflinching exploration of similar ideas, however it’s fair warning that the creator of Negan, the Governor, and the Whisperers considers the franchise “a bit much.”