Before AMC’s The Walking Dead, there was Robert Kirkman’s graphic novel series, The Walking Dead, and before that, there was a pitch to get the comic series published. At the time, no one could’ve predicted a comic-book about the zombie apocalypse would’ve been successful, much less spawning the most successful scripted show on television these days. In fact, when Robert Kirkman originally pitched the comic to Image publishers Eric Stephenson and Jim Valentino, they turned him down … until he came back with an alien hook.
According to an interview that Kirkman gave to The Hollywood Reporter (via Giant Freakin’ Robot), it was a big fat lie that got The Walking Dead published. As Kirkman said, after the initial rejection:
“I said, ‘Oh, I forgot to tell you that this is actually a big setup for an alien invasion.” See, the whole zombie plague was a virus engineered by an alien race as a prelude to invasion and colonization. After all, if you want to wipe out a world’s dominant species, there’s nothing like zillions of man-eating, hard-to-kill reanimated corpses to thin out the human herd. Kirkman claimed that he would be laying hints about the alien element throughout the seemingly straightforward zombie narrative — I can’t believe I just typed that — so that the twist, like all good twists, would make you look back on everything that came before in an entirely different light.
Of course, in retrospect, Valentino claims that he’d have greenlit the comic even without the alien hook, but when Stephenson called and asked where the alien easter eggs were, Kirkman admitted the lie. At that point, the series was already successful, so it didn’t matter … and the rest is history.
At least until five seasons from now, when the AMC series begins to explore the origins of the zombie apocalypse, gets desperate, Kirkman returns to the alien invasion scenario, and brings back David Morrissey as the alien leader.