In the letters column for The Walking Dead Deluxe #71, Robert Kirkman explained the scrapped plan that led to a dangling plot thread in Alexandria.
- The “missing” Walking Dead character Davidson was intended to return as a major antagonist, seeking revenge on Alexandria, but this plan was scrapped by series creator Robert Kirkman.
- The character became a phantom in the story, mentioned only briefly, and never made a reappearance, as originally plotted.
- Kirkman’s creative instincts led him to create a new character instead, Negan, who became one of the franchise’s most enduringly popular creations.
A minor, throwaway character, only briefly reference in Robert Kirkman’s seminal comic book series, The Walking Dead, was supposed to return from his supposed “death” as a Negan-level threat to the protagonists and their new home, the Alexandria Safe Zone. “Davidson” was meant to play a huge role, though this plan was ultimately scrapped by Kirkman, leaving the character as a phantom in the story, and the Safe Zone alike.
In the letters column for The Walking Dead Deluxe #71, creator Robert Kirkman gave a fascinating behind-the-scenes insight into the development of the series’ arc, including his early plans to kill off Glenn, as well as the initial creative plans for the mysterious character Davidson, who is only fleetingly mentioned in the final version of the story.
Originally, Davidson was meant to “come back to enact his revenge on Alexandria,” with Rick Grimes and his fellow survivors caught in the middle. Instead, Davidson became the boogeyman of Alexandria’s past, as he had become corrupted by his control of the populace.
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The Seeds Of Davidson’s Return Still Made It Into The Walking Dead
Kirkman noted that his original notes [for the series] stated about Davidson: ” Death faked .” The character was intended to return, alive, and assume a position as the series’ next primary antagonist.
The sole information Walking Dead readers learned about Davidson came from Douglas Monroe’s explanation of Alexandria’s fallen former leader to Rick Grimes. This dialogue contains the seeds of that were initially planned to sprout into Davidson’s grand re-entrance into the story. “I couldn’t bring myself to kill him,” Monroe told Grimes, “and I didn’t want anyone else to know what had happened.” Most notably, the Safe Zone leader tells his guest: “I’d already burnt a walker body to double for Davidson.” Monroe says that Davidson “surely did” die after he exiled his predecessor from Alexandria.
As the character never reappeared, it is safe to consider this canon. However, as Kirkman noted in the end-matter of Walking Dead Deluxe #71, his original notes for this arc stated about Davidson: “Death faked.” The character was intended to return, alive, and assume a position as the series’ next primary antagonist, a role that would instead go to Negan, who first appeared in the series-defining Walking Dead #100. While it is difficult to consider how the series could have played out differently, it is safe to say Davidson’s return would have been one of the series’ biggest twists.
Davidson Was Reduced To Nothing More Than A False Grave
It remains open to speculation how the series would have differed, had Davidson returned, as was the initial plan, though it’s safe to say The Walking Dead would have continued to operate at the high level of storytelling that it always maintained.
Davidson’s only appearance came as a name on a headstone, marking a grave which he was not in fact buried in. In the end, the character became one of the many faceless tragedies of The Walking Dead, a man turned into a monster by power, and eventually condemned to die alone at the hands of a zombie horde. Given the slim details revealed about him, had he returned, he would’ve likely been a villain more akin to the Governor, than Negan, meaning that Robert Kirkman’s creative instincts were likely right.
Rather than repeat familiar character beats, or veer toward indulging in the same trope once more, Kirkman crafted a new character in Davidson’s place, one who has gone on to be one of the most enduringly popular creations of the franchise, who over the course of the narrative far outgrew his original role. It remains open to speculation how the series would have differed, had Davidson returned, as was the initial plan, though it’s safe to say The Walking Dead would have continued to operate at the high level of storytelling that it always maintained.