‘The Walking Dead’: Has Robert Kirkman Revealed the Origin of the Zombie Apocalypse?

It’s officially been a decade since the pilot episode of The Walking Dead aired on AMC for the first time. For nearly 10 years, we’ve watched Rick Grimes survive the complete dissolution of society and order and the rise of the zombie apocalypse, from the moment he woke up in the hospital to his emotional final episode. Throughout the decade, we’ve explored the possibility of survival, peaceful coexistence among groups, disease, and the potential for a cure for the infected so called “walkers”. The only thing The Walking Dead hasn’t touched yet is why and how the apocalypse started to begin with. 

Robert Kirkman, writer and co-creator of The Walking Dead, may have just answered a question fans have been asking themselves since Season 1: Where did the virus come from? 

*This article may contain spoilers for The Walking Dead. 

Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus
Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus | AMC

Robert Kirkman says that the walkers were created by space spores 

Fans have asked Kirkman about the cause of the zombie apocalypse for years and for all those years, Kirkman never cracked. He has never given fans a real answer, once jokingly connecting the show to AMC’s Breaking Bad. After The Walking Dead reached Season 10 without as much of a hint or a wink toward the cause of the outbreak, it began to seem like the mystery would never be solved. That is, until a fortunate fan got an answer from Robert Kirkman on Twitter. 

When a fan asked Kirkman to name what exactly created the vicious walkers that plague mankind, he simply responded with, “Space spore” on January 22nd. The tweet has since been deleted. This extraterrestrial source of apocalyptic terror seemed like a joke to fans at first, but after re-examining some teasers and comic book storylines from previous editions of The Walking Dead comic series, aliens truly might be the cause of the walker outbreak. Kirkman has expressed excitement at the thought of aliens being the culprit in the past, saying, “a crazy sci-fi thing that would make the story all that much weirder.” 

Kirkman explored the idea of aliens in a bonus ending for The Walking Dead comic series issue #75 where a laser sword-brandishing Michonne explains that an alien civilization brought the dead back to life in order to weaken and eventually enslave mankind. 

It’s possible that Kirkman drew heavy inspiration from the mother of all zombie films, Night of the Living Dead, where the cause of the zombie outbreak was radiation from a fallen satellite. In fact, before Kirkman started on The Walking Dead, he teamed up with comic book artist Tony Moore to pitch a continuation of the iconic black-and-white zombie horror flick

What does this mean for ‘The Walking Dead’? 

In short, this revelation means next to nothing for the survivors in The Walking Dead. Even though an explanation for the apocalypse would provide a bit of context and clarity, it wouldn’t do very much to serve the story. After all, what would change if the remaining survivors knew why they were living in an apocalypse alongside man-eating walkers? 

In a 2018 Tumblr Q&A, Kirkman explained, “It couldn’t be less important to the story and the lives of these characters. It would be completely out of place in the story. Honestly if a scientist from Washington came to the character and told them what happened the characters would just shrug and say ‘Oh… okay…’ It wouldn’t change their lives at all…” 

The Walking Dead briefly explored the possibility of a cure by introducing Eugene as a new hope for survival, but after he was revealed to be a fraud, the plotline concerning a cure was dropped and the focal point of the show traveled back to where it has always belonged: survival. Kirkman explained in an interview that The Walking Dead would be “a boring show” if the story was wrapped up with a cure in place. 

While the comic book series has ended, it doesn’t necessarily mean that The Walking Dead series will end the same way. After all, the show has veered off from the plot of the comic series several times before. However, the subject of the cause of the apocalypse will probably still remain untouched by the show. 

The Walking Dead cast Season 10
The Walking Dead cast | AMC

How did fans respond to Kirkman’s announcement? 

The idea of aliens causing the walker outbreak has fans of The Walking Dead split. 

“Robert Kirkman has said that the zombie outbreak in The Walking Dead was caused by space spores? This could be a joke or a reference to the space probe news report in Night of the Living Dead in homage to Romero? I prefer the latter.” wrote one Twitter user. Filmmaker George A. Romero’s undying legacy will be forever tied to the creation and evolution of the zombie genre. It would be a poignant tribute for Kirkman to attribute his vision of the zombie apocalypse to something Romero-esque. 

Other fans think that Kirkman is simply messing with fans and that the cause of the apocalypse will either remain a mystery or appear to be something much more grounded than an alien invasion. “Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead, trolled fans on Twitter when asked what caused the zombie outbreak,” suggested one Twitter user, “I guess he took the joke from the Romero series by saying Space Spores.” 

Whether or not Robert Kirkman was being serious when he listed space spores as an explanation for the zombie invasion remains to be seen. No matter how intriguing the cause of the apocalypse may be, it ultimately doesn’t make a difference to our favorite band of survivors and wouldn’t make much of a difference to the story. So, aliens or no aliens, the mystery of The Walking Dead remains (at least, officially) unsolved.