Exclusive Interview: Tillie Walden Tackles ‘Clementine’ And The World Of ‘The Walking Dead’

by Tito W. James

Clementine Book One is a new Young Adult graphic novel from award-winning writer/artist Tillie Walden and will be the first of a trilogy of books set in The Walking Dead universe. I had the chance to chat with Walden and get her perspective on Clementine’s journey through the zombie apocalypse.

Tito W. James: How did this Walking Dead project come about? Were you nervous or excited? 

Tillie Walden: It was one of those magical moments where you get an email and your whole life shifts! The folks at Skybound reached out asking if I was interested in the idea of the project, and it all came together pretty fast after that. I played all the games, got very invested in Clementine as a character, and then we started talking about where I could take her story.

I think at first I really just felt excited. Now that the book is actually coming out there are certainly some nerves, but that happens with any book. Now that Book 1 is done and I’m working on Book 2 there’s new pressure/excitement about how to follow it all through as a series!

Tito: The zombie genre doesn’t appear to ever die. Why do you think that is? 

Tillie: I think about this a lot! I think in many ways the zombie genre is really accessible because the zombies are a very clear manifestation of everything we fear. So much about life in 2022, and beyond, is about trying to understand how the world is hurting, how we’re hurting, when it’s not totally apparent. And the concept of a zombie apocalypse is, surprisingly, a kind of relaxing way to go about it all, because your enemy and your nightmare couldn’t be clearer. Its right in front of you, and it’s also not personal. Zombies go after everyone indiscriminately.

Maybe this is a strange answer, but I do this as a genre it’s certainly going to last a while. Also on a more practical level, stories that involve surviving against all odds will always be compelling.

Tito: How do you balance the drama and horror elements in this story? 

Tillie: With a lot of help from my editor! Haha. My inclination towards horror and drama is to try to think about how they’re united, what connects them. When it comes to the horror elements in the story I’m rarely thinking about how I can make something scary or gross, instead I like to think about horror elements that are more subtle and more applicable to what we face every day: trauma, memory, scars, etc.

If you read all my past work, I think the idea that I would make something with horror in it would be surprising, but that’s part of the fun. I’m not a horror writer, really. My books are fairly low-key. But trying to take my own sensibility and mix it into the world of the walking dead has been a delightful way to see all the avenues that are possible in this world.

Tito: What makes Clementine a compelling character to you? 

Tillie: It’s hard not to get attached to a character that you draw endlessly, so in many ways, I got to know her through telling her story. But when it comes to having played the games, and Clementines backstory, there is so much about her to love. She’s a survivor, she’s got a big heart, and she’s young – which means that so much about her is unfinished and ever-changing.

She’s also, I think, a character that is a little wise beyond her years (especially when it comes to surviving the apocalypse) but also surprisingly naïve in other ways. That’s made it really interesting for me as I’ve taken on her story. And I’m certainly not alone – she’s a deeply beloved character. I think one of the reasons people love Clem so much is because we both want to be her and are inspired by her, but we also want to take care of her and save her from all the darkness.  In writing her, I’ve tried to honor all these sides. 

I’d like to thank Tillie Walden for taking the time to do this in-depth interview. You can pick up Clementine Book One at your local comic book shop tomorrow.

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