It’s a running theme of The Walking Dead that the zombie apocalypse marks its survivors, permanently changing even those who survive it. In the original comic, Carl loses his eye, Andrea is severely scarred, and Rick’s hand is taken from him surprisingly early in the series. However, while this visual signifier crops up again and again, it turns out Rick’s injury was originally intended to open the door to a vicious upgrade.
Rick’s hand is originally damaged in The Walking Dead #17. After a member of the group turns out to be a murderer, Rick beats him so badly that his hand is permanently damaged. This damage becomes moot in #28, when the series’ first true recurring villain – the Governor of Woodbury – cuts off Rick’s hand with a cleaver. While Rick would eventually receive a prosthetic hand, that was a long way down the line, and the series’ writer Robert Kirkman believed that in a world overrun by the undead, Rick would likely create a makeshift weapon hand to help him in conflict.
In the letters page to The Walking Dead Deluxe #45 – from Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, and Dave McCaig – a fan jokingly suggests that Rick replace his hand with a chainsaw in the style of Evil Dead’s Ash. In response, Kirkman reveals that he has thought extensively about the practicalities of weaponizing Rick’s injury, arguing that in such a dangerous world, it’s something he himself would try. Kirkman discusses the need for practical reality, arguing that the most likely course would be for Rick to affix a knife to his arm ahead of planned combat, knowing it would only offer a few blows before being rendered useless. Kirkman shares that Ed Brubaker (Captain America, Batman) suggested using a sledgehammer, with the long handle offering a more practical binding, but that he ultimately decided against this modification, since while it would be realistic in theory, it would still look contrived.
Just to give you guys a little insight into my creative process … this IS something I’ve put a LOT of thought into. … I was totally going to put a knife on his arm – at least temporarily from time to time. I even discussed this with my good friend Ed (famous) Brubaker. He suggested a sledgehammer instead, because of the long handle that could be used as a counter weight … it would LOOK a bit silly and I’d never hear the end of Evil Dead comparisons which frankly, I’m already sick of (despite how much I love those movies.)
Why Rick Never Got His Hammer-Hand
Kirkman leaves the possibility open in the letters page, but the series would only ultimately see Rick gain a true prosthetic rather than a custom weapon-hand. The writer is correct both that fans would likely never be able to look past the similarities to the more comical Evil Dead chainsaw, and that no matter how plausible the binding and use, Rick gaining a hammer or knife-arm would have broken the unspoken rules of the series’ vaunted psychological and practical realism. Strangely, with the series’ television adaptation, the loss of Rick’s hand was cut, however multiple characters did end up with weaponized prostheses, including Merle and Aaron.
Walking Dead Used Weaponized Prostheses on TV
Ultimately, Kirkman’s intention for Rick was realized, but it was in the most roundabout way possible, occurring outside the comics and to other characters. While this was for the best in how the Walking Dead comic series panned out, it’s fascinating to know it was considered, and especially that a series so prone to paying tribute to other zombie media rejected this idea in part because it would have invited comparisons to Evil Dead.