“We’re going to make [Breaking Bad] look like pussies.”

Thus spake Frank Darabont at this weekend’s New York Comic Con, promising to the world that The Walking Dead will be splattered with heaps of gore. You had to know they hired Greg Nicotero for a reason.

On Sunday AMC held a panel to show off new footage from The Walking Dead, and it was easily the most packed event of the whole
weekend. When I’m talking packed, I’m talking packed. Literally thousands of people lined up for hours in these gigantic holding pens on the side of the Jacob Javits Center to see Robert Kirkman’s comic come to life. It was quite the experience to see it in a packed theater with people whooping and yelling when their favorite characters came on screen.

As the panel began moderator Eric Moro of IGN Movies wasted no time in introducing footage from the show. This is the first time anyone has seen any of this footage, which was from the second episode of the series. Fans of the comic book will notice one thing right away- it’s completely new. While all the footage from the first episode shows a fairly faithful adaptation the second one introduces new characters and situations right off the bat. Mild spoilers to follow!

We join hero Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) as he’s attempted to go back to the city to find his wife and kid. A birds-eye view of the city shows zombies swarming a car and a tank stranded in the middle of the road and it zooms down to watch them scrambling all over in a hunger frenzy. Rick is stuck inside the tank with nothing but a dead soldier to keep him company. He’s talking over the radio with Glenn (Steven Yeun), a kid who knows his way around the city and is trying to get him out alive. Rick checks around for any weapons and can only find a pistol with a single clip, and a grenade. On Glenn’s instructions he pops open the top of the tank and runs to cover, shooting about ten zombies right
in the face on the way. It’s an awesome scene that’s actually reminiscent of Day of the Dead in the way it depicts a city overrun with the undead, and immediately wipes away any fears you might have had about the show feeling like a zombie film.

Rick meets up with Glenn and there are a few tense moments as they run up a fire escape to safety, going from
the rooftops to the fellow survivors, which are stationed inside a department store. As soon as they enter Rick gets greeted with a gun in the face and screaming, angry people. He’s just destroyed their sanctuary and the zombies know they’re in there, smashing against the windows in massive numbers already.

It’s a really great sequence, incredibly cinematic. It doesn’t feel like a TV show.

Of course, fans of the comic are probably wondering what’s going on here, as the source material is quite different. There Rick gets surrounded by zombies and his horse eaten and meets Glenn when the kid grabs him by the shoulder. They escape up a building and out of the city to their little outpost in the neighboring countryside.

The second clip we were shown tied up the loose ends a bit. There we were introduced to Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn, who’s appeared in every Darabont film thus far), a man whose camper has become home base for a small group of survivors. They get a garbled message over the radio and hear from the other group in the city- only hearing that they’re being overrun with zombies. The characters (most familiar, with a couple of new faces) start a heated debate over whether to go try and save them or not.

And really, that’s what this show’s going to be about- the people. The zombies are fun and exciting and all but without great characters, this show will die.

There of course was the obligatory Q&A with the writer Robert Kirkman, director/writer Frank Darabont, producers and stars, which was fun if light. Some important tidbits, though-

– This ain’t digital. Nope, this is shot on pure film, baby, Super 16 no less!

– Of all the people Darabont can’t wait to meet, Michonne is at the top of his list. He said that he likes that she was like a Spaghetti Western Samurai – the Pam Grier role.

– Kirkman’s favorite zombie movie is Day of the Dead, mostly because of the effects and claustrophobic nature. Darabont admitted that it was criminally underrated (it is!) but conceded that his favorite was still Night of the Living Dead.

– Michael Rooker is in the show.

– Kirkman wrote the fourth episode, found it fun and challenging, and hopes to do it again.

– Standards and practices apparently has had no problems with the amount of gore so far, and AMC hasn’t asked them to tone it down a bit.

All in all, the panel did nothing but further cement the fact that horror fans, your show has truly arrived.

The Walking Dead hits AMC on Halloween.