Now that the 3rd season has drawn to a close, I thought now would be a good time to discuss something I've been considering since the beginning of the season. Which is the better character, The Governor from the Comics, or the Governor from the TV series played by David Morrissey? Considering that these are two different mediums, therefore bound by different rules storywise, it was innevitable that adapting the character would lead to differences. Are those differences for the best? And in the end, who is the better character? Here are my thoughts:
The Governor (Comics): In a comic that predominantly deals with the morally ambiguous cost of surival, The Governor stood as the eptiome of compromise in the name of survival. No antogonist before him could've prepared the survivors for what the Apocalypse had to offer, and no antagonist since then has had the same effect.
Pros: Like many survivors, the man who would become The Governor had very little going on his life. Over the course of the Apocalypse, he watched his brother, the man whose shadow he'd been trapped in his whole life, descend into madness over the loss of his daughter. He used the opportunity to shed his old identity and forge a new one that, to his mind, embodied the qualities he'd admired his brother for, which eventually gave him leadership of his own group. Having power at the end of the world gave him a certain sense of entitlement that evolved into hedonistic depravity. No vice could fully satisfy him, and no taboo was beneath him. Such taboos included, but were most likely not limited to, several acts murder, rape, implied acts of cannibalism, and in the case of his undead niece, pedophilia and necrophilia at the same time. His logic his many acts of depravity strengthened his resolve against the inevitable horrors of the Apocalypse, as well as the cost of survival. In many ways, no other character did more in the name of survival than himself. His legacy is both that of a tyrant, and a cautionary tale to those who see moralty as a crutch in the apocalypse.
Cons: No matter how interesting he was or how big an impact he had on the series, The Governor was not remotely sympathetic. His inability to let go of Penny could've evoked empathy, but his relationship with her undead form destroyed any chance of that. I understand that he wasn't meant to be sympathetic, but it does cost him points in terms of complexity (to me at least). Without the added details of background supplied by the Road to Woodbury series of novels, The Governor can be seen as over-the-top and one dimensional. He could objectively be viewed as an outlet for some of Robert Kirkman's more depraved ideas, as well as a lazy excuse for a villain. The more shocking and depraved his actions were, the less demand there was for actually complexity or development (That's not my opinion but I've heard and considered this argument). You could also take into account how abrupt his reveal as a villain was, having severed Rick's arm after having only being briefly introduced. One could also call into question whether or not he could realistically be charismatic enough to lead an entire group to war while keeping most of them oblivious to his ture nature.
The Governor (TV Series):
Pros: Naturally, The Governor in the TV series could not be portrayed in the exact same light as in the comic due mostly to content, but this actually made for a more challenging character to write for. Because less information is given about his background, there are no real grounds for comparison between his pre and post apocalyptic identities respectively. This gives him the benefit of ambiguity, both in terms of his background and his behavior. He at one point he stated that he would never reveal his real name, only to reveal it as Philip Blake soon afterward. He went on to reveal that his wife died prior ot the apocalypse, leaving him with his daughter. Unlike the comic, he doesn't engage in a physical relationship with undead Penny, though he does treat her like a person. Whether he was lying or telling the truth in this continuity, he evoked sympathy from Andrea and the audience.
Of parituclar not is that while the comic version made no attempt to hide his intentions from his enemies once he felt safe, the TV version rarely if ever left any of the characters with a clear idea of how to immediately react to him. Among the many examples of this is when Tyreese refused to kill for him. He simply walked up to him without saying anything, gun in hand, and handed it to him before thanking him, never stating what for.
What I think is his greatest strength as a character is that he and the idea of Woodbury are both initially belivable. He doesn't physically seem dangerous, is personable, legitimately charasmatic, and the results of his contributions to Woodbury were self-evident. His people are given little to no indication of his true nature in his first few appearances (excluding his soldiers). In fact, it is only when he loses Penny, the one thing from his old life he couldn't let go of, that he begins to shed the facade. This comes to a head during the finale when he personally kills all but two of his soldiers for what he saw as dissertion. Unlike the comic, he actually survived the Prison battle, leaving room for a possible return in a capacity unseen in the comic.
Cons: As well written and portraye as he was, The TV series Governor's major problem was that he never really made the same impact on the series as in the comic. The comic version was directly responsible for cutting off Rick's hand, raping Michonne, the deaths of Tyreese and Hershel to name a few, and ultimately cost the survivors their sanctuary. The TV version was only directly responsible for killing Axel, Merle, and Milton, and was not victorious in his defeat in any significant way. Axel was not developed enough to warrant an emotional response upon his death, Merle was likable as a character but hardly sympathetic (not before his death anyway), and Milton, though likable, never got to interact with anyone but Andrea and briefly Hershel. The difference is that the comic version's victims had a profound emotional effect on both the characters within the story, as well as readers who'd grown attatched to those characters, so even in death, he'd succeeded in making his enemies suffer, wheras the survivors of the show did not lose anything they couldn't walk away from. Hopefully his survival will give him the chance to exact his revenge in some spectacular manner.
And that's my take on it. To anyone who makes it this far, I'd like to hear which version you preferred along with a brief or detailed summary of why. I love discussing this sort of thing.