One of the longest-running debates among fans of The Walking Dead has to do with Carl Grimes’ age. In the comic book series, Carl is revealed to have been 7-years-old when the apocalypse began and in the TV series, he is about the same age, though maybe closer to actor Chandler Riggs’ real age of 10 when he appeared in season one.
Of course, both in the comics and on TV, Carl has aged significantly. In the most recent issue, Carl declared himself to be a de facto leader, while TV Carl looks to be in his late teens by this point (Riggs is now 17). The problem is that, while we know what age Carl was when the story began, it’s unclear just how much time has passed since that point, so there is debate over how old Carl and even Rick actually are.
In the Letter Hacks section of The Walking Dead issue #164, writer/creator Robert Kirkman and editor Sean Mackiewic bring this issue up with a fan letter that caught their attention. In the letter, the fan claims that Rick was 27-years-old in the very first pages of The Walking Dead, while Carl was indeed only 7-years-old. However, Mackiewic disputes these findings, revealing that Rick is closer to 30 at the start of the series.
“Rick’s age has never been revealed in the comic,” Mackiewicz said. “Its true! Enough’s revealed that you can figure out he was 23 years old when he started getting serious with Lori… which invalidates your theory because Rick can’t have been 27 at the same time Carl was 7.”
However, Mackiewicz does admit that there is internal debate among The Walking Dead’s writing staff over Carl’s age.
“Robert and I disagree on many things, but maybe none more so than Carl’s age,” Mackiewicz. “The irony there is that I know Carl is 7, like you all do, because Robert wrote he was 7 in issue 5. So long as Carl never says how old he is post-time jump, you can just ignore what we say in the letter pages as made up s—. (Except for everything I just wrote.)”
“Officially, the time jump between 126 and 127 is not tied down to a specific number of years,” Kirkman added. “It seems like around two, but could have been more.”
If we follow Kirkman’s comments, Carl’s age would then be about 13 in the comics.
“It’s totally possible that Carl has aged five years since the beginning of the series,” Kirkman concluded. “Kids age fast!”
The TV series is a different story, though, as Riggs has aged seven years since his debut, yet much less time appears to have passed within the show’s story. This probably helps explain why the show plays fast and loose with the passage of time, never giving any clear indication as to how much has actually passed, but at this rate, Riggs will be at least 20-years-old by the time the show catches up to the current storyline in the comics (and Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick, will be just a few years shy of 50.
Then again, maybe it’s safe to just pretend that all of the characters are younger than their appearances would suggest, as we doubt we would look very good if we had to struggle to survive for years in a zombie apocalypse.