Fans of the Walking Dead comic book series, on which the long-running TV show is based, have been left stunned after the last ever issue was published without any warning.
The series, which began back in October 2003, has now concluded after 193 issues.
Creator Robert Kirkman took to the comic's letters section to try and head off some of the criticism of the abrupt conclusion.
“The Walking Dead has always been built on surprise. Not knowing what's going to happen when you turn the page, who's going to die, how they're going to die... it's been ESSENTIAL to the success of the series,” he writes.
“It's been the lifeblood that's been keeping it going all these years, keeping people engaged.
“It just felt WRONG and against the very nature of this series not to make the actual end as surprising as all the big deaths... from Shane all the way to Rick.”
“I hope you understand. I hope you, dear reader, know how much I appreciate the gift you have given me.
“I got to tell my story exactly how I wanted to, for 193 issues, and end it on my terms, with no interference at all along the way... at any point.
“That's such a rare thing, and it doesn't exist without the unyielding support this series got from readers like you. Thank you so much.”
AMC, which makes the TV adaptation of the comics, which made a worldwide star of British actor Andrew Lincoln over the space of 10 series, has released a statement following Kirkman's abrupt finale.
“This extraordinary comic created a world that already lives in multiple forms, and in the hearts and minds of millions of fans around the world, and will for many years to come,” it said, suggesting that it will likely continue nonetheless.
A spin-off movie featuring Lincoln's Rick Grimes is in the pipeline, along with another spin-off series, starring two young female protagonists.