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Andrew Lincoln confirms he's leaving 'Walking Dead'

Robert Kirkman, left, Angela Kang, and Danai Gurira,

Robert Kirkman, left, Angela Kang, and Danai Gurira, right, hug Andrew Lincoln at a panel for "The Walking Dead" during Comic-Con International on Friday. Credit: AP / Invision / Richard Shotwell

"The Walking Dead” cast-mates Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Norman Reedus expressed their appreciation Saturday for departing founding star Andrew Lincoln, who a day earlier had announced his departure from the hit horror series.

"He is the leader of this show and everyone kind of follows his lead and he leads with his heart, and that's a very rare quality," Morgan, 52, told Variety, adding, "This show really is a family, and I think a lot of that has to do with Andy … Andy has always been the guy, and the show is going to miss him; we're going to miss him. It's going to be a different vibe; there's no replacing him."

After first joking, "I hate that guy," Reedus, 49, told the trade magazine that he and the London-born Lincoln had shared a production trailer for nine years on the Georgia set of the show. "He's the first call I get when I wake up. He calls me, we talk about the day as we're driving to work, we get to work, talk about the day, at lunch he's in my trailer, and then we wrap and he calls me on the way home. It's been like that every day," he said.

Robert Kirkman, an executive producer of the show and a co-creator of the comic-book series on which it is based, on Wednesday confirmed reports that since May have said Lincoln was leaving. "He's been sweating in Georgia, away from his family, for so long," Kirkman, 39, told filmmaker Kevin Smith in an IMDb interview at Comic-Con International: San Diego. "He cares about the fans, he cares about the show deeply, [and] he wants to do something special on the way out."

At a "Walking Dead" Comic-Con panel Friday, Lincoln, 44, who has played former lawman Rick Grimes on the post-apocalyptic zombie series since its inception, told a packed hall that the upcoming ninth season "will be my last." In cellphone footage posted by Variety reporter Joe Otterson, Lincoln went on to say, "I love this show. It means everything to me. I love the people who make this show. I promise not to cry, I've done enough crying onscreen."

He assured the crowd, without giving specifics, "that my relationship with Mr. Grimes is far from over. And a sort of large part of me will always be a machete-wielding, Stetson-wearing, zombie-slaying sheriff deputy from London, England."

"The Walking Dead" returns Oct. 7.

Also at Comic-Con

Warner Bros. brought out all the stops Saturday at Comic-Con with an army of stars, surprises and new footage from films like "Aquaman ," ''Shazam! " and even "Wonder Woman 1984," which is only three and a half weeks into production. Jason Momoa, Gal Gadot, Chris Pratt, Johnny Depp and Nicole Kidman were just a few of the starry names to grace the stage of the comic book convention's Hall H.

Warner Bros.' was the most-anticipated Hall H presentation of the convention, which this year was absent of many of the big names that attendees have come to expect, like Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm ("Star Wars") and HBO's "Game of Thrones."

The studio has continued to have to prove its mettle with its DC Comics universe, which has had its share of widely panned movies, like "Justice League." The focus Saturday thus was not on Batman or Superman, but the new, the fresh and the proven-quantities, like "Wonder Woman," which has been best-reviewed and most beloved of the new DC universe. 

In addition to showing the trailer for "Godzilla: King of the Monsters ," many of the stars of "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" came to speak about the upcoming sequel as well.

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