The team behind Worlds Cup reunite for this bite-sized gem! Thanks to Geoffrey Wessel and Josh Mathus for this one! More from Geoff next week!
I love Zombies.
Not just the films either, I love everything Zombie. Ever since I was 13 and discovered Resident Evil, with its cheesy dialogue and bizarre plot, I’ve consumed Zombie-related media like a Zombie consumes the flesh and innards of any unfortunate soul that crosses its path.
“Maybe it’s… Chris’s… blood” – Bruce Willis
What a lot of people who don’t particularly like Zombies fail to grasp is that it’s not really the Zombies themselves that provide the draw. It’s the worlds that they inspire.
When people say they love Zombies, it doesn’t mean that they’re in some way attracted to rotting corpses that get up and walk around, we find them as repulsive as anyone. No, we’re actually inspired by the what-if story of a post-apocalyptic world where death stalks you on every corner (literally)… a world where peoples’ lives equate to some deadly game of tag with no rules, no breaks and no rest… where your friend of one minute can be your killer the next.
People love Zombie movies because they force you to ask yourself – what would you do? How would you save yourself… and would it even be worth it? Good Zombie fiction forces you to ask questions about yourself in a scenario that could never truly exist, which may sound pointless, but the answers, if honest, can be very interesting indeed.
Perhaps the most often asked questions is; “which common household items would make good weapons with which to fight off the Zombie hoards?” Pictured above are some popular suggestions…
Before we continue, in the spirit of this post, I’d like to direct those of you who have not yet read it to read our very own first attempt at a Zombie comic by Jason Lebeau and Lisandro Di Pasquale; Click here to read THE ISLAND.
WALKING DEAD (The Comic)
I’m going to give you a little of my own back-story here so you’ll get an understanding of why Walking Dead is important to me as a comics fan, TV fan and fan in general… and why it’s so important to me that it’s done right.
At around 13 years old I’d suffered several beatings en-route to the great Abstract Sprocket comics store in Norwich and I felt forced to give up reading comics. I walked out on my sequential story obsession, trying to lie to myself that I’d outgrown it. For the next 5 years or so, I think I only really read Vertigo titles like Sandman and Preacher. I could get them from book shops and I had an immediate excuse for people who told me that comics were for kids… ‘Not this one, see it’s got the word ‘fuck’ in it…’
So then when I was around 18, someone introduced me to Walking Dead, which was still a pretty new book at the time. It was my gateway drug back into regular comic reading. I was so hooked on Walking Dead that when I ran out of issues, I started looking for something else that could match the hit. That’s how good it is; it destroyed my silly prejudices about comics.
And now – now I’m that guy who reads, reviews and makes comics. I’m the guy who defends comics thanks to Walking Dead.
So what about the Walking Dead itself? What makes it special?
You already know I love it, but I have to admit, when the book starts off you can see the growing pains.
That’s natural when the writer is still finding their voice on a piece and building a relationship with the characters. Common criticisms include how many people note that the opening scenes share a resemblance to those of the Zombie-esque film 28 Days Later, which predates Walking Dead by almost a year (this is a fair comparison, but actually, I think both are paying homage to the beginning one of my favourite Sci-Fi novels, Day of the Triffids, written waaay back in 1951 by John Wyndham). My biggest personal gripe with Walking Dead is that the plots of the earlier issues seem rely heavily on a lot of improbable coincidences that you really need to suspend your disbelief for.
But if you do get past that? My God does it get good. Walking Dead drags you right down into the gritty psychology of post-apocalyptic survivors, and right into the mechanics of their attempts to keep the dead monsters at an arm’s length. This comic pulls you into that chilling world and forces you to consider what you would need to do to stay alive there. Hell, without belabouring it to the point of absurdity; it even gives you a good idea about what the Zombies are thinking.
And as any Zombie enthusiast can see, the writer (Robert Kirkman) takes his cues from the George A. Romero films.
Romero created the world of the first ever contemporary Zombie film, Night of the Living Dead, and continues to make ‘… of the Dead’ films to this day. Virtually everything you think of now when you think of Zombies comes straight from that film franchise… the way the Zombies spread like a disease and sire new Zombies with a bite, the survival horror aspect, even their weaknesses…
Even the most badass quote about Zombies ever uttered comes from a Romero film (Dawn of the Dead); ‘When there’s no room left in hell, the Dead shall walk the Earth.‘ These are true horror classics and ‘must-sees’ for any budding Zombie fan.
So Walking Dead, especially early on in its run, had a decidedly ‘Romero’ feel to it (for many Zombie enthusiasts and writers, there really is no greater compliment), but what makes this more than a simple fan-fiction are the numerous ways in which it surpasses the original…
(Now now, I’m sure that will anger some people, but calm down. As far as Zombies go, Romero was a visionary, but I believe that Kirkman took the torch and ran with it…)
In Walking Dead, Kirkman presents us with a ragtag group of loveable characters (or characters you love to hate), characters with heart, and characters who keep dying in horrible, ghastly, hideous manners when you’re not expecting it…
As horrible as that sounds, personally, I’ve always thought of Zombie scenarios as a good metaphor for life and death. You can run, you can hide, you can take precautions, but one day, death catches up with all of us.
The great key to the suspense of the book is that you know not one of them is safe. You could be following a character’s development intently, only to see them entirely destroyed with no warning, right when you least expect it… often in the most disturbing and alarming ways imaginable. And yes, we’ve seen this in Romero films… and virtually every Zombie story to date, but what makes all the difference is that this is an ongoing book. Kirkman created a format whereby he must reinvent his whole concept almost from scratch on a regular basis.
And as the story progresses, Kirkman creates new Zombie ‘science’ that fits in so naturally with the Zombies we’ve seen before in other media that you’d think it all existed already.
One such example of this that really sticks in my mind is the concept of a Zombie herd. The idea is that this starts off simply with one Zombie following a random noise, and others start following that Zombie figuring it knows something special. Ultimately this causes a chain reaction that can lead to thousands of mindless Zombies moving together in the same random direction, when none of them really know where they’re going, or why… the herd keeps moving across the country, gaining more and more Zombies. It becomes a destructive force of nature, to be avoided at all costs and presents a wholly new and devastating threat that no one seemed to consider before Kirkman, but it makes some kind of sense.
Kirkman also introduces new classes of Zombies; there are some that move around a lot looking for people to eat (Roamers), whilst others just sit around playing dead and waiting for people to come close enough for them to bite (Lurkers). Right there we get a hitherto unseen insight into the Zombies’ nature and these are some early descriptive terms introduced to the ever expanding Walking Dead vernacular.
Basically, the comic presents the evolution of Zombie fiction in an ongoing format, with realistic characters you learn to love and are often forced to mourn, engaging story arcs, and no end in sight, as the heroes struggle to survive against all odds. The book is ever changing, as what is done in one issue can never be reversed later. All mistakes are made and can never be fixed. In that way it’s a lot like life. But you know, it’s life with Zombies.
(This is also the perfect read for anyone who has finished reading Preacher or Y: The Last Man and needs something new to sink their teeth into… mwahaha…)
WALKING DEAD (TV series)
I can’t begin to describe how happy I am that this show was made, let alone that they took it seriously. Can you believe they even gave it an honest to god Academy Award Nominated Director, someone as acclaimed as the great Frank Darabont?
Alice is the one of us with little-to-no interest in Zombies prior to viewing this TV Pilot…. sure, she liked Shaun of the Dead, but who didn’t? That shit was hilarious! That doesn’t count! Alice is generally a Zombie naysayer… the idea tends to gross her out, so I really don’t think she expected too much from this show to begin with.
I, on the other hand, had seen the trailer (like ten times), and so I’d seen the way that the show appeared to mirror my recollection of the comic – and I was at the very least expecting a direct adaptation of the Kirkman’s book, which I guessed would be fun enough to watch.
What we got, however, was so much more than that.
As much as I love Kirkman’s writing and the dark gray-toned art of the Walking Dead comic, the TV Pilot has done something I never expected. It’s made me care more.
I mentioned above that the comic experienced growing pains early in its run. Well where the structure of the comic is kept entirely intact (so far), virtually all of the dialogue was re-written to maximize the suspense or the emotion of the given moment, and certain scenes seem to have been re-imagined slightly to include extra explanation for the aforementioned ‘odd coincidences’. What we have here seems more like a final draft of the script than what we saw previously in the comic.
I couldn’t imagine being this pleased with the show until I finally saw it. More importantly, I couldn’t imagine being this pleased with the changes. Like most people, if I like the book – I expect the deviations from the book to be a bad thing. But Darabont seems to understand that comics and TV are different beasts with their own strengths and weaknesses, so the scenes from the comic have each been fine-tuned to hit some perfect pitch for the audio-visual medium. When it’s meant to be heartfelt, it’s heartfelt, when it’s meant to be funny, it’s funny, when it’s meant to be suspenseful? Bring a change of trousers, it’s about to get terrifying in here…
Darabont’s direction is impeccable. He gets the maximum performance out of his actors (as always), and Andrew Lincoln as Rick… I’ll admit, the last person I expected to see in the role was a familiar English face, but he plays the part so well that I barely recognized him. Perhaps I’m not the man to ask about whether his accent held up well, but to me he made a very believable southerner.
And the Walking Dead themselves? Well this was an interesting thing to me…
They deviate a little from the comic as I see it; because they’re really not the typical Romero Zombies… they’re not so slow, or stiff with creaking joints, stumbling around the place, groaning, not entirely. Nor are they the lightning-fast Zombies of the Zack Snyder Dawn of the Dead remake or the recent riotous action/comedy, Zombieland. No, these are something new and something altogether more human than the Zombies we’ve seen before.
Oh I don’t think we’ll see them trying to operate machine guns any time soon (see Romero’s ill-advised ‘Smart Zombies’ in the movie Land of the Dead), but there’s a forlorn and familiar element to them that you find yourself relating to in spite of yourself… you’ll see this as early as the first Zombie in the Pilot, but I won’t spoil the scene for you.
What I will say is that one sad scene in the middle is put together so beautifully that it almost brought a tear to my eye (I withheld it to look like the big man in front of my wife). I can comfortably say that I’ve never seen these themes so artfully executed than in this solitary Pilot episode of the Walking Dead. Not ever, even after 12 years of searching.
This is a Zombie show with heart, a show with such a sincere depth to it that I can only hope it prospers for many seasons to come.
And as for that control experiment? Alice loved it. More than that, she saw what I saw. She loved it as much as I did. The Non-Zombie fan and the Zombie Fanatic are now both fans of the Walking Dead TV show.
So that’s it folks, in a nutshell. Buy the comic and watch the show, it deserves your attention!
Greg and I both wanted the same wristwatch from Midtown Comics. It was a silver colour, wound itself and had a little blue rotar in it. There’s was a very discreet superman logo glistening on the face. The watch said ‘I’m all class’, but to those looking closely is said; ‘but I’m also a nerd.’ There was one left and it belonged to a limited run. Both of us were convinced that this subtle display of nerdery would look good on our wrists and attract the ladies (or in my case lady).
It was a couple of years back now, I ran into Greg at the Midtown store in Time Square. We didn’t really know each other well, but we had met once or twice before, once at a DC comics gathering, and again at a viral marketing scavenger hunt for The Dark Knight involving a bat-signal projected onto the side of a hotel in the Financial District (I think). Our paths kept crossing because we were into the same things and there we were fighting over the same piece of wrist bling. What are the chances? We ended up exchanging details and Greg showed me where to find his writing (good stuff).
Well it’s a small world after all, I suppose. And the comics industry/fanbase is smaller still. You’ll find sooner or later if you start meeting people in comics that most people know most other people and as soon as you know one person, most people seem to know you. Everyone knows Greg Tumbarello. Even you. Even if you’re reading this and you don’t think so, look under your pillow or something, because he’s probably been there all along. In fact, if you don’t see him on your Facebook friends page, then this is probably some sort of oversight worth rectifying.
Six degrees of Greg Tumbarello aside, Greg and I seemed to get along pretty well. We kept trying to catch up and hang out, but it didn’t happen for a long while… not until one fine MoCCA convention when the stars finally aligned and we’ve been hanging out here and there ever since. He’s a funny guy, he’s a good guy and he always makes you feel included. For that reason and because he’s an incredible writer, it wouldn’t be right for me not to include him in this project.
Here’s to Greg (whose birthday was last Saturday, I believe), may this be the first of many Hadron Colliderscope comics with your name on it, sir.
By the way Greg, you still can’t have the watch, buddy. It’s your own tough luck that I was working there at the time…
I should talk a little about the art too,whilst I’m at it. After all, it’s fucking stunning. That last page had me staring in open mouthed awe at the complexity of the splash page. Also, Josh excels at these futuristic cities and cars and designs… things many of us artists struggle with, but he makes it seem easy.
It’s worth mentioning that Mathus is one of the easiest artists to work with ever, he’s fast, he’s friendly, never complains and best of all, he’s really, really good. If he keeps raising the bar around here, Limbo Tuesdays will become a thing of the past.
I’m not complaining. Joshua Mathus is better than Limbo. You can quote me on that.
Raph believes in comics.
Raph has an un-ending supply of enthusiasm for the medium and I don’t think I could see him not working somewhere in comics… ever. He works in a comics store, heads up a comics podcast and talks at length about anything comics to anyone willing to listen. Frankly, he lives and breathes the medium, because he believes in its validity.
And honestly? You might disagree with him a lot. Raph has some unpopular opinions… but that’s not as bad as it sounds. When you get right down to it, that just means he has fan-balls. That’s what we need. The industry needs a mix of opinions and it needs people who aren’t afraid to admit what they like, no matter how embarrassing it may be. After all – Alan Moore saw something in the medium when it was very unpopular to like comics, and he helped the whole industry transform.
So when I started HC with LeBeau back at the beginning of the year, I wanted to get Raph involved. I knew Raph was a writer, but I’d never seen what he had. I wanted to see how all that enthusiasm and energy translated into a script. It took a few months of Jason nagging him, but in the end of it, Conkulo was born.
Buuuuut I took one look at it and thought; ‘I can’t draw this. This has to be cartoony.’
Naturally, we tried to pass it on to our resident cartoon genius (& web designer) Nate Bear, who collaborated with me on Anteaters. At the time he was busy on his very brilliant personal projects and had to decline.
Then the search to find Conkulo a face started.
We’ve had a lot of people work on this project and many more people signed up to work on it in the future… but no one available seemed to have an energetic cartoon style befitting of the script Raph submitted. We just couldn’t find anyone…
Then by pure coincidence I ran into Billy Mayhem at the last Otakon (where I was helping my wife sell art). This young guy was just sitting at a table drawing comics. What really shocked me was how he drew them. Without any layouts or preparation he seemed to just let his ideas pour out of his pen and onto the page in these weird Earthworm Jim/Invader Zim type style. He was making all this weird trippy shit up as he went along.
If you’re a reader and not a creator, you might not know how rare it is to find someone who works that way. One of these days I’ll show you all the various stages I go through to make my pages – and try to put it into some kind of time frame for you. Billy knocked out half a page whilst I stood talking to him. Bastard.
Anyway, alarm bells rang, the art seemed like a perfect match.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Lisandro broke the rules.
We do science fiction comics here in black & white and in 3 pages or less. I don’t ask for much from people, just 3 pages or less, black and white and Sci-Fi… but Lisandro had to go ahead and add colour. And the pages look so good, I feel like I have to share them with you.
Damnit Lisandro, if people start running around and throwing colour on these things, what sort of a dictatorship is this?
Quit upstaging me!
But seriously, if you’re reading this, then I have a little exercize for you. I’d like you to compare Lisandro’s art above to this, this and this… not to mention the art on this awesome site. Notice how no two of Lisandro’s comics are the same. That’s not to say that he’s inconsistant. Quite the oposite, he maintains a cohesive style throughout each of his comics, but every time he starts something new, you have to prepare yourself for a pleasant surprise. He’s an artist with fantastic range and the ability to whip up a new style to suit any theme. For that, I take my hat off to him.
And as for Jason (who singlehandedly edited the first several comics we posted) actually collaborated with Lisandro before, on The Island. He also collaborated with me when he wrote the first Hadron strip Final Battle. Simply by looking at these three titles, from the thoughtful meandering horror of The Island, to the absurdest ravings of the comedic characters in Final Battle, to the fast paced action of this weeks comic Amorous Ex Machina, you’re merely scratching the surface of what he is capable of as a writer.
Seeing as we’ve gotten less of Jason’s scripts processed than I’d hoped, you’ll have to take my word on it for now, but watch this space. One of these days you’re going to be blown away by a short he’s collaborating on with my wife.
Hope you enjoyed it! We’ll be back after NYC comic con!
Do you know what the first Robots were?
In the real world the first robots made their début in the Second World War and they killed people.
I’m referring to the V1 Flying Bomb. They were unmanned Nazi bombs, which were at the time more colloquially known as ‘Robots’ in Britain. You might have heard of it referred to as a ‘Doodlebug‘, which was a lesser used nickname for the death-bringing machines that really seemed to catch on post-war. These designs were later developed into cruise missiles and we don’t call them ‘Robots’ any more.
So considering they were created to destroy us, it seems a very strange thought that one day machines will replace us all.
Not in a Skynet way. I’m also not worried about Cylons. Over-sexed promiscuous supermodels that all look alike? I’m pretty sure those already exist in California.
What I’m saying is that with the advancements we’re making in robotics, given time we’ll surely see an increase of robots in the workplace. People are already getting replaced with machines and computer programs as new innovations make our jobs redundant. This will probably come to all, or most of us in time. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but some day.
Lots of people have explored the positive side of this in fiction and many people have also written about the ‘and then they turn evil’ sort of Itchy & Scratchy Land Scenario. As fun as that might be, I have a hard time buying the latter. Evil? I’m not sure that machines can really be evil. Sure, doodlebugs terror-bombed my country 60+ years ago, but the Nazis were the ones wielding the intent. Without man’s input robots are just empty shells, with no purpose at all. They can only serve as extensions of our will.
That said, I HAVE spent the last week with my Ipod stuck on shuffle… I’ve had long fights with electric towel-dispensers to give up more than one square of damp paper, 0r spent 50 minutes once trying to learn how to use Windows Vista before smashing a laptop with the sharp edge of a spade, I know first hand that machines can be annoying. Lots of machines that we already have that are designed to improve our lives are just shit.
Evil? No. Rubbish? Frequently. Rather than the dystopian Skynet future seen in Terminator movies, I’m more inclined to predict a future where man dies out because the only source of food is vending machines that refuse to accept paper money on principle.
Personally I’d like to raise the question; what if we introduce robots to the workplace and they just really, really suck?
Edit: By a bizarre coincidence, today’s Cracked article touches upon the subject of robots eventually replacing us in the workplace;
Sir David Frederick Attenborough has balls of steel. I don’t think any of you reading will dispute that claim.
On my second blog post for this site, I told you that I never really watch animal documentaries, but I feel that I really should. There’s something tense, funny and often sadly optimistic about those shows. Your David Attenborough type will creep right up to a deadly curiosity of nature and film it for us, explaining the phenomenal sight excitedly in hushed tones in the hopes that we’ll all eventually see things his way. We don’t.
Well maybe we sometimes do… and maybe we’re entertained for five minutes, or keep it on before the next mindless instalment of Eastenders (or whatever popular entertainment currently on offer stateside). It’s strange, the further we progress, the shorter our attention spans get. We feed out minds on tiny bursts of information with the fat either trimmed, or new ingredients added to make news LOOK like entertainment (I know more people who watch Mock the Week or the Daily Show than I know people who watch ACTUAL news).
So, when the new millennium needed someone to take what David Attenborough did and reduce it to pure entertainment, one man answered the call.
One gloriously insane man….
I remember seeing Steve Irwin on TV for the very first time. I believe I was at my grandparent’s house and bored out of my mind, flipping channels. Then I suddenly hit a channel where I saw a guy doing something that NO ONE with David Attenborough type jobs ever did before.
BECAUSE IT’S FUCKING MENTAL!
The crazy bastard was holding a snake by the tip of its tail as it swooped around trying to bite his ankles. As he did this, he explained that this BIG BLACK SNAKE was one of the most VENOMOUS SNAKES on Earth. He also did something very alarming to me… he reassured the deadly creature whose arse he was pinching with his thumb and forefinger that he, Steve Irwin (or ‘Dinner’ as the snake called him) had NO INTENTION OF HURTING IT.
This whole comic came from my memory of that first impression I had of Irwin. That picture up above looks like I used the photo for reference (sometimes I do), but this time, believe it or not, that’s just how I remember it happening. That first impression really jammed itself into my mind and stuck there.
Steve Irwin changed nature shows. Soon after, all sorts of people with similar shows were suddenly intervening with nature. Something we’d been lead to believe was a bad thing by the observational types (like the aforementioned steel-balled Attenborough, I believe). It seemed a little wrong, but on the other hand, Irwin approached it with such infectious joy, and such a love for his job, that I started to wonder, was it all that bad really?
Attenborough showed us nature at work, he observed and catalogued and shared his finding, from a seemingly scientific standpoint… Irwin on the other hand, he approached it with emotional curiosity and made nature so much more tactile… more real than ever before.
I don’t know whose approach is correct, or if there even is an answer. Like I said, I don’t even watch many nature shows. What I WILL say is that I have an immense respect for people in that profession, and I was very sorry to hear about Irwin’s death. In 2006. I know it’s a cliché when people say the words; ‘At least he died doing what he loved,’ but you just need to watch one episode of a show he was in to get caught up in the vortex of his enthusiasm, so you know it’s true in this instance.
This one is for you buddy. If there is an afterlife, I bet you’re up there in Heaven right now, dangling an angel by its leg and explaining how it eats to a captivated audience.
‘Don’t worry, I’m not gonna hurt ya…’