Be warned: spoilers abound for lots of different series, though they’ve been around for quite some time now!
I’ve always had a fascination with zombies. It started way before I was allowed or able to watch any zombie movies or truly understand the horror of a shambling corpse hungering for flesh.
Weirdly, I remember seeing Michael Jackson’s Thriller and attempting to draw the zombie that emerges from a manhole; that was the moment it started. Years later, in the late 80s I saw Night of the Living Dead and – despite it being the clumsily colourised 1986 version with its green zombies (fixed by turning the colour on the TV down all the way – ha!) – was utterly spellbound.
The next zombie film I saw was Romero’s sequel to Night of the Living Dead – Dawn of the Dead. And what a movie! Still one of my favourite films, along with closing chapter Day of the Dead.
Many more followed (rarely matching the brilliance of Romero’s Dead trilogy though) and it’s clear from how prevalent they are in pop culture today that many creators were just as enamoured with zombies as I was in the 80s and 90s. Not bad for a subgenre that was once considered way too graphic, gory and unacceptable for anyone but the most extreme fans of horror.
Robert Kirkman is one of those creators whose love for zombies – and the George A. Romero movies in particular – led to the creation of a true multimedia behemoth in The Walking Dead. Initially a relatively small comic book (first published in 2003, with the final issue wrapping up the series being published this year), it’s now expanded into a huge TV series, critical and commercially beloved video games by Telltale Games – we won’t talk about the awful FPS), board games and even theme park rides, experiences and arcade games.
Kirkman was also responsible for writing the initial Marvel Zombies mini series (fun fact: ‘Marvel Zombie’ was originally a derogatory name for obsessive fans who read only Marvel comics and no others) Spinning off from an arc of Ultimate Fantastic Four in which Reed Richards makes contact with his counterpart from another universe, not realising that he’s being tricked into opening up a gateway to a Marvel universe that’s been overrun by zombies who have run out of food – and they’re looking for new universes to sate their hunger.
The Kirkman-penned mini series, arriving in 2005, was absolutely brilliant. The covers – by Arthur Suydam – giving darkly humourous, gory riffs on iconic, classic and recognisable Marvel covers, were worth the price of entry alone. The series begins with the war against the infection having already been lost, with the infected superheroes becoming dark, evil, endlessly hungry versions of their former selves. And then the Silver Surfer shows up, heralding the arrival of Galactus…
What’s cool is getting to see so many zombified heroes and villains, in blackly comic situations that’ll make you laugh and – on occasion – gag. It’s a wild ride; funny, sad, gory and very entertaining.
Many sequels and spin offs followed. The novelty wore off fairly quickly in all honesty, but the original series still holds up today. It’s well worth tracking it down if you haven’t already read it. Shuffle off to your nearest comic book store, library or digital storefront of choice. You won’t regret it.
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