Graphic novels and comic books have some of the best artists and writers in the field creating beautiful, intricate worlds for readers to immerse themselves in. Telling a visually stunning story with intense dramatic and cultural value, comic artists and authors are some of the most underrated and overlooked creators in the genre. There have been some phenomenal adaptations of horror comics into film and television shows in the last fifteen years and The Walking Dead has ruled the zombie subgenre like an uncontrollable pandemic. But there are some, myself included, who find the series growing stale both on television and in the comics. The stories are familiar, almost predictable, and the characters feel as if they’ve grown about as much as they can in this perpetual apocalypse. So is there any hope for the jaded zombie fan scouring the racks at the local comic shop?
Why, yes, there is!
The Mainstream Choice
Max Brooks, son of comedy legend Mel Brook and zombie survival expert authored the best selling zombie defense manual, The Zombie Survival Guide. Initially tucked away in the comedy section, it quickly hit the shelves in horror and was followed by the even more phenomenal World War Z. One of my favorite things about The Zombie Survival Guide was the section at the end titled Recorded Attacks. This was a chronicle of “true” encounters with the living dead dating all the way back into human prehistory. Needless to say, other readers were as enamored as I was by this particular section and, before long, the most graphic of graphic novels based on those accounts hit shelves.
The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks is 141 pages of black and white zombie carnage. From the Cradle of Civilization in 60,000 BC to Joshua Tree National Park circa 1992, the story of mankind’s ongoing struggle against the forces of the living dead is laid out in brutal detail. Granted, the book doesn’t cover every single incident listed in the original text, it hits the highlights from the Roman Legion’s first campaign against the living dead to the Soviet experiments in Siberia during the Cold War and so much more. Just like his other books, Brooks’ storytelling is superb and the art of Ibraim Roberson brings the characters and cadavers to life. Or back to life. Still not sure how it really works.
The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks is a popular companion piece to The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z which are both excellent books if you haven’t already read them. It’s a phenomenal, more mainstream choice than our next contender.
The Independent Challenger
Boom! Comics released Fanboys vs Zombies in 2012 and, as the title suggests, pits a crew of nerds and cosplayers against the tide of the zombie apocalypse at Comic Con in San Diego. Written by Sam Humphries and illustrated by Jerry Gaylord the story is a semi-complex tale of a group of friends who drifted apart as life took them in different directions being brought back together by their love of fandom and the mutual struggle to survive as the living dead descend on fandom’s largest event. The characters are well developed and the story offers a very meta look into how some of us might just react if the undead attacked tomorrow. There are plenty of memorable one liners and phenomenal zombie kills.
There’s also a measure of absurdity and humor that only a title like Fanboys vs Zombies could get away with. An energy soda, 7 Hour Electric Acid seems to cure the infection, or at the very least stave it off, while the heroes continue to seek out salvation and, possibly, an escape from the armies of the undead. There are plenty of nods to pop culture and horror culture and they manage to do what most zombie fiction can’t: laugh at themselves just a bit. The story is serious and dower while also fun and funny. It has the makings of a phenomenal original series or film if anyone out there is looking for something new to put on screen.
The Oddball Fave
And while I’m telling you about things I think deserve a film adaptation, Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse has to be hands down my favorite horror comic of all time. Written and illustrated by Ben Templesmith, Wormwood follows a semi-immortal, transdimensional, corpse possessing worm who finds himself longing for a decent pint and a night off from saving the universe from impending doom. In a series of vignettes we are introduced to all manner of interdimensional gatekeepers, cowardly ghosts, mechanical men with no...bits, and a host of nightmarish monsters and horny leprechauns who will terrify, delight, and disgust you all at once.
No, technically Wormwood isn’t a zombie in the classic, Romero sense of the word but he is a creature existing within a reanimated cadaver so, for this piece I think he’ll do. Wormwood has done a little bit of everything from stopping a sexually transmitted eldritch apocalypse to saving Christmas after an evil conglomerate killed Santa and enslaved the elves. He even bankrolls the lavish lifestyle of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in order to prevent his favorite world and universe from being destroyed. The possibilities are literally endless when it comes to the characters and universe found in Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse.
If that doesn’t do it for you, then try out some of these other titles like Zombies vs Robots, El Zombo Fantasma, Night of the Living Deadpool, and another of my personal favorites, Z for Zombie. The horror genre, especially when it comes to zombies, is so much richer and more diverse than you might believe. All you have to do is look.
Dan is an author, editorialist, podcaster, and horror culture & lifestyle correspondent from the Southeast. You can find Dan's stories at Danno of the Dead Blog and through PDI Press.