Tuesday, October 19, 2010

When There's No More Room In Hell, The Marketing Will Walk The Earth

By Jay Stringer

I gather that some little show about Zombies has been getting a lot of publicity over the other side of the big water. It's not getting any buzz here yet because it won't hot for some time. But it's something I've been looking forward to. I'm a huge fan of the comic book that the show is based on.

There is a problem that comes with this sort of blog. DSD has been on the go now for over a year, it's had nine regular contributors and some very distinguished "guest hosts." After awhile you find yourself sitting down to write a blog, only to realise it's already been done by one of the crew. In this instance, i was going to tell you what it is I love about zombies. I had a chat about the very same topic with John Hornor Jacobs (of John Hornor Jacobs fame) and it got me all jazzed to go for it. I was going to talk about how they hit a certain part of my brain that scares the hell out of me, and how the shuffling ones are far scarier than the running ones.

But then I realised it's been done on DSD already. Even worse, I realised it was done by me. The idea of a Halloween themed blog about zombies was clearly so good that I did it first time round.

So then I decided, to hell with it, what I would do instead was to write about the comic book, THE WALKING DEAD ahead of you folks getting to see the TV show. But guess what? I done gone and done that already, too.


So I'm going to share that with you all again, as it was originally done on a different blog a couple of years ago. The review is out of date -the comic series is well past the points I reference-but that makes it oddly timely for the TV show.

And then next week I'll come back with another Halloween themed piece, but one that neatly sidesteps any mention of why zombies scare me.


The Walking Dead is something of a phenomenon. It's possibly the only comic on the market that’s figures are constantly going up. That doesn’t happen, it just doesn’t. (Note, this is still happening in 2010, spiked obviously by the show.)

To any fans of horror films the premise is so familiar that it borders cliche. Zombies are walking the earth and nobody knows why.

Civilization has fallen.
The cities are overrun.
The government is nowhere to be seen.

The series starts when Rick, an injured cop, wakes from a coma in hospital to find the world has collapsed while he was asleep. Yes, the beginning has been done before, but that’s not the point. If this series uses some well-trodden clichés, it’s using them in a new way. The films have always been limited by their time. Even the most ambitious of films, and Romero got pretty ambitious, could only provide character study for a couple of hours. What The Walking Dead can do is to take these clichés and run with them. And then keep running. We’ve followed the cast of characters far beyond the point where any film would have left them behind. Some characters last a couple of issues, some last for over forty.

We get to see people try and cope with the madness. We get to see the limits of our own rules, the point as which it becomes acceptable to start killing people who disagree with you, the point at which is becomes acceptable to teach a child how to kill. The lengths people will go to defend their families when there is no law around to come and help.

And there are the cliffhangers. Oh god, the cliffhangers.

The first couple of issues are quite tame. this is the point where the story is "in the movie," that is to say that its telling the same story we've seen before. Shit has happened, people are missing. It's all pretty basic set-up stuff, and the cliffhangers don't have much impact because it's stuff we've seen in every film. Once the story gets past this phase, i.e. when the usual film has ended, things start to get interesting in a hurry. The supporting cast is built up, and we get just enough about each of them to care before everything starts to go to hell.

After the first few issues, it's a breathless ride up to issue fifty, and each issue ends in some moment that makes you swear, or gasp, or cry. Serious shit happens and nobody in the cast is safe. If you feel a little weepy after issue 49, it can only be because your heart has stopped.

So go for it, run out and get the trades to catch up, then start buying the issues. The Walking Dead is proof that comic books as a 22 page monthly art form are not dead. Proof that, if the industry could be bothered fixing distribution, they would still be able to sell comics instead of abandoning them for trade paperbacks.

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