Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ain't It Cool and Bookgasm on our Chaps!

Ambush Bug (Mark L. Miller) over at Ain't It Cool has reviewed our two recent chapbooks and deemed them both "damn fine reading" with "some of the coolest zombie action you'll read this year."

Thin Them Out by Kim Paffenroth, R.J. Sevin and myself is a "surprisingly personal tale" that "does what so many zombie stories fail to do: offer something new to the zombie genre... It is a harrowing tale with a pulse that quickens right to the last word."

Meanwhile, Gary A. Braunbeck's Flesh is Fleeting, Art is Forever (or, Some Bullshit Will Continue Even After the Dead Wipe Us Out) is
"profound and imaginative... the best zombie story I've read this year."

Rod Lott at Bookgasm also has some words on Flesh is Fleeting:
"[A]musing... all about bleak humor, and pays off in the end.

Can't argue with that.

These two chapbooks, as with all items at, come with free shipping and make superb stocking-stuffers for the zombie aficionado in your life.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Walking Dead, issues #54 and #55

Our comic shop is like forty minutes away. We don't make it there every month. Occasionally, reviews may lag and then clump. Apologies.]

Well, last month's good will, high hopes, and dramatic promise were squandered on two tedious, talky issues. You might not agree that dialogue is a shamefully weak point of this series--you'd be wrong. It's a blight. It's an indulgent, junior-high-drama-class space waster.

The best, tightest zombie stories--in all media--have little talking and absolutely zero overexplanation. Everything is dry, ineffectual, incomplete. Understated. The exceptional

soliloquoys or exchanges then stand a chance of being truly startling or moving. (It's impossible here not to think of Ben's hallmark recollection in Night of the Living Dead.)

I understand Kirkman's predicament. A 22-page comic with limited dialogue seems like a liability. The team has to compensate for the quick reading time with stunning art (in this case, stunning in grayscale) and an engaging story (in this case, one that maintains dread). What Kirkman fails to understand is that his dialogue is a worse liability. The story's there, for sure, as long as it's not spelled out page after page (a tough trick when characters have little to do), and the art is strong enough. Really, the art needs to be nothing more than the passable, simple set dressing of a surprisingly adept community theater performance. Unfortunately Adlard's art is most times passable, sometimes great, and sometimes downright lousy. More and more recently I find myself just staring at one of his faces going, "...what... the... fuck?" This is likely a product of renewed schedule adherence and Adlard's recent decision to create the originals at the same scale as the final pages. Hell, when every face is the size of your thumb, I guess occasionally the eyes are going to be just a notch too high into the forehead. What can you do? (Keep in mind, I fall in with the faction that thinks that the original magic of the series was dependent on Tony Moore's artistic contribution. When he left, the writing suddenly seemed clunkier to us. Yet nearly fifty issues later, we're still reading. Hmm.) Ultimately, zombies as a genre achieve a better effect (with less effort) by almost any film than by monthly comics of this particular caliber. When you've got a slow, intense story with no stunning graphics to fall back on, a glut of jaw-wagging seems better than nothing.

And so we arrive back at Kirkman's dialogue. Issue #54 presented one of my worst pet peeves, something I generally consider to be the mark of an intellectual elitist. A character is established as being working-class, or uneducated, or urban, or what have you, yet their speech patterns, vocabulary, interests, and philosophical style are inconsistent with these established traits.

Writer: Now I'll just have Johnny Bluecollar wax poetic for a moment, comparing the situation to Plato's Allegory of the Cave.

Readers: OMG This is blowing my mind this character is so LAYERED!!!!!! He seems dumb but then he comes out with something so DEEP AND ARTICULATE AND EDUCATED!!!!!!!!!! I'M MORE INTERESTED IN THE CHARACTER NOW, HIS SURPRISING CONVENTIONAL INTELLIGENCE HAS EARNED MY RESPECT

Me: Are you kidding? The character's "intelligence" is completely framed within the writer's own parameters for intellectual values. Why can't Johnny speak in a way consistent with his education and still say something moving, something profound... but in his own terms, without resorting to cultural shorthand or squeezing himself into the writer's traditional perceptions of What Makes Intelligence and What Earns Respect? Can't we respect him without him using ten-dollar words or summoning up some cheap and improbable literary coinage?

Writer and Readers: NO

All that being said, Kirkman's offense in this issue is minor, merely a permutation of the oft-hammy style of dialogue that weighs down the first half of issue #54, wherein our heroes hash out plans on the ol' farm with the new military trio before being forced to run for it. Their need to escape the farm is contrived by an impossibly illogical decision by a character who is supposed to be proving he knows better.

What follows is an issue-and-a-half of always-popular seige-and-flight, and GAWD is it boring. After a couple good moments in #54 (and much more talking, of course), the zombie threat becomes peripheral at best. Issue #55 focuses on Rick's mental instability (a nightmare, then more with the damn phone). There's a harmless interlude in which one of the new crew surprises us by asking some questions about zombie behavior that has never happened before in the series until that very page.

They camp out for the night Maggie's already-one-note character arc ends with the same 24pt, fire-engine red exclamation point! that Kirkman has been falling back on the entire series for various characters (hint: she's fuckin' crazy!), the very crutch I explored in my last post.

Overall, a disappointing pair of issues. It's reasonable to conclude that such a lull in action and zombie presence can only point to Big Things on the horizon, which I remain psyched about.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Zombi/e 3(D) or: "This is All Your Damned Fault, George!"

L. Cass claims to be on the very cusp of purchasing Night of the Living De3D.

Don't. Not for a penny, I say to you. Not for a penny.

He's also interested in seeing Zombi 3*, another awful zombie movie, but one with some mad measure of charm. Night 3D is charmless and soulless and just plain bad. It's the worst thing to bear the Night of the Living Dead moniker since John Russo did that terrible thing ten years ago.

Here's what the original Night of the Living Dead, now a sentient celluloid entity, thinks of the whole bloody mess, by the way.

*Apparently there are no less than three films that sometimes go by the name of Zombi 3:

There is Zombi 3 (also known as Zombie Flesh Eaters 2), the Fulci/Mattei hybrid that served as the official (if utterly unrelated) sequel to Zombi 2 (also known as Zombie Flesh Eaters), the deceptively-titled sequel-in-name-only to Zombi (also known as Dawn of the Dead).

Then there's Zombie 3 (also known as Burial Ground, Nights of Terror, The Zombie Dead, and, most accurately, Shit), the deceptively-titled faux-sequel to Zombi 2 (see above).

The other Zombie 3, a deceptively-titled sequel to I'm not sure what, since it's supposedly the original US title, is actually Dr. Butcher M.D., Zombie Holocaust, Zombi Holocaust, and, oddly enough, Also Shit. Or something.

Compounding and confounding the whole ghastly situation even further, Paul Naschy's Orgy of the Dead, a movie released four years before Dawn of the Dead spawned this sorry mess, was apparently released at some point as Zombie 3: Return of the Living Dead, though I'm not sure where that particular info originates, aside from IMDB, which isn't always the most trustworthy source.

Then there's Zombie Flesh Eaters 3, also known as Zombie 4, but my head is starting to bleed and I'm gonna close my eyes for a minute... what was I saying?

Oh, yeah.

Don't buy Night of the Living Dead 3D, man--don't!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dr. Acula, Actually Dead

Uncle Forry is the epicenter of Horror Fandom, the devilish daddy spider at the heart of an intricate web teeming with countless grinning spider-babies.

I've had this post saved as a draft since November 3rd, when the internet reported the passing of Forrest J. Ackerman, founder of Famous Monsters of Filmland, Uncle to Monster Kids the world over, and Father of Modern Geekdom. Just about everyone jumped the gun in declaring him deceased, but Uncle Forry held on just long enough to turn 92 and bid farewell to a few more of his loving friends.

Born in 1975 and much more a member of the Fango Generation of Horror Magazine readers, I missed out on FM in its Aurora model kit-filled heyday, and, as a child, came to know the magazine through my brother's tattered back-issues.

I recall paging through one of them and seeing a photo from Night of the Living Dead with a caption stating the film's original title (Night of Anubis) and informing readers that its sequel, Dawn of the Living Dead, was underway. I bought my first issue of FM in 1982, #183. It sported the Swamp Thing on the cover, a photograph that could not compare to the beautiful painted covers of the magazine's golden age, but a glorious sight nonetheless for this monster-obsessed kid.

(I took that issue to school, stored it with my books, and was not very surprised to find it missing when I returned from recess. I was pretty sure then that I heard the teachers laughing in the hallway as they tore it to shreds, but that was probably just my First Grade imagination. Then again, we are talking about a Southern Protestant private school that still used the paddle, so...)

FM kicked the bucket seven issues later (the less said about Ray Ferry's revived FM, the better), and an era came to an end, but its seeds were already planted, its legacy established. All of us involved in this strange little genre owe something to Uncle Forry, the man who sparred (in print) with H.P. Lovecraft, discovered Ray Bradbury and gave Harlan Ellison a reason to scream about the sound of crickets fucking.

Today is not a sad day. No tears should be shed for the man. Instead, his life should be celebrated--a life of generosity, influence, and innovation, a life that brought frightful joy to countless souls, many of whom, so inspired, then brought joy to countless more.

Not knowing exactly how to end this brief tribute, I pick at my moist and gently pulsating brain and decide to go with the first thing I find there. I suspect it'll pop up in several similar tributes over the coming days, but what can I do? We can't all have Uncle Forry's way with words.

The Ackermonster is dead. Long live the Ackermonster.


Go here for a two-page obit from the LA Times.

For a series of heartfelt tributes followed by depressingly-hopeless "letter from the grave" of sorts from the man himself, follow this link.

Zombie Bits


Hop on over to FearZone. The first installment of our monthly column features a retro-review of Deathdream (1974) (AKA The Night Walk and Dead of Night), Bob Clark's follow-up to Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things.

The poster art looks a little familiar, doesn't it?


I just watched Zombi 3, the Fulci film mostly directed by Bruno Mattei. It somehow manages to be both monumentally awful and relentlessly entertaining. There's very little Fulci on display, but in a film that pays homage to (read: liberally rips off) Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, The Evil Dead, Return of the Living Dead, The Birds, and Vanishing Point, there's also very little opportunity for boredom.

The nonsensical zombie action is pretty much non-stop, and by the time I got to the refrigerator scene, I knew I'd discovered something special.


Julia should be around shortly with a review of the most recent issues of The Walking Dead. After what seems like a few years of little to no forward motion, the series is picking up steam.


Check this out.

I guess they just got Evil Dead 2 in Norway. With any luck, this will actually be fun.