Monday, January 19, 2009

Tagged: A Zombified Meme

Zombie author Kim Paffenroth meme-tagged me and I don't have the heart to let him down. It's a pretty standard "Tell Six Random Interesting Things About Yourself" setup, but I figure that if this journal is going to keep up the pretense of being a zombie blog, they should be six random interesting zombie things.

THE RULES (for this game of tag):
7) DON’T BREAK THE CHAIN (not actually a rule).


1) Savini's 1990 Night of the Living Dead remake, while derided or ignored by the majority of fandom, is one of my top five favorite zombie movies. I first rented it in about fifth grade because the chick on the back (Tallman) looked like my aunt. That was my first real exposure to zombies after "Thriller".

2) My favorite zombie ever is probably Dr. Tongue from Day of the Dead. I could stare at him all day.

3) When we worked as scenic artists at Six Flags Jazzland in New Orleans, RJ and I used liquid latex and greasepaint to dress up as zombies during their lead-up to halloween. Lacking explicit permission, we staggered all through the midway terrorizing people. I was dressed a little on the skimpy side, I guess, in a really flimsy low cut tank top, so the patron reaction was... mixed. I didn't realize and become embarrassed about it until later. I put cold cream in my hair to make it greasy and it didn't come out for a week. The hardened latex deeply exacerbated the wrinkles in my forehead, which to this day have not smoothed out.

4) I've written a few dozen stories in my life, and the only two ever to have been published are zombie stories. (Thin Them Out and "The Shunned" in Bits of the Dead)

5) I'm no longer very fond of Romero as a director. I think his early works seem to imply genius but are ultimately simple, potent messages whose shoestring production gave them an accidentally great look that fans mistake for style. When Romero has a real budget, he goes insane and the result is not nearly as effective. Also, I think he's bought the hype about the early films being intentionally loaded with rich, well-developed sociological commentary, so he's taken it upon himself to stuff bags of this crap into every film, with awful, hamfisted results in Land of the Dead and Diary of the Dead.

6) I probably would not survive an undead apocalypse. I own no weapons, I can't run very fast for long and my immune system is nothing to write home about. (Come to think of it, the G1 Megatron figure that RJ keeps locked into disguise mode to wave at home intruders probably wouldn't help him much against the undead, so I guess I'll have company.)

And I'm not tagging anybody. Perhaps because I'm a mav'rick? (Perhaps because I only know like two of you on a first-name basis.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Kirkman interview at Newsarama

The writer of The Walking Dead talks about the bold new narrative arc, Adlard's essential contribution, how far he'd go as a father, a gold boat, and the future (or lack thereof) of main character Rick.

Newsarama Article


(And yes, this cover gets me totally worked up.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Walking Dead, Issue #57



Like a phoenix ascending gloriously from the ashes of whatever that phoenix used to be, or like some other thing being remade in a really impressive manner, issue #57 remakes The Walking Dead in a really impressive manner.

Fast-paced and tense with brusque, real-feeling dialogue and some awesome developments, this may be my favorite issue in... I don't know, years. Add an emotionally up-fucking climax and, mark my snark, this issue will be called both a major turning point in the overall narrative and a classic in its own right.

And that's all I have to say on it. With the mockery uncalled for, I have no reason to sum up the plot at all. It's a simply great issue. See, I don't despise Kirkman. I just hold him to the standard he's established with earlier greatness.

Oh, shit, I fucking forgot, though: P.S. Can't wait to read BFF Handlebar McWeepy's touching-ass Vaseline-lens family flashback. w00t. Although I shouldn't complain--as far as Kirkman's cliffhanger's go, you could do a lot worse. At least it's not a complete fakeout. *wank wank*

See there, Jonathan, baby? I can be loving and vicious in the same breath. What can I say--what I do best isn't very nice. ;)

Saturday, January 3, 2009


We interrupt our regularly- scheduled Zombie programming to bring you a look at an unsung great in Horror history, New Orleans TV legend, Dr. Momus Alexander Morgus.

I grew up hearing my mom's stories of Dr. Morgus. When I was twelve, he returned to the airwaves, and I became hooked. A good friend, Chuck Brillowsky, webmaster of Morgus Online, reminded me that today marks the 50th anniversary of the Doctor's televised experiments. So I wrote the following:

A Morgusian History: The Condensed Version

In 1957, Screen Gems struck a $20 million deal with Universal-International, obtaining the television distribution rights to over 500 pre-1948 Universal films. One of the first packages offered to television programmers across the US was Shock!, a collection of 52 Universal Horror films. Stations were encouraged to produce wrap-around segments, and the Horror Host was born.

In Pittsburgh, there was "Chilly Billy” Cardille. San Francisco had Bob Wilkins and his Creature Features (on which Night of the Living Dead made its broadcast television debut). Cleveland had Ghoulardi; Philly and New York had Zacherly.

New Orleans had Morgus the Magnificent.

On January 3rd, 1959, fifty years ago tonight, The House of Shock premiered. A New Orleans icon was born. With production values higher than those of the typical Saturday night Creature Feature, House introduced New Orleanians to Dr. Momus Alexander Morgus, a whacked-out nut-job of a scientist toiling away in his lab atop the "Old City Icehouse" in the French Quarter. With his caveman brow, nasty teeth, and heavily-soiled labcoat, Morgus was both horrific and comedic. Each week, he'd unveil a new invention destined to make the world a better place. Each week, said invention would blow up in his face.

Beneath it all, there was a subversive heart: Morgus lived among the Bohemians and railed against the establishment. The handprint on his shoulder was more than an example of his filthy working conditions; it was the Hand of the Man, holding him down.

The creation of talented New Orleans radio and TV personality, Sid Noel, the character of Morgus evolved, over many years, from diabolical mad scientist to Quixote-inspired “secret scientist” working to bring about a “Higher Order” of humanity.

(In one of the earliest surviving examples of Morgusian Entertainment, a WWL radio production that possibly pre-dates the January '59 premiere of the television show, Dr. Morgus, sounding like a deranged Karloff, reveals his plan to fill the atmosphere with bubbles containing mind-control gas-- he'd soon control us all! Thirty years later, during the Doctor's '80s return, the Bubble Machine made a comeback, but this time it produced "Love Bubbles." One whiff, and you felt like loving the one you were with.)

Assisting Dr. Morgus across three decades and several incarnations was the mute and hulking Chopsley, a towering masked man whose hood concealed the results of a botched plastic surgery job by the Good Doctor. Also on hand was Eric, a talking skull-- all that remained of the assistant who'd preceded Chopsley.

The House of Shock was an overnight success. Everyone loved Morgus. It was reported at the time, perhaps in jest, that crime stats went down on Saturday nights. While Morgus was carrying out yet another ill-fated experiment, everyone in the city was sitting in front of the television--even the criminals. And when Morgus was "robbed" live on his own show, the NOPD switchboards lit up.

The House of Shock became Morgus Presents and spawned a motion picture, The Wacky World of Doctor Morgus (1962), a little-seen example of independent New Orleans cinema that influenced both the original Nutty Professor and the big screen version of the Batman television series.

In 1964, the Master took his experiments to Detroit, but returned to New Orleans shortly thereafter. In one form or another, Morgus Presents ran until the mid-seventies. The Shock! and Son of Shock! packages of the early '60s were a thing of the past, and Morgus eventually found himself hosting episodes of Star Trek.

Not long after, the cameras within the Old City Icehouse fell dormant.

Sadly, little from the Magnificent One's early years has survived. A five minute snippet of The House of Shock is all that remains, as well as a few tantalizing odds and ends-- Morgus and the Weather segments from both New Orleans and Detroit, a color film pilot from the early sixties, and the Wacky World feature.

To the delight of two generations of New Orleanians--those who grew up with Dr. Morgus and those who grew up hearing about him--January of 1987 brought the triumphant return of Morgus Presents, nearly thirty years after The House of Shock premiered.

Today, those 52 slickly-produced episodes of Morgus Presents have been repackaged and, fittingly enough, retitled Morgus Presents: The House of Shock. (They air every Saturday night on Cox 10, and your humble scribe would be watching an episode right now if he didn't live a little too far out in the middle of nowhere. With any luck, all 52 episodes will get a DVD release one of these days...)

Alive and well, the Good Doctor still makes the occasional TV and personal appearance, and has become a regular on George Noory's Coast to Coast.

Thanks, Dr. Morgus, for fifty years of Morgusian Science. Here's to at least fifty more.


Dr. Morgus and Chopsley, from the premiere episode of The House of Shock. The feature film that night was, of course, Frankenstein. (Edit: recent research suggests that this pic is not from the premiere episode.)

1987 promotional photos from a local donut shop. You got one with each purchase. Toward the end of the promo, they put stacks of the things on the counter for all to take. An entire section of my bedroom wall was covered in them.

Morgus and Chopsley in 1998 with something far more terrifying than a faux Frankenstein's Monster: me at twenty-three. Run, friends of Science, run!

The Walking Dead, issue 56


Okay, so Kirkman totally got me with the last issue's ending. I bought the fake-out. The gang sees Maggie's body and we assume she's dead. The story assumes she's dead. A full twenty-eight panels later, Rick suggests she might still be alive HOLY SHIT! (Kind of a dick for not piping up earlier, huh?) Anyway, he HAD to wait that long to allow a very tired five-page argument on whether or not to shoot her and also to make sure he timed the "What if she isn't dead?" to be uttered just before she sits up, gasping. Clearly, Kirkman is throwing a new wrench into the works: Rick is psychic!

Also a wrench: The handlebar-mustache guy must have sustained damage to his hippocampus in some previous, unexplored occurrence because his memory is shit. A couple issues back he delivered a dramatic speech about the danger of using guns, whose sound can draw more walkers, when a silent weapon would suffice. He emphasized his point by needlessly firing a gun, and was then shocked when the undead showed up. "I hate it when I'm right!" Ugh. If that wasn't enough evidence of brain damage, take issue #56 as another example. Offending his own position, Handlebar pulls A GIGANTIC FUCKING CANNON to take out a motionless corpse. This results in a little showdown and marks an emerging enmity between Rick and Handlebar, which is actually pretty exciting.

Props time: Also in this issue, we got to see some realistic ramifications of Maggie's attempted suicide, touch base with some neglected characters, and get a quick reminder of little Sophie's mental instability.

I'm estimating that about one in five panels in this issue is free of dialogue. I wish it were more. I wish somebody had the balls to tell Kirkman to axe some ham.

"Only a matter of time before she turns into one of them now." Shameful that anybody in this far-gone world could even be imagined to utter such a thing.

A tense nose-t0-nose staredown panel between Rick and Handlebar, newly made foes, is cluttered up with "What?! You gonna say something? Make a move, tough guy" and "Asshole..." These accomplish nothing that the staredown itself does not, and are a vivid example of the need in literature to omit needless words, strip down scenes to their barest and most effective.

Maggie, clearly unstable, humiliated and terrified, instead of remaining silent in the semi-stat panels of the night, manages to spell out, "Even if I could talk about it, I wouldn't want to." Then there's the white-knuckle confession by Handlebar to Posing-Sexy-Even-When-I'm-Looking-At-A-Corpse Latina: "I'm--I'm full of fucking rage."

There are more examples, but with the exception of a few WTF faces and phrases, #56 is actually not a huge offender in either art or writing. Still, the series continues to coast along on an outdated reputation. Understandable enough--hell, it's the only game in town and has a rabid circle of supporters who are unlikely to ever utter the phrase "overrated". Still, with this, another weak, padded entry, I'm getting closer and closer to saying just that. At the very least, it seems that it's best read in TPB form, where the pace seems less glacial.

Still looking forward to the gang hitting DC. Seems like it'll happen next issue.