With AMC’s Walking Dead premiering on Halloween, comic-book fans have come down with a severe case of zombie fever. Can you blame them? Oscar-nominee Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) and a creative team that includes the comic’s creator, Robert Kirkman, have produced one of the most faithful adaptations ever to hit the small screen. The show has successfully resuscitated the zombie genre at a time when vampires have (pardon the pun) started to suck.
But what about big-screen zombies? With 28 Months Later on hold, the horror-movie landscape is looking as barren as a zombie-ridden town in a Romero flick. Could zombie comics also provide fresh meat (and brains) for the big screen? And will I get through this column without making any more terrible puns? Find out below.
Shortly after launching “The Walking Dead,” Kirkman worked his horrific magic on the Marvel universe in “Marvel Zombies,”
a hugely popular series that answered the question, What if
Spider-Man, Hulk, and the rest were crazed brain eaters? The first two mini-series were massive hits, inspiring multiple sequels and adding fuel to the zombie-comics craze. While a live-action take is probably unlikely (Marvel would
never allow Spider-Man to feast on Mary Jane), “Marvel Zombies”
would make for an awesome out-of-continuity animated movie. Perhaps
Marvel could inspire sister company Pixar to expand into edgy, R-rated
fare. Hey, they already went dark with Up.
entered the zombie-comics field with Chris Roberson and Mike Allred’s
quirky tale of an undead grave digger who must feast on the occasional brain in order to avoid turning into a mindless, shambling monster. In return, she helps the dead
solve any mysteries they’ve left behind. Part detective story, part
modish horror romp, “I, Zombie”‘s mix of vampires, ghostly gals with sixties bouffants, and were-terriers has turned the series into a
cult hit. This one has “Tim Burton production” written all over it.
“Mort the Dead Teenager”
This wacky tale of a decapitated zombie teenager (penned by “G.I. Joe” writer
Larry Hama) has been in various states of big-screen development since
the nineties. (Everyone from Steven Spielberg to Quentin Tarantino wanted a piece of Mort.)
Back in 2005, test footage was actually shot for a version starring
Jessica Simpson and Elijah Wood. But with Marvel focused on their
flagship superhero characters, the Mort-news world has been quieter than a cemetery at midnight. Now that Disney is taking over the distribution reins for Marvel movies, it’s only a matter of time before the Mort film is resurrected as a family-friendly rock-and-roll horror comedy starring Zac Efron.
“Zombies vs. Robots”
zombies versus robots. What more do you need? Creators Ashley Wood and
Chris Ryall deliver on the title’s promise, mixing old-school sci-fi-serial fun with modern-day horror. Mad scientists, time travel, and
tongue-in-cheek humor all add up to a series that should appeal to fans
of horror-comedies like Shaun of the Dead. Even better, the sequel, Zombies vs. Robots vs. Amazons, adds scantily clad warrior women to the mix. Sign up a director with a flair for over-the-top action (Zack Snyder, perhaps?),
and — voilà — instant franchise.
“Darkman vs. Army of Darkness”
Yep, zombie hunter Ash once tangled with fellow Sam Raimi creation Darkman on the comics page. Okay, so maybe Darkman isn’t technically a zombie,
but he sure is gruesome under those bandages. (Though Peyton Westlake did rise from near death to be the anti-hero Darkman.) While progress on
a new Evil Dead movie has stalled, Ash has been busy in comics tangling with everyone from Re-Animator to (you guessed it) the Marvel Zombies. So why not jump-start both Darkman and Ash with a crossover movie? It worked for Freddy and Jason.
resident zombie provides an interesting twist on the formula: scientist
David Kim becomes a member of the walking dead after injecting himself
with a technological virus. It’s a nifty high concept that ran for 22
issues during the nineties as part of the short-lived Milestone line.
Recently, Xombi has been brought back to life, joining the DC universe
proper in an issue of “The Brave and the Bold.” With news of DC launching a new “Xombi” series, it’s only a matter of time before the character gets snatched up by Hollywood and turned into the next Hellboy.
DC’s hit “Blackest Night”
crossover has basically been an excuse to resurrect deceased heroes as
creepy zombie baddies. (See, kids, superheroes never actually stay
dead.) With Green Lantern looking to be a big hit, sequels are pretty much a given. Could “Blackest Night” provide story material down the line? If nothing else, it’s a way for
DC to pull all their characters together in one movie without
resurrecting the (thankfully) defunct Justice League movie. Sometimes
the dead are better off buried.