Mad for zom­bies

Be­fore mak­ing an im­pact on TV, TheWalkingDead be­gan life as a cult comic book se­ries. Time to meet the un­dead in print.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - T MOVIES - EL­IZ­A­BETH TAI

Time to meet the un­dead in

TheWalkingDead in print.

AH, zom­bies. They may not be the cur­rent mon­ster du jour (that hon­our be­longs to vam­pires), but they cer­tainly have an ar­dent fol­low­ing.

Scores of zom­bie movies, nov­els and graphic nov­els have been pro­duced and con­sumed ea­gerly, but when it comes to zom­bie graphic nov­els, none has had the kind of suc­cess The Walk­ing Dead (TWD) has. The se­ries, which de­buted in 2003, now has 75 is­sues and was re­cently made into a tele­vi­sion show. ( The Walk­ing Dead is on FX HD to­day at mid­night.)

Cre­ated by Robert Kirk­man, TWD fol­lows the ad­ven­tures of a group of hu­mans who sur­vive a zom­bie apoc­a­lypse. But while the cast changes a lot dur­ing the course of the se­ries – some leave the group, many are killed – the char­ac­ter that re­mains stead­fast is Rick Grimes, a po­lice of­fi­cer from a small town in Ken­tucky. In the first vol­ume, Chap­ter One: Days Gone Bye, Rick, who was shot in the line of duty, awak­ens from a coma to find him­self in an aban­doned hos­pi­tal. He quickly dis­cov­ers that there’s some­thing se­ri­ously not right with the world. Al­most ev­ery­one is dead. But the dead do not stay dead.

Kirk­man doesn’t elab­o­rate how the zom­bie plague be­gan. This could an­noy com­pletists, but TWD isn’t about the ge­n­e­sis of the zom­bie apoc­a­lypse, which has been ex­plored in great de­tail by nu­mer­ous nov­els, comics and movies al­ready, but about what hap­pens af­ter civil­i­sa­tion col­lapses.

For Rick, he de­cides to head on to At­lanta where he hopes to find his wife, Lori, and son, Carl. Such a jour­ney would’ve been easy in the pre-apoc­a­lypse world, but Rick soon re­alises that with zom­bies lurk­ing at the most un­ex­pected places and with the ba­sic in­fra­struc­ture of civil­i­sa­tion bro­ken down, the mis­sion would be fraught with dan­ger.

But it isn’t the zom­bies that are the only threat. The liv­ing hu­mans are as dan­ger­ous.

At heart, TWD is an ex­plo­ration of what

While vam­pires are of­ten a metaphor for sex and ro­mance, were­wolves the an­i­mal in us, zom­bies are of­ten used to com­ment on so­ci­ety. Max Brooks used zom­bies to com­ment on world pol­i­tics and pop cul­ture in his zom­bie novel, World War Z. The Bri­tish zom­bie minis­eries Dead Set is a bit­ing sa­tar­i­cal com­men­tary on the ba­nal­ity of re­al­ity shows.

In TWD, the sub­ject is hu­man psy­chol­ogy: how lit­tle we know our­selves, how we’re ca­pa­ble of do­ing great evil and good, and

how, un­der ex­treme duress, we be­come peo­ple we’d never thought we’d be.

The rea­son why TWD is such a suc­cess­ful se­ries is be­cause of the “real” walk­ing dead – the hu­man sur­vivors of the zom­bie apoc­a­lypse. It’s the story of real peo­ple.

While some char­ac­ters do be­gin quite stereo­typ­i­cally – Rick, the do gooder sher­iff’s deputy for one, but the graphic novel soon demon­strates how sup­pos­edly noble char­ac­ters are ca­pa­ble of bad things, and bad peo­ple are ca­pa­ble of good things.

And be­cause Kirk­man isn’t re­luc­tant to wield the scythe, we see fan favourites of­ten end­ing in grotesque and heart-break­ing ways.

This un­pre­dictabil­ity keeps things from go­ing stale.

TWD’s no-holds-barred vi­o­lence is rarely­gra­tu­itous, even if it makes you flinch and even if it does push the bound­aries of tol­er­ance at times. It’s there to show you how cruel this world has be­come.

With the world so dif­fer­ent, char­ac­ters find new strengths and weak­nesses in them­selves. Some form un­com­fort­able al­liances, some are driven to do aw­ful things in or­der to pro­tect them­selves or loved ones.

Rick, for one, goes from an ide­al­is­tic po­lice of­fi­cer who thinks he knows what is good and bad to a man who does some very ques­tion­able things.

And the amount of suf­fer­ing Kirk­man pours over Rick is un­be­liev­able ... but alas, that’s the way the world op­er­ates in TWD, and it is to Rick’s credit that he sur­vives at all.

TWD, by the way, is done in black and white. At first I was dis­ap­pointed about that – black and white seemed so wasted on glossy, high qual­ity paper. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­view with film­critic.com, Kirk­man was in­spired by Romero’s black and white movie (the one that started the zom­bie craze) Night

Of The Liv­ing Dead and thought it would be neat to do TWD in black and white.

He also said, quite prac­ti­cally: “It’s not all bloody and vi­o­lent with red all over the page, so it seems a lit­tle less of­fen­sive. It’s also a lit­tle cheaper to print.”

TWD is a highly en­gross­ing and ad­dic­tive se­ries, and it warms my heart to see di­rec­tor Frank Darabont (of The Green Mile and

Shaw­shank Re­demp­tion) do­ing it jus­tice in his tele­vi­sion adap­tion.

A sec­ond sea­son on TV has al­ready been

con­firmed for The Walk­ing Dead, guar­an­tee­ing that the apoc­a­lypse drama se­ries is no brisk walk, but rather a hu­man munch­fest marathon on the tube.

TheWalkingDead graphic novel se­ries is avail­able at Ki­noku­niya, KLCC. The TV se­ries is shown at mid­night on Fri­days on FX HD (Astro Chan­nel 726). The re­peats are on Satur­days (noon and 6pm).

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