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.
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).