Published on September 26th, 2010 | by admin0
A Week Late #1: The Walking Dead
The failure of most zombie stories seems to lie in the medium: brevity required by the movies, imagination required by novels to convey the horrific images that the author has in mind, and, in general, a lack of new ideas or a poor execution of the zombie story. In recent years, zombies as a monster have become increasingly popular, but in order to increase the terror, writers often give them extra abilities which, in my opinion, are a sometimes lazy divergence from George Romero’s modern conception of the zombie.
Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate the rage-fueled madmen from 28 Days Later, the super powered killing machines in the Left 4 Dead games, or any of the other zombie stories where dying doesn’t seem to be much of a hindrance to the physical acumen of the dead (i.e. Zombieland, Dawn of the Dead (2004), Slither). [REC•] was a terrifying movie, but one that I never felt could truly be called a zombie flick. I’ve always been of the opinion that once you’re dead, you shouldn’t be able to run faster than or even as fast as someone who is very pointedly not dead. Zombies should not be a human that is simply physically deformed in some awful way; they should be, as Miracle Max would say “mostly dead.”
In The Walking Dead, a comic started in late 2003, Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard have overcome the greatest obstacles of creating a great zombie story. Through the medium of comics, Adlard (initially Tony Moore) can display the raw visuals of horror, isolation and desperation while Kirkman masterfully scripts a story about the limitations of an individual, how much someone can sacrifice, and what it means to be human. The story is sometimes sensational (understandably…it is about zombies) but it is also frighteningly believable. Also, because of the episodic format and the relative ease with which comics are made, they are not bound to a story of any certain length, just as long as they can continue creating. To quote Kirkman himself,
“But one of the things that always bugged me about those movies is that they always end. You get to know the characters, you’re kind of invested in them, and then they run out of time, and there’s some kind of moment that happens, whether it’s a biker gang showing up or some other bad thing happening that kind of wraps the story up. And I got to thinking, “What if the story doesn’t wrap up abruptly? What if we get to follow these people, and see them try and live long-term in this zombie world?”
It does not stretch the imagination quite as much as I’d like to believe that humans are capable of some of the evils and desperate efforts taken in the comic to survive in a world where your neighbor can easily be your next enemy. Kirkman has crafted the story not as a story of monsters, but one of humans pushed to the edge of belief and how those humans push back.
The story revolves around a small group of survivors of the initial zombie outbreak. The main character, Rick Grimes, was a cop who was shot and put into a minor coma before everything went to hell. He wakes up from his coma to find himself alone and confused and begins his quest to find out the why and how to survive. (NOTE: This is a point of contention for Robert Kirkman as he addressed in the Q&A in the back of issue number #4 and in an interview with GQ as the idea for him waking up from the coma was written for the comic before 28 Day Later came out in theatres.) He eventually meets with a motley group of people outside of Atlanta and they begin their trek to find some form of stable life. The zombies in The Walking Dead are nothing short of a force of nature, indiscriminate in their destructive path. They act just as a virus: unpredictable, virulent, and damn hard to kill.
I loved reading pretty much everything of Robert Kirkman’s that I’ve come across. Invincible is one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve found in the last few years and books like Haunt and The Astounding Wolf-Man, while not his best work, are solid titles. I have much less exposure to Charlie Adlard’s work because I’m generally not a fan of the less detailed, more exaggerated style of art that he used over at 2000 A.D. but I’ve recently picked up some issues of Savage and was surprisingly pleased. The man knows how to draw some brutal action. The tv series seems to be fairly close to the books from what I can tell. There are going to be some moments that they just can’t do on television, understandably enough, but for the most part AMC is very forgiving when it comes to violence in their shows and there won’t be much cut. The hard adjustment is going to be watching all of these characters interact in color.
Make no mistake about this series, though, when you start reading it. No character is safe and you’re going to need quite a lot of comforting after some of the more gruesome points. You have been warned.
The Walking Dead premieres on AMC on Halloween at 10/9C You can read the rest of the exorbitantly long GQ Walking Dead Article here.