Zombie Tales

March 17th, 2009 by |

When we’re talking about the current zombie craze, do we start with 28 Days Later, which proved that the zombie movies still have some juice in them?  Or do we start with Shaun Of The Dead, which really opened up the genre, encouraging more creativity in the field of living-deadology?  Maybe we start with Diablo Cody, princess of pop-indie, who is producing Breathers: A Zombies Lament.

Well, in this case we say ‘screw them,’ because we’re into comics and, by god, no other medium is going to steal our thunder.  BOOM! Studios has a Zombie Tales ongoing that packs a bunch of zombie stories into a floppy with an exceedingly gory cover.  At WonderCon, I got a chance to speak with Ian Brill, a writer who has published several stories in Zombie Tales, and whose latest story will be published in Zombie Tales #12, coming out tomorrow.

1.   Do you feel like you’re riding a big zombie popularity wave?  Or do you feel like you were doing this before it was cool?

It’s funny, I’m not a huge zombie fan.  I’ve enjoyed some zombie films (I really liked Zach Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, as well as 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead) but it’s not a genre I would peruse with any intensity.  I’ve only been a causal horror movie fan at best.  Not to sidestep the question but to be honest, I’ve never given thought to how my stories fit in with anyone else’s, whether I’m riding a wave of popularity or not. 


2.  How did you get into Zombie Tales, then?

The reason why my first published comics work has appeared in Zombie Tales  is because I’ve been working a few feet away from Zombie Tales editor Mark Waid for about the past year. 

Early on when I got this job I had this one idea for a story that wouldn’t leave my brain.  It was what became Bait.  It all has to do with that ending, which I don’t dare spoil.  Pick up the Zombie Tales #5 comic book or the Zombie Tales: Good Eatin’ trade paperback to read it.  I was hesitant to ask Waid if I could pitch a story as I was already an editor at BOOM!  But those afraid to fail are afraid to succeed so I got up the nerve to ask and to my pleasant surprise he said he was cool with that!  The rest is extremely minor comics history. 


3.  Is is hard to put a new spin on an old phenomenon?  What are some of the ways you have to make sure you’re approaching it from a new angle?

Two stories came from taking the assumptions in the genre and then questioning them.  Maybe that’s where my relative lack of zombie awareness helps.  It may sound blasphemous but I haven’t even seen all the George Romero movies! 

Bait came from this question that was constantly going off in my head “why don’t they send _____ after zombies” (again, I’m trying to keep this spoiler free!).  Same thing with The Mixed-Up Zombies Who Started Living and Became Incredibly Strange Creatures.  I questioned what would happen if zombies got “cured.” 

I Don’t Like Henry Carve started because rolling around my head I had that climactic image of Henry Carve pulling…something out of the cooler (look at me, Mr. Anti-Spoiler today!).  It was something else that would not leave me unless I wrote a story about it.  Some stories are like that, although most aren’t.  You can’t wait for inspiration to hit you like that.   


4.  I notice your stories tend to involve families, especially mothers and daughters.  Is there any special reason for that?

Funny enough I never thought about the family angle of it all.  I do think of the mother and daughters one because I like to make sure my stories have female characters in them.  Bait could have been any couple, it just ended up being a lesbian couple.  They deserve some representation in genre entertainment and not as just super-femme “lipstick lesbians.”  For Henry Carve I just felt a little girl questioning the main character was better than a little boy.  A little boy might end up idolizing Carve, maybe seem him as a father figure.  With Mixed-Up Zombies I just knew there weren’t a lot of comic book stories that had a black woman as the lead.  There’s nothing about that story that dictated to me the protagonist had to be white or male, so I figured I’d diversify comics just a little bit more. 


5.  Following up on the families question – you don’t focus on horror so much as the psychological ramifications of living in a world post-zombie-apocalypse.  Is that, for you, the most accessible way to get into the mythos?

When I first started writing stories my work was very introspective and concentrated more on emotions and inner turmoil than action.  This is because I started writing prose, where you can go on for pages about some traumatic memory a character has while all along the action happening on the surface is “she buys a loaf of bread.” 

Working in a visual form I have to think of how I’m going to keep things moving.  For Bait and Henry Carve the protagonists have clear “A to B” destination points.  Once I’ve communicated that simple but important information to the audience I can then fill in the spaces with flashbacks, inner monologue, etc.  I love the work of writers like Ed Brubaker and Peter Milligan who can fit in the right amount of emotional information and exposition in captions without getting too verbose.  So much of comic book storytelling is getting across complex ideas in simple, clear ways.


6.  What kind of coordination do you do with artists to make sure the comic has a look that works for you?

Waid shares with me their breakdowns, then the line art and then the coloring.  I try to not have a lot of notes because my default thinking when it comes to artists is “they know more than I do.”  Jason Ho and Toby Cypress have been doing this longer than me.  Jason made the first flashback in Bait shine with choices I would have never thought of.  He did a great job.  Cris Peter’s coloring just made the story better.  She is ones of those colorists that never forgets that she is a storyteller as well.  An amazing talent, just look at her work on Hexed (also from BOOM!).    

Toby is amazing, as anyone who’s seen his work in The Tourist, Killing Girl or Rodd Racer can attest.  I may provide the words and situations but all the stories become a part of a unique world he has crafted.  I’m more than happy to let it happen.  


7.  Got anything coming up?

I have a story in Heavy Metal that being’s painted by Michael Gaydos.  As a big fan of Alias I am honored to have him working on a story I wrote. 

In the meantime I’m editing a whole bunch of comics at BOOM!  I edit the Farscape line and then there’s plenty of more exciting stuff that will be announced soon, much of it pertaining to our new co-publishing deal with Fox Atomic Comics. 


Ian Brill has two Zombie Tales stories published already in Zombie Tales #5, and #6, reprinted in Zombie Tales Volume 3.  His upcoming story, The Mixed-Up Zombies Who Started Living and Became Incredibly Strange Creatures, comes out tomorrow in Zombie Tales #12.

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