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The Fifth Color | Marvel’s robot revival

AvengersAI_1coverEvery so often, public opinion shifts and popular culture gets a craving. Remember when everything was all about pirates? Then we all got on this huge kick about vampires and the supernatural, and we had a variety of different television shows to slake our thirst? The remnants of those yearnings still linger (well, not so much the pirates), and now the masses have all lined up for zombies.

Zombies play into so many metaphors for the fears that plague us (death, communities turning against us, a loss of identity and so on), and they can even reflect economic shifts with consumerism and political-mob mentalities. That latter point is probably why Game of Thrones (a fantasy political drama) and The Walking Dead (a morality play on humanity versus its corrupted self) are TV-ratings gold.

Sadly, this cannot last. I’m not saying zombies are on their way out, just that the cultural craze is reached a peak and is moving toward something new — and Marvel comics has your back.

With robots! They’re fantastic and a personal favorite of my science fiction-loving heart, so the announcement of Avengers A.I. left me looking past our zombie-filled present with a hope for a new future-craze. We should be looking forward to what comes after our old rotten selves, pushing forward with our fiction to better understand the human condition. There is no better metaphor than that of the robot to help us grasp our own humanity and morality by looking through mechanical eyes; the future of our pop culture might not be full of artificial men, because who can really predict the public’s taste for fantasy or fiction? But Marvel seems primed and ready to try to take us into a new age of androids.

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Bogus emergency alert warns Montana residents of zombie uprising

The Walking Dead #106

If only Lori Grimes and Shane Walsh had been given a little warning, things might’ve ended better for everyone. At least they could’ve gotten poor Rick out of that hospital.

Unfortunately, Montana residents weren’t all that appreciative when the regular broadcast of Great Falls television station KRTV was interrupted Monday afternoon by an Emergency Alert System bulletin warning of an impending zombie apocalypse.

“Civil authorities in your area have reported the bodies of the dead are rising from their graves and are attacking the living,” a creepy, distorted voice warned residents in a four-county area. “Do not attempt to approach or apprehend these bodies, as they are considered extremely dangerous.”

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Whedon endorses Romney (and his vision for zombie apocalypse)

In between writing the screenplay for the sequel to The Avengers, developing ABC’s S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot and executive producing Dark Horse’s Buffy-verse comics, Joss Whedon somehow found time to shoot a video “endorsing” Mitt Romney for president. Sure, it’s a bit surprising, considering that Whedon and Romney differ on myriad social issues (today, in any case), but the filmmaker has found common, if post-apocalyptic, ground.

“Y’know, like a lot of liberal Americans, I was excited when Barack Obama took office four years ago,” Whedon explains, “but it’s a very different world now, and Mitt Romney is a very different candidate — one with the vision and determination to cut through business-as-usual politics and finally put this country back on the path to the zombie apocalypse. Romney is ready to make the deep rollbacks in healthcare, education, social services, reproductive rights that will guarantee poverty, unemployment, overpopulation, disease, rioting — all crucial elements in creating a nightmare zombie wasteland.”

There’s more, of course. And along the way, Whedon gets in a little jab at Ayn Rand devotees, sure to make a few libertarians rethink their interpretations/warm embrace of Firefly.

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George Romero writing ‘secret’ zombie comic for Marvel

Horror legend George A. Romero, who essentially created the zombie subgenre as we now know it, has revealed he’s writing a comic for Marvel.

“I’m writing it now, but its plot is a secret,” the 72-year-old filmmaker told Twitch. Prodded for details, he added, “Well, I can tell you it won’t involve any of their on-going characters, there will be no superheroes. But it will involve zombies!”

That naturally rules out Marvel Zombies, which have attracted such horror notables as Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead), David Wellington (Monster Island), Jonathan Maberry (Ghost Road Blues), Seth Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter), while opening up a post-apocalyptic world of possibilities.

Romero isn’t a stranger to comic books: He wrote the 2004-2005 DC Comics miniseries Toe Tags, based on an unused move script.

NYCC | A round-up of news from Thursday

Superman by Jim Lee

The New York Comic Con officially kicked off this afternoon, with fans eager to get inside and publishers eager to begin releasing news into the wild. So let’s see if we can’t herd some of those announcements together. Here’s a round-up from today:

• DC Comics Co-Publisher and artist extraordinaire Jim Lee will team with Batman scribe Scott Snyder on a new Superman title next year, just in time for the Man of Steel’s return to the silver screen. “This will play along with the other Superman books in the sense that it’s in continuity, but we really wanted to carve out our own territory,” Snyder told CBR. “This really is sort of the biggest, most epic Superman story we could do together while having our feet planted firmly in continuity and making sure that everyone had enough room.”

DC also unveiled a Kia Optima that features a Batman design by Jim Lee.

• Marvel announced three more Season One graphic novels: Iron Man, written by Howard Chaykin with art by Gerard Parel; Thor by writer Matthew Sturges and artist Pepe Larraz; and Wolverine, written by the team of Ben Blacker and Ben Acker, with art by Salva Espin. Also, Cullen Bunn returns to Deadpool with Deadpool Killustrated, a miniseries that pits the Merc with a Mouth against Moby Dick, Sherlock Holmes, Beowulf, Don Quixote and more. Spoiler alert: he’s gonna kill them.

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Comic Couture | Marvel villains, Batcuffs and more

WeLoveFine.com recently held a contest where they asked artists to design shirts with a Marvel villains theme, and they’ve now posted the winners. The above shirt was the judge’s pick, chosen by Loki himself, Tom Hiddleston, and designed by Mariel Thompson. You can see the other winners at their site.

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Comic Couture | Dan Hipp goes headless at Threadless

If you are a fan of Dan Hipp’s work on Amazing Joy Buzzards, Gyakushu!, Ben 10 or his wonderful art blog, then you might want to know that Threadless recently turned the above image, “Zombie Survivalist,” into a T-shirt and a hoodie. No doubt it will sell out quickly, so head over there fast if you’d like to grab one for your very own.

Tony Moore and Katie Cook team up with surprising results

One of the unique parts of a comic convention is the chance to get sketches and fully-rendered art commissions from some of the medium’s top artists. They could draw the characters they’re known for best, or even something off-the-wall like the Swedish Chef that colorist Justin Ponsor did for me once. But a recent posting on artist Tony Moore’s blog shows just how crazy things can get when you get two artists to collaborate, or ‘jam,’ on a single piece

Behold Moore’s rendition of a My Little Pony being ridden by a zombie drawn by Katie Cook, as done during last weekend’s Emerald City Comicon in Seattle.

Wish This Was Real | George Washington: Warlord of Time

I’m trying not to post about Ben Caldwell every single day, but he’s making it difficult. Look, I resisted when he posted this picture of George Washington and a cave-girl fighting Zombie Blackbeard, but then he had to go and make an actual comic out of it. I’m not made of cave-stone here. Click the link to see the whole, one-page comic, then join me in begging for more.

WonderCon | A round-up of announcements from Friday

Amazing Spider-Man #688

WonderCon opened its doors Friday at the Anaheim Convention Center, a first for the convention as it moves south from its usual San Francisco home this year. Will it be a permanent move? The Beat’s Heidi MacDonald, who is at the show, has some thoughts on why that may not be a bad idea.

Here’s a round-up of news from yesterday at the show:

Daredevil and Irredeemable writer Mark Waid announced several digital comics plans, beginning with a PDF comic available now on his website. The zombie comic, called Luther, is drawn by Jeremy Rock. It will be followed in May by a digital comics imprint. “In May, I’m rolling out a digital comics website where material will be going up in weekly or twice-weekly installments. But before that, on April 2, MarkWaid.com goes live again as a process blog for webcomics and what we’re doing. All throughout April, we’ll be giving sample material away for free, showing what the format can do, and I’ll be doing interviews with pioneers in this field. My own artists will also be there to talk about the projects we’re doing and how we’ll be building them.” Waid was also on hand for the Marvel House of Ideas panel, which went into detail on their recently announced digital and augmented reality plans.

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Comics A.M. | Ryan Matheson speaks on Canadian manga case

From a CBLDF campaign

Legal | Ryan Matheson, who was stopped at the Canadian border in 2010 and charged with criminal possession of child pornography because of a manga image on his computer (which even the officials who arrested him couldn’t agree was child pornography), talks about his ordeal in a personal statement on the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund site. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund announced Thursday that the Canadian government has dropped all criminal charges against Matheson. [CBLDF]

Comics | Leah Moore sees two things: a huge number of women who like comics, and a comics industry that is in serious trouble, and thinks it’s time to connect the dots and start making comics that appeal to the other 50% of the audience. “Okay, well, let’s say, instead of jumping in and writing comics designed to attract women readers (Minx comics discovered this is harder than it looks), how’s about writing comics which don’t actually put women off? How’s about a bit less objectifying, a bit less sexualisation, a bit less pervy gusset shots and tit windows? Just a bit? Make some of the regular mainstream big name books everyone enjoys reading a bit less eyewatering and weird about women. That would be a great start.” [Warren Ellis]

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Previews: What Looks Good for March

The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist

It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes and first issues so that we don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “Batwoman is still awesome!” every month. And we’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.

One cool change this month and for the foreseeable future: I’m joined by Graeme McMillan who’ll also be pointing out his favorites.

Finally, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.

Abrams Comicarts

The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist – I admit, I tend to run hot and cold on Clowes’ output, but I’m a sucker for coffee-table career retrospectives, so the idea of taking 224 pages to look back at his career to date (with, of course, the traditional little-seen artwork and commentary) seems like a must-look at the very least. [Graeme]

Abstract Studios

Rachel Rising, Volume 1: The Shadow of Death – Terry Moore’s latest series gets its first collection and I love the premise of a woman’s waking up in a shallow grave with no memory of how she got there and needing to figure out who tried to kill to her. [Michael]

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‘Two things I swore I would never write about': Abnett to write vampire/zombie comic for Vertigo

The New Deadwardians

Vertigo Comics announced today that writer Dan Abnett and artist I.N.J. Culbard will team up on an eight-issue miniseries titled The New Deadwardians, a comic set in post-Victorian England where the upper class voluntarily becomes vampires in order to escape the lower class, who have all become zombies.

“May I just confess that this is a story that involves both zombies and vampires, two things I swore I would never write about because they had both long since jumped the shark,” Abnett said in his pitch. “Then this idea came to me and wouldn’t leave me alone. Please be tolerant of the zombie-and-vampire-ness of this until you’ve heard me out. It’s essentially a detective story set in an alternate history England, circa 1900.”

Here’s how they described the book on the Vertigo blog:

Set in post-Victorian England, nearly everyone in the upper class has voluntarily become a vampire to escape the lower classes who are all zombies.

Thrust into this mayhem is Chief Inspector George Suttle, a lonely detective who’s got the slowest beat in London: investigating murders in a world where everyone is already dead!

But when the body of a young aristocrat washes up on the banks of the Thames, Suttle’s quest for the truth will take him from the darkest sewers to the gleaming halls of power, and reveal the rotten heart at the center of this strange world.

Abnett, of course, is one half of the DnA writing team with Andy Lanning, who together write Resurrection Man and New Mutants. Culbard has done work for Dark Horse and SelfMadeHero, a British publisher, including the adaptation of Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness that won a British Fantasy Award earlier this year.

The first issue comes out in March.

Wolfe and Higgins bring zombies to Camelot in Knights of the Living Dead

Knights of the Living Dead

Artist Dusty Higgins has a knack for getting involved with projects with titles that make you scream, “Hey, why didn’t I think of that?” Over the last couple years, he’s worked with Van Jensen on the Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer series of graphic novels, the third of which is due next year from SLG Publishing. It of course pits the little wooden boy against monsters whose weaknesses include wooden stakes through the heart.

Now he’s teamed with writer Ron Wolfe for Knights of the Living Dead, a story that brings zombies to Camelot. The first issue is now available for free from SLG Publishing’s website, where you can also buy the second issue for 99 cents.

Wolfe says not to let the title fool you – the book is no spoof.

“I love the title, but don’t let it mislead you. The book is no spoof on zombies. It’s as dark as anything I’ve ever written,” Wolfe told Robot 6. His previous work includes Death’s Door and Old Fears, both horror novels co-written with John Wooley, as well as Hellraiser comics for Marvel. “That said, the premise allows for some playing around. But I really think, if I just happened to pick it up, this thing would trouble me for some time.”

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Zombies, the Spirit of Pop Culture Present: A few thoughts on Zombies Christmas Carol

In seeking to explain the pervasive popularity of the zombie genre, talkers-about pop culture have long espoused the theory that tales of the unhappy undead catch on during times of national stress, usually of a military variety.

I bought that, as 2002’s 28 Days Later re-mainstreamed zombies between the U.S.-lead invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, but zombies are still around, and more popular than ever. The argument could be made that they’re still here because we’re still stressed out and America is still engaged in the same wars we were fighting a decade ago , but then, hasn’t every single year of American history been stressful for the folks living in it? Haven’t we almost always been at war with someone somwhere?

So I’m developing my own theory. I think zombies are popular not necessarily as a psychological reflection of the common consumers anxiety about terrorism or immigration or mortality or economic decline or the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United, but simply because the proliferation of cheap filmmaking and publishing technology and the hydra-like increase in media outlets makes it easier to make and transmit zombie products, and the astronomically more specialized consumer of the past decade means its easier to sustain popularity of particular genres. It’s now possible for almost any genre to become popular enough to be self-sustaining in today’s media environment.

For example, producers pitching Walking Dead to AMC in 2010 didn’t have to worry about mass appeal in the same way that a previous generations producers might have had if they pitched a Night of Living Dead series to NBC in 1985; if they get the people who participate in zombie walks and the comic book people and the horror people, that’s more than enough to tune-in and buy DVD collections.

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