Happy Walking Dead Day!

I cannot wait to feel horrible!

The end of October is a special time, a time of darkness and dread and spooks and scares that I’ve been giddily anticipating for months. Just thinking about all the ghouls and monsters shambling from house to house in the night demanding something to munch on has me eagerly hopping from foot to foot like a kid full of Pixie Stix.

Of course, I’m talking about this week’s release of the latest The Walking Dead hardcover. What did you…? Oh, Halloween is also…? Huh. I guess it is! Well… good luck with that, all you sexy pirates and sexy Ghostbusters! I hadn’t given that much thought, personally. I’ve had six trick-or-treaters in the last three years, and all of them have been dressed as Teenager in Sweatshirt Who Likes Candy. (Also, from the little I know about pirates, I’d wager good money there was never one anybody categorized as “sexy.”)

Every molecule of anticipation in my body that is not already dedicated to election duty has been assigned to count down the days till the release of this book. There is no way to overstate how out of character this is for me. The Walking Dead is a book that begins where the typical zombie movie ends, and I am a person who does not go to see the typical zombie movie in the first place. For the rest of you who have heard good things about this book but said, “Sure, it has its fans and its acclaim, but what if fetid corpses ripping the throats from children isn’t necessarily for me?” here are a few bullet points to consider:

  • I love this book. 
  • I am one of our nation’s most vocal opponents of zombies and zombism in entertainment. As I may have mentioned before, I am not death’s biggest fan, and any story that forces me to consider the necessity of beheading the reanimated bodies of my loved ones is not going to be taking up much room on my Tivo. The idea that an innocent person could pay for the crime of not running fast enough by turning into a mindless, decaying flesh diner is the kind of notion that makes me want to just buy a controlling interest in Red Bull and ride out this whole “sleep” thing until the bad thoughts stop. Maybe what I hate is being forced to contemplate mortality, and how easily everyone I love will one day be turned into rotting meat. Maybe it is the forced reflection on how arbitrary the universe is, and how someone can just walk down the wrong hallway at the wrong time and end up undead. Most likely, it is the admittedly weird fixation I have with the mind and being in control of my own thoughts and actions. Even if you’re just talking about getting blitzed, Loss of Self Control freaks me out. Whether it’s the Borg, or that episode where the Smurfs start biting one another and turning into purple berserkers, or just the stage hypnotist that the Student Activities Board brings to campus every year for Welcome Week, seeing people involuntarily lose Self makes me lose my $#@%. It makes me want to take off running and never stop flailing my arms. This is one of many reasons why I’m proud to be friends with heroes who did the right thing and co-founded Zombie Squad (http://zombiehunters.org) a noble group devoted to disaster preparedness and educating people on the coming Zombocalypse that I would totally join if it did not involve effort and camping.

 

  • I am no fan of zombieless horror, either. The other day, because I have a one year old with a gingham dress and an aversion to things that cover her head, I was looking for some tiny ruby slippers and a toy schnauzer in a basket at that Halloween costume store that materializes like a dodgy carnival every fall in the abandoned corner of the strip mall. (What these people are doing to make money the rest of the year, I have no idea– fireworks stands? Christmas tree lots?– but I always appreciate knowing there will be someplace to buy a Clinton mask in the neighborhood for three or four weeks out of the year.) As I wandered the aisles of neatly piled severed limbs, rubber tombstones, and gouged eye makeup, I thought as I do every year about how hard it would be to explain this holiday to an alien culture. There’s just something about seeing skulls stacked with UPC stickers affixed to them like groceries that does me in every time. See, intense feelings of repugnance and fear are things I generally avoid as a rule, rather than seek out. I know, loooo loooo, crazy!, but hear me out: those feelings were hard-wired into your processor to keep you from getting killed by the Predator, not to give the world a DVD genre. Awful feelings in the pit of your stomach aren’t fun; they’re awful. Hence the name “horror.”

 

 

  • For the last couple of months, I have been approaching the point where I never want to hear Robert Kirkman’s name again as long as I live. I’m not at that point, but I can see it from where I’m sitting. Whether you are the respected creator of a number of independent comic book series or that guy at the bus stop wearing a cardboard box as a hat, if you come over to me shouting, “I have a manifesto! Hear me well!” I’m afraid I’m going to be double-timing it away from whatever street corner soapbox you happen to be standing on. If the cardboard-hat guy could also somehow get every web site I visit to talk about him every day for weeks at a time, let’s just say that would not make me more receptive and leave it at that. I don’t even know how to articulate what ill-formed emotional reactions I have left about the Kirkman thing. Imagine you are a sports fan, and you have a favorite team. Imagine one of the biggest MVPs currently in the game began trying to get all the best players to leave your favorite team, and suggesting that your favorite team become part of the farm league. Even if the results would be great for everybody in the long run, how big a fan of his would you be? Would it help to know I haven’t followed a sport since the Cardinals lost the Series to the Royals in 1985? Remember when I said I couldn’t articulate this well? Let’s move on.

 

 

 

The point is this: even though every indicator should be screaming to me “DO NOT BUY,” I cannot wait to get the new The Walking Dead hardcover. Dreadful things are about to happen to characters I care about, making my gut churn! Sign me up! It is a testament to good writing that I, of all people, have to catch up with these characters I have worried about and turn each page with sinking dread as each day’s fresh hell drives them to the brink of insanity. A year or so ago, despite my tastes and prejudices, I caved in the face of the accolades of basically every person who ever visited this site and bought the first volume, and there has been no going back ever since. The art isn’t gratuitous if you’re reading through barely parted fingers, and the writing makes you care deeply about the characters even when it seems the writer doesn’t. Plus, because it is one of Kirkman’s precious, precious creator-owned comics, literally no one in the book is safe and the stakes could not be ratcheted up any higher, effectively illustrating many of his manifesto’s points in a way I’d rather not think about right now. The series is a testament to Ebert’s Law, paraphrased: it’s not what the story is about, but how it is about it. Even when you think “I don’t like _______ books” — Westerns, manga, whatever — it still pays to take a chance on one every once in a while. Sure, The Walking DeadΒ is a “zombie story,” but in the end it is a story of people and relationships, and that story is very well told. Unlike most horror, I’ll be thinking about it for days after I read it, and thinking about it in a non-waking-up-screaming-with-nightmare-visions-of-gnashing-skulls capacity. (It turns out even the non-zombies in the book are by and large pretty horrible people. Seeing the characters react to this global crisis by completely failing to come together gives you plenty to chew on, so to speak, whether you find yourself contemplating human nature or just contemplating what the hell is wrong with Robert Kirkman.)

The day I chose to buy this series in hardcover form may have also been the catalyst that ends up changing my reading habits forever. How many times have I been reading a miniseries or story arc on a monthly basis and thought, “I can barely remember what happened in the last chapter. I bet this would read much better in a collected edition”? Spoiler: many, many times. I would love to live in a world where I bought one or two trades a week instead of ten one-chapter comics, getting a complete story with each purchase. In order to do that, though, I would have to wean myself from the floppy teat for several months. I always think of that as an impossible feat (teat feat?) but in The Walking Dead I have a book that keeps me teetering at the edge of my chair for months at a time. (An edge-of-your-seat teat feat!) I haven’t switched to issues; I haven’t even had the urge to switch to trades. The only difference between The Walking Dead and everything else I read is that it’s a book I read as a hardcover from the start, reasoning, “If I’m going to pick up a series, I might as well do it in a way that maximizes the amount of story I get per volume.” If I wanted to do the same thing with, say, The New Avengers, I wouldn’t be starting something new; I’d have to stop reading something I was already hip-deep into for a year or so until the newest volume got released. I always used to think this was an impossible act of self control — how could I wait a year for my favorite book? — but if I can do it with something as spine-tingling as The Walking Dead, clearly I could do it with anything else, right? By this time next year, you could be reading Jimski’s Hardcover Roundup. Thanks, Manifesto Man!

 


Jim Mroczkowski thinks you’d be in for some good times if you read The Walking Dead, Books 1, 2, and 3. Well, maybe not good times. If Amazon was lying about Book 4 coming out this week, he will rant his fool head off at Twitter and Jimski.com.

 

Comments

  1. I never made it past the first picture. Was the article good? πŸ™‚

  2. Yeah, there is no way I could swtch to trades, let alone Hardcovers on TWD.  You clearly are a stronger man than I. 

  3. horray for the Ghostbuster Girl….

  4. I’ve been on trades for this series forever. It’s had it’s ups and downs but it still is one of the best indie titles out there today. I went into issues after the 8th volume of the trade, cause $&@! went down that trade!! The issues after that were great, but to me they are too slow moving for me to keep getting it in issues…..It sounds backwards cause I gotta wait longer for trades then single issues….But to me this series reads best in trade/hardcover format then issues.

  5. I prefer issues, but could see myself easily switching to the trades some day.  This is a great book, and more people need to read it.  I am right with you about hating the zombie craze, much like the pirate craze.  It got annoying really fast and really makes you think it all sucks.  But this book will change your mind. 

  6. Oh the pain of waiting for the HC

  7. why do they have to slut up everything? ghostbusters really? whats next slutty caddyshack outfits, slutty monster squad outfits. what about a slutty Herman Blume or a slutty Louis Winthorpe The 3rd outfit? bet that’d be really hot!

  8. *fantasies about Herman Blume*

    Oh what? I’m sorry WonderBoy I didnt get that πŸ™‚

  9. buy in singles, then get the HCs.  They look so nice on a shelf and are great for lending out.

  10. Just in reference to Jimski’s spiel about Halloween, I was at Wal-Mart last night to pick up socks and I passed by the seasonal section where they have all the Halloween stuff.  Is it just me, or are those Batman plastic candy baskets  just a little creepy?  The thing is not only a severed head, but Batman has this unnerving blank expression on his face that just heightened the idea that it was decapitated AND, just to wrap it all up, the top of his head (Batman’s signature ears included) has been cut off so the thing looks like the product of Batman having a run-in with Sylar and losing.  The fact that I later saw a bunch of them piled on the floor like a Conan movie later didn’t help much.  It was kind of disturbing.  Granted, I’m kind of neurotic, but still… freaky decapitated Batman head that’s been Sylar’d… that ain’t right.

  11. Love me some Walking Dead.

  12. This is easily my favorite on-going series. Like thisisegan above, I don’t know how you can wait for this in HC. I’d lose my stuff if that was the case. Hope you enjoy it – I think it’ll cover up to about issue 50 or so, some of the most heartwrenching issues of this book

    Nice to find another nervous exhaustion sufferer, but I think that may be something very common among comic fans – at least from what I’ve heard.

  13. sexy ghostbuster, thats a new one…

  14. i was being sarcastic, though that Herman Blumes a real looker.

    i think stuff like that ghostbuster outfit and stuff like marvel making that teenage girl hooker wolverine or supergirls extremely slutty new outfit just strengthens stereotypes that all genre/comic fans are horny virgins that want to fuck these characters and dont know how to be with a real girl, also the first two i mentioned are very homoerotic (not that thats anything to be ashamed of) 

  15. Yeah, thats great, when the hell is the next INVINCIBLE hardcover coming out, because it wa  suppose to come out in AUGUST!?

  16.  Singles, trades and Omnibus (after ebaying the trades)!  Even though money has forced me to drop many titles, this is a book that I would buy in both formats. 

    The 2nd Omnibus I believe ends with issue 48, and if memory serves me correctly that is one hell of a shocker!  I have mixed feelings about the second omnibus ending on that note.  People would hate me if I just gave them the 2 omnibi to read as it ends on one helluva cliffhanger (It would be better if it went to… oh let’s say 50.)

  17. well i never read The Walking Dead so im thinking of picking up the Hardcover trades and then on issues i think idk though

  18. I read Walking Dead in trades and mow through it in no time when a new one comes out. I actually prefer trades to hardbacks, they’re easier to read.

  19. So, looking at the comics list for this week, I see this isn’t on the shipping list.  So is it coming or not?  Tis the question…

  20. According to Image’s website, this isn’t due until 11/12/2008 – 

     

    http://www.imagecomics.com/issue.php?item=7539

  21. I triple-checked a couple of sites (Overstock.com says it’s already been out for two weeks!) but I had a bad feeling I might end up getting played once I publicly declared my love. We’ll see!

  22. No use in trusting any shipping lists until the Monday afternoon release.

  23. Shipping list disappointment is one of the world’s great sorrows.

  24. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Not a huge fan of the series, but I loved this piece.  And I love Halloween.  So, even though I’m on the other side of the fence in terms of disposition, the level of writing totally won me over.  Great stuff.  

  25. My disappointment is monumental, but I do love this book and anticipate its release.

  26. I have a love/hate relationship with The Walking Dead…as in I love to read it but am hating the things that are happening…i’ve just finished book 5 and instead of running out to buy the next one, i’m giving myself a bit of a breather…it’s all a bit traumatic really…

     On a zombie side-note, last night saw the first episode of DEAD SET…a British zombie telly programme centered on a load of BIG BROTHER contestants surviving while the outside world is overcome by the dead…high concept TV eh? It was really quite good…and these zombies are of the 28 DAYS LATER variety rather than the classic ‘Romero Sleep-walkers’ (I have no idea why that’s in speech marks!)…

    It’s on every night this week and I encourage anyone to watch it…although you might have to live in England as I’m not sure whether you can get it out in the colonies…and Jimski definately shouldn’t watch it…some dude’s head gets caved in by a fire extinguisher in the first episode…surprisingly graphic!

     

  27. TWD is one of the worst comics I’ve ever read. I know I’m the only one on the planet who doesn’t orgasm at the thought of it, but that’s ok.

  28. When you say "worst comics" are you saying that you think it’s actually poorly done, and therefore, you can’t understand why everyone likes it, or could you see why people liked it, and it just wasn’t for you.  What didn’t you like about it.

    I ask because you’re literally the only person to have such distaste for it.  Paul doesn’t count, because he doesn’t like anything good.  πŸ˜‰

  29. Yeah I think it’s poorly done. I think it’s written like an amateur is writing it. I didn’t care less about any of the characters and I felt most of them were there simply as background characters for some future killings by zombies. It relies way too much on shock – practically every issue has some silly ‘dun dun DUN!" moment on the last page that often develops into nothing. But it needs the shock because take that away and you’re left with nothing. The Michone scene where she tortured that guy was torture porn at its worst and could possibly be the lowest i’ve ever seen a writer stoop to. Kirkman took the very serious issue of extreme violence and rape (again for the shock factor) and all he could do with it was get the woman to respond like she had walked out of a Hostel movie. It has no depth to it whatsoever and I suppose the response would be "it’s a zombie comic, what do you expect?", which is fair enough. I hate zombie movies too, but then I keep hearing that that shouldn’t matter.

    Anyway. I’m probably gonna be killed now :/

  30. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    For the record, I don’t like most Kirkman I’ve read because he’s not super concerned with dialogue.  I don’t hate his books, they’re just not my bag.  I will read more of Walking Dead at some point, but it’s not high on my priority list.  

    I do too like things that are good!   

  31. Someone mentioned this to me a while ago… possibly you, even.  So I made the mistake of looking it up on Wikipedia.   The recap was mesmerizing, I couldn’t hardly wait to read the next paragraph’s summary of 4 comic books.  I zoomed through it, and as I went, I was continually more and more horrified.  Thre paragraphs in and I knew there was no way I was ever going to read this series, ever.  

    If I want to read about people being evil I’ll pick up a newspaper and look for police reports.   Otherwise, I prefer my evil rose tinted with a little unbelievability.  Devourers of  worlds, say, rather than next door neighbors.    Or at least if they’re going to eat the Jones then they should be dead and brainless.  

  32. Great food for thought  (BRAINS!!!)  Thanks.

    I’ve only read the first trade of "Walking Dead" and I’m undecided how I feel about it.  Some of the gender presentation gives me serious pause.   (The menfolk hunt!  The mommies worry about the babies!  And yeah, I know this is probably the way it would shake out in real life, but so far I feel like I’m reading about types rather than individuals — I’m willing to give this a chance to change as the story goes along, but since I’m not wild about R-Kirk’s characterization methods based on the Invincible & X-Men books I’ve read, I don’t have a lot of optimism).  

    That said. . .I find myself thinking about this book a lot.  Whenever I go to visit my parents’ house, which is out in the country and well-stocked with food and provisions, we joke that this is the place my family will converge when the zombie apocalypse comes.  And I always think, "I wonder what happened to those "Walking Dead" people.  Because I think what Kirkman’s exploring is worthwhile on a really primal level.  

    Anyway. . .I bought the second trade and I’ll read it soon; I anticipate that I’ll probably keep with it, but that’s going to take some time and cost some money.  And I’m fine with going slowly for this story.  I’m not a trade-waiter in general, though.  I find it’s a lot harder to remember what happened between two trades 6-months and a year apart than in issues spread on a monthly basis.    

  33. @ Deadspace – i think it DOES matter…if you hate zombie MOVIES then it kinda follows that you will hate TWD…the kirk man said he’s a big fan of zombie movies but he’s always bummed when they end…so he’s writing his neverending zombie movie in comic form…to some, that’s a nipple-tinglingly exciting prospect…to others it’s nipple-twistingly bad…

    …i really shouldn’t drink at lunchtime

  34. Well jimski hates zombies and even horror in general yet still loves TWD. I can’t put it all down to the fact that it’s about zombies because I can’t stand the astonishing wolfman either. It’s about 100 times worse than TWD. So I reckon I just don’t like Kirkman’s writing in general.

  35. @ohcaroline – later in the story, the most badass character is a woman with a sword.  Granted, and this should come as no shock, some horrible shit happens to her.

  36. and the horrible shit that happens to her is dealt with in the most shallow way possible. shock and violence for the sake of shock and violence. 

  37. That’s certainly one opinion.

  38. C’mon, it was like Hostel put into a comic. The dumb level was off the scale.

  39. I can see why people (@deadspace in this instance) feel that way about the Michone scene, but I don’t really understand the thought that the entire book relies on shock. The thing that I love about this book is that it doesn’t rely on the shock/awe trappings of a zombie movie or comic. This is a book about characters and emotions. There are quite a few people (I believe Jim is one of them) that love TWD but can’t stand a lot of horror.

    I can see how it just isn’t for some people, but I don’t see how you can dismiss it as "dumb" and "amateur writing". 

  40. @josh  I’ll keep that in mind, thanks.  (And I do feel a little guilty about insisting that ‘women must be bad-ass’ because that’s its own kind of stereotyping.  I just thought the characters in the first trade divided up a little too neatly by gender).

    And I definitely am intending to keep up with the series, I’m just working through it slowly.

     

     

  41. Yeah, it’s funny that the badass, loner character is now so often a woman, like Wolverine in a bra with intimacy issues.

    As far as I’m concerned, "shock value" is only really bad when there’s nothing behind it, like characters, or anything else to care about.  I care about these characters, and like them, so when bad things happen to them, it feels like consequence and not entertainment.

  42. @josh  Yeah, and that’s cool if it’s Starbuck, not so much if it’s ‘Wolverine’s teenage female clone who used to be a prostitute and also an assassin’ (I am, unfortunately, not making that up).