Tag Archives: zombies

Interview with Chris Roberson

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picture of Chris RobersonChris Roberson is the co-creator, along with artist Michael Allred, of the iZOMBIE comics, which are the basis of the hit CW television series, and the writer of several New York Times best-selling Cinderella miniseries set in the world of Bill Willingham’s Fables. He is also the co-creator of Edison Rex with artist Dennis Culver, and the co-writer of Hellboy and the B.P.R.D, Witchfinder, and other titles set in the world of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. In addition to his numerous comics projects, Roberson has written more than a dozen novels and three dozen short stories. He lives with his daughter, two cats, and far too many books in Portland, Oregon. You can find him on Twitter by following @chris_roberson.

Shauna Kosoris: Where did you get the idea for iZombie?

Chris Roberson: The inspiration for iZombie largely came from two questions I asked myself. The first was, just why do zombies need to eat brains in the first place? What were they getting out of them? And the second was, would it be possible to tell a zombie story that took place in the modern day and not in some sort of post-apocalyptic setting? Answering the first helped me figure out a way to answer the second!

In an interview with Tobias S. Buckell, you said that your brain likes to think up ways of turning odd bits of trivia into stories.  What’s the most interesting bit of trivia you’ve ever used for a story?

I was still living in Austin, Texas when I was writing the original series, and the stylist who had been cutting my hair for more than a dozen years had recently joined a competitive Skee-ball league. So every time I went in for a haircut, she would tell me all about the latest competitions, and how her team had done, and I was just fascinated by the whole thing. At one point I planned to do an entire story arc built entirely around skee-ball, with Gwen having to take a dead woman’s place and help lead her team to victory, having inherited the woman’s skill at the game. In the end, saner heads prevailed and the whole story was dealt with  in a handful of pages. But Mike Allred did a fantastic skee-ball themed cover for the issue, so it was all worth it.

That’s super fun!  So in 2015, iZombie became a television show – what was that like for you?

It was, and remains, incredibly surreal. It would be enough if our comic was still well remembered and being discovered by new readers, but for it to have taken on this second life as a TV adaptation, especially one as fantastic as iZombie is, and made by such talented (and friendly!) people, has been a source of continual amazement.

Moving away from iZombie now, how did you get involved with Fables?

Bill Willingham has been one of my dearest friends for the better part of twenty years, and he asked me if I would be interested in writing a fill-in issue of Jack of Fables. That was my entrée into comics, which I’d been trying to break into for nearly 18 years by that point. My fill-in issue was well received, which led to Bill and his editor Shelly Bond inviting me to write a miniseries featuring the Cinderella character from Fables, and I’ve been a full time comic book writer ever since.

Now that you write comics full time, do you still write prose?

I still do a bit of both, though largely concentrated on comics. My most recent novel, Firewalk, was published by Night Shade Books last fall, and I’ve recently contributed a short story to a forthcoming Hellboy prose anthology, but most of my time these days is spent writing scripts for comic books.

I’ve read that your writing group become the publishing imprint Clockwork Storybook. How did that happen?

Clockwork Storybook was originally just four of us—me, Bill, Lilah Sturges, and Mark Finn— meeting up every week to read and critique each other’s latest stories, but in time it grew into an online anthology of urban fantasy, in which each of us wrote stories featuring our own characters that were all set in the same fictional city. This was the early days of Print On Demand (POD), so it was a short step from online publishing to releasing novels and short story collections in POD editions. Bill was already the old pro at that point, but the rest of us were still learning our craft, and I think that Clockwork Storybook played an immense part in helping shape the kinds of writers that we became.

Monkeybrain Comics, the imprint that you and your business partner, Allison Baker, launched was originally Monkeybrain Books.  Why the switch to comics?

Monkeybrain Books was an offset publisher (that is, traditionally printed and bound books, not Print On Demand) that originally specialized in nonfiction genre studies, and then went on to expand into novels, reprints, short story collections, anthologies, and even an art book and an encyclopedia! With the contraction of the bookstore market, around the time that Borders closed up shop, our book sales had dipped to the point where it didn’t make economic sense for us to keep printing traditionally anymore. But it was around that time that Allison and I started thinking about ways in which we could produce and distribute comic books digitally, which led to a partnership with ComiXology and the launch of the Monkeybrain Comics imprint.

So what are you working on now?

Most of my time these days is spent writing comic book miniseries set in the world of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. One series I did in collaboration with Paul Grist, The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed, recently wrapped up, and will be available in a collected edition later this year, and I’ve been collaborating with Mignola and a stellar cast of artists on the continuing Hellboy & The BPRD series, which are Cold War-era adventures set earlier in Hellboy’s career.

Let’s finish up with a few quick questions about reading. What book or author inspired you to write?

Oh, wow. ALL of them? I joke, but it’s hard to point to any single point of inspiration. But the novels of Michael Moorcock were immensely influential on me from high school onwards, and reading Matt Wagner’s comic book series Mage: The Hero Discovered  in my senior year was probably the single greatest influence on my development as a comic writer (which is why I’m thrilled that we’re finally getting the long away third installment, Mage: The Hero Denied).

And what are you currently reading?

I just started reading Grady Hendrix’s novel My Best Friend’s Exorcism, and as a child of the 80s who grew up immersed in pop music and horror movies, it is hitting me right between the eyes. Highly recommended!

Ashes & Shadows by Ilsa J Bick

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AshesOur protagonist in Ashes is Alex, a teenage girl who has decided to take back control of her life by not accepting further treatment for her brain tumour. After years of unsuccessful chemo and experimental treatments, she has taken the ashes of her dead parents for a hike and plans to scatter them. She runs into an old man, his granddaughter, and a dog in the middle of the woods, and then Something Happens. Alex never learns exactly what happens, so we don’t either; but it appears a massive electrical magnetic pulse has zapped all electronics, killed everyone between the ages of about twenty to sixty, and has caused a few other side-effects (to be revealed later). The grandfather dead, Alex takes on responsibility for the little girl and the two set off for civilization. On their way they run into a pack of wild dogs, and then into a pack of wild teenagers. Apparently the electrical impulse rebooted their brains and they’ve become animalistic, feral cannibals. Obviously. Alex and the child escape with help from another young adult who didn’t devolve into a monster and the rest of the Ashes follows our newly-formed family unit as they try to survive.

This world has some very interesting elements. The older generation becomes the last bastion of civilization. Retired nurses, teachers, soldiers, and others are pressed back into service to protect and save themselves and small children. “The Changed,” as the newly wild teenagers are called, vary in ability and cognition – some are capable of hunting in groups, building loose social packs and using tools, while others function at a very red-in-tooth-and-claw level. Those teenagers or young adults who did not change, including Alex, are referred to as “the Saved.” Animals, especially dogs, are sensitive to the Changed young people and will fight to get away from them. Some of these ideas are fairly original in the crowded YA apocalyptic field. Zombies are overplayed; so create the Changed instead – all the terror of man-eating zombies with even more cunning. Societies where all the adults have died have been done – keep the seniors, just for variety. However, Bick also includes some easily recognizable elements. Part one of Ashes is pretty standard survival-in-wilderness; the rest of the series gets into the (also pretty standard) survival in a community with shadowy rules and alliances, covert power structures, and lots of secrets.

ShadowsI’ve encountered some pretty serious horror in YA books. Cannibalism is not actually all that rare in dystopian/apocalyptic settings. Packs of rage-filled or murderous mindless teens or children? Also old news. But I have to admit that the stomach churning torture scenes in Shadows are some of the nastiest I’ve read. Instead of focusing on one main character, as in Ashes, Shadows splits perspectives and provides us with a slightly broader viewpoint on what is happening in Alex’s world and who the major players are. Unfortunately one of these major players ends up in the hands of an unambiguous villain (comparable, I’d say, to the Governor from The Walking Dead) and we readers get to suffer with the victim. Bick is also unafraid to increase the horror level with graphic descriptions of blood, snapping bones, and gut-slurping gore. Needless to say this is not a read for the weak of heart – or stomach.

So who would I recommend it to? Anyone who finds this particular combination of elements appealing: story of a strong, capable female heroine in a world where civilization and technology have utterly collapsed, a side of romance, vicious zombie-esque monsters and lots (LOTS) of gore that piles ever higher as the trilogy progresses. Click HERE to place your hold at TBPL, or click on the book cover for more information over on GoodReads.

iZombie

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izombieIn the middle of this zombie craze, most people are reaching for The Walking Dead.  But if you’re not interested in a gritty and often depressing story, you might want to give iZombie a try instead.  iZombie is the story of Gwen, a zombie who needs to eat at least one brain a month or she’ll become a drooling monster.  She works at a graveyard, burying bodies during the day and digging them back up at night for snack.  But the brains come with memories and desires from the deceased; to quiet their voices, she has to finish up whatever the dead left unfinished.  And so she goes off with the help of her two best friends, Ellie, a ghost from the 1960’s, and Scott, a were-terrier, to lay the dead to rest.

iZombie has an almost Scooby-Doo-like feeling, thanks to both the mysteries Gwen and company are often solving and the art work of Michael Allred.  iZombie is a campy and fun read; it’s definitely worth checking out if you’d like a different kind of zombie story.

The Walking Dead

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walkingdeadgraphicI wanted to know what all the fuss was about The Walking Dead so I started reading the graphic novels.  The Walking Dead follows Rick, a cop who was shot on the job and awakens from a coma to find that the nursing staff have abandoned the hospital (and him).  Wandering around he finds undead monsters have taken up residence in both the hospital and  his town.  He manages to make his way home only to find his family missing.  And so he sets off to Atlanta, the one place he think his wife would have gone.

I’m really enjoying The Walking Dead because like any good zombie story, it’s not about the zombies.  The Walking Dead is about the survivors and how they cope in this terrible world.  Death is everywhere, possibly waiting for them around the very next corner.  And it’s not just from the zombies either; those left behind need to find food and water, too.  And with other people competing for resources, the survivors are having a hard time trusting others.  So if you’re looking for a good zombie story, give The Walking Dead a try.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

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When I first laid eyes on this book I was absolutely delighted. It seems that no matter which way you turn these days – at the local bookstore or the cinema, you’re confronted with no end of gruesome variations on the age old theme of vampires, zombies and the paranormal. A few of the more recent installments have been a little quirkier than others, and I think the totally unabashed audacity of tampering with that which has become sacred is nothing short of brilliant!

Grahame-Smith leaves Austen’s work largely intact, with but a few variations to give it all a bit of a twist. One of the funniest parts would have to be Charlotte Lucas’s transmogrification into a zombie, which seems to go completely unnoticed by everyone except Miss Elizabeth Bennett. The random sexual innuendos between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth also add a humour impossible in the classic. All the original characters are here, including the dithering Mr. Bingley, the angelic Jane, the neurotic Mrs. Bennett and her long suffering husband. Wickham truly gets what he deserves in the end and Lady Catherine’s skills as a zombie slayer are nothing short of astounding.

I’m sure some readers will take great offence at what Grahame-Smith has done, exclaiming “sacrilege” and “blasphemy”, but if you can manage to detach yourself from the original and view his adaptation as something entirely new, I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I did. The inclusion of the readers’ discussion guide at the end is a nice touch, but try not to read it until after you’ve finished the book. Otherwise you will be too much in the know, and the potential shock factor will be lost.

Rosemary