Every zombie story is exactly the same.
EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.
Can we just admit this?
I’m not here to judge. I’m not a zombie fan, but so what? If every story was written for me it would involve either robots from space, giant monsters, and / or ninjas. And while I do enjoy monsters in general, I’ve never been a big fan of zombies. Because zombies are too damn boring.
The preponderance of zombies in film makes a certain sense. Zombies are one of the cheapest monsters you will ever get. Just put some gray make up and ragged clothes on a few dozen extras, and you’ve got a horde of horror. About the only thing cheaper than zombies is vampires, who are basically actors with fangs slapped on them. Sometimes, not even that.
But comic books are unlimited in their scope. If you want to blow up planets or have an alien armada, you’re covered. If you want to have mole people crawl out of the ground or flying armadillos attack the Pentagon, you can. And in this world of virtually limitless possibility . . . we keep getting zombies.
Boring, boring zombies.
Now, this isn’t me saying that all zombie stories are boring. The Walking Dead is an ongoing series about zombies that’s not bad. And the original Marvel Zombies was a ludicrous idea done reasonably well. But for the most part, there’s nothing new to be done with zombies. There wasn’t anything terribly new to be done with them 20 years ago, but now that this relatively infertile ground has been scraped dry, what else is to be done?
Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
Zombies with superpowers? Check. Intelligent zombies? Check. Fast zombies? Check. Intelligent, fast zombies with superpowers? Check, check, and check.
I just don’t get it. I admit this. Obviously, these stories sell well enough to keep encouraging their continued publication. But I don’t get it.
The problem with zombies is that they aren’t just a monster, they’re a story structure. There’s a zombie plague. There are some people. Slowly, these people get killed off. Then either A) the zombies are stopped or B) all the people are killed. And that’s that.
None of this matters, of course, because people who read zombie stories want to read the same story. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be zombie fans. Zombies are, for lack of a better word, comfort food. They’re the Harlequin romance of horror. (Yes, I said it.) You know exactly what you’re getting with a zombie story and chances are, it’s exactly what you want. If anyone ever did actually try something new with a zombie story (assuming such a thing is even possible) then nobody would care.
And once again, I find myself shaking my old man fist at a world that could (and should) care less. I’m not here to ruin anyone’s fun. I’m just one guy who is vaguely famous enough that I can labor under the illusion that people care what I have to say about this kind of thing.
In the end, I can’t begrudge zombies or their fans. Yes, 90 percent of zombie stories are unimaginative, paint-by-numbers horror, but 90 percent of most genres are unimaginative, paint-by-numbers affairs. And so what?
Still, I wouldn’t mind if we could give the zombies a rest for a while.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,