Heroes Never Rust #17 by Sean Ironman
I like watching movies and reading books that make me think. I don’t like to waste my time with trivial things or works that seem to be too easy. Many people tell me how good a book or a movie is and that I should see it because “you can turn your brain off.” That doesn’t sound like a good time to me. It sounds horrifying. I know this might not be true—I hope it’s not—but all I hear when someone tells me they don’t want to think while watching a movie or reading is “My life is so sad and I am so miserable so I just need to shut down and escape for the little bit of peace I get in a week.” I don’t even want to discuss literature or movies with these people (and I’m not talking about the people who occasionally want to shut down—only those who always read or watch something to shut down). It just makes me want to talk to them about changing their career or their lifestyle.
But that doesn’t mean I only like serious work, or even intellectual work. I’ve gone on a few times about my love for the X-Men on this blog. I still enjoy fun stories and movies, but they don’t have to be stupid or require less thought in both the audience and the creators. Since this is a superhero comics blog, I’ll stick to superhero comics. One of the most fun superhero comics of recent memory has been the Marvel Zombies series (minus the second one—stay away from that one). I know the zombies fad has been played out (it wasn’t yet when the series started), but Marvel Zombies gets points because it never concerns itself for making you care about the characters. There’s no soap opera here—no comment on society. It’s just fucking craziness.
In Marvel Comics, there are a number of other universes with different versions of the superheroes. Marvel Zombies were introduced by Mark Millar in Ultimate Fantastic Four, possibly the only good thing to come from Ultimate Fantastic Four. Reed Richards is contacted by another version of himself, and after the Fantastic Four crosses over, they find out the world is filled with zombies. What I thought was clever about this is that it is a product of the endgame for zombies. If zombies conquered the world and ate everyone, what would happen to them? What would they eat? Because of all of the technology the Marvel superheroes have, the zombies have the ability to travel to other dimensions so they could continue their feeding. It’s not incredibly complex, but I found it clever.
The zombie Fantastic Four were beaten, but Marvel seemed to put two and two together to continue the concept.
Robert Kirkman, who had created The Walking Dead, had done some Marvel work here and there and was assigned to write a mini-series, Marvel Zombies, dealing with the zombie universe. I’m a fan of some of Kirkman’s work, although some of it never really grabbed me. But what he does right with Marvel Zombies is give the people what they want. Zombie versions of the Marvel superheroes doing wild stuff. The end. That is basically the whole comic. This isn’t taken from the humans’ point of view. While there are some people still alive who aren’t zombies, the focus is on a group of zombies consisting of fan favorites like Spider-Man, Hulk, and Captain America, as they hunt for something new to eat.
While it’s not a serious story, it doesn’t require someone to turn their brain off. The story builds and builds, with a lot of humor, to the coming of Galactus, the devourer of worlds. And what happens to Galactus? Well, he gets eaten of course!
I’ve always liked Galactus because I like to think of him as just a guy looking for lunch except he’s really damn big so he eats planets instead of tacos. Any story with the big guy is instantly made better by his appearance. Here in Marvel Zombies, it makes the story better because it seems like anything can happen. There’s no human element holding down the fantastical elements. It’s just crazy superhero zombies trying to scrounge up the last of the food on the planet. There’s not even much of a traditional plot. It’s there—the coming of Galactus’ herald, then Galactus, and then a big battle—but it’s so focused on the fun of seeing the Marvel Zombies hanging out. I also like that Giant-Man had been keeping the Black Panther in his lab as a food source he could come back to. It’s sick. I like that.
There have been five main Marvel Zombies’ mini-series with many more spinoffs, like Marvel Zombies vs. The Army of Darkness. Each version (other than the second one. Don’t read that one.) get crazy. The third series sees the Marvel Zombie universe cross over into the regular Marvel Universe, but it still manages to stay crazy. The fourth series brings back the Midnight Sons, a group of the supernatural superheroes, and they take on the zombies. The concept succeeded because it didn’t try to be anything it wasn’t. It didn’t dumb itself down because it was always dumb fun. It didn’t squeeze in romances or heroic beats. It had Bruce Banner’s stomach explode after he ate too much as the Hulk and then stopped being mad and reverted back to human form. But it still allowed the reader to imagine, and I think that’s the key. It didn’t close off the audience. The series didn’t make the reader think about the medium or the genre or lofty thoughts, but it allowed the reader to think about the possibilities of where the concept could go. Geez, at the end of the first series, the Marvel zombies are seen with Galactus’ powers and invading other planets. It’s fun and cool and it could only be done in comics. After reading each series, I’ve had multiple conversations with friends thinking of possibilities for future comics. The series allowed us to imagine what the Marvel superheroes could do as zombies.
And I can’t end the blog without saying how Arthur Suydam’s covers, many of which were takes on classic Marvel covers, really captured, not only the idea well, but the audience’s attention. I think his covers were talked about more than the series itself. Each cover managed to reflect the original work, the zombie concept, and the fun the series was about.
Sean Ironman is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida, where he also serves as Managing Editor of The Florida Review and as President of the Graduate Writers’ Association. His art has appeared online at River Teeth. His writing can be read in Breakers: An Anthology of Comics and Redivider.