Sunday, April 14, 2019

Zomblog 11: The Undiscovered Country

As my trip to Zombie World comes to an end, I would like to reflect on things.
I came into this class with basically no interest in Zombies. I thought they were played out, like Steampunk. Now, I think they’re interesting.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still kind of of the mindset that Zombies are sort of overdone. If done really interestingly, Zombies can be cool. They just usually aren’t. It takes creativity to make them interesting, but there’s a lot of creative people in world who can do it.
I’m really happy I came to Zombie World. I’ll probably come back at some point.

Anyway, I’m off to Vampire City. See y’all!

Zomblog 10: That One Zombie Movie I'm In

Yeah, you read that right. No, you can’t see it.
Interaction School of Performing Arts, which my mother used to run (it’s still around, she just works for the city now. Also not really important, since she didn’t teach the camps) has a yearly movie making camp. Every summer, kids ranging from like 3 to 17 come in to make a movie. We split it into two different camps, one for the youngsters and the other for older kids. Even since I stopped doing it about four years ago, I often come in and help, even sometimes cameoing in the films. When I was a kid though, I was super into these movies.
The first one we did was a Zombie movie called Horrorview High. We called it this because we filmed it in Harbour High School over the summer. It was the harrowing story of a mad drama teacher/occultist who used dark magic to transform his uncooperative students/cast into easily-controlled zombies during rehearsals for Annie.
I played a kid named Trevor, who had basically no personality traits besides being an annoying nerd. Trevor is friends with Garth, who is Goth. Trevor is bit by a child zombie played by my sister and transformed into one himself. Our zombies were very Romero, slowly shuffling through hallways lit by flickering bulbs. We had a small amount of pale makeup and sunken black eyes. We were pretty Ghoulish looking and it was genuinely kind of cool for something made by little kids (with adult direction, of course).
Oh, remember how I said the characters were doing Annie? Well, we sang as zombies. It sounded basically like what you’d expect.
Come to think of it, it’s kind of a premise you could make a real movie out of.

I have a copy and again, NO, you guys aren’t allowed to see it.

Zomblog 9: D&D&Z

I play a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. Well, not really, I play Pathfinder. It’s kind of the same but also very different. I can’t explain it all here, so just look it up. For all intents and purposes, though, I play D&D. Every monster you can think of has stats in D&D and can be battled: Wendigos, Oni, Draugr, Manticores, Golems, The Star-Spawn of Cthulu, those four-armed white ape monsters from John Carter of Mars, all of them. So, obviously, D&D has Zombies and other kinds of undead.
I should explain that D&D has no one setting. Players can design their own world with its own lore. There are, however, certain preset worlds players can use if they desire. Probably the most popular is Forgotten Realms, but others exist such as Eberron, Greyhawk, Krynn, and so forth. I’ll specify when things are specific to one world.
D&D is full of different races: Elves, Halflings, Orcs, etc. In most worlds, pretty much any creature, including these ones. Forgotten Realms really likes to create specific subtypes of monsters. As such, they have Absorbing Zombies (who can absorb magical spells), Acid Zombies (who ooze acid) and, yes, Zombie Dragons. Yes!
D&D’s ghouls are also basically Zombies. They are undead who eat people and can infect you with a bite. They’re not really rot-ridden, and can paralyze most people (except for elves) with a touch. I’ve always really liked these guys.
Oof me too

Point being, Zombies and other undead can exist in non-Earth, fantasy settings.

Zomblog 8: Argyle is the Best

As has been discussed before, not all Zombies are evil. We’ve named examples throughout the course, but one thing we’ve never discussed is the idea of a heroic zombie. That’s because there aren’t many.
But I found one. Oh, boy did I find one.
That’s right ladies and gents and nonbinary people, we’re going back into the world of Fallout. I’ve talked about Fallout a lot; I even wrote my second paper on it. Surely, there must not be much left to discuss when it comes to Fallout’s Ghouls. Well, pretty much, except for the fact that this guy exists:

That, my fiendish friends, is Argyle. While he may not be the most important Ghoul in Fallout, nor the only one to save lives and fight for the greater good, he is the most badass Ghoul that nobody remembers. Argyle isn’t a major character. You can’t even meet him. His exploits are nearly unavoidable.
For those who don’t know, Fallout is designed as an anachronistic setting where certain dated elements of the past exist in a post-apocalyptic United States alongside futuristic elements. The best way to explain this perhaps is to show you one of the game’s robots:
They’re clearly intentionally designed to harken back to the way a super powerful robot may have looked in a pulp serial or B-Movie. This is important to understand in order to really get Argyle.
Fallout’s soundtrack is made up of Golden Oldies like Cole Porter and Dean Martin. These songs are being listened to by your character (who you can design and name yourself) on a radio playing out of a device on your wrist called a Pip-Boy. Pip-Boys are sort of like really shitty apple watches. They’re huge and clunky, but they fit the aesthetic of the world. The radio broadcasts are being created by people across the wasteland. Most notable of these guys is Three Dog, a guy in the wastes of Washington DC who is a major character in Fallout 3. Three Dog not only plays music, but also pulpy radio dramas centered around Herbert Dashwood and his trusty sidekick: Our guy, Argyle. Surprisingly, they're real characters in-universe.
Argyle’s pre-war, meaning he existed before the nuclear war and was transformed into a ghoul by the radiation. Apparently he met Dashwood under less-than-stellar circumstances. You see, Dashwood accidentally stole Argyle’s girlfriend. Despite this, Argyle became extremely loyal to Dashwood, following him and aiding him on his adventures.
Argyle was skilled in unarmed combat, being trained in Kung-Fu and capable of disarming explosive slave collars (slavery is rampant in the Wastelands). The pairs adventures aren’t all detailed, but with the level of fame they retained (popular enough to have a radio drama based on them) we can only assume they were pretty rad. Argyle is stated to be strong enough (at least according to the likely exaggerated radio dramas) to quickly dispatch a Super Mutant. That’s no small feat, as Supermutants are massive cannibalistic Orc-Hulk guys who crush people with rebar pipes and then devour them.
Look, I don't want to fight one.
The big story, the one which matters to the player, is the “Rockopolis Crisis”. Rockopolis was a secretive underground settlement led by King Crag, the location of which few knew. That few happened to include Dashwood and Argyle. After the duo escaped from a group of slavers, they rescued a woman to be a fellow hostage named Penelope Chase, who tricked Dashwood into revealing the location of Rockopolis and how to enter. It turns out she was actually the leader of the Slavers, and her minions were headed to the location Dashwood provided.
Argyle rips her heart out with his bare hands.
The duo travel to Rockopolis to warn King Crag, who becomes justifiably angry and orders the inhabitants of Rockopolis to attack the duo. They try to escape, and are separated. Dashwood makes it out alive but, tragically, Argyle dies.
Years later, an elderly Dashwood hires the player’s character, nicknamed in-game “The Lone Wanderer” to find Argyle in order to give him closure. Dashwood refuses to believe Argyl is dead. While he is wrong, the player is able to bring him some closure when they find Argyl’s corpse.
This is especially nice of the Lone Wanderer who is currently on a mission to find their father (voiced by Liam Neeson) and also defend the inhabitants of the Wasteland from the Enclave, Nazi-like remnants of the jingoistic and McCarthy-ish pre-war United States government.
The Enclave seem like nice people.
Good of he/she/they to take some time away from that to help an old man come to terms with his loss.

Argyle shows us something. Not all zombies are evil. Some are kung-fu manservants who fight monsters. I assume Argyle is based on Kato from The Green Hornet, being a minority, a servant of the hero, and an accomplished martial artist in a radio programme. With the amount of pop culture references in Fallout (Deckard’s gun from Blade Runner is in New Vegas, the whole thing is inspired by A Boy and His Dog, there’s even an Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull reference!) I doubt this isn’t the case.

Zomblog 7: Black Nights and Dead Days Part 2: Zombie Reed Richards is Useful

I promised we'd talk Marvel Zombies. I don't want to disappoint all of my fans who are obligated to look at my blog for marks, so here we go. Marvel Zombies started in the pages of Ultimate Fantastic Four. For those of you who don't know, the Ultimate Universe was an alternate continuity Marvel had for years which was intended to be a modernized, more realistic version of the traditional Marvel Universe. Some of it is good, even great. A lot of it was quite bad. Ultimate Fantastic Four wasn't particularly good but was by far better than some of the other Ultimate stuff.
Anyway, in one storyline, Ultimate Reed Richard aka Mr. Fantastic builds a machine to bridge different worlds in the multiverse. He starts talking to who the reader is meant to believe is the classic Reed Richards. However, when they finally meet it turns out it was all a ruse, the other Reed Richards was actually a Zombie!Thus we find the most interesting part of the Marvel Zombies stories: the heroes and villains of Marvel stay sentient even after the infection.
When these versions of the characters were given their own series, we got to see the quirks that come with being a zombie superhero. Zombie Hulk would eat too much and when he turned back into Zombie Bruce Banner it wouldn't all fit inside him properly. When they were hungry the Zombies would become more like traditional Zombies: beings of pure hunger. This would last until they ate living flesh, when they would return to sentience. This led Zombie Peter Parker eating Mary Jane and then feeling bad about it. Zombie Reed Richards regrets nothing, willfully becoming undead in order to achieve the next step in human evolution. Almost no one is safe from infection, not even the gods of Asgard or characters with healing factors such as Wolverine. A group of the Marvel Zombies and up eating the Silver Surfer and Galactus and use the cosmic powers this grant them to devour aliens throughout the universe.
In another story the Zombies battle Undead-Killing Legend Ash Williams from the Evil Dead franchise. The Zombies later begin dimension-hopping, battling the Marvel Apes (exactly what they sound like: Non-Human Ape versions of the Marvel Heroes) as well as mainstream Marvel characters like Machine Man.
"ok so basically im monky"

These are not deep works. They're just fun. Sometimes, Zombies can just be fun.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Zomblog 6: Pure Kino


  Overlord is the story of a group of American paratroopers in Vichy France trying to destroy a German Radio Tower on the eve of D-Day. The lead, a young African-American Private named Edward Boyce uncovers a strange experiment being performed by the Nazis. From there, the film is a beautiful descent into madness.
I saw this film on a Saturday afternoon, alone. There was barely anyone else in the theater. I ate a big bag of popcorn and grinned ear to ear for the film’s entire run time.
            So much about this film is excellent. For one thing, it mostly stars relatively unknown actors. Grey Worm from Game of Thrones is in it briefly, and Kurt Russell’s son Wyatt is one of the leads, but there’s no major star power on-screen. The only name recognition the film has is J.J. Abrams, who apparently decided to stop making the cinematic equivalents of a Wikipedia-based, poorly-cited essay you drunkenly try to write the night before its due while your roommate and his girlfriend distractingly make-out in the corner and instead actually attach his name to something good. He produced the film, which is probably what he should stick to doing.
What a nice smile.
            For another thing, it’s 1000% unabashed about what it wants to be. It feels like schlock but is well directed. It feels so much like a weirdly-delicious smoothie made from bullets, Tarantino Movies, the Del Toro Hellboy films, and old pre-code EC Comics. A review in Variety described it as being akin to Castle Wolfenstein or Aliens, both of which I feel are extremely apt.
            Oh yeah, this is about Zombies. Well, this movie certainly has Zombies. I think. I would say they’re zombies. They’re also kind of mutant super soldiers. Still, it very much feels like a really fun multiplayer game of Call of Duty: Nazi Zombies. One review I saw a while ago described it as being the best Nazi Zombie movie ever. I would have to agree, based on what I’ve seen.
Hey yeah so can Mathilde Ollivier's character please marry me?
Surprisingly, this film was very well received by critics. It’s certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes at an 81%, and 20th century fox that they recruited its director, Julius Avery, to direct a Flash Gordon reboot (nice). The general consensus was that it was far and away better than it has any right to be, and some even found it surprisingly deep. I don't know about that, but it is certainly an absurd, gore-filled masterpiece of a thrill ride. It was no box office hit, but made more than it cost to create.
            Wait. Why are you still reading this? Go watch Overlord, dude.

Zomblog 5: Zombernate History

So, I’m a big fan of Alternate History. Stuff like Kaiserreich (What if the Central Powers won World War I?), The Years of Rice and Salt (What if the plague was deadlier?), and the Domination of the Draka (What if… uh… it’s complicated...) really appeal to me. One thing I’ve been wondering since this course began was whether Zombies had a noticeable presence in the genre. After some quick searching, I was surprised to find that there isn’t much Alternate History Zombie fiction.
Kaiserreich is extremely sick.
Don't let this fairly innocuous cover fool you, the Draka books are the weirdest goddamn thing.
I should explain that there is a serious conflict in the AH fandom about whether or not fantastical elements belong in the genre. Some say it defeats the purpose of the genre while others argue it only adds to the fun. To many alternate history fans, fantastical AH like Worldwar (What if Aliens invaded during World War II?) and Lord Darcy (What if magic was real and also some other stuff?) can never truly compare to more grounded stuff like Southern Victory (What if the South won the American Civil War?) and Resurrection Day (What if the cold war went hot?). I'm not in this camp, since I think fantastical alt-history can be fun.
The Perfect World Doesn't Exi-
Southern Victory is also pretty wacky by the end. It also features an uncomfortably explicit sex scene starring Mark Twain, so there's that if that's your thing. I won't judge.
It still perplexes me. The only real Zombie-based Alt-history timelines I could find were online creations. An artist named QuantumBranching has done quite a few, and I also found one made as an RPG. I suppose Overlord (the greatest film ever made) could qualify, except that it's more secret history than Alternate history.
Y'all need to watch this. It's lit.
A timeline where Zombies first rise up in 1968 (the year Night of the Living Dead was released) that then continues throughout the decades exploring this world WWZ-style could be interesting. Hell, dropping zombies into any historical era could be interesting. Zombies in the Western Roman Empire. Zombies in the Middle Ages. Zombies in the Civil War. These are all great ideas! If we can get stuff like Anno Dracula (What if Dracula took over England in the Victorian Era?), League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Which becomes more alt-history as it goes on, trust me) and A Study in Emerald (What if the Great Old Ones ruled Earth?) why not some Zombie stuff?

Pictured: Captain Nemo's daughter slaughtering rapists a few decades before she kills Godzilla and fights Charlie Chaplin. League is insane. No Zombies, though.
A lot of zombie fiction from the past is now alternate history since its future no longer lines up with our own. I’m not really talking about that. I mean stuff explicitly written as alternate history.
I’m not exactly sure where I’m going with this, but it’s just an odd genre absence I’ve noticed. I know a lot of Alt-History fans love World War Z, so there's clearly an overlap between the fans of both genres.

I leave you with a few cool links:

Youtuber Alternate History Hub has a great video about World War Z. He did art for it and everything. Check it out.

If you're curious about just how crazy the Draka stories are, check out this video by Talkernate History. They're a really fun podcast. Tell them I sent ya.

Note: I forgot about the Ghouls from Fallout, which is an alternate history. That being said, they're not the focus of the series.