Zombies, walkers, living dead, undead…the list of names for reanimated corpses is extensive, but how you deliver them in your story is what makes this corner of the horror genre exciting. Heavy Metal released Cold Dead War #1 this week, the first installment of a four-issue series from writer George C. Romero. With art by German Ponce, the story centers on the crew of the Pacific Pearl who, despite being dead, is still carrying out their World World II mission after a freak accident reanimates their freshly killed corpses.
Romero chatted with The Beat about the new book and his take on the undead.
Deanna Destito: What inspired you to write Cold Dead War?
George C. Romero: What inspired me initially was being asked by Heavy Metal to create the series! But after the geek fit wore off from the excitement over the prospect of crafting this story, it became about finding a starting point. That starting point, with writing a story about WWII soldiers becoming reanimated, came from a place of reverence for the Heavy Metal brand.
Destito: How did you approach crafting a complete story about this group of WWII soldiers who become zombies after dying in combat?
Romero: With a solid foundation in place for the creative approach to the project, ideas began to flow from the kernel of a thought: what would a zombie’s future look like if it was someone who was once a soldier? What would it feel like for a zombie to struggle to come to terms with a new definition of what life is and how could a creature with zero humanity come to terms with their new situation? I set out to answer those questions.
Destito: How has it been working with the art team? How much input did you give for visuals?
Romero: I have been extremely lucky to have been ushered into my comic career by Heavy Metal’s Joseph Illidge and David Erwin and that experience has been one of the most amazing of my entire career. Everyone was very team-oriented on this one, including finding the right artists to pair with the story. I think we are all coming at this story with a love, not only for my dad [George A. Romero] and his work but with a love for the genre and for the fans, of whom we are some of the biggest! The visual process has been incredible to be a part of and to see come together with amazing art by illustrator German Ponce, letterer Saida Temofonte, and coloring by Protobunker.
Destito: I checked out The Rise as well. Both stories have similarities in that they center on the human form becoming manipulated and transformed by outside influences, and not in a good way. What about this theme attracts you, especially when set in different time periods?
Romero: This is a great question! I think that is a common element in both stories and I think that element may exist on some level in most of my work. I’ve spent most of my life nurturing and protecting my inner creative while running all of the business of my business. I think creativity is fragile and I think it’s constantly under attack. This is probably the kernel from which the theme you reference, about outside manipulation, stems.
Destito: Obviously fans of horror and reanimated corpses have something to look forward to in these tales, but what would you say might attract someone new to the genre?
Romero: Well everything I do is with fans in the forefront of my mind, just past the part that’s dedicated to the actual work. I think hardcore and new fans both will find a lot to love in both of these stories.
Romero (cont.): To speak to your question, specifically, I would say that new fans are in for a real treat as Cold Dead War deals with what happens down the road after becoming a zombie, and The Rise deals with a period prior to any zombie story we have seen in terms of how I see the creatures. I feel I need to be clear here and say that there are plenty of zombie stories that take place chronologically prior to the time period in The Rise; that’s not what I’m talking about… I’m talking about a precursor stage of pre-zombie evolution.
Destito: Any teasers for the next installments of either title?
Romero: Buckle up! Both of these stories are just tons of fun! I don’t want to give away too much of the upcoming story, but I can tell you that Cold Dead War is hopefully going to take readers to a place of cheering for the creatures like fans have never been used to doing before.
Romero (cont.): The Rise, on the other hand, is a story that’s been incubating for more than a decade. It’s thick and full of my own answers to questions I think a lot of fans never knew they had.
For more on Cold Dead War and The Rise, visit Heavy Metal’s website. Look for a Bulletproof Comics exclusive cover by Johnny Desjardins, previewed here!