Horror author and screenwriter Max Brooks of World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide fame sits down with Adventures in Poor Taste to discuss his vampire vs. zombie graphic novel epic: Extinction Parade.
If there are any two horror genres that have been played out to the point of overkill, it’s zombies and vampires. Oh sure, there are still great examples to be found of both. But for every 30 Days of Night or The Walking Dead, there’s a glut of romanticized, defanged, and derivative stories looking to cash in on its audience.
Whether it be vampires that sparkle or zombies that develop crushes on human girls, fans of the old school/terrifying incarnations of these creatures have plenty of reasons to be frustrated by the current publishing climate in which they exist. But when one of the masters of zombie fiction, Max Brooks, decides to take them both on at the same time, that’s a good enough reason for any genre fan to celebrate.
In last year’s Extinction Parade, Brooks’ words joined forces with Raulo Caceres’ gorgeous pencils to give us a thrilling and unique tale of vampires fighting against zombies to protect their primary food source: Us. With the critically acclaimed opening chapter being collected into a trade this summer, we sat down with Max Brooks to talk about his fascinating take on two very different undead legends.
Nick Nafpliotis: Do you remember when zombies and their possible mythologies first grabbed your attention?
Max Brooks: Yep, I was about 12 or 13 and stayed up late to watch cable TV hoping to see some boobies (what teenage boy didn’t) and I ended up watching an Italian cannibal zombie movie. Needless to say, that left an impression on me.
Nick: What are some of your all-time favorite zombie stories and influences?
Max Brooks: NOTHING rivals the original Dawn Of The Dead. It’s the greatest zombie story ever told. It’s social commentary about the rise of consumerism and the demise of American community spirit is beyond measure. I always say that George Romero’s masterpiece should be sold in a box set with Easy Rider with the title The Baby Boomers: The Beginning and the End.
The cover to issue #1
Nick: How is your writing process different when you’re scripting a comic book compared to penning a book?
Max Brooks: Writing comics takes a tremendous amount of homework, both on the front end and the back. Unlike a novel that only includes the information that is necessary, a comic book shows everything and therefore I need to make sure the setting; hair, clothes, buildings, etc. is accurate.
Nick: Where did the idea for Extinction Parade come from?
Max Brooks: I wanted to discuss the idea of privilege, how being handed everything makes someone (or in this case, an entire species), vulnerable to catastrophe. We, the human race, are not supposed to be the dominant species on the planet. We’re middle of the food chain. We’re not very strong or fast. We don’t claws or fangs. We’re a very weak species, but in compensating for our weakness, in learning to adapt, to organize, to prioritize, to channel our doubts and fears into constructive efforts, we have risen to global supremacy. Not so with Vampires. They started out at the top of the food chain. They have amazing biological blessings. But are they blessings or curses? Because they never had to fail, never felt fear, never met a challenge they didn’t overcome with ease, they have been robbed of the basic survival mechanism that took humanity so long to develop. That’s a very important message for me, especially now, as a parent, in a time when so many of us won’t let our kids fail and political correctness won’t even let people’s feelings be hurt, I wonder what survival skills we are losing.
Things get dire!
Nick: What made you choose East Asia as the story’s setting?
Max Brooks I needed a place that has gone through rapid change in a relatively short amount of time. Because vampires are immortal, they are essentially a static race. They don’t change and so they are always amazed at the rapid change of their prey. I wanted Malaysia’s economic expansion to highlight to glacial development of Vampires. I wanted them to look around one night and say “Hey, where did all the jungle go? Where did all these cities come from?” It was also important to illustrate the rapid rise of the middle class. In the west, that construct took 100 years to bloom. In Malaysia, it’s barely a generation old. I really wanted the vampires to be surprised by this new construct, and be very resistant to it. I mean, c’mon, the notion that the common citizen somehow has value? That you just can’t kill anyone you want anymore? That feeling of suffocation is what makes the vampires cheer the initial rise of the zombies.
Nick: Do you fear that there might be an eventual “wussification” of zombies like we see taking places with vampires (who sparkle and fall in love with humans)?
Max Brooks: When zombies start sparkling, we’ll talk.