Update: What a difference a day makes. Since posting this article, we’ve learned from Fred Van Lente and Dynamite that the series has changed it’s title to The Mocking Dead (get it?) and that the series will be drawn by Max Dunbar, who illustrated the recent Red Sonja: Atlantis Rises miniseries.
Original Story: If you thought zombie stories couldn't get zanier than they were in Marvel Zombies, wait until you see what that series' scribe Fred Van Lente is up to now.
Announced last year at New York Comic-Con, Van Lente is working with Dynamite Entertainment to do what he calls 'zombedy' – a zombie comedy. This new series, dubbedIt's A Mad Mad Zombie World, focuses on the initial outbreak of a zombie epidemic and all the B-movie comedy baked right into it. The story follows a group of message-board posters who were recruited by the government to dream up far-fetched disaster scenarios and dream up strategies to stop them. When a zombie epidemic hits, they're the first one the government looks to, and one of their own suspects it has something to do with a forgotten B-movie he saw as a child. The series doesn't have an artist or release date to announce just yet, but Van Lente is having fun with this new type of zombie story.
“It's a zombie comedy -- a "Zombedy of Errors," if you will,” Van Lente tells Newsarama. “A lot of zombie stories start with guys waking up in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. But how did society fall apart? I mean, zombies are slow, they're stupid -- how hard is it really to defeat them? In Night of the Living Dead a posse of drunken rednecks take them out. For the whole globe to go down, that's gotta be a Rube Goldberg-esque series of screw-ups on a disastrous scale.”
As for the question where those series of screw-ups begins, that’s one of the big mysteries of the series – to be solved between mad dashes and sprints away from roaming zombie hoards.
“That’s the big question one our heroes are desperately trying to find out. They're members of Tinseltown, a top-secret group of Defense Intelligence Agency analysts who try to think up real-world solutions to fictional challenges -- something our actual intelligence agencies did right after 9/11,” explains Van Lente, who in real life worked for the United Nations for a time. “Tinseltown was shut down for being, in the words of one senator, "completely useless," but they're reactivated when the zombie plague strikes.”
And one of the theories floating around about pinpoints the origins of the zombie plague to the most unlikeliest of places: your local video rental store.
“One analyst realizes that the manner of the zombie attack is identical to a dimly-remembered grade-Z grindhouse picture from his childhood, Bloodbath of the Brain-Eaters. A legendary flick cut to death by its distributor and released with a dumb title, no print has been seen of it in years. So in the midst of society's collapse, our guy goes out on a quest to find the last known copy -- is he right there's a connection between the real life plague and the long-lost horror flick, and, if so, does it hold the cure?”
Cure or not, It’s A Mad, Mad Zombie World mixes horror with humor and also the real-life consequences of a zombie invasion – and Van Lente has related experience. Believe it or not, this noted humor comics writer wrote a college thesis on the real-life reactions to disease epidemics in modern society.
“Other than our intrepid intelligence analysts-slash-message board know-it-alls, we're going to see how the zombie plague affects people in all walks of life: The Joint Chiefs, the governor of Pennsylvania, stand-up comedians, frat boys, paranoid survivalists in their compound, perverts, the whole nine yards,” the writer explains. “All combine in a perfect tapestry of bad life choices and plain old stupidity that may hand the zombies the planet on a silver platter... if our heroes can't stop it in time.”
It's A Mad Mad Zombie World isn’t the first time Van Lente has dreamt up a zombie apocalypse; in fact, he wrote two installments of Marvel’s Marvel Zombies series and was headhunted by Dynamite’s Nick Barrucci for this particular tale based on that.
“Dynamite approached me to do a zombie comedy and I'd had this basic idea kicking around in my head for a while and they really wanted me to run with it,” reveals the writer reveal. “It's going to be a different take on the genre that I think fans of myMarvel Zombies stuff will dig, as Marvel Zombies always had humor as a large part of its appeal.”
People seem to have a built-in idea of what to expect from a zombie story, but that isn’t what they should prepare for in Van Lente’s zombedy of errors.
“People should expect lots of laughs, a lot of poking fun at the basic assumptions of the genre. For every person who's ever asked me at a con (and there's been quite a few) if they could survive the zombie plague, here's why they probably couldn't,” Van Lente says with a laugh.
Newsarama Note: Accompanying artwork from Dynamite's previous zombie series, "Raise the Dead"