Map of Zombies

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Jason Bradley Thompson (www.mockman.com) is the author and artist of numerous comics and graphic novels, including H.P. Lovecraft’The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, Clark Ashton Smith’s Hyperborea, The Stiff and King of RPGs (with Victor Hao). When not drawing his own stuff, he’s also worked as the editor of numerous translated manga (Japanese comics), and written the Eisner-nominated book on the subject, Manga: The Complete Guide. His gaming comics and illustrations appear regularly on the Dungeons & Dragons website. He is currently working on Mangaka!, a tabletop game about drawing comics.

Currently Jason is working on a vintage medical illustration-style poster identifying over 350 different zombie types from movies, books, games & more. The Map of Zombies will be a 24″x36″ poster that takes you on a tour of every imaginable type of zombie in a visual format. This map includes EVERY important (and almost every unimportant) zombie genre work, from Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” to the movies of George Romero and Lucio Fulci, to Kengo Hanazawa’s “I Am a Hero.” At a glance, viewers will be able to identify the category their favourite zombies fall under, including romantic zombies, comedy zombies, nazi zombies or animal zombies. These are not the final images, and Jason plans to improve upon them in the final version of the map by added ‘decision points’ and other text.

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We asked Jason a  few questions about this ambitious, awesome project.

Where did the idea for Map of the Zombies first come from?

I was thinking of Walter Greatshell’s book “Xombies”, which is one of my favorite zombie series, and inbetween other art projects I started to doodle a zombie flowchart that you could use to identify what kind of zombie apocalypse you’re in. (For example: “Shoot them in the chest. Do they die? If yes, go to A. If no, go to B.”) At first it only had 30 or so entries, but then I kept redrawing and expanding it, until it went from 11″x17″, to 18″x24″ and so on.

How did you select the zombies you were going to feature, did you have to leave any out?

I started by listing all the zombie media I could think of. But I realized there was obviously a lot I didn’t know, so I made a list of all the zombie books, movies and games on wikipedia, TVTropes, and a few goodreads and amazon “zombie books” lists. For movie zombies, I also relied on Glenn Kay’s book “Zombie Movies” and the great blog watchingthedead.blogspot.com. Zombies in comics and manga were in some ways the hardest to find… but on the other hand they’re not as numerous as in the other media.

Currently there’s about 350 entries, and I don’t want to leave any zombies out. However, given limited space on a 24″ x 36″ poster, and the fact that anyone can publish a zombie book on Kindle or upload a video to youtube and call it a zombie movie, I’ll inevitably have to leave a few things out. I’ve left out short stories and one-shot TV episodes (unless I really loved them, like Alice Sheldon’s “The Screwfly Solution”). I’ve left out some super-obscure direct-to-DVD movies, for instance, and a lot of self-published ebooks, stuff that hasn’t made much of an imprint. Also, although I like really good zombie comedies like “Braindead”, I have a bias against the really dumb ones, so in case of limited space, “Nudist Colony of the Living Dead”, for example, is probably one of the ones that’ll get kicked off the ark. “Poultrygeist” made it on there, though.

What drew you to zombies out of all the horror villains and monsters?

Zombies are the best! But also, the word and idea “zombie” is used so broadly, I wanted to make a chart that encompassed everything that could be considered a “zombie.” Living or dead? Fast or slow? Cannibalistic or motivated by some other urge? Can they be killed by headshots, or do you have to burn them? Or will even that not work? I love zombies, and I do a horror webcomic, “The Stiff” (www.mockman.com), which is related to zombies. There’s so many different reasons to like zombies and to create works about zombies, whether you’re attracted to/scared of the survivalist/apocalypse aspect, the gore and flesh-munching, the death and decay and graveyards and tombs and all that, the idea of madness and irresistible compulsions, etc.

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What’s your favourite zombie movie?

That’s a really tough question… but I’m going to list a real marginal not-quite-zombies one, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Kairo” (Pulse). It’s basically his take on a zombie apocalypse, but with ghosts. Kurosawa’s a huge Romero fan, and in an interview somewhere he said he was inspired by Romero’s line “When there is no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth.” Only in “Kairo,” there’s LITERALLY no more room in Hell, so everyone who dies comes back as a malevolent ghost. It was remade into a really awful American movie, but the original Japanese movie is great.

Tell us about your zombie survival plans.

Depends on what kind of zombies they are. Since my wife and I live in Seattle, we’d probably try to make it to the docks and steal some boat to get out to one of the small islands in Puget Sound.

What were some of the challenges involved in creating the map?

Bringing myself to watch some of the really bad zombie movies was hard. Also making some decisions when the movies (or books) were unclear: i.e., rewinding scenes and rewatching them to decide, are those zombies running or walking? Does a shambling run count as a run? Are they supposed to be running, but the director just can’t do fast-paced camerawork well enough to let their actors run on the set? Or with headshots: what if the movie doesn’t HAVE any scenes when the zombies get shot/injured in the head, and they never address the idea of physically destroying the zombies? Other philosophical questions: are the “Neon Maniacs” zombies, or just some kind of weird monsters? Do postapocalyptic mutant freaks (“Enclave”) count as zombies, or not really because it’s postapocalyptic and it’s understandable that you’d want to engage in a little cannibalism?

I’d consider myself an avid horror nerd, but I was surprised how many types of zombies there were! From the sub categories you cover on Kickstarter (Nazi, romantic, ect.), which is your favourite ‘sub-zombie’

Hmm, among the subcategories… I’d probably say animal zombies. I like environmental apocalypse stories too, and I’ve yet to see a book that really addresses the ecological implications of an animal zombie apocalypse. (Though Brian Keene’s “Dead Sea” and Mira Grant’s “Newsflesh” series come close.) I wish I could’ve liked Al Sarrantonio’s “Skeletons,” which also involves animal zombies, or rather animated skeletons, but it’s just too silly.

Jason is crowdfunding to support production of his map. There’s six days left to support this awesome project, and you can donate here.

Jason Bradley Thompson

Comics artist and author, manga editor and reviewer. Author of Manga: The Complete Guide. Creator of King of RPGs, The Stiff, H.P. Lovecraft's Dream Quest comics, & more.

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