Thursday, October 28, 2010

On Halloween and The Walking Dead

As I sit down to write this, it's a perfectly bleak October day. Gray sky, leaves scritching across the pavement, just enough of a chill in the air.

:sigh: Fine.

That's not exactly true. You see, we're experiencing an unseasonably warm week here at Exfanding HQ, and the sun is shining, and last night's rain has made sure that not even a single felled leaf is capable of "scritching across the pavement."

And, even though we're expecting a cold weekend, and with it a cold Halloween night, it's utterly appropriate that things are unseasonable. Because, as much as I love Halloween, I've just had no time to enjoy the season.

And this weekend won't get any better.

I'll be lucky if I mix in my annual Halloween day viewing of John Carpenter's classic film, or if I manage to crack open my copy of Ray Bradbury's timeless, Something Wicked This Way Comes.
(It might be the night he came home, but it'll be the day I do yard work.)

I just haven't had time to enjoy my October. And I really do feel like this month is mine. Obviously, as longtime readers know, I love horror books and movies, and my comics reading almost always slants towards the scary.

Call my crazy, but I'm a fan of the creepy. Always have been, and I'd imagine, always will be.

There's just nothing better than a dark, atmospheric, Gothic novel, or a comic book that actually makes me wince before turning the next page. Like Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead--quite possibly the best horror comic the medium has ever seen.

Most comics people are aware of Kirkman's zombie apocalypse masterwork, and many weekly LCS shoppers have this book on their pull list--either month-to-month in the single issues, or by trade or hardcover. I like the hardcovers, because you get 12 issues at a clip. Plus, they look cool on the shelf.

But, come Sunday night, when AMC debuts their television adaptation of Kirkman's series, methinks there will be a whole new legion of readers looking for the trades. And, while I don't think they'll go to comics shops to find them, I do think the big chain bookstores needs to stock up, and stock up fast.
I like the idea of the series debuting on Halloween night--it's appropriate, certainly. But I think the network--and the book--may have been better served had they debuted last week, so stores had the full Halloween week to move product.

From all accounts, the show seems like it'll be a hit, and AMC has already picked up a second season.

Like Watchmen, Walking Dead (the comics series, I mean) will feel the impact of the new show, and I expect the book to move record numbers of a black and white indie.

Which is great for comics, for a couple of reasons.

First, maybe some folks will wander in an actual comics shop when Amazon inevitably sells out of the books, and when Borders only has volumes 2, 7, and 9. It's a long shot, but hey, I'm a dreamer.

Second, and more important for the medium, is that The Walking Dead--more than even Watchmen, I'd argue--can show people what comics are capable of.

Now, let's be clear here. I am by no means comparing the two books. Watchmen is superior to anything else this medium has produced, period. I honestly believe that. But, with Watchmen comes exactly that tag line--"the best graphic novel of all time."

People read it, go WOW!, and then stop because they've read the best the medium has to offer. I have several non-comics friends who have read Watchmen, loved it, but refuse to read anything else--even if it's another Alan Moore book!

Which is tragic, but true.

Watchmen is self-contained. You buy the graphic novel, read it, and it's done. With something like The Walking Dead, a book that is ongoing and has trades that ship every couple of months, new readers get to experience the waiting game that all comics fans go through month to month.
And I think that will add to the experience, and to the anxiety that builds over the course of the series. In many ways, Kirkman's series is the perfect TV show--tension builds from issue to issue of the comic, and unlike most mainstream comics today, there are real and lasting changes to the core group of characters.

No one is safe in a Kirkman book, and mainstream TV fans are going to learn the hard way that they better not get too attached to anyone in the series.

That's the other thing about Walking Dead--it's a comic book that prominently features death. Death literally stalks these characters, and while the zombies are the Big Bad, it's the emotional toll of isolation and the constant fear of their new surroundings that makes Walking Dead such a mesmerizing read.

So get ready, everyone, because this Sunday might just be the beginning of a Very Good Time to be a comics fan.

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