SD Comic-Con 2012: Max Brooks' Zombie History Lesson


The Walking Dead
obstacle course, the annual zombie walk, the never-ending rows and rows of zombie t-shirts, posters, and books... Comic-Con could very well be called Zombie-Con. Zombie apocalypse experts Max Brooks (World War Z, The Zombie Survival Guide) and Matt Mogk (Zombie Research Society) sat down with me before their San Diego Comic-Con History of the Modern Zombie panel to discuss how our current understanding of zombies came to be, and what movie captured the reality of a zombie pandemic and why one of them isn't above eating their significant other.

According to Brooks and Mogk, we wouldn’t even have this brain-eating phenomenon without Romero. He was the originator of the modern story and the one that tells it the best.

“It started with one man, George Romero,” Max Brooks said. “Because it used to be the voodoo zombie, with like black magic, raising people from the dead, and Romero turned it into a virus."

For Brooks, no one even comes close to portraying an outbreak like Romero.

"Dawn of the Dead. The original Dawn of the Dead. It doesn't get any more realistic because he really nailed it. The notion of the societal collapse, the slow decline. That scene where they are watching tv and they're all arguing, literally, that's CSPAN over the present budget crisis. He nailed it 40 years ago."

When asked what misconceptions most people have about the classic zombie story, both men agreed that it won't play out the way it does in more romanticized films.

"I despise the notion of the alpha male that feels like wow, if society fell apart then I could actually be the cool guy with my rifle and my backpack and my motorcycle, then I could be the hero that I know I could be ... I think the modern story that started with Romero is there are no heroes," Brooks said.

"In Night of the Living Dead the hero gets shot in the face and that was by accident -- just because everybody else is a bunch of assholes," Mogk added.

"People are the problem. Zombies are just an antagonizing force, but people are the real threat," Brooks said.

When it comes to surviving, Brooks and Mogk were adamant that it won't work if you aren't thinking creatively. Think about where your neighbor will be living and then go somewhere else. And above all else, think about water.

"A lot of people say, 'Oh, I would go to an off-shore oil rig. I mean you've solved the water problems but the one problem you haven't solved is you're in the middle of a salt water ocean," Mogk said.

In the end, these men would try to survive. Brooks said the is a father and a husband, so, there's no doubt in his mind he would protect them. Mogk was a little less sentimental.

"I would try to survive because my wife already said she wouldn't, but she  said I could eat her. I literally have like 110 pounds of food."

Brooks suggested he go somewhere in the mountains with snow to keep it cold for longer. Now, that's thinking long term.